Useful vocabulary to use in IELTS Task 1 essays

Popular Cameraphones 30/11/07 by nedrichards via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Popular Cameraphones 30/11/07 by nedrichards via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Part of your score is based on vocabulary. Here are useful words and phrases to use that describe movement in a graph or chart:

Similar words meaning “to become greater in number; to go up”:

to rise (v)

  • Prices rose from $10 to $15 within 3 months.   Prices rose by 50%.
  • Note: Don’t confuse the verbs “rise” (to become more) with “raise” (to make something rise). Ex. School fees are set to rise. Our school has raised their fees by 5%.
  • As a noun:  There was a rise of %5 in school fees.

to increase (v)

  • Birth rates in New Zealand stood at 20,000 at the start of this period and increased to a peak of 66,000 in 1961. 
  • You can use increase from (a number) to (a number); increase by ( number/percentage), increase in value/price.
  • Note: Don’t use “increase” to refer to the level or standard of something.
  • As a noun: There was an increase in house prices for the first 5 years.

to grow (v)

  • The population of internet users grew the fastest in Canada during this period.
  • As a nounCanada experienced the fastest growth in Internet usage.

to soar (v) – to fly upward, like a bird; rise to great heights

  • While sales of Product B remained steady, sales of Product A soared during the fourth quarter.

to rocket/to skyrocket (v) – similar to soar – to fly upward to great heights

  • By 2030 the  elderly Japanese population is predicted to skyrocket 150% within one or two years. OR By 2030 the proportion of elderly Japanese is predicted to skyrocket to 25%of the population within one or two years.

to spike (v) – to increase quickly then fall down again

  • On the other hand, house prices spiked in the first two months after the recession.
  • As a noun: There was a spike in house prices in the first two months after the recession.

to jump (v)

  • New gym memberships jumped 10% immediately after the Christmas holiday period.
  • As a noun: There was a 10% jump in new gym memberships immediately after the Christmas holiday period.

to hit/reach a peak (v) – a peak is the highest point/level

  • From there, the audience level continues to rise sharply, reaching a peak of 45% of the population between 6 and 10 pm, also aptly known as “prime time”.

to reach a high (v) – similar to “reach a peak”

  • Conversely, audience levels for radio reaches a high in the morning by 9 am.

an upward trend (n)

  • The graph shows an upward trend in household access to modern technology in the UK from 1996 to 2003.

to double (v) – increase 2 times

to triple (v) – increase 3 times

  • House prices nearly doubled in that time period.


Similar words meaning “to lessen, diminish, go down”:

to decrease (v)

  • From that point, marriages decreased steadily until 1970 hitting a low of about 250,000.
  • As a noun: From that point, there was a steady decease in marriages until 1970 when it hit a low of about 250,000.

to decline (v)

  • Although Australian exports increased slightly in the first year to its peak in 1986, it gradually declined to about 11 million tonnes in 1990, remaining the smallest of the three exporters.
  • As a noun: Although there was an increase in Australian exports in the first year with a peak in 1986, there was a gradual decline by 1990 and remained the smallest of the three exporters.

to drop (v)

  • From 10 pm, audience levels drop dramatically to nearly 1% by 2 am.
  • As a noun: From 10 pm there is a dramatic drop in audience levels to nearly 1% by 2 am.

to dip/ to take a dip (v) –  to decrease but goes up again

  • Between the 2nd and 3rd quarter, sales of Product D took a dip of 10%, but later regained growth by the 4th quarter.
  • As a noun: There was a 10% dip in Product D sales between the 2nd and 3rd quarter  followed by growth by the 4th quarter.

to fall (v)

  • From 10pm, audience levels fall sharply to nearly 1% by 2 am.
  • As a noun: From 10 pm there is a sharp fall in audience levels to nearly 1% by 2 am.

to plunge (v); to plummet (v) – to fall quickly

to hit bottom (v); to reach a low (an all-time low) (v)

a downward trend (n)

  • Overall, we can see a downward trend in marriages between 1951 and 2003.


Similar words/expressions that mean ” to stay the same”:

to stabilize (v) – to hold at a steady level

  • After a 10-year period of fluctuations, the total value stabilized at roughly 30% until 2005.

to remain/hold steady (v) ; to remain stable (v); to remain/stay constant (v) ; to remain/stay the same (v)

  • By contrast, the figures for Japan remained steady just under 5% until the early 2000s.
  • Remarriages, on the other hand enjoyed a slight increase from 1971, but overall remained stable throughout the century, reaching around 100,000 by 2003.

to remain flat (v) – show no growth or little change

to level off (v) – after a period of change or shift, there is little movement and stays level

to plateau/to reach a plateau (v) – to  reach a stable level

to bottom out (v) – to descend to the lowest point possible, after which only a rise can occur

  • Exports continued to grow until it plateaued in 2002 for 5 years, after which it fell and then bottomed out by 2009.


Other useful vocabulary:

to fluctuate (v) – to change continually shifting up and down

  • Student enrollment fluctuated wildly, but the trend was clearly upward.
  • As a nounThere were wild fluctuations in student enrollment, but the trend was clearly upward.

to surpass (v) – to pass another and go beyond in amount, level or degree

  • Although mobile phones started with the lowest accessibility in 1996, it surpassed the usage of home computers at the beginning of 1999.

to exceed (v) – to go beyond in quantity, amount or degree

  • In terms of following their budgets, Project X came in under their budget by 5K, whereas Project Y exceeded their budget by 25K.

 **Want to get your essay writing checked? Here’s how: Essay Correction & Feedback 

Leave a Reply

  1. Hi Pearl
    Thank you so much for your posts. They are very helpful. I’m having problems in reading. I manage to get a 7.5 , which I’m not satisfied with. I make mistakes usually in the task assigning headings or what the paragraph is about ( with options). I end up giving the wrong labels due to subtle difference in the meanings. How do I work on this and get an 8 ? Otherwise I get an 8.5 in listening and I believe my speaking is good. I practice at home.

    • Hi Monikha,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you find them helpful. As for your question, I think you’re on your way to working this out. At least you’ve identified where you are making your mistakes in the specific type of question. I would then go through all your practice tests and find out where you’ve made that mistake and more importantly why. How are the meanings of the two choices you are faced with different? What exactly is the subtle difference between those answer choices? Did you choose just a detail for a paragraph, rather than a main idea of the paragraph? If you can find a pattern in your mistakes, that can lead you to correcting it.

      A more general strategy is to just read more English materials – blogs, newspapers, magazine articles. You broaden your recognition and understanding of vocabulary and how it is used in different contexts. You also become more familiar with more topics as explained in English, which can help you in the reading tests as you can sometimes connect your background knowledge to the reading passage in the exam.

      It’s hard for me to pinpoint what it is exactly, but I hope that helps somewhat.Good luck in your studies!

      Cheers, Pearl

      • Hi Pearl
        Thank you for your tips. Yes, as you said in the previous post, I tend to look at some detail and not the main idea. So, when the same detail is giving in two paragraphs, I make the labeling based on the detail and miss out on a main idea they are talking about.

  2. Is it correct to say : They remained stable at 15 percent ? I mean, the preposition
    ,,at ,,is used correctly or there should be another preposition instead?