Modified Dec. 18, 2013
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Model Answer, Cambridge Practice IELTS Tests, Book 9, Test 3, Task 1
The population charts for Italy and Yemen in 2000 and 2050 show that the average age of the population in both countries is expected to increase over this period as a result of two factors; a decrease in the proportion of people aged under 15 (by 13% in Yemen and 3% in Italy) but mostly as a result of the natural aging of the largest age groups existing in 2000.
That is, most of the 50.1% under 15 age group in Yemen in 2000 is expected to become the largest group in that country fifty years later, a 53.7% 15-59 age group. Similarly, the very large Italian 61.6% 15-59 group in 2000 is expected to become the 42.3% over-60 age group in Italy in 2050, a substantial increase from the 24.1% that this oldest age group represented in 2000. Nevertheless, the 15-59 age group in Italy is projected to still be slightly bigger, at 46.2%, than the elderly group.
Noticeably, this projected aging of the Italian 15-59 age group is not expected to be replicated among the large 46.3% of the Yemeni population aged 15 to 59 in 2000, since it is estimated that the over-60 group in Yemen will be only 5.7% of the population in 2050, a relatively small increase from the 2000 figure of 3.6% for this group.
Word count = 221
Not everyone would think in terms of the average age of the population but I found it a convenient "thread" with which to connect both countries here, something they have in common. This kind of thinking comes with experience in reading statistical reports and/or doing statistical analyses – reports about population statistics invariably mention the average age of the population. In fact, most sets of statistics mention an average. IELTS Academic Task 1 essays are partially designed to have a mathematical or technical theme to give a chance to the many engineering and science students who do the test, as a balance to the slight advantage that the humanities students might have in Task 2.
I think it is ridiculous to state projected population percentages in 2050 in tenths of a percentage. But since those figures are given, it does not hurt to use them. The alternative is to write "about" all the time if you round off the figures, which would be tedious to read. If you habitually don't write "about" or "approximately" in an essay, then some examiners might think that, strictly speaking, such rounded figures are inaccurate because "13%" means "13.0%". On the other hand, some other examiners might say that "13%" already means, "about 13%" because no decimal point is used.