Be prepared, how to answer a process writing task 1 for the IELTS!.

Although they are not as common as the other kinds of task 1, such as a graph, chart, pie chart, etc, these process questions do come up occasionally. One or two of my students have said they don’t like them as they never know what to say, while I always tell them that in fact these questions are the easiest to answer! Why is that? Well, unlike the other kinds of tasks, there is usually no data in these kind of questions, so all you need to do is to list the stages of the process as we will see from the example coming below. The process could be a natural one, how photosynthesis occurs, or a man-made one, how beer is brewed or whatever. It makes no difference, the writing process we need to follow is the same.

First let’s have a quick look at the criteria for the task. As always, you are assessed on Task Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.. I won’t go into detail about these here, only talk about Task Achievement and the structure and format you should follow. If you want to see what the rest of the criteria mean then you can find them here.

And for our example, I will use this process diagram of how an ATM works, taken from the IELTS Express book.

ATM process diagram

So, what you need to do for this kind of question, is to, first, understand what is going on in the diagram, where does it start and end, the number of stages, and what happens in them.  Then, you need to paraphrase the question. Some people simply copy the text and use that as their introduction. If you do, the examiner will cross it out and take the words away from your word count, so if you have 150 words exactly and he takes away 15, then you will be short and lose marks for Task Achievement. You can do this in several ways, change some key words using synonyms and/or change the word order. Like this.

“The diagram shows how a transaction works from an ATM (automated telling machine).”

Becomes.

“The illustration depicts the different stages involved in taking money out of an ATM”

It’s a little wordy, but you should get the idea, just change the word order and some keywords.

Next, you must have an “Overview” sentence. A sentence that should “Summarise the information by selecting the main features, and make comparisons where relevant.” This is important, if you don’t have a good summary of the main features, the examiner cannot give you a good score. All you need is the most obvious things you see, the trends, what’s the biggest, the smallest, etc. You only need three things, try to avoid as some students do, the tendency to put everything in. This will not gain you extra points.

So, for our example, we might write: “The withdrawal process involves five stages, ranging from the insertion of the customers card, through to the final payment of money to the customer in person.” This is not so bad, the process ones are generally simplistic, as I mentioned above. The overview for other question types is a little more complex and we shall look at that in a subsequent post.

Now the last part, split the stages into two paragraphs and write about them, using linking words, and joining the stages together in a sentence. I mean, you don’t need to write a sentence for every stage, you can combine a couple of stages into more complex sentences. You might want to write about what happens in each stage, if anything is made or produced, if any materials or ingredients are added, and mention any relationship with previous or subsequent stages. Then, using sequencing language, first, then, next, afterwards, following, finally, you can connect the stages.

To illustrate, have a look at the example below.

“First of all, Mr Smith inserts his card and enters his PIN into the machine. An electronic message is then sent to the central network which is forwarded to his own bank in his home country. The branch where he is taking money from will not issue any funds until it has verified that sufficient money is in Mr Smith’s home account.”

As soon as his home bank processes the request and verifies his balance, money is debited from his account. The bank responds to the network and confirms that the transaction can take place. Mr Smith takes his card and his money and leaves. Finally, later on, a settlement is reached between the two banks coordinated by the network.”

There you go, all stages included, with appropriate sequencing language, so if we put it all together it looks like this:

“The illustration depicts the different stages involved in taking money out of an ATM.

The withdrawal process involves five stages, ranging from the insertion of the customers card, through to the final payment of money to the customer in person

First of all, Mr Smith inserts his card and enters his PIN into the machine. An electronic message is then sent to the central network which is forwarded to his own bank in his home country. The branch where he is taking money from will not issue any funds until it has verified that sufficient money is in Mr Smith’s home account.”

As soon as his home bank processes the request and verifies his balance, money is debited from his account. The bank responds to the network and confirms that the transaction can take place. Mr Smith takes his card and his money and leaves. Finally, later on, a settlement is reached between the two banks coordinated by the network.”

Total of 160 words, job done!

I hope you find this useful, if you have anything to ask about this or have any suggestions for lessons, then feel free to get in touch.

Advertisements