PTE Describe Image Vocabulary

The following vocabulary can be useful in the describe image section of the PTE-Academic test.

It is important to use correct vocabulary to describe statistical information. You may also need to use a different set of expressions to describe pictures.

Prepositions: from/between 1990 to/and 2010
Movements up: increased, rose, grew, went up
Movements down: decreased, declined, dropped, went down
Adjectives: slight, gradual, sharp, sudden, steady
Adverbs: slightly, gradually, sharply, suddenly, steadily
No movement: remained steady/stable, was unchanged, stabilized


For line charts ,there are two main grammatical structures we can use to describe trends.  (Credits IELTS Advantage  )

  1. There + be + adj. + noun + in + noun phrase


There was a gradual rise in the price of oil.

There has been a sharp drop in the price of oil.

Possible adjectives

  • gradual
  • moderate
  • modest
  • sharp
  • dramatic
  • slight
  • steep
  • steady
  • significant
  • considerable
  • rapid

Possible nouns:

  • variation
  • decline
  • decrease
  • dip
  • drop
  • fall
  • peak
  • fluctuation
  • growth
  • increase
  • rise
  • slump
  1. Noun phrase + verb + adverb


The price of oil rose gradually.

The price of oil has risen dramatically.

Possible verbs:

  • rise
  • jump
  • grow
  • climb
  • increase
  • rocket
  • fall
  • drop
  • decline
  • decrease
  • go down
  • plummet
  • plunge


Possible adverbs:

  • gradually
  • moderately
  • modestly
  • sharply
  • dramatically
  • slightly
  • steeply
  • steadily
  • significantly
  • considerably
  • rapidly
  • slowly

Describing Increases and Decreases

When describing any of the charts in IELTS writing task 1, you might have to describe increases and decreases. There are three main ways you can describe increases and decreases.

  1. Noun phrase + verb + adverb


The price of property fell sharply

The percentage of homes dropped dramatically.

  1. There + be + noun + in + noun phrase


There was a fall in literacy levels.

There has been an increase in the cost of coffee.

  1. Using fractions


The price of oil halved in less than a year.

The price of oil has halved since July.

By July, the price of oil has halved.

Making Comparisons

IELTS writing task 1 will often require you to make comparisons between data sources, groups and times. Here are five grammatical structures you can use to make comparisons.

  1. More/few/less + noun + than


Overall, more people preferred public transport than taxis.

  1. of one syllable -er + than


A higher number of people preferred public transport than taxis.

  1. More/less + adj. of more than one syllable + than


Taxis were more popular than public transport.

  1. of one syllable -est.


The highest % of commuters preferred taxis.

  1. The most/least + adj. of more than one syllable.


The least popular mode of transport was buses.



  • To summarise, the most marked change is….
  • Overall, it is clear….
  • Overall, the majority/minority….
  • In sum, the most noticeable trend is….

Don’t say ‘to conclude’. This is only for discursive essays.



The key is to look at the title of the chart and the information contained on both axes to establish what time frame is used. This will help you establish what tense you should use.


  • If the time is one point in the past, for example January 1990, then we should use the past tense.
  • If it has projections for the future, for example 2045, we use future tenses.
  • It there is no time, we use present simple.

Below are a range of tenses that could be used in task 1. Remember, the tense you use will depend on the information displayed in the graph. This is not a complete list of tenses and an awareness of all the English tenses will help you achieve the IELTS score you need.

  1. Present Perfect:

We use this tense generally to talk about an action that happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time period is not important.

In writing task 1, we use this tense to talk about changes in data that have happened over a period of time.


The price of oil has fallen by $5 a barrel every week since July.

  1. Present Perfect Continuous

We use this tense to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now.


Oil prices have been decreasing since July.

  1. Future Perfect

We use this tense to state that something will be finished by a particular time in the future.

We often use it with ‘by’ or ‘in’.


The price of oil will have reached $300 a barrel by 2020.

  1. Past Simple

Use this tense to talk about an action that started and finished at a specific time in the past.


The price of oil fell from $150 in Jan 2014 to $50 in Jan 2015.

Approximations, Percentages and Fractions

In many of the questions, you will have to deal with percentages. This is a good opportunity to express these percentages in a different way and boost your score. A way of varying this language is to express them as fractions or proportions.

Remember that you should vary your language as much as possible in order to score high in the ‘lexical resource’ part of the test.

For instance, use approximations. E.g. 49% can be expressed as “nearly a half”.

Below are a range of expressions that can be used to express percentages.


73%- nearly three quarters

51%- just over a half

49%- just under a half

32%- nearly a third

3%- a tiny fraction

50%- exactly a half

26%- roughly one quarter

49%- around a half

24%- almost a quarter

77%- approximately three quarters


70%- a large proportion

71%- a significant majority

15% a small minority

3%- an insignificant minority

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