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  • Academic Task 1

IELTS Academic Task 1 Compare & Contrast Guide

  • Task 1 Guide
  • Table & Bar
  • Bar & Pie
  • Table & Pie
  • Compare Contrast
  • Identifying Trends

compare contrast academic task 1

The ability to compare and contrast is important in both the speaking and writing sections of the IELTS exam and can help you to improve your score in Grammatical range and accuracy and Lexical Resource . In this guide, we will look at different grammatical structures and language to help you compare and contrast effectively in the IELTS Academic test.

Table of Contents

1.1 comparatives and superlatives, 1.2 qualifying comparisons, 1.3 comparing similar/opposite figures, 1.4 subordinate clauses, 1.5 transition words, 2.1 adverbs, 2.2 comparing things that are the same/similar, 2.3 unusual vocabulary, 2.4 cohesive devices, 1 comp are and contrast in ielts writing.

One of the aims of IELTS writing task 1 is to compare and contrast information given in a graph , chart or diagram . If you want to achieve a higher IELTS band score, you need to use a range of language and grammatical structures accurately.

One way to compare and contrast is to use comparatives and superlatives .

Let’s quickly look at the rules for how to form comparatives and superlatives:

Here are some examples for the bar chart below:


  • Cappuccinos are more popular in Club coffee than Espresso Express.
  • Americanos are less popular in Espresso Espresso than Club coffee.
  • Cafe lattes are the most popular hot drinks overall.
  • Caramel lattes are the least popular beverage in Club Coffee.

Comparatives and superlatives can also be used in any IELTS Writing Task 2 essay , for example:

  • In recent years, it has become much more common for students to complete their degree overseas instead of their home country.
  • It is argued that regional and community action is more effective than global efforts.
  • Having more money and less free time is better than earning less money and having more free time.

IELTS writing correction

You can also modify your comparative phrases even further. See our examples in bold below:

Americanos were a lot more popular than espressos.

The country’s GDP was much higher in 1992 than 2000.

France produced much less energy than Germany in 2009.

There were slightly less visitors to the UK in 1979 than 1980.

The Children’s charity received far more money in 2016 than 2017.

Encouraging cycling is a far more effective way of reducing pollution than punishing drivers.

NEgative news stories are much more common than positive reporting.

Even if you are given numbers that are almost the same in writing task 1, you can still use comparative language such as:

  • almost as … as
  • not quite as … as
  • nearly as … as
  • Just as many cars as vans were hired in 2000.
  • The number of people that emigrated to the USA in 2009 was almost as high as the number to the UK.
  • The number of vehicle thefts in 2000 was not quite as high as it was in 2001.
  • Travelling by bike was nearly as popular as travelling by car in the UK in 2018.

And if you are given figures that are drastically different , you can use the following phrases to create a contrast:

  • Not nearly as …. as
  • Nowhere near as … as
  • half as … as
  • The proportion of monthly income spent on entertainment was not nearly as high as housing.
  • The percentage of women in poverty of women aged 45-54 was nowhere near as high as women aged 18-24.
  • Half as many history books as fiction books were borrowed from the library in 2014 than 2018.

Subordinate clauses are another way to compare and contrast information, as well as increase your grammatical range and coherence in IELTS Writing Tasks 1 and 2

Subordinate clauses joined to the main clause using a subordinating conjunction .

Here are some suitable subordinating conjunctions you could use:

  • Even though
  • Although going to the gym is good for your health, it is not effective without a balanced diet.
  • While English was the most popular subject in 2020, Economics was even more popular in 2021.
  • Even though most students pass their exams, many still choose to travel abroad and take a gap year.

Transition words, also known as cohesive devices , are another way to compare and contrast.

Here’s a list of useful cohesive devices to compare and contrast:

  • In contrast
  • In the same way
  • Nevertheless
  • On one hand
  • On the other hand
  • Many actors are often followed by the press. Likewise, reality TV stars often report being hounded by paparazzi.
  • One one hand , renting your home instead of buying it can be more beneficial as the landlord is responsible for repairs. On the other hand , you will not be able to pass on the house to your children in the future.
  • It is argued that people should eat a plant-based diet rather than eating meat as it is healthier.

