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English Language Support: Describing Data

Describing Data

Learning and understanding the language needed to interpret data is essential for students studying at university. You need the language of graphs and tables in order to simplify your data, demonstrate the trends, explain the budgets, illustrate cycles and make your comparisons. In Describing Data we look at the language you need to illustrate your points and describe your data, whether it's in an academic presentation or within an essay or report.


Important Information

  • Describing Data is a course consisting of 4 sessions.
  • Each session is 90 minutes long.
  • The course runs for four weeks
  • There are regular start dates each month.

Scroll down to find more information about each session and its learning outcomes.



Next course starts

1 - Highlighting trends and projections.

Line graphs are a popular way of displaying data. They are used illustrate trends and projections and show how information is connected in some way (generally over a period of time).  To successfully describe a line graph, specific language is therefore needed.  In this lesson you will learn to describe the key features of a line graph and develop the correct use of verb/adverb/adjective collocations to help you describe your data’s movement in a simple and effective way. 

In this session, you will:

  • become more familiar with the various types of line graphs.
  • build relevant vocabulary for describing these graphs.
  • use grammar – verb-adverb-adjective collocations. 
  • practise discussing trends with a partner.

2 - Describing bar charts and pie charts

Data can be represented in many different ways. Two ways to illustrate this are by using bar charts and pie charts, both of which are used extensively to demonstrate statistical data. A bar chart generally shows comparisons among two or more categories, whereas a pie chart normally shows proportion, which can be measured in percentages or fractions.  In this lesson you will build the specific vocabulary needed to describe both charts and practise communicating this information in a simple and effective way. 

In this session, you will:

  • learn how to interpret both charts.
  • practise using numbers, fractions, percentages and comparatives.
  • engage in pair-work presenting and describing either a bar chart or a pie chart.

3 - Working with tables

Tables illustrate a different sort of data from line graphs, bar charts and pie charts. They require slightly different language and the ability to analyse information in a different way. Although tables are not necessarily harder than any other kind of data to describe, they can be particularly challenging as they present more data. This means you need to be selective with what to include and what not to include. In this lesson you will learn how to summarise information in a table and be able to present the main features. You will use a variety of structures for making comparisons and approximations and learn how to state what you are referring to in a simple way. 

In this session, you will:

  • practise verbally summarising a simple table. 

  • build the language of comparisons and approximations.

  • practise distinguishing between presenting more important data from less important data. 

4 - Analysing and evaluating data

Analysing and evaluating data in graphs and charts can prove a difficult and daunting task. 

In this final lesson we will quickly review the basic types of graphs and charts from the previous 3 lessons, discussing and analysing what we think the data represents and embedding learned vocabulary. Research will follow whereby you will analyse a new graph/chart/table and finally give a short 1-2-minute presentation on your findings to other students in your group. 


In this session, you will:

  • practise using key language for analysis and evaluation. 

  • use re-cycled vocabulary on describing data. 

  • give a mini presentation using real-world data.