IELTS Writing Task 1: How to describe a process


Hi there.

My name is Emma, and in today's video I am going to teach you about how to write

about processes.

So, if you are taking the IELTS, this video is very important for writing task 1.

If you're not taking the IELTS, you can learn a lot in this video, because we will be covering

some very important grammar and some very important vocabulary that you can use in your

everyday life also. Okay?

So, if you're taking the IELTS, this video is great for you; and if you're not taking

the IELTS, this video is also very good for you.

Okay, so first of all: What is a process?

Okay, well, so, if you are doing the IELTS, there are two different writing components:

task 1 and task 2.

Sometimes you will get some pictures and you have to write about them on the IELTS.

So, these pictures show a process.

So, a process is pretty much showing different stages or steps on how something is made,

or how something works, or how it's created or produced.


So, the key thing here is that you're looking at different stages on how something is made,

created, or produced.

Processes can be natural or they can be man-made.

So, for natural, if you can imagine in science you might learn about how photosynthesis works

with plants. Okay?

You might learn about how mushrooms grow. Okay?

How animals mate.

These are all processes.

In terms of man-made, an example of a process would be how concrete is made, or even how

chocolate is created and produced.


So, on the IELTS, you might, because there are different versions of the test...

You may have to look at some pictures and describe a process, and describe what is happening

in this picture.

So, I've drawn a very simple process-okay?-and this is the process of taking the IELTS.


So, in my picture, I have a student here, and they're at their computer studying different

videos and different things to help them prepare for the IELTS.

So, this is my first stage or my first step.

The second step in my process is actually taking the IELTS, and the final step is the

student looking very happy, saying: "I got a great score."


Because they studied a lot and they practiced a lot.

So, on the IELTS, you will not get something like this that's this simple.

It'd be great if you did, but usually the processes are more complicated.

They're more complex.

You might have 10 pictures of something like how to make coffee.

But the key here is you will see a bunch of pictures, and you need to figure out where

the pictures start and where they finish.

What is the final product?


So in this case, the beginning is watching this video, and the end is getting a high

score on the IELTS.


In making coffee, maybe the first process is getting the beans.

Maybe the last process is actually drinking a cup of coffee. Okay?

So it's good when you see a diagram to figure out: Where's the beginning, and where's the end?

And also thinking about: Is it natural or a man-made process?

Okay, so if you are taking the IELTS and you get a bunch of pictures in the writing section,

a couple key things here.

You will have to write 150 words where you describe the pictures.


And you have 20 minutes to do this.

So, what you pretty much need to do is summarize what is happening in the picture.

So, you're just reporting the main features, you're summarizing what you see.

You are not giving your opinion.


You do not say what you think about the process.

All you need to do on the IELTS is say what you see and describe it.


You're also not adding information.

If you know about, for example, how to make a cup of coffee and you have to describe this

process, maybe you have a lot of information you know about this.

But if you don't see it in the pictures, you don't write about it.


So, in this video, I am going to teach you about sequencers, which can really help your

mark; as well as grammar, the passive voice, which is something we use a lot when we are

describing processes.

So, let's look at those features now.

Okay. So, in this video, I'm not going to tell you about how to write your introduction, but

I just wanted to be clear: It's very important that you have about maybe two sentences to

introduce what the process is.

In your introduction, you can talk about how many steps or stages there are, and you can

also say what the image, or the diagram, or the illustration is showing.

What is the process?

One really important thing that you should include when you're describing a process,

whether you're writing the IELTS or just in general, is you should include sequencers.

Sequencers help us understand the order of something.

So, it helps us understand what is first, second, third, fourth, and so on.

So, you know which...

The different stages.

So, we have here a bunch of sequencers.


And I also have here...

Can you guess what this is?

This is a sandwich.


I'm not the best artist, so I apologize, but here is my picture of a sandwich.

So, I'm going to describe how to make a sandwich using these sequencers.


So: "First of all," is a great one to use at the beginning.

This is great on the IELTS, or also: "The first step" or "The first stage is..."

These are great to begin with-okay?-when you're describing a process.

So, I could say: "First of all, we take a bun or a slice of bread."

Okay? So this is bread.

"First of all, we take a slice of bread.", "The first step is we take a slice of bread.",

"The first stage is we take a slice of bread."

We can use the word "step" or "stage" when we're describing a process.

