Academic Task 1. Part 4. Describing Maps & Processes

Learn the 5 Step Approach to Describing a Process.

Example of Task 1 Describing a Process Question.

Describing the Process of Manufacturing Bricks. 

For this example question, you are required to describe a process. This is a very different type of question compared to tables, bar charts, line graphs, and pie charts because you do not have to make comparisons of data and trends. Nor do you have to quote dates or statistics (like percentages or dollars etc). 

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

The illustration shows the process of manufacturing bricks. Summarise the information by selecting and reporting the main features. 

Write at least 150 words.

Step 1. Read the question & brainstorm different vocabulary.

If the question asks you to describe a process, it is usually very clear what you need to do. You must describe the process as a whole from the beginning to the end by describing and linking the individual steps or stages in the process. To do this, you will use sequencing words of time, active and passive sentences and propositional phrases. However, as with all task 1 questions, it is important to brainstorm a few new vocabulary words before you start writing so that you can write a better answer with a wider range of words. This will help you get a higher band score, and should only take 1 to 2 minutes in the test.

Step 2. Writing the introduction & overview paragraphs. 

In step 2, you need to write an introduction and an overview paragraph. This should take no more than 5 minutes in the test.

  • For the introduction, paraphrase the question. There is no need to identify key information in a process question as there is with other task 1 data charts because it is only necessary to introduce the process by paraphrasing the question. See the introduction in the band 9 answer in the vocabulary practice.
  • To write the overview paragraph, you need to identify what can you see as an overall picture of the process. There is no need to identify the general trend (because there is no general trend). Instead, you should provide a brief summary of the key steps in the process by mentioning what steps the process involves. You will find it easier to write the overview of key steps by writing the verbs in the continuous in a list style. Look at how I do this for the band 9 model answer in the vocabulary practice section. 

Important Tip. Because a process already has a logical sequence of steps, there is no need to re-arrange the order of information when describing the overview. Do not change the order of the steps in a process because the order of steps is already clear.

Step 3. Identify & Select Main Features.

When you are asked to describe the steps in a process, there is no need to identify main features from the chart data. There is no need to 'read' (interpret) the data and understand it as there is with a line graph or bar chart. This is because the steps are already clear. Therefore, when you are asked to write an answer describing a process, you simply divide the number of steps into 2 or 3 body paragraphs. For example ...

  • Select 3 to 4 steps for each body paragraph. Write about  3 or 4 steps in body paragraph 1; write about steps 5 to 8 in body paragraph 2, and leave 1 or 2 steps to write about in a final shorter last paragraph that begins with the signal word "Finally, in the last stage in the process of ... is when  ... ". You can choose whether to have 2 or 3 body paragraphs - it's your choice, and it doesn't make any difference whether you have 2 or 3 body paragraphs.
  • Dividing the steps will only take about 1 minute in the actual test and will enable you to write a more organised answer, which will help you to get a higher band score.

Step 4. Write 2 or 3 body paragraphs.

When you write the body paragraphs, you should stick to describing the steps in the process that you have chosen to write about in your planning stage. As with other charts, make sure you do not give your opinion; do not infer information that is not clear from the process itself; do not predict anything or give reasons for the information in the chart. ONLY DESCRIBE the steps in the process. Notably, you will not have to make comparisons because there is no data to compare. The main challenges when describing a process are to ...

  • introduce each new step with a sequencing signal of time order. Here are some examples: First, / First of all, /  In the first stage of the (brick) making/manufacturing process, / To begin with, / To start, / Secondly, / Next, / After that, / Later in the process, / During, / As soon as / Following / Thereafter, / Afterwards, / Meanwhile, / Then / In turn, / Subsequently, / Penultimately, / Lastly, / Finally, / In the final stage ..
  • use some active, but try to include more PASSIVE sentences ... Use subject + is/are + verb 3 - the past participle verb) whenever you can. For example: ”The first stage in the process of manufacturing bricks is when (subject) freshly dug clay + (be + verb 3) is excavated + (prepositional phrase) from the ground. Next, … 
  • use 'which' sentences and subordinating conjunctions to add information making relative clauses and complex sentences. Example: ... which is then sieved by a metal tray on rollers in order to remove stones ... 

Important Tip. By using relative clauses and subordinating conjunctions, the sentence structure will be more complex, which will make your answer stronger as you will demonstrate a wider range of complex grammatical structures. Also, the use of the passive will make the writing more formal and is a stronger academic style, which will attract a higher band score for grammatical range.

Step 5. Read your answer and correct any obvious mistakes.

  • Try to leave at least 2 minutes at the end of task 1 to quickly read and check for mistakes. By eliminating silly spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes, you could increase your band score. I find it is easier to check sentences and paragraphs as soon as I have written them as this helps me to think about how to write the next logical sentence - giving the writing a better 'flow'.

Important Note.

To improve YOUR writing, you must practice writing & get feedback. Don't forget, you can learn to read music to play the piano, but without practice, you will never be able to play the piano.