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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:

  Example Word Comparative Superlative
Words with one syllable high higher the highest
Words with three syllables or more productive

more productive

less productive

the most productive

the least productive

Words ending in –y wealthy wealthier the wealthiest
Short words ending with a consonant/vowel/consonant hot hotter the hottest
Irregular good better the best


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:


  1. The Middle East produces high levels of oil; however, Japan produces none.
  2. The USA produces large amounts of natural gas.  In contrast, South Korea produces none.
  3. 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

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

Other Structures

  1. Developing countries are more reliant on alternative energy production than developed countries.
  2. Solar power accounts for far less of the total energy production than gas or coal does.
  3. Hydropower is not as efficient as wind power.
  4. Like Japan, South Korea does not produce any natural gas.
  5. The Middle East produces twice as much oil as Europe.
  6. Western countries consume three times more oil than the Middle East.
  7. Russia consumes slightly more oil than Germany.
  8. 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:


“just over 7 million tonnes”   
“approximately 7 million tonnes”


“nearly 70 million tonnes”
“almost 70 million tonnes”


Compare and Contrast Language Practice

Look at the table below.  What is being compared?


Natural Gas Consumption and Production, 2001







The United Kingdom



The Former Soviet Union












New Zealand



South Korea






*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. 

1. New Zealand consumed the gas at approximately 5 million tonnes.

2. The former Soviet Union produced the amount at 0.4 million tonnes.

3. The USA was the consumer and producer of gas at 600 million tonnes and 500 respectively.

4. The USA consumed and produced natural gas than any other country.

5. South Korea consumed 18.9 million tonnes of gas; , it produced none.

6. China’s consumption and production of gas were at 24.3 and 25.0 respectively.

7. The USA, the Former Soviet Union, Japan and South Korea all consumed more gas they produced.

8. Australia consumed four gas than New Zealand.

9. Zealand produced 5.1 million tonnes of gas, South Korea produced none.

10. New Zealand consumed 5 million tonnes of gas.

Score =
Correct answers:

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More Task 1 Academic Lessons:

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