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ESL Worksheets

Understanding and Discussing Data in Graphs

  1. Read the following text and use the information in it to complete the bar chart below. The first set of "bars" has been done for you as an example. Please use the same shading for the other bars.
  2. Air pollution rates in the USA increased significantly during the second half of the 20th century. Three gases dominated this trend. Sulphur dioxide emissions during World War 2 totalled roughly 17.6 million metric tons (MT) per year but rose to nearly 20 million MT in 1950. As manufacturing industries expanded, the level of emissions remained high and by 1970 had increased to 28.3 MT per year. Over the next decade, however, air quality improved as a result of stricter laws and cleaner technology so that emissions fell to 23.5 million MT in 1980 and just about 22 million in 1990.

    Meanwhile, emissions of Nitrogen Oxide another "greenhouse gas" rose steadily. Between 1940 and 1950 they climbed from 6.8 million to 9.3 million MT. In the following decade they increased by a further 3.5 million MT and soared to 18.3 million MT in 1970. Throughout the following 20 years the annual level was around 23 million MT.

    Another dangerous gas, Carbon Monoxide, is emitted by motor vehicles and domestic heating appliances. In 1940 81.5 million MT were emitted, rising to 86.1 million MT in 1950. An additional 2 million tons were emitted in 1960 and the figure increased to slightly over 100 million MT in 1970. With rising car ownership during the next two decades, carbon monoxide levels soared, reaching 114 million tons in 1980, but fell to 98 million MT in 1990 (probably due to improved car exhaust filters).

    Source: US Bureau of the Census, Table No. 374. "National Air Pollutant Emissions 1940-1994"


  3. Study the following notes in order to learn some of the language you may need when writing (or talking) about changes in graphs that cover different points in time (e.g. months, years, seasons).

    ì ì ì

    î î î


    an increase

    a rise

    a growth

    an upward trend

    a decrease

    a fall

    a decline

    a downward trend

    a drop





    doubled (x2)

    shot up ä ä

    soared ä ä





    plunged æ æ

    slumped æ æ






















    by ___%

    fivefold / tenfold (etc)




    by ___%




    March 2004

    the 19th century


    the summer months

    World War 1

    the last century


    the next decade


    1960 and 1990


  5. Use the information in the following line graph to complete the text below it. (You can refer to the language notes above if necessary.)
  6. Source: Energy Information Administration


    Oil consumption ___________ ___________ly between 1950 and 1980. Then it ___________ ___________ly until the mid-eighties but since then has ___________ ___________ly. Natural gas consumption has followed a very similar pattern. Coal consumption , on the other hand, ___________ ___________ly in the mid-fifties but over the past forty years has ___________ ___________ly. Nuclear technology was only developed in the late sixties and production of nuclear electricity has ___________ ___________ly since then.


  7. Use the information in the following bar chart to complete the text below it.
  8. Source: UK Commission for Integrated Transport (


    The general trend in the last 30 years of the 20th century was that British people walked less. Between 1970 and 1980 the average number of kilometres ___________ from 470 to 458 per person per year. Over the next decade there was a very ___________ ___________ as car ownership increased. The annual distance walked ___________ to 408 kms in 1985 and ___________ as far as 397 kms at the end of the decade. Since then there has been a ___________ ___________, possibly due to increased public awareness. However, we still walk far too little and health experts have warned that obesity and related diseases are on the increase.


  9. Study the graph below and write a short text describing the changes that occurred between 1980 and 1998.
  10. Useful vocabulary

    only 2% of … / nearly half of … / about one third of …

    US / American ...

    ... households / families / homes

    PC ownership...

    The number of households with a PC ...

    increased rapidly /rose steadily (etc)

    The Internet did not even exist in 1980.

    There were hardly any Internet users until the 1990s.

    Internet usage ...

    The number of homes connected to the Internet / with an Internet connection / with Internet access / online ...

    increased rapidly /rose steadily (etc)


  11. Study the graph below and write a short text describing the changes that occurred between 1963 and 1999.


Frankie Meehan