In this tutorial, we discuss four tips for writing a process description in IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 with ex-examiner Robert.
We look at:
- The first step to writing a process description in Task 1
- How to use passive voice and passive infinitive verbs correctly
- What a good process description should include
- How to structure your response to process description questions
- Sample answer to a Task 1 Process description question
An academic writing task 1 which asks you to describe a process is not as common as those with tables, graphs and pie charts. All the more reason to take a look at what you have to do.
Describing a process may look easy enough, it’s just joining up a series of steps, but IELTS test takers could take advantage of these four very clear tips on how to write a Band 7 or 8 Task 1 essay of this type.
The first step to writing a process description in Task 1
The first step to writing a process description in IELTS is to pause and think about how we describe processes. What if I asked you how to make something, a recipe maybe? You’d probably think first about the ingredients, what you need to make whatever it is. Then you’d want to go through the stages of preparation and to do that you’d probably use simple sequencing and divide those steps into key stages, you know, peeling, cutting, mixing, adding or whatever and then maybe putting something into the oven to bake, like a cake for example.
Now, it’s exactly the same with our IELTS process descriptions but with a little twist of formality. After all, if you’re giving me a description, it’s likely you’ll keep it as easy for me to follow as you can using a “Well, first you peel the potatoes and then you cut them into thin slices, like this.”
Of course, you could use imperative verb forms, especially in short written accounts, very much like you see in recipe books. For example, Peel the potatoes and then cut them into slices…
How to use passive voice to describe the process
Using the passive voice then is our Tip Number 1.
So, instead of saying “Peel the potatoes”, we’re going to write:
The potatoes are peeled and then cut into slices …(as the subject potatoes stays the same, there’s no need to include “they are ..cut”.
A lot of people get worried or confused when teachers use the “passive voice” or “active voice” labels. Passive voice is used when you’re more focused on what happened to something or somebody than the person or object that caused something. You’re telling the story from the point of view of the potato and not the cook.
NOTE: It is the passive voice in the present tense that we’re using here as well as the possible use of modal verbs used passively, such as: can be, must be, should be. For example: “the Spanish omelette can be served either hot or cold”.
How to use passive infinitive verbs
Another verb form used occasionally is the passive infinitive. What’s that? Well, have you ever watched a TV show, maybe one of those exciting mysteries, but just when you think they’re going to reveal the name of the master criminal, a message comes on the screen saying:
“To be continued”
That’s the passive infinitive.
What a good process description should include
Any good process description should include
- A clear sense of progress
- An outline of not sequential steps (first, second, then, finally)
- A clear marking of relationships between parts (once …when)
How to structure your response to process description questions
A recognisable overview makes all the difference between a Band 6 and a good 7 or 8. I think It’s best with this type of essay to put your overview in the first paragraph. It’s best to show the examiner that you clearly see what the process involves and how the stages are linked. Make sure to identify the main number of stages.
Sample answer to a Task 1 Process description question
Let’s take a look at an example. This process diagram and the task question is taken from IELTS Cambridge 16, Test 2.
The diagram shows the manufacturing process for making sugar from sugar cane.
Summarize the information selecting and reporting the main features and making comparisons where appropriate.
The diagram illustrates how sugar is produced from sugar cane. The entire process consists of five main stages, the first of which covers the cultivation and harvesting of sugar cane. This is followed by a series of industrial processes, namely, crushing, purification, evaporation and separation, which collectively convert the raw material into juice, syrup and finally the end-product itself, sugar.
By far the longest part of the process is the first. Sugar cane, after it has been left to grow from between 12 to a maximum of 18 months, is harvested either by mechanical means using a combine harvester or manually. The harvested cane is then passed through a crusher, making it into juice. This juice must be purified by filtering it through a limestone filter. After that, the purified juice is heated in an evaporator turning it into syrup. The next stage of the process involves separating the syrup from sugar crystals in a centrifuge. li
Finally, the resultant sugar crystals are dried and cooled in storage tanks after which the sugar is then ready to be packaged and sold.
You can download or listen to the full tutorial here: