In this tutorial, we take a close look at process diagrams. We discuss:
- How to write an overview
- What verbs you should use
- When you should use passive and active voice
- How to write more cohesive paragraphs
- Which words you can use from the diagram and which not
- And we walk you through several different process diagrams to see the suggestions in practice.
If you are struggling with your Academic Task 1 writing, you should know the fastest way to improve is to get feedback.
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READ THE TRANSCRIPT BELOW:
Ben: Hello there IELTS students. Welcome to IELTS podcast. You no longer have to worry, fret or panic about IELTS because we are here to guide you through this test jungle. Enjoy these IELTS tutorials and if you need more help or want to access the famous online course, you can visit us at ieltspodcast.com
Ellen: Hi everybody. Ellen here and I’m back with another tutorial. This time we’re going to talk about process diagrams. The students that I have met over the years have all more or less told me that process diagrams are their least favorite IELTS task 1s. I totally disagree. I think they are some of the best ones. I think they are some of the most fun, if there is such a thing as a fun task 1, but definitely I do enjoy them. I think they are a lot less challenging than some of the other task 1s out there.
I think that people get confused and I think I understand the reason why they get confused. They don’t know where to start. They don’t know what kind of language to use. It’s just kind of overwhelming. The truth is that I find that if you know three or four basic things about task 1 process diagrams, they are actually some of the easier ones to do.
So, let’s start with a couple of givens here. The first thing that we absolutely must remember is that just like with every task 1, you need an introduction and you need an overview. This is where I think a lot of people get upset and they think well okay, what kind of overview could I possibly write?
Well, there are a couple of things you could do for your overview. I find that the easiest way and the best kind of overview is to essentially say that it is a process with x number of steps starting here at A and ending at Z. So, if you include this information in your overview, you’re at a very good point right there.
So, a little later on, I’ll show you how you can utilize that in another type of process diagram. Here, this particular one is a little different merely because this, the result of this production is actually a main component of concrete production. So, that’s something you would want to say.
You would want to say something here. Take a look at this. Look at how many steps cement production has and look at how simple, in contrast, concrete production is. So, that would be a great overview. You could say that while cement is a major component of concrete production, the production of cement is more complicated than that of concrete.
And then you’re done. That’s your overview. You didn’t need to get into these percentages. You didn’t need to say where it started where it ended, but you did make a really interesting comparison here.
So, now let’s look at this particular process diagram where it shows the process of manufacturing bricks. Here, this is a great example of how you can utilize what I suggested for your overview. You could basically say– well, first of all, let’s count up the steps. You’ve got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight steps. So, you could say that this is a process requiring eight steps starting from clay being dug from the earth and ending with bricks being delivered for usage.
And then that’s it. That’s your overview, but I’ve really found over the years that a lot of people neglect to even include an overview much less a good one. So, this is a way to really get over this obstacle. These are the things that you should focus on your overview: where it starts, where it ends, and the number of steps, okay? It’s appropriate here as we saw on the other one with the concrete and cement. You need to say something a little different, but by and large, this is a good way to deal with these.
Now, here’s another one that’s widely available on the internet. It’s the generation of hydroelectric power. I’m not going to count up how many steps this has. Instead, what I could do here is something a little simpler. I could simply say that the generation of hydroelectric power begins with the sun heating up the sea water and the process ends with hydroelectric power being pumped into hospitals and schools and factories for usage, all right?
And then that’s it. That’s essentially what an overview would look like here. Okay. So now, we’ve spent a couple of minutes talking about our overview, which we’ve already said is a vital component to our task 1 description if we want to get above a 5. I want to talk about some of the verbs that we need.
I find that this is the part that IELTS students have a really tough time with because they think to themselves well, Ellen, how am I possibly going to describe this? Well, the language you need is really a lot simpler than you think. First of all, you are allowed to use all the words that you see here. What you want to avoid is using the language word for word that you had in the prompt, okay? So, in the actual test question itself, you don’t want to copy pieces of that language, but you are most certainly allowed to use the words that appear here in the actual diagram, okay?
Now, the words that appear here aren’t particularly helpful in terms of verbs. I find that one thing process diagrams test is your ability to know when to use the passive and when to use the active voice. So, that’s a really key piece of language that you need to have mastered in order to do well in process diagrams.
