Let's say I was given a pie chart saying that the Coca-Cola company sold 17.1 billion bottles in the year 2000.

My task is to construct a sentence that describes the chart. However, I am forbidden from using the exact number 17.1. I am expected to replace it with something like "sold slightly more than 17 billion bottles".

Considering that there are a lot of numbers in the task and that I cannot use the same phrase more than once (and if I do, I lose points) my question is about numbers and their descriptions:

  1. How can I say "slightly more than" in other words (=synonyms)?
  2. How can I describe these numbers (in the phrase "sold XXX bottles"):

    • 30.4
    • 25.7
    • 7.0 (very important!)
    • 16.4
    • 20.5

Any extended resources are welcome!

  • This page has some good information on being vague and imprecise: esl.about.com/od/grammarstructures/a/f_vague.htm. Jan 7, 2015 at 12:11
  • /rant Gah, is this test trying to create more marketers? WTH is wrong with actually using precise numbers. /endrant
    – DRF
    Sep 27, 2016 at 10:23
  • The problem with precise numbers is when they imply greater accuracy than is known like "The distance to proxima is 40170261586578076800 mm" (most of those digits are garbage) You sometimes see things like "distance 328.084 feet", and you know that someone has just converted the rounded value "100 m" to the exact equivalent in feet. It's not useful precision.
    – James K
    Aug 2, 2023 at 12:22

2 Answers 2


It is a good practice to use round figure while answering visual presentations in IELTS academic writing task 1.

You can use several words like "slightly more than" :

  • just under
  • just over
  • well under
  • well over
  • roughly
  • nearly
  • approximately
  • around
  • about
  • exactly

Lets present those numbers by using these words/phrases:

  • 30.4 : just over 30
  • 25.7: well over 25 or nearly 26
  • 7.0 : exactly 7
  • 16.4 : roughly 16
  • 20.5 : about 20

I hope you find this helpful.

I recently come across a great infographic to score well in IELTS writing task-1 and like to share with you:



Very much depending on context, but the possibilities are almost endless:

Roughly 30
Almost 26
Just over 16
Around 20

For 7.0, it would be difficult to avoid 7, unless the context permits it. For instance, if it is 7.0%, you could say roughly 1 in 14. If the number is compared to, say, last year, 7.0 can be almost 10% more than last year.

As for sources and resources, I'd suggest papers and news sites. Especially economically-oriented media tend to use a lot of variations on numbers and how to use them in texts.

Of course, you may not always be aware that the numbers are approximated or rounded. In a sentence like:

In the overall household savings, bank deposits account for nearly 5% while provident and pension funds make up 15%. (source)

The nearly 5% indicates that the actual number may be 4.8% or so, but the 15% might very well be somewhere between 14.7 and 15.3% as well!

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