Some of the most important language in task 1 is the compare and contrast vocabulary. This is because the instructions tell you to
make comparisons where relevant
You also need to describe numbers. This lesson helps you out with different ways to compare and contrast numbers. It is not all about more and less.
1. Comparisons between sentences
One way to make comparisons is to start a new sentence with a word/phrase that shows that you are about to make a comparison with the previous sentence. The basic words you need here are:
The most popular form of holiday among the Welsh was self-catering with over 60% choosing to cook for themselves. In contrast, only 5 % of the English chose this form of vacation and hotel accommodation was much more popular at 48%.
Almost 50% of the English, Scots and Northern Irish chose to stay in a hotel for their holiday. In comparison, staying in self-catering accommodation was much less popular with around 10% of people choosing this.
The general pattern was for hotel accommodation to be the most popular with around half the people choosing it. The majority of the Welsh, however, chose to stay in self-catering accommodation.
On the other hand
It is clear that a majority of the British chose to stay in hotel for their holiday. On the other hand, there was an exception to this because over 50% of the Welsh opted for self-catering accommodation.
Note that we normally use a comma after In contrast and In comparison.
Note that there are lots of different ways to use compare and contrast and these are just the most basic examples. If you are looking for a higher band score, it’s good advice to learn different ways to use these words.
Note too that typically however is not used as the first word in a sentence.
2. Comparisons within sentences
Another possibility is to compare two pieces of information within the same sentence. The basic words you need here are:
While there are 4 million miles of train lines in the UK, there are only 3 million in France.
Whereas the majority of the French prefer to travel to work by train, only a small minority of the British do.
Although 15% of the French read novels, only 5% of the British do.
Almost 25% of French females study maths with a private tutor, but nearly 60% study English with one.
3. Comparisons with more or less/fewer
This is another obvious way to make comparisons and contrasts. You should note though that you are normally going to compare numbers and nouns and not adjectives. You want to remember these two key bit of grammar:
Remember that after more/less/fewer we use than
5% more girls chose to read books than go to cinema.
If the word is uncountable we use less, if it is countable we use fewer:
Fewer mobiles phones were bought in 2013 than 2014.
Less oil was consumed in 2013 than 2014.
4. Qualify your comparisons with much/far/slightly or a number
This is similar. The idea here is that you still use less/more/fewer but this time you explain how much. Typically, the best way to do this is to use a number:
Far fewer people chose to travel by train than by car. [Where’s the detail?]
25% fewer people chose to travel by train than by car. [Better now we have detail and not just a comparison]
5. Comparisons with most or least/fewest
When you are looking for details to include, the highest/lowest number is almost always important. This too is a form of comparison.
The most popular form of entertainment in the UK was going to the cinema.
The least common form of transport was taking a taxi.
6. Comparisons with similar or same or as…..as
Don’t forget that some of the numbers you will be comparing are similar. These are the basic words and structures you need.
The percentages of females and males who studied languages at university were very similar.
A similar amount of gas and electricity was used domestically in homes.
The figures for 2012 were very similar to the figures for 2013.
Same as …as
The percentage of females who studied at university in 2011 was almost exactly the same as in 2012
7. Comparisons with differ/different/difference
If something is similar, it can also be different! Here is another set of basic variations for you:
The amount of time spent at home differed by almost 25% according to gender.
There was a difference of over 25% in the amount of time males and females spent at home.
This figure was very different among males, only half of whom watched television.
8. Comparisons with numbers
Another way to make comparisons is to do some simple arithmetic! Here are some simple variations:
[5 million] more/less/fewer
5 million fewer units of gas were sold in 2014.
Twice as many people elected to use gas and not electricity for cooking [note the twice as …as structure]
Twice the amount of gas was used for cooking in this period. [note that we amount with uncountable nouns]
Three/four etc times
Four times as many people chose to heat their house with electricity as with gas.
Half the number of people chose to use gas as electricity.
Electricity was half as popular as gas for cooking.
More help with task 1Try another numbers lesson – do some mathsDo some numbers exercises
Compare and contrast is a common form of academic writing, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger essay which includes one or more paragraphs which compare or contrast. This page gives information on what a compare and contrast essay is, how to structure this type of essay, how to use compare and contrast structure words, and how to make sure you use appropriate criteria for comparison/contrast. There is also an example compare and contrast essay on the topic of communication technology, as well as some exercises to help you practice this area.