If you’re not really comfortable, then absolutely review this. When do we use passive voice? How do we use it? Some people do have trouble with this and some people really just are very comfortable with it.
Now, some verbs can’t be used in the passive, so it’s really important to know that as well. One question you want to ask yourself first of all, is who is doing this action? Do we know who is doing the action? In this one, we can assume that action is being done to the clay and it’s not the clay is doing anything itself. We will get to that a little later, but we can assume here that the clay is having something done to it, which means that we’re going to need a lot of passive voice here, okay?
So, let’s assume we want to approach this. Let’s assume that we’ve written our introduction. Let’s assume that we’ve written our overview. So then, we go into the details. What would you say here? Clay is dug from the ground or clay is dug from the earth. You would probably want to mention this. You would say by use of a digger.
Then look at this arrow. This is where people get confused. They say well, Ellen, how on earth am I going to then describe this? That’s where they are checking your vocabulary and your knowledge of what kind of verb you use. So, depending on the particular diagram, there are a lot of different verbs you could use and they are much simpler than you could probably imagine.
You could say the clay is then passed through or the clay is then processed or the clay is transferred to a metal grid. It is processed through a metal grid. It then enters a metal grid. Check that out. Here is an active verb. The clay enters because it’s something that the clay does itself, okay? It is passed through, it enters, it is processed through, okay?
So, you have to think about what this arrow was actually showing us or you could– another verb that I really like using in task 1 is undergo, okay? Here, can you use it? Not really sure that it fits here, but it is a verb that is really useful just to have like up your sleeve because it might be useful at some other point, okay?
Now, did we mention passes through? That’s another active verb that’s really useful. So, you could say the clay passes through a metal grid, okay, and then it is processed through a roller. So, you can see how some of the same verbs keep coming up and they’re useful. They’re useful here and you’ll see they’re useful in other process diagrams as well, okay?
Now, look what happens in the next step. We have sand plus water and then this arrow. So, what are they really telling us? They’re telling us that to this ground clay, sand and water are added, all right? So, that’s another passive verb that you’ll need; is added or here in this case, are added.
Now, look at this next step. You’ve got this little like fork in the road, okay? So, you’ve got two choices. So then what do we have here? If you’ve got this clay with sand and water added to it, what are we doing with it here? It’s now a mixture. So, that’s another word that’s really helpful to use in process diagrams; the mixture.
Here, you want to say the next step is for the mixture to undergo– there’s that word I said I liked, one of two processes by which it is shaped. Is shaped; again passive voice. So, the bricks are either formed– are formed; passive voice– by a wire cutter or the mixture is placed into a mold or the mixture enters a mold.
So, notice the difference. For the same process, you could say that it is placed, which is passive voice or you could say it enters which is active voice. Both are correct. Both are appropriate, okay?
So now, in the name of cohesion, you would want to use some pronouns like this. So, what could you say next? Take a look at this. Following this or following this step, the bricks then enter– the word enter, remember don’t overuse it, but refer to it if you need to. So, the bricks then enter a drying oven where they are processed or where they are dried for 24 to 48 hours.
After this, again refereeing to this, now what kind of a verb could you use here? You could say they are baked because that’s what you do in a kiln. You bake something or they are heated. How do you know they are heated? Because look at these temperatures, all right? They are not just frozen that’s for sure.
So, you could say the bricks are then heated or the bricks are cooked or the bricks are baked. All those will be appropriate. Then you could say first at moderate heat then at high heat following which they are placed– Are placed is another really important word for process diagrams. They are placed in a cooling chamber for 48 to 72 hours.
Again, using cohesion, you could say after this step is completed, they are sent– passive voice– are sent to be packaged after which– which is another grammatical structure which is nice and advanced. It’s a relative clause. –after which they are then sent for delivery, okay?
So, what do we have? We have a range of vocabulary items, not really anything extreme, nothing really particularly high level, but you do have a nice range of grammar using relative clauses, passive voice, but words, vocabulary words you already know. None of this is new; it’s just knowing how to use them correctly.
All right. So, now let’s try some of this vocabulary and some of this grammar as well with this particular one which is hydroelectric power generation. So, what do you want to say here? The first step is that the heat of the sun causes sea water to evaporate or the sun’s heat creates evaporation from sea water or something like that.
