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Describing a process

posted May 15, 2015, 11:20 PM by Le Tuan Anh   [ updated May 15, 2015, 11:22 PM ]

Source: http://www.ieltsbuddy.com/ielts-process-diagram.html

It is less common in the writing test, but sometimes you will get an IELTS process diagram to describe.

This should follow the same format as any task 1:

  1. Introduce the diagram
  2. Give an overview of the main point/s
  3. Give the detail

 

Follow this link about how to write a task 1.

However, there are different types of task 1 (line graphs, pie charts, maps etc) and each requires knowledge of a certain type of language.

This lesson will look at how to write an IELTS process diagram for task 1.

 

What is an IELTS Process Diagram?

To begin, look at this question:

You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

The diagram illustrates the process that is used to manufacture bricks for the building industry.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

Write at least 150 words.

 

 

A process will have a number of stages that are in time order.  So you should start at the beginning, and describe each stage through to the last one.

In the example above, this is fairly clear. It begins with the digging of the clay, and ends with delivery.

Processes are not always this clear, and you may have to look more carefully to spot the beginning, and there may also be two things happening at the same time.

So it is important that you look at other sample processes to get a good understanding of how they can vary.


Introduce the Diagram

As with any task 1, you can begin by paraphrasing the rubric:

The diagram explains the way in which bricks are made for the building industry.

As you can see, this has been taken from the question, but it has not been copied. You need to write it in your own words.

 

Highlight the main points

An IELTS process diagram is different to a line, bar, pie chart or table in that there are not usually key changes or trends to identify.  However, you should still give an overview of what is taking place.

The  ‘public band descriptors’ state that to achieve a band 6 or more for ‘task response’ the student must provide an overview in a task 1.

As there are no trends to comment on, you can make a comment on, for example, the number of stages in the process and how it begins and ends:

Overall, there are eight stages in the process, beginning with the digging up of clay and culminating in delivery.

 

Giving the detail

Now you need to explain the IELTS process diagram, and there are two key aspects of language associated with this:

Time Connectors

A process is a series of events, one taking place after the other.  Therefore, to connect your stages, you should use ‘time connectors’.  Here is the rest of the answer with the time connectors highlighted (notice that you simply go from the beginning to the end of the process):

To begin, the clay used to make the bricks is dug up from the ground by a large digger. This clay is then placed onto a metal grid, which is used to break up the clay into smaller pieces. A roller assists in this process.

Following this, sand and water are added to the clay, and this mixture is turned into bricks by either placing it into a mould or using a wire cutter. Next, these bricks are placed in an oven to dry for 24 – 48 hours.

In the subsequent stage, the bricks go through a heating and cooling process. They are heated in a kiln at a moderate and then a high temperature (ranging from 200c to 1300c), followed by a cooling process in a chamber for 2 – 3 days. Finally, the bricks are packed and delivered to their destinations.

These connectors are the same you would use to write a graph over time when you explain a series of changes.

These are some common IELTS process diagram connectors:

To begin
Following this
Next
Then
After
After that
Before**
Subsequently
Finally


** If you use before, this means that you will be mentioning a later stage before an earlier stage, so you need to use it carefully.  If you can use it properly though, it will get noticed. 

Here is an example using stages four and five:

Before being dried in the oven, the mixture is turned into bricks by either placing it into a mould or using a wire cutter.

The Passive

When we describe an IELTS process, the focus is on the activities, NOT the person doing them. 

When this is the case, we use the passive voice, not the active.

This is a brief explanation of how to use the passive voice, but if you are new or unsure about using it, you should do some further study and practice.

Most sentences use this structure:

Subject + Verb + Object

(S) A large digger (V) digs up (O) the clay in the ground.

In the active voice (as above), the digger is doing the verb i.e. the digger is doing the digging.

When we use the passive voice, we make the object (the clay) the subject, and make the subject (the digger) the object. We also add in the verb ‘to be’ and the past participle (or Verb 3).

(S) The clay in the ground (V) is dug up (O) by the digger.

So throughout most of your description for your IELTS process diagram, you should be using the passive voice. 

This is difficult as some verbs cannot take the passive. For example, 'to go' cannot be passive, so it is kept in the active voice:

...the bricks go through a heating and cooling process.

This is why you need to make sure you practice the passive so you know exactly how to use it.

Also, as you will see from the description, it is more usual to to comment on who or what is doing the action so the 'by...." phrase is excluded.

Here is the same example description with uses of the passive highlighted:

To begin, the clay (which is) used to make the bricks is dug up from the ground by a large digger. This clay is then placed onto a metal grid, which is used to break up the clay into smaller pieces. A roller assists in this process.

Following this, sand and water are added to the clay, and this mixture is turned into bricks by either placing it into a mould or using a wire cutter. Next, these bricks are placed in an oven to dry for 24 – 48 hours.

In the subsequent stage, the bricks go through a heating and cooling process. They are heated in a kiln at a moderate and then a high temperature (ranging from 200c to 1300c), followed by a cooling process in a chamber for 2 – 3 days. Finally, the bricks are packed and delivered to their destinations.

