Note-taking: how to describe line graphs

In this blog, I take notes on how to describe a line graph.

1. Basic expressions


Figure 1. An example of line graph

1.1 The introduction

Use a sentence which describes the graph and the general idea.

From the graph it is clear …
As can be seen from the line graph …

From the line graph it is clear that the majority of the UK supermarkets saw sales grow over the ten year period.

Explain the general idea of the graph (again!) but with a little more detail.

Overall it is clear that Tesco and Sainsbury’s increased sales the most, followed by Asda and Morrision’s, the Co-op undoubtedly performed the worst.

1.2 Detail expressions

Identify the information and group it.

1.3 Describing trends


For instance,

Unemployment levels fell
There was a fall in unemployment levels

More examples:

The investment levels rose suddenly.
The sales of our products fell slightly in the final quarter.
The Research and Development budget has stabilized over the past few years.
At the end of the first year, sales stood at 50 per cent of the present level.
The price reached a peak before falling a little and then maintaining the same level.
There has been a steady increase in costs over several years.
The sudden collapse in share prices came shortly after June.
The value of the shares has shown a steady decline.

1.4 The degree


1.4.1 The degree of change


1.4.2 The speed of change


1.4.3 Approximation

just under    well under    roughly       approximately
about         just over     well over     nearly

1.4.4 Rise


1.4.5 Fall


1.5 A variety of structures

1.5.1 Active to passive

There was an incredible decrease in output
Output decreased incredibly

In 2010 there was a plunge in turnover
Turnover plunged in 2010

After the crisis there was a crash in profit
Profit crashed after the crisis

Last year there were two rises in annual income
Annual income rose twice last year

1.5.2 Adverbs

It is clear the trend is downward…
Clearly the trend is downward…

It is evident that sales dropped in the first quarter…
Evidently sales in the first quarter dropped ..

1.6 Time expressions

over a five year period
Throughout the 1980s sales were climbing consistently
The period from 1944 to 1999 witnessed a spectacular growth / explosive growth
In July, sales failed. And from that time on they continued to fall until May.

2. A single line graph

This part is excerpted from the blog post <Writing task one: single line graph>.


The graph shows four main trends:

  • first, a gradual increase from 1960 to 1968
  • second, a steeper increase from 1968 to 1977
  • third, a plateau from 1977 to 1983
  • fourth, a drop from 1983 to 1988
  • 2.1 Sample answers

    The graph shows the number of cases of X disease in Someland between the years 1960 and 1995. As an overall trend, it is clear that the number of cases of the disease increased fairly rapidly until the mid seventies, remained constant for around a decade at 500 cases before dropping to zero in the late 80s.

    In 1960, the number of cases stood at approximately 100. That number rose steadily to 200 by 1969 and then more sharply to 500 in 1977. At this point the number of cases remained stable until 1984 before plummeting to zero by 1988. From 1988 to 1995 Someland was free of the disease.

    In conclusion (Overall will be better?), the graph shows that the disease was increasingly prevalent until the 1980s when it was eradicated from Someland.

    3. Multiple series in a line graph

    4. Multiple line graphs

    (It is on the way …)

    [2]Blog: Writing task one: single line graph
    [3]YouTube: How to Describe a Line Graph IELTS Academic Task 1


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