The ability to compare and contrast is important in both the speaking and writing sections of the IELTS exam and can help you to improve your score in Grammatical range and accuracy and Lexical Resource. In this guide, we will look at different grammatical structures and language to help you compare and contrast effectively in the IELTS Academic test.
Table of Contents
- Compare and Contrast in IELTS Writing
- Compare and Contrast in IELTS Speaking
1 Compare and Contrast in IELTS Writing
1.1 Comparatives and superlatives
One of the aims of IELTS writing task 1 is to compare and contrast information given in a graph, chart or diagram. If you want to achieve a higher IELTS band score, you need to use a range of language and grammatical structures accurately.
One way to compare and contrast is to use comparatives and superlatives.
Let’s quickly look at the rules for how to form comparatives and superlatives:
|One syllable||large||larger||the largest|
|Three syllables or more||important||more important|
|the most important|
the least important
|Words ending in -y||easy||easier||the easiest|
|Short words ending in a consonant-vowel-consonant||big||bigger||the biggest|
|Irregular comparatives/superlatives||good||better||the best|
Here are some examples for the bar chart below:
- Cappuccinos are more popular in Club coffee than Espresso Express.
- Americanos are less popular in Espresso Espresso than Club coffee.
- Cafe lattes are the most popular hot drinks overall.
- Caramel lattes are the least popular beverage in Club Coffee.
Comparatives and superlatives can also be used in any IELTS Writing Task 2 essay, for example:
- In recent years, it has become much more common for students to complete their degree overseas instead of their home country.
- It is argued that regional and community action is more effective than global efforts.
- Having more money and less free time is better than earning less money and having more free time.
1.2 Qualifying comparisons
You can also modify your comparative phrases even further. See our examples in bold below:
Americanos were a lot more popular than espressos.
The country’s GDP was much higher in 1992 than 2000.
France produced much less energy than Germany in 2009.
There were slightly less visitors to the UK in 1979 than 1980.
The Children’s charity received far more money in 2016 than 2017.
Encouraging cycling is a far more effective way of reducing pollution than punishing drivers.
NEgative news stories are much more common than positive reporting.
1.3 Comparing similar/opposite figures
Even if you are given numbers that are almost the same in writing task 1, you can still use comparative language such as:
- as … as…
- almost as … as
- not quite as … as
- nearly as … as
- Just as many cars as vans were hired in 2000.
- The number of people that emigrated to the USA in 2009 was almost as high as the number to the UK.
- The number of vehicle thefts in 2000 was not quite as high as it was in 2001.
- Travelling by bike was nearly as popular as travelling by car in the UK in 2018.
And if you are given figures that are drastically different, you can use the following phrases to create a contrast:
- Not nearly as …. as
- Nowhere near as … as
- half as … as
- The proportion of monthly income spent on entertainment was not nearly as high as housing.
- The percentage of women in poverty of women aged 45-54 was nowhere near as high as women aged 18-24.
- Half as many history books as fiction books were borrowed from the library in 2014 than 2018.
1.4 Subordinate clauses
Subordinate clauses are another way to compare and contrast information, as well as increase your grammatical range and coherence in IELTS Writing Tasks 1 and 2
Subordinate clauses joined to the main clause using a subordinating conjunction.
Here are some suitable subordinating conjunctions you could use:
- Even though
- Although going to the gym is good for your health, it is not effective without a balanced diet.
- While English was the most popular subject in 2020, Economics was even more popular in 2021.
- Even though most students pass their exams, many still choose to travel abroad and take a gap year.
1.5 Transition words
Transition words, also known as cohesive devices, are another way to compare and contrast.
Here’s a list of useful cohesive devices to compare and contrast:
- Even so
- In contrast
- In the same way
- On one hand
- On the other hand
- Many actors are often followed by the press. Likewise, reality TV stars often report being hounded by paparazzi.
- One one hand, renting your home instead of buying it can be more beneficial as the landlord is responsible for repairs. On the other hand, you will not be able to pass on the house to your children in the future.
- It is argued that people should eat a plant-based diet rather than eating meat as it is healthier.
2. Compare and Contrast in IELTS Speaking
Comparing and contrasting is not only important in writing but also the IELTS speaking section of the test, especially parts 2 and 3 where you have more time to develop your answers.
You can comparing people, places and things in any part of the speaking exam using the following structures:
- A is similar/different to B because…
- A is similar/different to B in that…
- Modern art is different to traditional art forms because you often need to interpret modern artwork in your own way.
- My hometown is similar to where I live now in that both are busy cities with a great nightlife.
You could also use a range of adverbs such as:
- totally/strikingly/ distinctly different
- slightly/rather/subtly different
- My highschool experience was distinctly different from my time at university.
- My daily routine today is only subtly different from a few years ago.
- It is quite common for people to choose tea over coffee in my country.
2.2 Comparing things that are the same/similar
Even if you have two things that are similar, you can still use language to highlight the similarities. Here are just some ways you can do this:
- A is as reliable as B
- A is identical to B
- A is the same as B
- Electric vehicles are as reliable as petrol cars.
- The replica of the Eiffel tower in my city is identical to the original in Paris.
- The level of pollution in London is the same as in other large cities.
2.3 Unusual vocabulary
To increase your range of IELTS vocabulary and your score in Lexical resources, you should try to include more unusual words and phrases in your answers. Here are some examples linked to comparing and contrasting:
- A is a far cry away from B
- A is worlds apart from B
- A and B are poles apart
- A is in a different league to B
- Alaska is a far cry away from Florida, it’s so much colder and far less populated.
- Australia is worlds apart from Berlin, there are so many cultural differences especially when it comes to the food.
- My mother and I are poles apart in personality, she is far more outgoing than I am.
- My brother is in a different league to me when it comes to musical ability, he has been composing songs since a very early age.
2.4 Cohesive devices
As with writing, you can also use cohesive devices or IELTS transition words in the speaking section to compare and contrast, for instance:
- On the contrary
- On the other hand
- Children should study art at school because it encourages their creativity. Likewise, they should also be encouraged to take up a musical instrument.
- Governments should take responsibility for the food children eat at school. On the other hand, it could also be argued that students should have the freedom to make their own decisions.