In Part 1 of the IELTS Writing test, you might be asked to describe a process diagram. IELTS Task 1 process questions are not as common as charts or graphs, but they do come up occasionally.
A process diagram is an illustration that shows you how something is done. It could be anything from the creation of a product to the recycling cycle (as in this IELTS Task 1 process example!)
Generally, you’ll find two types of process diagram questions in IELTS. The first is a manufacturing process: something that humans do. The second is a natural process: something that occurs in nature.
No matter what type of process the prompt asks you to write about, you can use the same kinds of process vocabulary IELTS words and phrases in your response!
There are generally two different types of process diagram : natural and man-made
Natural processes include things like the life cycle of a butterfly or frog, pregnancy, the water cycle or how cows produce milk.
You might also be asked to describe a man-made process like how coffee, tea, beer or wine are made, how cement or bricks are produced or how an ATM or the internet works.
It does not matter if it is man-made or a natural process. The same skills and system we use to answer process questions are the same for both.
To understand the task and quickly make a plan to answer process questions you should follow the 7 steps below:
Find the start and the end of the process. Count how many stages there are and understand what each stage does and the relationship it has with the stage before and after it.
This is your overview paragraph and I will show you how to write this in more detail below.
Write two separate paragraphs detailing each stage of the process.
One of the most challenging things about these questions is having to write about something you have never seen or heard of before.
Don’t worry, try to remember two things.
First, the examiner knows that you have probably never seen this process before and you have only 20 minutes to write about it. They do not expect a perfect answer. Just pick out the main features and report them accurately.
Second, you can quickly understand any process by asking yourself these questions:
The processes you will be asked to write about in the IELTS test will not be very complicated and you should be able to easily answer all of the questions above. When you do this you will completely understand what is happening and you will be able to start writing your answer.
Every process question follows the same format. First, it tells you some general information about the process and then it instructs you to ‘Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features.’
For example, the question above states:
The diagram below shows the process of photosynthesis. (General information)
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features. (Instructions)
The first thing we need to do in every question is to paraphrase the general information. Paraphrasing is one of the most important IELTS skills to master. We paraphrase a sentence by rewriting it so that the words are different but the meaning stays the same. There are a few different ways we can do this but the easiest way is to use synonyms and change the word order of the sentence. Synonyms are different words that have the same meaning, for example, woman and female.
Let’s look at the questions above and paraphrase them.
Question 1: The diagram below shows the process of photosynthesis.
Paraphrased: The illustration demonstrates how plants produce energy from sunlight.
Question 2: The diagram below shows how electricity is produced in a nuclear power station.
Paraphrased: The illustration below shows the process of how nuclear power plants make electricity.
Every time you see an Academic Task 1 question rewrite the question and this should be your first paragraph. We can no move on and write our next paragraph; the overview.
The overview is probably the most important paragraph in the whole essay. If you do not write an overview it is extremely difficult to get a high mark in IELTS Task 1, however, if you learn how to write a good one, you are far more likely to get the score you deserve.
Overviews for process questions can be done quite easily by asking yourself a few questions. The answers to these questions will allow you to form 2 overview sentences.
You might not be able to answer all of these for each process question, but you will always be able to answer enough of them to be able to write a good overview.
Now that we have paraphrased the question and provided an overview we need to tell the examiner about each stage in more detail.
Try to sequence your language and make your details easier to read by using language like:
Make sure you know the meaning and grammar of the words and phrases above before you use them. Do not use them if you are not 100% sure about how they should be used in a sentence.
You should try to leave 3-4 minutes at the end to check and improve your work. Many students do not do this because they feel they do not have enough time, however, it is better to try and get everything done in 15 minutes and then check and refine your work, than do everything in 20 minutes.
Things that you should check are:
Process Vocabulary IELTS Examples
This diagram illustrates the man-made process that a company uses to distribute natural gas to consumers. Overall, this seven-step, linear process illustrates which types of consumers the company prioritizes.
This diagram depicts the natural hydrological cycle process by which water moves through the environment. This cyclical process involves steps, such as evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.
Process Diagram Vocabulary IELTS Examples
First, the product begins in the design stage. Following this, prototyping and 3D printing occur. Next, the product moves to the production stage.
In the first step of this process, three things happen simultaneously. Light, water and carbon dioxide all enter the chloroplast. Once this has happened, the water enters the thylakoid and carbon dioxide becomes part of the Calvin cycle in the second step. Subsequently, in the third step, the chloroplast produces oxygen and sugar.
Process Vocabulary IELTS Examples
This cyclical process technically begins when a new product is produced, though it can continue to loop indefinitely.
While the linear process is technically complete after Delivery (Step 7), the diagram depicts this as a repetitious, or cyclical, process. This is likely because the need for additional goods will recur, and so the cycle of the delivery process could theoretically continue indefinitely.
Process Vocabulary IELTS Examples
The rock cycle process begins with weathering and erosion. It then continues with transport and deposition. The process ends with melting rock in magma.
Clarification follows the pressing stage. The cycle then ends as the wine is bottled and shipped.
While writing the process diagram in IELTS, it is always suggested to make complex sentences. We do this in many ways:-
– when/once/as soon as/immediately/whereas….
Eg: Once obtained, raw materials and manufactured components are stored for later assembly
The manufacturing stages involve the storage, assembly, inspection, packing to the sales methods whereas the research stages include market & product research, design and advertisement.
– before + clause or gerund
Eg: Most consumer goods go through a series of stages before they emerge as finished products ready for sale.
– after + clause or gerund
Eg: After the production planning is complete the assembly, inspection, testing and packaging stages are done sequentially.
– where/from where/after which
Eg: Assembly first depends upon the production planning stage, where it is decided how and in what quantities the stored materials will be processed to create sufficient quantities of finished goods.
When we describe a process diagram in IELTS involving humans (a man-made process as opposed to a natural one), the focus is on the activities, NOT the person doing them.
When this is the case, we use the passive voice, not the active one. For a natural process, such as the life-cycle of a frog, we use active as there is not a person doing the activity in the diagram.