What are compare & contrast essays?
To compare is to examine how things are similar, while to contrast is to see how they differ. A compare and contrast essay therefore looks at the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences. This essay type is common at university, where lecturers frequently test your understanding by asking you to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two historical periods, two characters in a novel, etc. Sometimes the whole essay will compare and contrast, though sometimes the comparison or contrast may be only part of the essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that only the similarities or the differences, not both, will be discussed. See the examples below.
There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay, namely using a block or a point-by-point structure. For the block structure, all of the information about one of the objects being compared/contrasted is given first, and all of the information about the other object is listed afterwards. This type of structure is similar to the block structure used for cause and effect and problem-solution essays. For the point-by-point structure, each similarity (or difference) for one object is followed immediately by the similarity (or difference) for the other. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is easier to write, while the latter is generally clearer as it ensures that the similarities/differences are more explicit.
The two types of structure, block and point-by-point, are shown in the diagram below.
Object 1 - Point 1
Object 1 - Point 2
Object 1 - Point 3
Object 2 - Point 1
Object 2 - Point 2
Object 2 - Point 3
Compare and Contrast Structure Words
Compare and contrast structure words are transition signals which show the similarities or differences. Below are some common examples.
Criteria for comparison/contrast
When making comparisons or contrasts, it is important to be clear what criteria you are using. Study the following example, which contrasts two people. Here the criteria are unclear.
Although this sentence has a contrast transition, the criteria for contrasting are not the same. The criteria used for Aaron are height (tall) and strength (strong). We would expect similar criteria to be used for Bruce (maybe he is short and weak), but instead we have new criteria, namely appearance (handsome) and intelligence (intelligent). This is a common mistake for students when writing this type of paragraph or essay. Compare the following, which has much clearer criteria (contrast structure words shown in bold).
Below is a compare and contrast essay. This essay uses the point-by-point structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. similarities, differences, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the comparisons and contrasts contained in the main body.
Title: There have been many advances in technology over the past fifty years. These have revolutionised the way we communicate with people who are far away. Compare and contrast methods of communication used today with those which were used in the past.
Before the advent of computers and modern technology, people communicating over long distances used traditional means such as letters and the telephone. Nowadays we have a vast array of communication tools which can complete this task, ranging from email to instant messaging and video calls. While the present and previous means of communication are similar in their general form, they differ in regard to their speed and the range of tools available.
One similarity between current and previous methods of communication relates to the form of communication. In the past, both written forms such as letters were frequently used, in addition to oral forms such as telephone calls. Similarly, people nowadays use both of these forms. Just as in the past, written forms of communication are prevalent, for example via email and text messaging. In addition, oral forms are still used, including the telephone, mobile phone, and voice messages via instant messaging services.
However, there are clearly many differences in the way we communicate over long distances, the most notable of which is speed. This is most evident in relation to written forms of communication. In the past, letters would take days to arrive at their destination. In contrast, an email arrives almost instantaneously and can be read seconds after it was sent. In the past, if it was necessary to send a short message, for example at work, a memo could be passed around the office, which would take some time to circulate. This is different from the current situation, in which a text message can be sent immediately.
Another significant difference is the range of communication methods. Fifty years ago, the tools available for communicating over long distances were primarily the telephone and the letter. By comparison, there are a vast array of communication methods available today. These include not only the telephone, letter, email and text messages already mentioned, but also video conferences via software such as Skype or mobile phone apps such as Wechat, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In conclusion, methods of communication have greatly advanced over the past fifty years. While there are some similarities, such as the forms of communication, there are significant differences, chiefly in relation to the speed of communication and the range of communication tools available. There is no doubt that technology will continue to progress in future, and the advanced tools which we use today may one day also become outdated.
GET A FREE SAMPLE
Like the website? Try the book. Enter your email to receive a free sample from the recently published title, EAP Foundation: Academic Presentations.
Below is a checklist for compare and contrast essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
You need to login to view the exercises. If you do not already have an account, you can register for free.