 

Varying your Language

Sometimes it may be appropriate just to use the same language that you are given in the IELTS process diagram to describe it, but you should try to vary it.

You may be able to use nouns from the diagram as your verbs.  For example, the noun packaging in stage seven becomes:

Finally, the bricks are packed

Follow this link from the model task 1 pages to see a full IELTS process diagram model answer for this process.


Back home

Rhetorical Functions in Academic Writing: Describing processes

Source: http://www.uefap.com/writing/function/process.htm

Examples

Here is a description of the process of sorting letters.

First of all, letters and packets are collected in bags from pillar boxes, post offices and firms, in post office vans. They are then taken to the sorting office, where the bags are emptied and the letters separated from the packets. Following this step, the letters are put through machines so that the stamps can be cancelled. In this process the date and place of sorting are put over the stamps on each envelope. In the next stage, the sorting of the letters takes place, according to the county they are addressed to. This is done by placing them in the appropriate pigeon hole. Subsequently, the letters are taken from the pigeon holes and placed in baskets, which are then put onto a conveyor belt. While on this conveyor belt, the baskets are directed to the appropriate secondary sorting section by means of coding pegs. At the secondary sorting frames, the letters are put into towns in the county. Later, the letters are tied in bundles and a label is put on showing the towns they are addressed to. Finally, the letter bundles are placed in bags, which have the Post Office seal, Post Office Railway number and Destination Code number on them, and then these are sent to the railway station.

Notice that the passive form of the verb is widely used. This is because in this type of writing, we are usually more interested in the process than in the people doing the work. Observe all the link words.

Example 1

MAKING A TRANSISTOR

1 FIRST MASKING

The silicon base is first coated with silicon dioxide, which does not conduct electricity, and then with a substance called photoresist. Shining ultraviolet light through a patterned mask hardens the photoresist. The unexposed parts remain soft.

2 FIRST ETCHING

A solvent dissolves away the soft unexposed layer of photoresist, revealing a part of the silicon dioxide. This is then chemically etched to reduce its thickness. The hardened photoresist is then dissolved to leave a ridge of dioxide.

3 SECOND MASKING

Layers of polysilicon, which conducts electricity, and photoresist are applied, and then a second masking operation is carried out.

4 SECOND ETCHING

The unexposed photoresist is dissolved, and then an etching treatment removes the polysilicon and silicon dioxide beneath it. This reveals two strips of p-type silicon.

5 DOPING

The hard photoresist is removed. The layers now undergo an operation called doping which transforms the newly revealed strips of p-type silicon into n-type silicon.

6 THIRD MASKING AND ETCHING

Layers of silicon dioxide and photoresist are added. Masking and etching creates holes through to the doped silicon and central polysilicon strip.

7 COMPLETING THE TRANSISTOR

The photoresist is dissolved, and a final masking stage adds three strips of aluminium. These make electrical connections through the holes and complete the transistor.

In this transistor, known as an MOS type, a positive charge fed to the gate attracts electrons in the p-type silicon base. Current flows between the source and the drain, thereby switching the transistor on. A negative charge at the gate repels electrons and turns the current off.

Example 2

Carbon, the basic element of organic chemistry, undergoes a natural cycle in the environment. It exists in the form of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. From there it is absorbed by plants to build carbohydrates in green leaves. When plants burn, and animals breathe out, carbon dioxide passes back into the air. Also in decaying plant and animal remains, carbohydrates are broken down to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Example 3

THE PHOTOCOPIER

Static electricity enables a photocopier to produce almost instant copies of documents. At the heart of the machine is a metal drum which is given a negative charge at the beginning of the copying cycle. The optical system then projects an image of the document on the drum. The electric charge disappears where light strikes the metal surface, so only dark parts of the image remain charged. Positively charged particles of toner powder are then applied to the drum. The charged parts of the drum attract the dark powder, which is then transferred to a piece of paper. A heater seals the powder to the paper, and a warm copy of the document emerges from the photocopier. A colour copier works in the same basic way, but scans the document with blue, green and red filters. It then transfers toner to the paper in three layers coloured yellow, magenta and cyan. The three colours overlap to give a full colour picture.

Example 4

PAPERMAKING

Printing is of little use without paper. A sheet of paper is a flattened mesh of interlocking plant fibres, mainly of wood and cotton. Making paper involves reducing a plant to its fibres, and then aligning them and coating the fibres with materials such as glues, pigments and mineral fillers.

1 FELLING

Trees are felled and then transported to paper mills as logs.

2 DEBARKING

The bark has first to be stripped off the logs without damaging the wood.

3 PULPING

Pulping reduces the wood to a slurry of loose fibres in water. The logs are first sliced into chips and then treated with chemicals in a digester. These dissolve the lignin binding the wood fibres together. Alternatively, machines may grind the logs in water to produce pulp. The pulp is then bleached.

4 MIXING

The pulp goes to the mixer, where materials are added to improve the quality of the paper. The additives include white fillers such as china clay, size for water-proofing, and coloured pigments. The mixer beats the fibres into a smooth pulp.

