IELTS Reading Flow Chart Completion

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Flow chart completion questions are not as common as table completion in the IELTS reading. Nevertheless, you may get such a task and you need to be prepared for it.

In these tasks you are presented with a flow-chart and must use words from the text to complete the gaps.

Depending on the text, the answers may be found in one paragraph or throughout the passage. Either way, the answers will appear in the order of the questions.


Since the answers could appear throughout the passage, being able to find the answers quickly will be key to completing this task.

Step 1: Read the Questions

In flow-chart completion questions you are required to write one or more words. You must therefore look at the instructions to know how many words to write.

Look at the example instructions below:

Questions 1-12
Complete the notes below.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Reading questions typically allow between one and three words. Note that the words should come “from the passage” – you therefore shouldn’t change their form.

Step 2: Read the Questions and Identify Key Words

As with other reading questions, for flow-chart completion we need to find key words in the questions. These are words which will be in the passage, but only a few times.

Good key words include names and places. However, in flow charts we are likely to find years (if the text is about a history topics) or technical terms.

Look at the questions below. Which key words would you underline for each question?



Manual labourers climb 1 __________ to reach the olives. Picked by hand.


Dirt, leaves and twigs removed by hand.


5 __________ are used to turn olives into paste.


Paste stirred with 7 __________ to create larger drops of oil within the paste.


Paste applied to 9 __________ in a cylindrical press. 10 __________ are used to force the oil out of the paste.

Final stages

Oil bottled, capped and labelled by hand.



2 __________ are used to remove olives from the trees.

Collected in 3 __________ on the ground.


Mechanical methods.

4 __________ remove most unwanted material.


A machine called a 6 __________ is used.


Paste mixed in a machine.

Paste heated to about 27ºC.

8 __________ is used to retain flavour.


An 11 __________ is used to remove oil from the paste.

Final stages

12 __________ methods are used to bottle, cap and label the oil.

1, 2, 3 – Harvest/harvesting

4 – clean/cleaning, dirt

5, 6 – milling, paste

7,8 – malaxation, stirred, 27ºC, flavour

9,10, 11 – pressing, cylindrical press

12- bottled, capped, labelled

Step 3: Find the Key Words and Read Around Them

Now that you have found the key words in the questions, you need to find them in the passage.

Find your first key word in the text, then read around it to try and find the answer to the question.

Attempt to complete the flow chart about the text below. Use no more than two words from the text for each answer.

Producing Olive Oil
in traditional and commercial ways

Olive trees can live to be hundreds of years old and produce large amounts of fruit in their lifetime. People have been making olive oil in countries around the Mediterranean Sea for many centuries, and this can be done by simply crushing the olives. Modern commercial extraction is a more complex process, although the same basic principle of crushing the fruit to release the oil is in play.

The olive harvest is the first step in making olive oil. Traditional producers use a number of low-tech means to gather the olive crop. One common method is for workers on ladders to simply pick the olives by hand and put them into baskets tied around their waists. Or workers may beat the branches with broomsticks, collecting the olives on the ground. Commercial processors use electronic tongs to strip olives off the branches and drop them into large nets spread out below the trees. It is then important to get the olives to the mill as quickly as possible, before the level of acidity becomes too great, as this can spoil the flavour of the oil.

After the harvested olives have been brought to the mill, traditional producers pick through the olives by hand to remove dirt, leaves and twigs. Commercial producers use cleaning machines to accomplish the same goal. Fans blow away the majority of smaller particles and another machine picks out any remaining larger bits. The olives are then turned into a paste as they pass through the mill. Large ‘millstones’ are used for this purpose by traditional makers, whereas commercial production involves the use of a mechanised alternative, known as a hammermill. Once milled the olive paste is ready for a process called malaxation. In this stage of the process, the milled paste is stirred and mixed for 20 to 40 minutes. This is done with wooden spoons by traditional producers, while commercial producers use a mixing machine with a metal spiral blade. The stirring causes the smaller droplets of oil released by the milling process to form larger drops. The larger drops can be separated from the paste more easily. Heating the paste during the malaxation stage increases the yield of oil. However, the use of higher heat affects the taste and decreases shelf life. To compromise, commercial producers usually heat the paste to only about 27 degrees Centigrade. Oxidation also reduces the flavour, so commercial producers may fill the malaxation chamber with an inert gas such as nitrogen so the paste avoids contact with oxygen.

Next, the oil must be separated from the paste. Traditionally, the paste is spread onto fibre discs that are stacked on top of each other in a cylindrical press. Heavy stones are placed on top of the discs, squeezing out the liquid. The oil thus produced is called first press or cold press oil. The paste is then mixed with hot water or steam and pressed once more. The second press oil doesn’t have such an intense flavour. The modern commercial method of olive oil extraction uses a machine called an industrial decanter to separate the oil from the paste. This machine spins at approximately 3000 revolutions per minute. The paste and oil are easily separated because of their different densities. This is essentially the same method that is used to separate milk from cream.

After the separation process, the oil is bottled, and the bottle is capped and labelled. Small, traditional producers often do this by hand, while commercial producers use assembly line techniques. The leftover paste is sometimes used for animal feed or it can be further chemically processed to extract more olive oil, which is usually blended with other oils or used for processes such as soap making.

  1. ladders
  2. (electronic) tongs
  3. (large) nets
  4. fans
  5. millstones
  6. hammermill
  7. wooden spoons
  8. nitrogen
  9. fibre discs
  10. heavy stones
  11. industrial decanter
  12. assembly line

Step 4: Write your Answers

The final step is to write your answers on the answer sheet. Remember that you must do this during the reading test as there is no additional time at the end.

Ensure you don’t write more than the number of words you are allowed, and check your spelling.


The reading extract and flow chart completion questions used here are taken from The Complete Guide To IELTS. The full book can be purchased here.

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