IELTS Writing Processes

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The final task you could get for IELTS academic writing task 1 is a process.


As with all IELTS writing tasks, the key to doing well in this task is to know what you need to write before you go into the exam. Memorising the process below will help you to do this and save you time deciding how to structure your answer.

Step 1: Understand the Process

As with all other IELTS academic writing task 1 questions, the first thing to do is understand what you are looking at.

When looking at processes we can categorise them in a couple of ways. Firstly, we can look at the layout of the process. Some processes are a cycle which repeat. Others are linear i.e. they have a start and end point. Some processes may even combine these two.

If you do have a cycle, you will need to decide where to start. This doesn’t really matter as long as it is a logical place to start. In the life cycle of a butterfly for example, we could start from a butterfly laying eggs, or from the egg hatching. It would be illogical however, to start from the caterpillar stage.

A second way to categorise processes is into whether they are natural or man-made processes. Again, some processes may combine natural and man-made steps. The importance of this is that for man-made stages you should use the passive voice, whereas natural steps will tend to take the active voice.

Step 2: Write the Introduction

As with any other IELTS academic writing task 1 question, the introduction should consist of:

  • paraphrasing the description of the process;
  • the overall trend.

You need to sum up what the process shows in your opening sentence. This can be done by paraphrasing the description provided, for example:

The diagram below shows how glass products are recycled.

We need to take the ideas in this sentence and put it into our own words:

The illustration depicts the process for recycling waste that is made of glass.

Overall Trend

For a process the “overall trend” can simply say how many steps there are and where the process starts. You can also include the end step. For example:

There are 5 distinct steps in the process, beginning when a glass product is discarded after use.

The diagram below shows how glass products are recycled.
ielts writing process academic task 1 glass recycling
Image from

Step 3: Write the Body

In the body you need to describe the steps in the process, from the beginning to the end.

You might have 5 steps in some processes, but in others it could be 12 or more. The number of sentences you should write per step therefore depends on the number of steps. Remember that the examiner is looking for complex sentences, so you may want to join some steps using words such as “after” or “once” e.g. after the unwanted glass items have been thrown away, they are collected by trucks.

You should mention all of the stages, even if there are a lot of them. You don’t necessarily need to go into great detail on every one though.

Follow the Subject

When you have a process, you have something that moves through this process. At different stages, this thing will be changed. For example, in the recycling process we start with glass bottles and other products, but if they are broken up we now have broken glass. If this is melted at a hot temperature, we now have molten glass. Make sure you are referring to the correct thing.

If you’re not sure what it is exactly, you may find you can use a phrase like “the resulting powder/liquid/gas/mixture/etc”.


Make sure you use a mix of sequencing words to show the order of events. As mentioned above, “after” and “once” are great sequencing words (when used with the present perfect), because they lead to complex sentences.

Some other good sequencing words and phrases for this task are:

  • until
  • as soon as
  • before
  • in order to

Step 4: Write the Conclusion

The conclusion of a process essay is very simple. If the process is a cycle, you need to say that the cycle repeats again.

If the process is linear, you should say what is left at the end of the process. Be careful not to add any detail that is not evident from the diagram. For example, if the diagram shows how coffee is produced, you shouldn’t say that coffee is the world’s most popular hot drink. It might be true, but if it doesn’t show this in the diagram then you can lose marks.

Practice Questions

Click here for all IELTS writing task 1 practice questions and sample answers.

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