Archive Lessons Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

We have a new Processes lesson here: Industrial Processes.

For the old lesson, continue reading.

​Today’s lesson is how to write about a process in IELTS Writing Task 1. Diagrams are less common than statistics but we still see them sometimes and so we need to be prepared. A lot of people think it’s easier to write about a process than statistics. What do you think? Please leave your tips or questions in the comments section at the end of the post.

An example process diagram:
The diagram below shows the environmental issues raised by a product over its life cycle.
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

What to do

  1. Start by understanding the diagram.
  2. Next, plan your answer by deciding what are the important features of the process.
  3. Paraphrase the information from the question to start your introduction.
  4. Give an overview of the process.
  5. Use the vocabulary from the diagram to help you write your answer.
  6. Write 2 body paragraphs to describe the process.
  7. Don’t write a conclusion.

Understanding the Process

​Answering the questions below will give you all the information you need to write your answer. You just need to use the right vocabulary and accurately use a range of grammar to get an acceptable band score (and of course write 150 words).
  1. What is the beginning and what is the end of the process?
  2. Is it a cyclical (in a circle) or linear (one start point and one end point) process?
  3. How many stages are there?
  4. Is it a man-made process or natural process?
  5. Are there any materials/resources 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?

What kind of Process?

​We can generally divide all processes into two categories: man-made or natural. Look at the processes in the box and decide which is in each category.

1. The production of steel.
2. The lifecycle of a fish.
3. How a telephone works.
4. The production of cement.
5. The water cycle.
6. The formation of a planet.
7. The production of coffee.
8. The lifecycle of the frog.
9. The process of photosynthesis.
10. How the internet works.

If a process is man-made we generally use the passive voice to describe it and if it is a naturally occurring process, then we generally (but not always) use the active voice.

For example:

Refined steel is then shipped to the customer.
After this, the baby salmon swim downstream to the ocean.

To learn more about the active and passive voice, follow this passive voice grammar guide.

Overview of a Process

Without an overview you cannot get a good score for Task achievement in IELTS writing Task 1. People often ask us what they need to include in the overview of the process? So let’s take a quick look at it.

Answering the following questions should give you the information you need to write the overview. Try not write more than 2 sentences in the overview. The paraphrase of the question and the overview will be the introduction of your answer.

  1. Is it a man-made or natural process?
  2. How many stages are there?
  3. What is the result of the process?
  4. Where does the process start and where does it end?
  5. Is it cyclical or linear?
  6. What is used in the process?

​Let’s have a look at a model answer. Complete this band 9 response overview by clicking on the words in the box, then clicking again on the gaps. Are most of the question above answered?
The diagram below shows the environmental issues raised by a product over its life cycle.
Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

recycled   ·  7 steps   ·  designed   ·  illustrates   ·  lifetime   ·  cyclical   ·  improve  
Click or touch a word above
1. The diagram a product’s environmental influence over its . Between being and being or thrown away, there are involved in a process that allows the producer to receive feedback from the consumer to subsequently the product in future cycles.

Body Paragraphs

After the introduction it is time to move onto detailed analysis of the process. You need to discuss the stages in order.

Talk about:

  • what each stage does
  • what it produces
  • if any materials are added
  • the relationship with the previous or later stages.
  • the information in the diagram only, don’t use your imagination to predict or make assumptions.


  • if there are any technical terms in the diagram, you may use them in your answer
  • if it is a man-made process, we generally use the passive voice
  • if it is a natural process, we generally use the active voice

Organizing the steps of the process

Make sure you sequence the steps of the process. Useful words for sequencing can be found below.

  • First
  • Second
  • After that
  • Then
  • Next
  • As a result
  • Consequently
  • Finally 

Double Check your Writing

We all make mistakes that we can easily correct if we take a few moments to reread our work. Here are some important things to check for when describing a process in IELTS Writing Task 1.
  1. ​If someone who has never seen the diagram reads your answer, would they understand your description of the process?
  2. Have you written at least 150 words?
  3. Are there at least 3 clearly defined paragraphs? Leave a line between each paragraph.
  4. Did you paraphrase the information in the question? This should start your introduction.
  5. Did you include a short overview in the introduction?
  6. Have you only included information that is to be found in the diagram? Don’t write about anything which is not seen in the diagram.
  7. Do verbs and subjects agree? In the present tense the verb must be modified if the subject is he/she/it. I like but she likes.
  8. Are the verbs in the correct tense? Usually diagrams should be described in the present tense but it will tell you in the question if the diagram is about a past, present or future process.
  9. Have you used lots of short simple sentences that you could combine to make  more complex sentences? More complex language should get you a higher band score (if it’s correct).
  10. Have you used vocabulary repetitively? If so, think about synonyms (words with the same meaning) you could use.

​Practice Activity 1 – Understanding the Diagram

The diagram below shows the process by which beer is made.

​Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

To help understand the diagram, answer the questions below, then check your answers with ours.

1. Is the process man-made or natural?

​It is man-made.

​2. Should the active or passive voice be used?

​The passive voice should be used.

3. What verbs are given in the diagram?

  • Milling
  • Mashing
  • Lautering
  • boiling
  • cooling
  • fermenting
  • maturing
  • filtering
  • packaging

It’s a good idea to use this vocabulary in our response.

4. is the process cyclical or linear?

​It is linear.

5. What raw ingredients are required?

  • Malted barley
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Hops
  • Yeast

6. What by-products are created by the process?

  • Spent grain animal feed
  • Yeast
  • CO2

7. How many stages are there?

​There are roughly 10 stages.

Practice Activity 2 – Complete the model answer

Complete the model answer below by clicking on the words in the box before clicking again on the gaps in the text.

finally   ·  where   ·  before   ·  while   ·  which   ·  after   ·  initially   ·  next   ·  after which  
Click or touch a word above
The diagram illustrates the ten steps required to turn malted barley, water, sugar, hops and yeast into beer, can then be sold.
, sacks of malted barley are opened and the barely is passed through a milling machine, water is added and it is mashed. The mash is then separated in a lautering container. The spent grain is sold as animal feed the remaining liquid is mixed with hops and sugar. This mixture is boiled and constantly mixed in a whirlpool the heat is turned off and it is passed into a cooling tank.
cooling, yeast is added to the mixture and this results in fermentation. More yeast and CO2 are created by this alcohol-producing process. After fermenting, the beer is passed into storage containers it matures. It can now be filtered and is then ready to be packaged and distributed by truck for sale.

Practice Activity 3 – Writing Practice

The diagram shows how a desalinization plant works to create drinkable water.

​Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.

​Use the strategies we have discussed on this page to help you write 150 words about this process.