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IELTS Writing (Academic) Task 1 Sample 9

The list and the illustration show the world’s most polluted countries in 2019, and the risk faced by citizens as per the United States Air Quality Index (US AQI) bands. According to the US AQI, the data is based only upon PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) information which is collected from ground-based air quality monitoring stations. Describe briefly based on your understanding. (At least 150 words).

Additional information:

  • PM2.5 is defined as ambient airborne particles measuring up to 2.5 microns in size.

  • According to the WHO, not more than an annual mean exposure threshold of 10µg/m³ will help minimize the risk of health impacts from PM2.5.


Data Source: https://www.iqair.com/us/world-most-polluted-countries


Sample Answer

The list of the top twenty of the world’s most polluted countries for the year 2019 has been taken from the annual list of the United States Air Quality Index (US AQI). Bangladesh has been ranked first, with an average PM2.5 level of 83.3, which falls in the category of “unhealthy” as per the AQI bands. At this level, its citizens are at an aggravated risk of contracting several diseases associated with the heart and lungs among other side effects.

Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India are among the top five most polluted countries with the PM2.5 level at “unhealthy” band at more than 55.5. As a combination, the Indian subcontinent emerges as the world’s most polluted zone.

Indonesia, ranked sixth, is the first country in the category of “unhealthy for sensitive groups” with a PM2.5 level of 51.7. According to US AQI, the repercussions for this band is that the people in these countries will suffer from general respiratory discomfort and other kinds of irritation during long term exposure. Also, some groups who are more sensitive, may experience increased health consequences. Countries ranked between sixth to thirteenth fall in this category and include Bahrain, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Mainland China, the UAE and Kuwait as per rank.

The rest of the seven countries have a PM2.5 level between 12.1 to 35.4 and are classified as moderately polluted. At number fourteen is Bosnia & Herzegovina with 34.6 followed by Vietnam at 34.1. Kyrgyzstan, North Macedonia, Syria, DR Congo, and Myanmar complete the list with a PM2.5 level of at least 31.0. All these countries are far above the WHO recommended PM2.5 level of less than 10, and need urgent remedies to bring it down.




  • The candidate opens by describing the highest ranking (i.e. the worst) polluted country, Bangladesh, and pointing out the implications of its very poor air quality. This sets the tone for appreciating the data laid out in the chart, indicating that the candidate read all of the available information and was able to understand it as a whole. You will notice that the health implications of the bad air quality are observed throughout the answer.

  • The second paragraph continues from the first, noting the rest of the ‘Top 5’ polluted countries alongside Bangladesh, grouping all five (the ‘Indian subcontinent’) as “the world’s most polluted zone”. This sort of organised approach means that the subject matter is dealt with efficiently and concisely.

  • The candidate makes a personal recommendation/observation to close their answer, showing an investment or interest in the subject matter. This displays a measure of personal engagement which would be welcomed.


  • The candidate uses the Present Perfect tense in the opening sentences, with “…has been taken from…” and “…has been ranked…”. Alternatives are: “…is taken from…” or “…comes from…”; and “…is ranked…” or simply “…ranked (first)” (or “ranks first”, if the sentence was written in the Present Simple).

  • Note that the tense used throughout is Present Simple. This is the most common tense used for such things as news reports, informal storytelling, and observational humour. Using the Present Simple (or Simple Present) makes things imminent and relevant to the present moment, creating a sense of connection.

  • There is a grammatical error in paragraph 3. In the sentence fragment “…the repercussions for this band is that…”, the countable noun, ‘repercussions’, is plural. In this regard, it should be followed by ‘are’ instead of ‘is’. So, it should read: “the repercussions for this band are that…”, where ‘general respiratory discomfort’ and ‘other kinds of irritation’ make up the plural repurcussions.

  • No comma is required in this fragment: “…groups who are more sensitive, may experience…”. The full sentence should read: “Also, some groups who are more sensitive may experience increased health consequences.”

  • In paragraph three, we would recommend changing “…fall in this category…” to either “…fall into this category…” or (our preference) “…belong to this category…”. See our Prepositions Comic on ‘in, into, and inside’, or our Grammar write-up comparing ‘Onto’ and ‘Into’, for some clarity on the differences between ‘in’ and ‘into’.


  • repercussions - consequences or results, usually referring to or implying a negative outcome

  • increased health consequences - On its own, this is unspecific terminology, as it does not imply whether the consequences are positive or negative. Be careful to be specific and clarify your intentions. Luckily, the context in this answer makes it clear that the consequences are negative.

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