5 FORMING THE WEB

Liquid pulp is fed from the flowbox onto the mesh belt. Water drains through the holes in the mesh; the drainage is accelerated by suction. The dandy roll presses the fibres together into a wet ribbon known as a web.

6 PRESSING

Belts move the web between the press rolls, which remove more water and compress the paper.

7 DRYING

The damp web moves through the dryer, where it passes between hot cylinders and felt-covered belts that absorb water. It then passes through the calender stacks before being wound on reels or cut into sheets.

Example 5

THE REFRIGERATOR

FridgeA domestic refrigerator uses the cooling effect of an evaporating liquid. A refrigerant liquid (such as Freon, a compound of carbon, fluorine and chlorine) is pumped through cooling coils (the evaporator) in which it expands (evaporates) and absorbs heat from the surroundings. The evaporator is formed into the ice-making compartment of the refrigerator. After passing through the cooling coils in the evaporator, the vapour is then compressed by a compressor (usually driven by an electric motor) and condensed back to a liquid when the absorbed heat is given out. The cycle of events is then repeated over and over again. The refrigerator is really a heat engine working in reverse. In order to take heat out of the low-temperature interior of the refrigerator and transfer it to the higher temperature of the surrounding air, work must be done. If it is to work continuously, a refrigerator must be supplied with energy from outside. This external energy is usually electricity, which operates the electric motor driving the compressor, but it could be a gas flame. In the food chamber of a domestic refrigerator the temperature is just above the freezing point of water, about 1° or 2°C: in the ice-maker and in the deep-freeze it is usually around -15°C.

(Adapted from: The Penguin book of the physical world, London, 1976)

Example 6

The Steam Engine

Steam EngineA steam engine utilises the energy contained in steam under high pressure. The energy that is released when steam expands is made to produce rotary motion which can be used for the driving of machinery. The steam from the boiler is admitted into the cylinder in which there is a piston and in which the steam expands, causing the piston to move (Fig. la). When the piston has travelled to the end of the cylinder and thus completed its stroke (Fig. lb), the now expanded steam is allowed to escape from the cylinder. At the same time the steam is changed over, live steam under pressure being admitted to the other side of the piston, causing the latter to travel back, past its starting point (Fig. lc), until it has reached the other end of its stroke (Fig. Id). A steam engine of this kind is called "double-acting" because the force of the steam is applied alternately on two sides of the piston. While the piston is being forced in one direction by the expanding steam, the spent steam is pushed out of the cylinder on the other side of the piston. Reversing, i.e., the change-over of the steam supply so as to ensure the admission of live steam to the appropriate side of the piston and the discharge of the spent steam on the other side, is effected automatically by a control device called a slide valve.

(Adapted from: How things work 1, Paladin, 1972)

Example 7

Car Braking System

Car Braking SystemThe braking system of a car is a good example of how a hydraulic system works. When the brake pedal is pressed a piston operates which forces brake fluid out of the master cylinder and along four narrow pipes to the slave cylinders attached to the brake drums or discs so that the same pressure is applied to the brakes in each wheel. This brings the car to a smooth halt. Provided the system is kept filled with brake fluid, hydraulic brakes work instantly because liquids cannot be compressed to any great extent.

If air leaks into the system, the brakes become much less efficient. This is because, unlike liquids, gases are compressible and some of the movement of the brake pedal is taken up in squeezing the air bubble.

(From: The Penguin book of the physical world. Penguin, 1976)

Language

Sequence

Firstly,

The first step is

First of all,

The first stage is

To begin with,

... begins with

Initially

... commences with

 

 

Beforehand,

Before this,

Previously,

Prior to this,

Earlier,

 

 

 

At the same time,

During

Simultaneously,

When this happens

 

While

 

 

Secondly, Thirdly etc

After this,

Next,

The next step is

Then,

In the next stage,

Subsequently,

In the following stage,

Later,

Following this,

 

As soon as the committee has finished its work, ...

 

 

Eventually,

... until ...

Lastly

... finishes with ...

Finally,

concludes with

In the last stage,

The last step is ...

Passive

The silicon base

is coated with silicon dioxide.

Letters and packets

are collected.

The bark

has to be stripped.

Method - how something is done.

First of all, letters and packets are collected in bags from pillar boxes.

This is done by placing them in the appropriate pigeon hole.

The baskets are directed to the appropriate secondary sorting section by means of coding pegs.

The drainage is accelerated by suction.

The vapour is then compressed by means of a compressor.

Position - where something happens

They are then taken to the sorting office, where the bags are emptied.

The pulp goes to the mixer, where materials are added to improve the quality of the paper.

The steam from the boiler is admitted into the cylinder in which there is a piston.

Purpose

Following this step, the letters are put through machines so that the stamps can be cancelled.

This is then chemically etched to reduce its thickness.

From there it is absorbed by plants to build carbohydrates in green leaves.

In order to take heat out of the low-temperature interior of the refrigerator, work must be done.

^

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