2. Compare and Contrast in IELTS Speaking

Comparing and contrasting is not only important in writing but also the IELTS speaking section of the test, especially parts 2 and 3 where you have more time to develop your answers.

You can comparing people, places and things in any part of the speaking exam using the following structures:

  • A is similar/different to B because …
  • A is similar/different to B in that …
  • Modern art is different to traditional art forms because you often need to interpret modern artwork in your own way.
  • My hometown is similar to where I live now in that both are busy cities with a great nightlife.

You could also use a range of adverbs such as:

  • totally/strikingly/ distinctly different
  • slightly/rather/subtly different
  • My highschool experience was distinctly different from my time at university.
  • My daily routine today is only subtly different from a few years ago.
  • It is quite common for people to choose tea over coffee in my country.

Even if you have two things that are similar, you can still use language to highlight the similarities. Here are just some ways you can do this:

  • A is as reliable as B
  • A is identical to B
  • A is the same as B
  • Electric vehicles are as reliable as petrol cars.
  • The replica of the Eiffel tower in my city is identical to the original in Paris.
  • The level of pollution in London is the same as in other large cities.

To increase your range of IELTS vocabulary and your score in Lexical resources, you should try to include more unusual words and phrases in your answers. Here are some examples linked to comparing and contrasting:

  • A is a far cry away from B
  • A is worlds apart from B
  • A and B are poles apart
  • A is in a different league to B
  • Alaska is a far cry away from Florida, it’s so much colder and far less populated.
  • Australia is worlds apart from Berlin, there are so many cultural differences especially when it comes to the food.
  • My mother and I are poles apart in personality, she is far more outgoing than I am.
  • My brother is in a different league to me when it comes to musical ability, he has been composing songs since a very early age.

As with writing, you can also use cohesive devices or IELTS transition words in the speaking section to compare and contrast, for instance:

  • On the contrary
  • Children should study art at school because it encourages their creativity. Likewise , they should also be encouraged to take up a musical instrument.
  • Governments should take responsibility for the food children eat at school. On the other hand , it could also be argued that students should have the freedom to make their own decisions.

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How to compare and contrast in IELTS Task 1

By ielts-jonathan.com on 31 March 2021 2

Comparing and Contrasting Language for Task 1 IELTS

USe langauge IELTS Compare Contrast

If you want to achieve a higher band score in IELTS Task 1 writing, effective use of comparison and contrasting language is one of the vital language skills you need to master.

It’s is not enough to simply report what you see in a chart, table or graph.

Being able to accurately report differences in key details helps the examiner award a mark in both Task Achievement, Grammar and Vocabulary.

Comparing and contrasting can help in this respect.

If you want to increase your IELTS band score further and impress the examiner, try to vary your language and provide a number of structures when reporting the information you see .

Language Contrast Compare IELTS Task 1 IELTS JONATHAN

This can be demonstrated by using a number of comparing and contrasting language structures and variations.

You need to do this accurately so it’s important to understand how some words collocate and others do not.  

For example, saying ‘ The USA consumed the highest of electricity in 2011′ is not correct because something is missing and this can affect your score.

In contrast, writing ‘ The USA consumed the highest volume of electricity in 2011′ demonstrates to the examiner that you have a good range of vocabulary and an awareness of using language correctly .

For example, the examiner can see you understand that in this example, ‘ the highest + amount/volume + of electricity’ is needed to make an accurate collocation .

So, to score well you not only need to notice and report comparisons and contrast , but do this accurately too.

So I have summarised the most commonly used ways of comparing and contrasting which are suitable for IELTS TASK 1 writing.

These can be incorporated into your writing as needed as long as you have practised how to use these phrases accurately. 

Using comparative and superlative adjectives

The simplest way to compare is to adjectives. 

