How to successfully answer a process diagram task in the IELTS Academic test

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by Azade Gholami

by Azade Gholami

ILAC IELTS Teacher & IELTS Expert

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For many people across the globe, IELTS Academic is the gateway into higher education. Task 1 in both the Reading and Writing sections of this test are different from those in the IELTS General Training test. These sections examine your ability to understand academic texts and assignments. However, many test-takers find Writing Task 1 of the Academic test relatively more challenging. In this post, we will review the main features of this task while providing some essential strategies for your success. 

woman writing on book
Many test takers find the Writing Task 1 of the IELTS Academic test more challenging than other sections.

Overview of Writing Task 1 (Academic Test)

In Task 1, you should write a report summarizing and comparing the data presented in one or more charts. You have 20 minutes to complete the task and it should be no less than 150 words. It is good to be familiar with the IELTS test format and different question types to improve your Writing score.  

In Task 1, you may see one of these common chart types:  

  • graphs 
  • bar/pie charts 
  • maps 
  • process diagrams 
  • tables

The examiner is looking for 4 criteria: Task Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy in your writing. Is criteria is worth 25% of your final IELTS Writing score. In this article, we will focus on writing a description for process diagrams by learning different IELTS writing tips and strategies. We will also put all this into practice by going over a sample answer. 

In Task 1, you may see one of these common chart types.

What is a process diagram?

You may come across flow charts, systems, and a few other types of process diagrams in Writing Task 1

A process diagram is a series of illustrations or photos presenting a process. They show how the process is carried out from start to finish. Your task is to fully describe the process to get a good score in task achievement. 

Below you can see an example of a process diagram. 

Example Question

The diagram below shows the process by which bricks are manufactured for the building industry. Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

Write at least 150 words. You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

IELTS Academic, Writing Task 1 - Sample Question for a "process diagram"

Step 1: Paraphrase the question or task

The first step is to write an introduction. This part is relatively short, so one or two sentences are enough. Accordingly, you need to paraphrase the question to introduce the topic. This means to repeat the idea using synonyms, different word variations, and changing word order

  • Example: The diagram illustrates how bricks are produced for the construction industry. 

Step 2: Identify all the main data points

The overview is a critical part of every IELTS Academic Writing Task 1, contributing to your score. So, after paraphrasing the question, your next step is to write an overview of what is taking place. You can comment on the number of stages or steps you see in a process diagram overview. It is also effective to describe how the process begins and ends. You can either place the overview after the introduction or at the end of the report. Although, many people prefer to put it right after the paraphrasing of the question.  

  • Example: Overall, the process includes seven stages beginning with digging the clay and ending with the delivery to potential customers. 

Step 3: Use the right language

You’ll need to use specific language to describe and connect the different stages in process diagrams. This includes two key aspects, which are time connectors and passive voice

Time connectors

Time connectors are words and phrases used to link your sentences and stages together. Some examples include next, after that, before, subsequently, and finally. Use time connectors to improve your IELTS writing and help the reader to follow your train of thought. It contributes directly to the Cohesion and Coherence score.  

Passive voice

When a process involves humans, describe each stage using present tense and passive voice. This is recommended because the focus is on the activity itself rather than the people conducting them. 

In addition to these tips, you can improve your score by varying your language. It is better to use a variation of the words in the diagram to explain a stage. This may involve changing a noun to a verb, or vice versa. 

Look at the example below to see how these are done: 

  • Example: After spending 48-72 hours in the cooling chamber, the bricks are ready for packaging. Eventually, the bricks are packaged on pallets and loaded onto a truck to be shipped for delivery

Step 4: Check your ideas match

Finally, you need to carefully follow the chart step-by-step. Make sure the information in your essay matches the one provided in the diagram. If there are differences, you will get a lower band score. 

Let’s put all this in context by looking at the full sample writing below.

Full answer

The diagram illustrates how bricks are produced for the construction industry. Overall, the process includes seven stages beginning with digging the clay and ending with the delivery to potential customers. 

In order to start the manufacturing process, a digger is used to gather clay. It is then sieved using metal grids and moved on a roller while sand and water are added to it. Afterward, the mixture is shaped into the standard brick form using either a wire cutter or molds. 

Following the previous stage, the brick-shaped mixture is transferred into drying ovens, where they reside for 24-48 hours. Subsequently, the bricks are moved through two kilns where the temperature within the first insulated chamber is moderate (200-900 degrees Celsius) while the second one has a dramatically higher temperature (870-1300 degrees). Next, the bricks are moved to the cooling chamber. 

After spending 48-72 hours in the cooling chamber, the bricks are ready for packaging. Eventually, the bricks are packaged on pallets and loaded onto a truck to be shipped for delivery. 

IELTS Academic, Writing Task 1 - Sample Question for a "process diagram"

Tips for success

When writing your essay, consider the following tips to help you improve your IELTS Writing band score.

  • Practice writing an essay answer under timed conditions. Give yourself 20 minutes to plan, write and check your essay, so you are prepared for the test day. Find sample questions here.
  • Planning is recommended. Spend the first 2-3 minutes of the task analyzing the stages and planning your writing. 
  • Use a range of vocabulary items as you write the report in order to boost your Lexical Resource score.  
  • Think of a range of present tenses and passive voice to vary your grammatical structures.  This helps your score in Grammatical Range & Accuracy.
  • Stick to the information in the diagram. DO NOT draw any logical conclusions, and DO NOT include your opinion. This is essential for Task Achievement.  
  • Make good use of time connectors to link your sentences and the stages of the diagram.  
  • Have a logical order of paragraphs, starting with an introduction, overview, and body paragraphs. This helps your score in the Coherence and Cohesion criterion.  
  • Dedicate the final 2-3 minutes to check your essay. Make sure you have included all the key stages, the beginning and the end of the diagram. Check for any spelling mistakes or other English errors you might have made. 

A key to succeed in IELTS is to take the test when you are most ready. If you need more preparation for IELTS Academic, consider registering in an IELTS preparation class at our award-winning language school, the International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC). No matter where you are in the world, our virtual class schedules have times to suit everyone. Contact us to find out more. 

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Band Descriptos (4 Marking Criteria)
What is the examiner looking for in the IELTS Academic test, Writing Task 1?
Try a sample computer test
Test yourself with a sample Task 1 question. The interface you will see is based on a real IELTS computer-based test. Note that both Task 1 and Task 2 are included. Read about the Academic Writing Task 2 and how to succeed here.