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Describing percentages and fractions in IELTS Writing Task 1

When you look at an IELTS Writing Task 1, it is often full of numbers and possibly percentages too. But how can you use a wide range of vocabulary when describing percentages?

In this blog post, I’ll be looking at different ways to describe percentages.

Percent or percentage?

Firstly, let’s look at the difference between percent and percentage.


  • 65 percent of people in the school prefer coffee.
  • 65% of people in the school prefer coffee.
  • A large percentage of people in the school prefer coffee.

As you can see, we use percent or % to give a specific amount.

We use percentage to give a more general idea of the amount.

Pie charts

Have a look at this pie chart about recycled materials:

Pie Chart: Recycled Materials in Hopetown, 2016

(Click to enlarge)

Look at the figure for glass. A simple sentence would be:

  • The amount of glass recycled was 26%.

But, what fraction is it close to?

That’s right – a quarter, which is 25%. The figure for glass is not exactly a quarter though, so we can use a phrase such as just over, approximately or slightly more than in our sentence.

  • The amount of glass recycled in 2016 was just over a quarter.

Similarly, we can also use just under, approximately or slightly less than if the figure is lower than the fraction or percentage.

  • Approximately two thirds of people prefer coffee in the office.


What other fractions can we use in Writing Task 1?

  • three quarters (75%)
  • two thirds (66%)
  • a half (50%)
  • a third (33%)
  • a quarter (25%)

There are, of course, other fractions, but these are the ones I’d recommend using. Remember, it’s not a mathematics exam!

Look back at chart 1. Which recycled material am I describing here?

  • This material accounted for approximately a third of all recycled material.

Remember: If there are percentages in your chart, try to use a mixture of percentages and fractions to demonstrate your range of vocabulary.

You can find more practice in IELTS Vocabulary up to Band 6.0, p120.

Now have a look at this pie chart:

Pie Chart: Recycled Materials in Hopetown, 2019

(Click to enlarge)

Look at the figure for plastic. Which of the following sentences is NOT correct?

  • Approximately half of the materials recycled were made of plastic.
  • Recycling of plastic accounted for just under half of the total materials.
  • The amount of plastic recycled was 48 percentage.
  • The amount of plastic recycled was approximately 50%.

Good! The third sentence is incorrect because it uses percentage after a specific number.

Can you write two more sentences using fractions or percentages? Try one sentence for each chart.

I hope you have found this blog post useful and now feel more confident when describing percentages and fractions in pie charts. Let me know how you get on!


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