These are quite easy to form although there are some irregular patterns that are worth knowing.

Remember, some adjectives requires a particular grammar construction to be accurate. 

You can use these adjectives in a number of effective ways, for example as

As a statement

The figure was high . In the 2020, the number of people who worked from home was very high .

As a comparison

The figure was higher than (another figure). In 2021, the figures were lower than in the previous decade.

As a contrast

The figure was the highest . By the end of the period, this figure was the highest .


Other simple examples of comparative and superlative language you can look at are:

Sales were lower in 1996 than 1997.  Sales were low in the period 1998 to 2001.

The lowest amount of energy was consumed in June.

The cost of imports was more expensive in the winter.

The most expensive imports for the period were in winter.

Using Transition words

Transitioning or s ignalling words are another good way of highlight a key feature in a report. 

T hese words link an idea to another, show a connection , or a comparison or an opposite :

However , in contrast , in comparison , on the other hand and similarly are some of the common examples seen in IELTS.

The USA consumed the highest volume of electricity in 2011.

Australia, however , used the least amount (of electricity).
In contrast , Australia used the least (amount of electricity).

More Examples:

British people spent just above £1,000,000 on imported brands. 

In comparison , this figure was much lower for Italy at £500,000.

It is clear that the majority of Australians spent their holiday abroad.

On the other hand , Italians opted for staying in their country.

It is obvious that the majority of Spanish people prefer to holiday at home.

Similarly , the Italians prefer to holiday at home too.

Signal Transition Linking Words IELTS task 1

Using Subordinating Conjunctions

A further method is to use subordinating conjunctions .

This might sound difficult or something you’re unfamiliar with, but you’re probably using basic subordinating connections already.

These types of word connect two different ideas , or independent clauses and ‘ because ‘ is a common example of one. 🙂 

In this example, ‘ because ‘ provides the reason for something.

The most frequent examples for comparing and contrasting are:

Although Australia came first for the crime rate in 1980, this rate then dropped dramatically.

Look at how two independent clauses (ideas) can be compared.

It is clear that in 1963 food was the main expense, while 30 years later it was consumer items that came top. Europeans and Americans each comprise 25 % of the total, whereas the figure for Africa is lower, at 10%.


The same as / similar to..

Using other ways of comparison: more/less/ as…as/ similar(to) / the same …as:

More females than males attended gym and fitness classes in the last decade.

Less electricity was consumed in 2014 due to the increased use of solar technology.

Further ways of comparing examples:

The BMW brand was not as popular as Mercedes in 2015.

Consumption rates in China were very similar to Russia.

Ireland produced the same amount of electricity as Scotland in 2014.

Scotland caught similar amounts of fish as Greenland.

In Conclusion

If you want to increase your IELTS band score and impress the examiner, vary your language when describing a chart, table or graph .

One way this can be simply done is by comparing and contrasting language and variation .

Remember that some words collocate well and others do not and there are irregular grammar constructions too.

Not all IELTS Task 1 questions will give you the opportunity to compare or contrast so it’s important that you read and fully understand the question.

Do this and then decide on your Task Reponse .

I hope you found this article useful and please f eel free to comment and share.

Everything helps! 🙂


I’m Jonathan

I’ve taught IELTS and University English in more than a dozen universities and schools around the world.

I’m a parent, traveller and passionate about language teaching and helping students achieve their dreams.

Whilst living in Austria or working in Asia, I run IELTS courses to help students get to where they want to be.

If you are serious about IELTS, connect with me to see how I can help you.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

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Reader Interactions

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7 May 2021 at 3:45 pm

Nice examples of comparative language, how many times are best to use those phrases?

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7 May 2021 at 8:41 pm

With practice you’ll get a feel for using the different structures. Try not to repeat the same structures too much though. It’s quite nice, for variation and to display what you are capable of, to try and use a variety, if possible. Of course, it depends on the information you are reporting in the Task. 🙂

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  • Compare & Contrast Language

Compare and Contrast Language for Graphs

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce you to  compare and contrast  language which is needed to write about graphs.

