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IELTS Writing

IELTS Writing Task 1: How to describe a process diagram

Mastering the skill of describing process diagram is crucial for success in the IELTS Writing exam. Process diagrams usually appear in IELTS Writing Task 1, demanding candidates to interpret and articulate data concisely. In this article, we'll provide strategies and tips to help you tackle this task confidently and effectively, ensuring you can present it with clarity within the exam's time constraints.

And these are what we're going to discuss:

  • High scoring IELTS Writing strategies
  • Sample task and an answer
  • IELTS exam tips

IELTS Academic Writing strategies

A process diagram can describe one of the following things:

  1. A natural process, e.g. how plants grow, how rocks are formed, etc.
  2. A production process, namely manual production or a process in a factory
  3. How a certain gadget or machine operates, e.g. a dam, a photo booth, a lift, etc.

You can receive one or several diagrams to describe in one task.

Before you start writing:

  1. Take at least 1-2 min to understand the diagram. Don’t start writing before you understand the main features and how the process works.
  2. Identify the key elements and objects.
  3. Identify the key operations.

IELTS Academic exam sample task and an anwer

In this task you should:

  1. Summarise the information. That means describe the diagram.
  2. Select and report the main features.
  3. Make comparisons where relevant.
  4. Write at least 150 words.

Model answer prepared by Cambridge:

Salmon begin life as eggs on a pebbly riverbed, hidden among reeds in the slow-moving upper reaches of a river. After five to six months the eggs hatch into ‘fry’. For approximately the next four years, these baby salmon will live in the lower, faster-flowing waters of their river. During this time they measure between three and eight centimetres in length.

By the time salmon reach twelve to fifteen centimetres, they are termed ‘smolt’, and at this time they migrate further downriver into the open sea. After five years at sea the salmon will have grown to adult size, which is between seventy and seventy-six centimetres. They then begin swimming back to their birthplace, where they will lay their eggs, and the cycle starts anew.

In summary, the salmon passes through three distinct physical stages as it grows to maturity. Each of these stages takes place in a very different aquatic location. It is noteworthy that the first two stages of this fish’s life occur in a freshwater environment, while the third stage is lived in saltwater.

IELTS Academic band core: 9.0

Pay attention to the blue – topic-specific vocabulary, green – linkers, brown – grammatical structures.

You should have at least 3 paragraphs in your response: an introduction, a body paragraph, and a summary. Instead of a summary you can have an overview in the second paragraph which goes after an introduction. The aim of a summary or an overview is the same – to highlight the main features.

However, in the model answer there are 3 paragraphs without an introduction. It is not recommended to skip any of the necessary paragraphs, however, the presented response is very strong and even without a proper introduction would deserve the top score.

The number of paragraphs depends on the task and your analysis.

Look at another sample task which illustrates a production process:

IELTS exam tips

Use this structure to get a high score for task achievement:

Paragraph 1. Introduction. (≈20 words)

  • Say what the diagram shows and how many stages it has
  • Paraphrase the task

Paragraph 2. Body paragraph.* (≈110 words)

  • Describe the process in detail paying attention to the sequence of events
  • Use linkers to highlight when a stage starts or finishes (before/after, once, afterwards, etc.)
  • Describe the main features (places, tools, time periods, stages)
  • Make comparisons where relevant (e.g. if you have 2 diagrams)

* Add more paragraphs in the main body if necessary.

Paragraph 3. Summary. (≈20 words)

  • Shortly paraphrase key ideas from the body paragraph(s)

Read more:

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