Answering Process Diagram in IELTS

Lesson
Materials

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.

What is a Process Diagram on the IELTS?

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!

Different Types of Process Question asked in IELTS

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.

How to answer the process diagram in IELTS?

To understand the task and quickly make a plan to answer process questions you should follow the 7 steps below:

  1. Understand the process.

    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.

  2. Paraphrase the question.

  3. Describe what is happening generally in 2 sentences.

    This is your overview paragraph and I will show you how to write this in more detail below.

  4. Divide the process in two

    Write two separate paragraphs detailing each stage of the process.

  5. Check your work.

Step 1: Understand 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:

  1. Where does the process start and where does it end?
  2. How many stages are there?
  3. Is it a man-made process or natural process?
  4. Is it a cyclical (in a circle) or linear (one start point and one end point) process?
  5. Are there any materials that need to be added to the process?
  6. What is produced?
  7. What does each stage of the process do?
  8. What are the relationships between each stage?

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.

Step 2: Paraphrase the Question

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.

Step 3: Overview of Process

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.

  1. Is it a man-made or natural process?
  2. How many stages are there?
  3. What is produced?
  4. Where does it start and where does it end?
  5. Is it cyclical or linear?
  6. Are any materials added?

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.

Stage 4: Detail Each Stage of the Process

Now that we have paraphrased the question and provided an overview we need to tell the examiner about each stage in more detail.

You can:

  • say what each stage does
  • what it produces
  • if any materials are added
  • and/or discuss the relationship with the previous or subsequent stages.

Sequencing the Process

Try to sequence your language and make your details easier to read by using language like:

  • Firstly
  • First of all
  • Secondly
  • After that
  • From this
  • Where
  • Following that
  • Subsequently
  • Before that
  • In turn
  • Then

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.

Step 5: Final Check

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:

  1. Are there any spelling or punctuation mistakes?
  2. Are the verbs the correct tense?
  3. Does the process I describe make sense? Does it match the diagram?
  4. Is there any vocabulary repetition we could remove with synonyms?
  5. Do I have 4 clear paragraphs?
  6. Did I write over 150 words?
  7. Have I included things only obvious from the diagram?
  8. Have I included the main features in the overview?

Process Diagram Vocabulary for IELTS

Words to Describe the Type of Diagram

Verbs

  • Creates
  • Produces
  • Makes
  • Distributes
  • Moves

Adjectives

  • Natural
  • Human-produced
  • Man-made
  • Cyclical
  • Linear
  • step(s)
gas industry info graphic explains how the gas gets from the field to consumers

Process Vocabulary IELTS Examples

This diagram illustrates the man-made process that a company uses to distribute natural gas to consumers. Overall, this seven-steplinear process illustrates which types of consumers the company prioritizes.

diagram showing the hydrological cycle process

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.

Words to Describe the Steps in the Process

Adverbs

  • First/firstly
  • Second/secondly
  • After/afterwards/once
  • Next
  • Later
  • Following
  • Subsequently
  • Finally/lastly
  • During
  • While
  • Meanwhile

Nouns

  • Step
  • Stage
  • Phrase

Process Diagram Vocabulary IELTS Examples
Diagram of Innovative contemporary smart industry: product design, automated production line, delivery and distribution with people

Innovative contemporary smart industry: product design, automated production line, delivery and distribution with people, robots and machinery: industry 4.0 infographic

First, the product begins in the design stageFollowing this, prototyping and 3D printing occur. Next, the product moves to the production stage.

Diagram showing process of photosynthesis in plant illustration

Diagram showing process of photosynthesis in plant illustration

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 stepSubsequently, in the third step, the chloroplast produces oxygen and sugar.

Words to Describe a Cycle or Repetition

Nouns

  • Cycle
  • Repetition
  • Repeats
  • Loops
  • Continues indefinitely
  • Recurs

Adjectives

  • Cyclical
  • Repetitious
linfographic of glass and glass products recycle process

Process Vocabulary IELTS Examples

This cyclical process technically begins when a new product is produced, though it can continue to loop indefinitely.

Diagram showing internet shopping delivery process

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.

Verbs to Know for Describing a Process

  • Begins
  • Continues
  • Follows
  • Ends
  • Repeats
Diagram of the rock cycle

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.

Wine production diagram

Clarification follows the pressing stage. The cycle then ends as the wine is bottled and shipped.

Grammar for writing process diagram in IELTS

➨ Complex Conjunction

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.

➨ Passive

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.

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