To begin, take a look at the graph below.

  • Which country has the highest level of pollution? 
  • Which country has the lowest?

IELTS Bar Chart - Level of Air Pollution in 5 Countries

The country with the higest level of pollution is USA and the country with the lowest is New Zealand.

The Key Language

Comparative and superlative adjectives.

Being able to compare and contrast data is an essential skill for IELTS writing, especially in Task 1.  Comparatives and superlatives are one common way to do this.

Comparatives are used to compare two things :

Leopards are faster than tigers.

Superlatives are used to compare one thing against a group of others :

The leopard is the largest of the four big cats.

Here are the basics of how they are formed:

Other Important Language

Comparatives and superlatives are useful to compare and contrast, but they won't be enough.

Here are some other useful words and structures:


  • The Middle East produces high levels of oil; however , Japan produces none.
  • The USA produces large amounts of natural gas.  In contrast , South Korea produces none.
  • European countries make great use of solar power.  On the other hand , most Asian countries us this method of power generation very little.

Subordinating Conjunctions

  • The Middle East produces high levels of oil, whereas / while Japan produces none.
  • Whereas / While the Middle East produces high levels of oil, Japan produces none.
  • Although the Middle East produced 100 tons oil, Japan produced none.

Other Structures

  • Developing countries are more reliant on alternative energy production than developed countries.
  • Solar power accounts for far less of the total energy production than gas or coal does.
  • Hydropower is not as efficient as wind power.
  • Like Japan, South Korea does not produce any natural gas.
  • The Middle East produces twice as much oil as Europe.
  • Western countries consume three times more oil than the Middle East.
  • Russia consumes slightly more oil than Germany.
  • The UAE produced the same amount of oil as Saudi Arabia.

Using Approximate Data

When you compare and contrast, you also need to learn phrases so you can refer to data that is not exact.

For example:

Compare and Contrast Language Practice

Look at the table below.  What is being compared?

Natural Gas Consumption and Production, 2001

*in millions of tonnes

Compare and Contrast Language Quiz

Look at the compare and contrast language in the drop down box and choose the correct word to complete the sentences. 

More Task 1 Academic Lessons:

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Describing an IELTS task 1 graph over time

This lesson shows you how to write an IELTS task 1 graph or chart that is over time.

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compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

Describing Graph Trends Using the Language of Change

Describing graph trends: In IELTS you must know how to describe the trends that you see in the graph you are given. This lesson provides practice with some common language used to describe trends.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

Describing IELTS Graphs: Tips to avoid a common mistake

IELTS Graphs: A common mistake In IELTS graphs is to get the subject of the graph wrong. This lesson explains how this mistake is made and show you what you need to do to avoid it. There is a also a practice exercise.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

IELTS Table: Tips and techniques for a high score.

IELTS Table advice for a high score. Learn how to describe an IELTS table, which is just another way to present data.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

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This Bar and Line Graph example shows you how you can write about two charts together in the IELTS test for task 1, with strategies and techniques.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

Writing Tips for a Graph in the Future in IELTS Academic

Graph in the future: Sometimes graphs in IELTS refer to a future time. You must know the language to write about these. In this lesson, learn how to write about an IELTS graph in the future. Getting the tenses right is an important part of the IELTS writing task 1.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

Take an IELTS Quiz to test your IELTS knowledge

IELTS Quizzes to test and train you on the writing task and task 2 of the IELTS test. Gap fills and multiple choice.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

Prepositions in Graphs Quiz: Between; from; to; at; of; in; with; by

Prepositions in Graphs: Practice using prepositions in the IELTS test. View a model answer and practice using a gap fill.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

IELTS Task 1 Line Graph Structure Using Groups

For an IELTS Task 1 Line Graph there are different ways to organise your answer. Grouping information is a good way to get a logically structured response.

Which Tenses for IELTS are the Most Important?

