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Describing Graph Trends: Language of Change

This exercise introduces some common vocabulary and grammar needed for describing graph trends. The language that can be used for describing graphs in IELTS is extensive.

This lesson introduces some of the most common language used. It also shows you how it can be used grammatically in sentences.

Vocabulary for Describing Graph Trends

Word Part of Speech Example Sentence
increase verb: to increase, is increasing, has increased, increased Total expenditure increased from $33,611m to $39,165m from 1995 to 1996.
noun: an increase of $5,554m
an increase in spending of $5,554m
From 1995 to 1996 there was an increase in expenditure of $5,554m.
decrease verb: to decrease, is decreasing, has decreased, decreased Expenditure on primary education decreased from 22.2% to 21.5% from 1995 to 1996.
noun: a decrease of 0.7%
a decrease in spending of 0.7%
From 1995 to 1996 there was a decrease in expenditure of 0.7%.
rise verb: to rise, is rising, has risen, rose
Total expenditure rose from $33,611m to $39,165m from 1995 to 1996.
noun: a rise of $5,554m
a rise in spending of $5,554m
From 1995 to 1996 there was a rise in expenditure of $5,554m.
fall verb: to fall, is falling, has fallen, fell
Expenditure on primary education fell from 22.2% to 21.5% from 1995 to 1996.
noun: a fall of 0.7%
a fall in spending of 0.7%
From 1995 to 1996 there was a fall in expenditure of 0.7%.
drop verb: to drop, is dropping, has dropped, dropped
Expenditure on primary education dropped from 22.2% to 21.5% from 1995 to 1996.
noun: a drop of 0.7%
a drop in spending of 0.7%
From 1995 to 1996 there was a drop in expenditure of 0.7%.
-ing forms After an introductory clause that includes some analysis; e.g. 'Spending rose in all three years', an '_ing' form can be used to describe numbers and dates. Spending rose in all three years, increasing from 17.6% to 18% from 1995 to 1996, and then rising again to 18.2% in 1997-8.


Have a look at the table below.

Then, to help you with describing graph trends, decide which word should go in the gap in the example answer.

Expenditure on Education in Hong Kong 1995 to 1998

Breakdown of spending 1995-6 1996-7 1997-8
Total expenditure ($ million) 33,611 39,165 45,315
As % of government budget 17.6% 18% 18.2%

% spent on

  • primary education
  • secondary education
  • tertiary education







Describing Graph Trends - Gap Fill

Public expenditure on education in Hong Kong (1) _____________ continuously from 1995 to 1998. In academic year 1995-6 it (2)_________________ HK$33,611 million, (3)______________ to $39,165 million in 1996-7 and $45,315 million in 1997-8. As a percentage of the government’s budget spending on education also (4)______ each year, from 17.6% to 18% and then to 18.2%.

However, the percentage of expenditure spent on primary, secondary and tertiary education did not show the same consistent (5)_______. In 1995-6 expenditure on primary education was 22.2% of the education budget, 33.7% (6)_________ on secondary, and 35.9% on tertiary.

In 1996, (7) ____________ of 0.8% in spending on tertiary education was financed by a (8)_________ in spending of 0.7% in primary and 0.5% in secondary schooling.

In 1997-8 tertiary spending as a percent of the education budget (9)_________ to its 1995-6 level. The percentage spent on primary education (10)__________ to 21.6% and that on secondary to 33.5%, both figures being less than 1995-6 levels.

Choose the correct word to fit in the gap

  1. increases



  2. was

    rose to


  3. increased



  4. an increase



  5. rise



  6. spent


    was spent

  7. an increase


    was increased

  8. increase



  9. dropped



  10. rised



This lesson will hopefully have helped you with the basics of describing graph trends and some of the different structures you can use.

Remember though this example has only used a few of the words possible for describing change.

It's important to vary your language so look around the IELTS buddy site for other lessons and model essays.

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