Academic Writing Task 1: How to answer process diagram questions
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Anybody who needs a particular IELTS score for admission to a university or college has spent some time trying to improve their academic writing. That’s not an easy thing to do, but a few tips can help you to boost your writing score. Let’s take a look at Writing Task 1 of the IELTS Academic test to see how you can do just that.
What happens in Task 1?
The first task in any IELTS Writing test requires you to produce a short summary of a diagram or chart; this could be a graph, a map, or — in the example we’ll look at below — a process diagram.
You’ll have 20 minutes to write 150 words or more explaining the key information.
A good answer will:
- identify and analyze the most important facts,
- provide some numbers to clarify the details,
- and describe it all in a well-organized way.
Furthermore, your score in this task is based on the following 4 things:
- Task Achievement: How accurately and completely you describe the diagram.
- Coherence & Cohesion: How clearly you organize your writing.
- Lexical Resource: The range of vocabulary you use.
- Grammatical Range & Accuracy: How accurate and varied your sentences are.
What is a process diagram?
So what is a process diagram? It’s a series of pictures that shows the steps involved in completing a task. It might include a few decision-making moments like a flow chart. Alternatively, it could be simple, like the one about making bricks that we’ll use below.
Consider the following IELTS Academic, Writing Task 1.
In this post, we’ll be looking at a sample answer for this task.
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.
Step 1: Paraphrase the question or task
The first step in any good answer is to quickly restate the task in your own words. This shows your IELTS examiner that you’ve understood the question and academic diagram. It also demonstrates that you know all academic writing includes a proper introduction.
Here’s one possible beginning:
“This diagram shows how bricks are made. The process involves seven main steps, starting with clay in the ground and finishing with a batch of newly-made bricks being delivered to a customer.”
Step 2: Identify all the main data points
Next, you’ll need to describe what those steps are. If you are describing a graph or a map, you only need to mention the most important details. However, for a process diagram like this, you should talk about as many of the steps as you can in the time you have.
- Tip: Be careful of your time management and don’t run out of time a few steps before the end of the process! Remember that part of your score depends on giving a complete answer (Task Achievement).
This is also a great opportunity to improve your writing score by using sequencing words to clearly communicate the diagram’s steps in order. (Sequencing words are words such as first, second, third, next, then, finally…etc.)
“First, a digger extracts a large amount of clay from a pit in the ground. Using a metal grid and a roller system, big chunks of clay are sorted and broken down into smaller pieces, which are then mixed with sand and water. Once that is done, the mixture is formed into the correct shapes with either a mould or a wire cutter.”
Step 3: Compare the data points
One way to improve your IELTS writing score is to make some comparisons here. The next two steps include information about how long they take and how hot the kilns are, so include that in your answer:
“The bricks then spend one to two days drying off in an oven before being moved through a series of very hot kilns: the first one bakes the bricks at temperatures between 200 and 980ºC, and the second is even hotter, at 870 to 1300ºC. The longest step so far comes next: the bricks go through a two-to-three-day cooling process before they can finally be packed on to skids and delivered to wherever they’re needed.”
Step 4: Review your task answer
Once you’ve written all that, you should take a few minutes to make sure that your information matches the original diagram.
It’s a great idea to show the range of your vocabulary by rewording phrases from the task, or using synonyms. For example, “48-72 hours” can also be written as “two to three days”. However, be careful! You’ll lose marks if what you write isn’t factually correct. So, check your math and be careful that the synonyms you use have the same meaning as the information in the diagram.
Here’s the finished answer so that you can see it all together:
“This diagram shows how bricks are made. The process involves seven main steps, starting with clay in the ground and finishing with a batch of newly-made bricks being delivered to a customer.
First, a digger extracts a large amount of clay from a pit in the ground. Using a metal grid and a roller system, big chunks of clay are sorted and broken down into smaller pieces, which are then mixed with sand and water. Once that is done, the mixture is formed into the correct shapes with either a mould or a wire cutter.
The bricks then spend one to two days drying off in an oven before being moved through a series of very hot kilns: the first one bakes the bricks at temperatures between 200 and 980ºC, and the second is even hotter, at 870 to 1300ºC. The longest step so far comes next: the bricks go through a two-to-three-day cooling process before they can finally be packed on to skids and delivered to wherever they’re needed.”
Total word count: 174 words
Tips for success
Writing a good answer in an academic style takes practice, but a few tips should help you reach that high IELTS score you’re looking for:
- Keep your writing focused on the facts in the diagram. Don’t invent any extra steps or make up numbers to make your answer sound more impressive.
- Don’t waste time with a conclusion paragraph. Full essays might need them, but you’re only writing 150 words for Task 1 and you only have twenty minutes to do it. Therefore, use your limited time to check your work for spelling and grammar mistakes instead. A conclusion isn’t required for Task 1.
- Spend some time getting comfortable with passive sentences. You’re describing a job that happens the same way every time, so most of your sentences will be in the simple present. One way to keep things varied is to use a mix of active and passive sentences, especially when you talk about the tools or equipment used to do the work. What is a “passive voice”?
- Look at practice questions online. There are several sample test questions for each section of the test available on official IELTS websites. Practice a few to get a better idea of what you’ll need to write on test day.
It doesn’t hurt to get feedback from an experienced teacher, either! Academic writing takes some getting used to, and if you need to improve your IELTS score right away, a preparation course might be just the help you need. Finally, if you’re ready to take the test now, you can book a paper- or computer-based session with ILAC right now. Best wishes on your test!
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