Candidates often ask which tenses for IELTS are needed in order to do well in the exam. This lesson goes through the grammar tenses and how they apply to the test.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

IELTS Process Diagram Strategies and Tips

IELTS Process Diagram: In task 1 of IELTS writing you usually have to describe some kind of graph or chart. But sometimes you get a process. It is therefore crucial that you know how to do this. This easy to follow lesson explains how.

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

IELTS Pie Chart Strategies and Tips for a Band 7, 8 or 9

This IELTS pie chart lesson provides you with tips and advice on how to describe an IELTS Pie Chart in order to get a Band 7, 8 or 9.

How to Describe an IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 Graph

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1: This lesson describes in a simple way how you should describe a graph for the academic part of the test for task 1. You need an introduction, overview and body paragraphs. These simple steps will show you how, and how to get a high score.

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IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 : Compare and Contrast

Ann Smith

Updated On Aug 25, 2023

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 : Compare and Contrast

Limited-Time Offer : Access a FREE 10-Day IELTS Study Plan!

  • 1 Comparative and Superlatives
  • 2 Other Vocabulary
  • 3.1 Transitions
  • 4 Other Structures

Like it has already been discussed in all the other TASK 1 lessons, to get a high band score in your Writing Section, you need to use appropriate vocabulary.

In IELTS Writing Task 1 , you are commonly provided with graphs, pie charts, etc. which have data that should be compared and contrasted.

In this lesson, you will learn the type of vocabulary that you’ve got to use to compare and contrast information in the graph.

Comparative and Superlatives

To compare any graphs or charts, you need to use comparatives or superlatives.

Comparatives are used when comparing two things.

Jill runs faster than Ted.

Superlatives are used one thing against a group of elements.

Jill runs faster than any other girl in her class.

There are a few basic ways in which these words are formed. They are:

Other Vocabulary

Though Comparatives and Superlatives are essential, they aren’t sufficient for an IELTS Task 1 essay. Therefore, we should use other kinds of vocabulary.

Subordinating Conjunctions

subordinating conjunction

Although the sale prices of the CDS decreased, it remained the same for the year 2002 and 2003.

The sale prices of the CDs decreased in 2001, whereas/while it remained the same in the year 2002 and 2003.



  • In 1970, the most popular fast food was pizza, over 300 grams were consumed each week. By 1990, however , this had fallen to just over 200 grams.
  • There was a vast increase in the consumption of Fish and Chips. In contrast, there was a drop in the consumption of pizza over the years.
  • On the one hand, the consumption of hamburgers increased. On the other hand, the consumption of pizza decreased.

Other Structures

other structures

  • Like Canada, Japan also has a 99% adult literacy rate.
  • Canada has more annual income than all the other four countries.
  • The adult literacy rate of Zaire is far less than all the other four countries.
  • As observed from the given data, daily calorie supply in Canada and Japan was 3326 and 2846 per person, while this ratio in Peru and Zaire was almost half, with 1927 and 1749 per person.
  • Initially, the annual incomes of Canadian and Japanese people were much higher than in Peru and Zaire.
  • Zaire’s life expectancy is not as high as Canada’s or Japan’s.
  • The economic and social living standards of Canadian and Japanese citizens were far better than those of the people of Peru and Zaire.

Using Approximate Data

When you are comparing and contrasting, you don’t usually have the exact numbers, like in the chart below. Thus you use appropriate phrases for comparative data.

using aproximate data

  • In 1990, the fertility rate in Kuwait was just over 3.
  • In 1990, the fertility rate in Kuwait was approximately 3.

Here you can see that if your value is above the value mentioned and there is no precise number given, you can use ‘just over’ or ‘approximately.’

  • In 2000, the fertility rate in the UAE was nearly 3.
  • In 2000, the fertility rate in the UAE was almost 3.

Here you can see that if your value is below the value mentioned and there is no precise number given, you can use ‘nearly’ or ‘almost.’

Also check : 

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Ielts vocabulary: compare and contrast.

