Complete Tense Guide for IELTS Writing and Speaking

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Tense task 1

Using the correct tense

Using the correct tense is important in your Task 1 answer. The tense you use will depend on the time period indicated in the Task 1 diagram. In most cases, you will need to use either the simple past or the simple present tense. Although less common, sometimes you may need to use the present perfect tense.

Here, these three tenses will be covered:-

  • The simple present tense
  • The simple past tense
  • The present perfect tense

The simple present tense

The simple present tense is used to describe a diagram in Task 1 that does not indicate a time period or that describes the present. Look at how the simple present tense is used in the following sentences.


The percentage of criminals who commit petty theft (50%) is substantially higher than those who commit armed robbery (24%).

graph showing petty theft versus armed robbery
Other examples

The number of males who are employed in administrative work is far less than the number of females.

The amount of tooth decay in adults increases dramatically after the age of 45.

The simple past tense

The simple past tense is used to describe a diagram when the time period is in the past. Look at how the simple past tense is used in the following sentences.


From 1972 to 1985, the production of cassettes increased dramatically.

graph showing production of cassettes increased between 1972 and 1985
Other examples

From 1972 to 1985, there was a dramatic increase in the production of cassettes.

The number of luxury cars that were produced fluctuated slightly between 1990 and 1997.

The number of females who were employed in management positions in 1995 was substantially higher than in 1985.

Before 1995, 73 percent of visa applications were accepted.

The present perfect tense

The present perfect tense is used to describe a trend from a particular time in the past to now. This tense is less common in Task 1, but you should still know how to use it.

First, look at the following simple line graph. What type of information does it show?

diagram 5: line graph 'Yearly birth rate'

This line graph gives us information about the yearly birth rate in one country from 1995 to the present day. We can see from the graph that there has been a significant increase in the birth rate since 1997.

Let’s look at some example sentences that describe this trend.

Since 1997, the birth rate has increased substantially.
Since 1997, there has been a substantial increase in the birth rate.

To describe a trend from a particular time in the past to now, we must:

  • show the time period using the word ‘since’
  • use present perfect: has/have + past participle.

Note that it is incorrect to write:

From 1997 to now, the birth rate increased substantially.
From 1997 to now, there was a substantial increase in the birth rate.


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