Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!


Graph skills

Graphs 3: bar charts

Bar charts or bar graphs represent data as vertical blocks or columns.

The X axis shows what type of data [data: information without context, eg a list of students with numbers beside their names is data, when it's made clear that those numbers represent their placing in a 100 metre race, the data becomes information ] each column represents, and the Y axis shows a value for that type of data. For example, in a rainfall graph, each column on the X axis represents a month of the year, with the height of each column on the Y axis showing the amount of rainfall in that month.

Types of bar chart


It is possible to split each column into sections to show the breakdown of data. For example, the employment data shown on the previous page could have been represented as three columns on a bar chart. The three columns would represent the three countries, with each column subdivided into sections showing primary, secondary and tertiary in different colours. This type of bar chart is sometimes called a compound bar chart.


It is also possible to compare two sets of data on a bar chart - for example, measuring rainfall in two countries over the same period. This type of bar graph is called a comparative bar graph.

The chart below compares the tourism data for the UK in October 2001 with October the previous year. The graph shows how tourism declined after the terrorist attack in America in September 2001.

Bar chart showing decline in tourism to the UK

Bar chart showing decline in tourism to the UK

Back to Geographical skills index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.