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

The charts below show reasons why people own a car or travel by public transport.

Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Write at least 150 words.

Complete the answer by filling the gaps with an expression from the box below.

The first pie chart shows reasons why some people prefer to drive. , the second chart shows reasons why others regularly travel by public transport.

The two most popular reasons for owning a car are freedom and independence, with 29% stating this.This percentage is for those who enjoy driving. , the majority of people who use public transport do so because owning a car is too expensive for them. 3696 of people say this. , 25% of those in the survey state that they have not passed the driving test. For these two groups, it is not a matter of choice. 20% of those who travel on public transport do so because they have concerns about the effect that cars have on the environment, so this group choose not to drive whether or not they can.

18% of drivers feel that they need to have a car because they have children. Another practical reason for driving is that it saves time, and 16% said this, , 8% said that they drive a car because it gives them a higher position in society, even though they may not need to drive. Of the remainder who travel by public transport, 12% say they dislike driving, 7% who feel that driving is too dangerous.

On the whole, it seems that most people would prefer to own a car if they could, a minority make a conscious choice to use public transport.


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Task 1 and 2: Similarities and differences

compare and contrast in ielts writing task 1

Want to discover the similarities and differences between IELTS Writing Task 1 and 2. Improve your writing skills with our helpful tips.

On this page

Differences, similarities.

At first glance, you may not think Task 1 and 2 are related at all. However, there are differences and similarities to be aware of when tackling these tasks. Here are some of the differences and similarities when writing a Task 1 and 2 on the IELTS test.

The most noticeable difference is the minimum word count. Task 1 needs a minimum of 150 words, while Task 2 needs a minimum of 250 words for both the Academic and General Training tests. Although the minimum word count is different, there is no maximum word count for either task.

Timing is the next significant difference between Task 1 and Task 2. The maximum amount of time spent on Task 1 should be 20 minutes and 40 minutes on Task 2. Regardless of how much time you spend on either task, always spend most of your time Writing Task 2 as it's worth more towards your overall score.

Although Task 1 and Task 2 have some similarities in the structure of the writing, there are also some noticeable differences.

For both Task 1 and Task 2, there need to be body paragraphs. The number of body paragraphs depends on the writer.

For Task 1, the introduction only needs to be one sentence, which paraphrases the original task. For Task 2, the introduction should be 2-3 sentences, including a paraphrased original statement and some personal information such as an opinion statement or background information.

A conclusion is not necessary for Academic Task 1; however, it's crucial for Task 2. The conclusion for Task 2 allows you to wrap up your thoughts and opinions included in your essay.

Opinions, Experiences, and Knowledge

For Academic Task 1, do not add your opinion, any personal experiences, or previous knowledge related to the topic. Only write about the information that is stated in the task.

However, Task 2 requires your opinion on a certain topic. To support your ideas, you will also need to add personal experiences and previous knowledge about the topic. This will allow you to write a well-developed essay.

The above distinction between Task 1 and Task 2 is crucial to improving a candidate’s score.


For both Task 1 and Task 2, always take time to prepare before writing the actual tasks. Read the questions very carefully, understanding the topic fully, as well as highlighting important words and phrases. Take time to think about appropriate synonyms that could be used in place of keywords when answering.


Always paraphrase the question in your introduction for both Task 1 and Task 2. This shows that you understand the question and can write it in a different way.

Compare and Contrast

Depending on the essay, you may have to compare opinions or ideas. You may also need to compare and contrast different parts of Task 1 such as lines on a graph. If the question asks for it, demonstrate that you are able to do so accurately.

Revising and Editing

You should always take time at the end of the writing section to revise your writing by checking your content and ideas. You also should edit your work, by checking your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This is vital for both Task 1 and Task 2. Taking the last few minutes of the writing section to revise and edit your work could mean the difference of a band score.

Finally, it's important to note that Task 1 and 2 are combined to produce a writing band score for the candidate. Despite their similarities or differences, always try to produce your best work for the test.

By Ashlee Fisher

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