This evaporation forms clouds which then turn into rain. This rain is stored– again passive voice– is stored in a reservoir and once– and is held back by a dam. You can say that as well. It is held back by a dam. Once the valve is opened, the water enters the turbine and then here you’ve got an interesting process here because look what happens.
You’ve got it being pumped back to the reservoir, all right? So, it’s like a multi-step process at this point. So, one thing you could say is that once the water enters the turbine, the electricity generated or the electricity which is generated is transferred to high voltage cables while the water through the pump returns to the reservoir, all right?
So again, you’ve got this mix of active and passive. The water returns to the reservoir, but then you say the electricity is generated. So, it’s this whole kind of balance of when to use passive voice appropriately and when to use active voice appropriately.
So, the electricity is generated through the high voltage cables. It them passes through to the transformer station which then distributes– which is another really great word for task 1– distributes the energy to homes, factories, and hospitals, and schools, okay?
So, you could see here again we used simple language. Nothing really particularly advanced, but it was absolutely appropriate, but the thing to remember is when we use passive, when we use active and then just some of these vocabulary words which help express some of the things that we’re looking at in this diagram.
So, this is another process diagram I found online. Take a look at it. Take a look at how many steps it has. Take a look at where the process starts and where it ends. Clearly, it starts with cows grazing and then the last step appears to be milk and other dairy products being stored on supermarkets and shops shelves, okay?
So, if you counted up the steps, you could say that overall, the process of milk production consists of seven steps starting with cows grazing in the field and ending with milk products being stored in supermarket and shop shelves. That’s you overview. You don’t have to go into any other crazy detail here, all right?
So, how would you answer this? What kind of language would you need for this particular diagram? Well, you would start with the cows grazing. So, the process of milk production begins with cows grazing in the field. These cows are then milked. They are milked. Again, passive voice, but I’m not creating any new language. I’m simply using the language that’s here.
However, I do know that milked is used in the passive. So, the cows are milked via a machine twice a day. This milk then enters– there’s that word enters again– a storage container to be refrigerated or you could say this milk then enters refrigeration storage or you could say the milk is then stored and refrigerated. All of those would be okay, all right?
Following this, and I already mentioned before how important words like following this are because it provides cohesion. It links your ideas to each other. So, following this, a milk tanker transfers– if you don’t want to use delivers– so, a milk tanker transfers the milk to the dairy processing plant. Now, that’s my word. You don’t need to use it. You could have just said the milk tanker transfers the milk to dairy daily.
Now, here’s where you can use that word I like so much which is undergo. The milk then undergoes processes which create either cheese, cream, and butter or milk. The milk is then pasteurized and packaged. So, again, I’m not creating any new words. However, I am showing you that I know how to use it in the passive voice. It’s not something that the milk does itself. It is a process that it undergoes. So, the milk is pasteurized and packaged and after this stage, the milk is then ready to be stored in supermarket and shop shelves, okay?
So, we saw some vocabulary, how we use really essentially a lot of the same words. They’re basic words. They are not anything really high level or anything kind of esoteric or things that most people taking IELTS don’t know already, but it is important to know what kinds of words to use, how to use them, and again when we use passive voice and when we use active voice.
Also, I want you to remember that you are allowed to use the language here. It’s here to help you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I don’t want you as IELTS test takers to feel that you have to recreate all these words you see here.
I would hate to see somebody try to rephrase milking machine or try to rephrase refrigeration storage. It’s not necessary. Those words are there to help you. Use them. What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to copy the language from the prompt word for word. That is a no, but you can use the language here, okay?
So, I hope that you’ve found some of the vocabulary and some of the grammar that we talked about for process diagrams helpful. I hope you found that discussing how and what kind of overview we use for process diagram useful and I hope it’s something you’ll remember to use.
So, if you have any questions, do email us. Let us know. Of course, there are lots and lots of more information available on the Sentence Guide Course here at ieltspodcast.com. Take a look at it. You may find that a full course including this information and lots more would be really beneficial to you.
So, see if it’s something that fits your needs and we would love to see you on the course, really and love to give you feedback on your writing to help you prepare and to help you get the score that you need and deserve for IELTS, okay?
So, with that I leave you. I hope to see some of your writing whether it’s through the essay correction packages that we offer or if it’s on the online course. No matter what, I want to wish you all lots of luck on your IELTS journey. Good luck to you all.