Okay: "Next", this is another sequencer.

"Next, we put down the pickles on top of the bun", if you like pickles.

If you don't like pickles, you don't put them on.

But in this case, in this sandwich, we put the pickles on the bun.

"Then, we put the meat on top of the pickles.

After that, we put some lettuce on top of the meat."

We can also say: "In the next stage" or "In the next step", that's also possible.


"Next, we add tomatoes.

Finally, we add the top slice of bread, and then we have our sandwich."

Or I can say: "In the final step, we add a slice of bread.",

"In the final stage, we add a slice of bread." Okay?

Before we have finished making our sandwich, maybe we can put...

Oh, well, I guess that doesn't work.

Maybe we can put something on top, like an olive.


"After we finish making our sandwich, we can eat in and enjoy it."


Or I could say: "Once we've finished making our sandwich", and notice the "ing", "making".

"Once we finished making our sandwich, we can enjoy it."

Okay? So, these are called sequencers, and they're very good to use when you're describing a process.

So, if you're taking the IELTS, this will help you with your organization mark.

Okay? So, very, very important that you use some of these.

You don't have to use all of them, but you should be using some of them when you describe a process.

Next, let's look at the grammar of describing a process.

Okay, so when you are describing a process it's very, very important to use the passive



You can use other verb tenses, too, but the most common is going to be the passive voice.

So, what is the passive voice?


So, I have here two...


I have here two sentences.

One of them is called the passive voice, the other one is the active voice.

My two sentences are: "I make a cup of tea." and "A cup of tea is made."

Now, I want you to look at these two sentences.

What are some of the differences between them?

Well, one thing you might notice is this has "I" in it.

"I make a cup of tea."

Whereas this one, we don't actually know who made the cup of tea.

So, you'll notice that when...

This is active, by the way, and this is passive.

In the active voice, the person is not important.


The person doing the action isn't...

Oh, sorry.

The opposite, sorry.

In the active voice, the person is important.

"I make a cup of tea."

Who made the cup of tea?

I made the cup of tea.

Now, this is very different from the passive voice, where we don't actually know who made

the cup of tea; or if we do know, it's not important who made the cup of tea.


So that's one major difference.

You'll also notice with the verb.

The verb themself-...

The verbs themselves are different, too.

Here, we have the simple present: "I make", whereas if you look down here,

we have: "is" and "made".

So, when we use the active voice, we're just using, you know, simple present, simple past.

We can pretty much use any tense.

But you'll notice, there is no "be" verb.

Whereas, here: "A cup of tea is", we have the "be" verb, and "made", we have a past participle.

So, the construction of the two sentences is different.


So, if you're wondering what the rule is: For the passive, we have an object.

In this case our object is "a cup of tea".

We have the "be" verb, so in this case, "is" is the "be" verb.

It can also be: "was" or "has been", or "will be".

When I say: "'be' verb", it's a form of the verb "be"-okay?-depending on what tense you're

talking in.

So, usually for processes...

If you're, like, getting really nervous or confused by this grammar, key here is the

word "is" if you're talking about now, or "was" if you're talking about in the past.


So, on the IELTS, usually "is" and "was" is the main things to know.

So, you have the object, the "be" verb, and the past participle.

So, the past participle in this case is "made".


So, "made" is the past participle of "make".

So, let's think of another example.

Imagine I...

Well, this is true.

I had a bike, and I really loved my bike.

Someone stole my bike.

Okay? Very sad, but someone stole my bike.

So: "Someone stole my bike."

That's active.

If I want to change this into the passive, we don't know who did it, and what's really

important to me is the fact that the bike was stolen.

So, the passive would be: "My bike"-which is the object-"was stolen".

"Stolen" is the past participle of "steal".


So, we're going to do a lot of practice with this.

So, don't worry if, you know, you're really confused by the passive.

We're going to do some more practice questions with this.

But the key point here is when you're describing a process, it's very, very good to use the

passive voice, not the active voice, because you're usually...

What's usually important is what's happening, not who's doing it. Usually.

Okay, so I want you to imagine...

So we're going to do some practice now.

I want you to imagine you want to tell someone how to make a cup of tea.


I love drinking tea, so I think this is a great example of a process.

So, the kettle is what you put the water in, and you boil.


So the kettle is where the water goes.

So, if we wanted to describe the process of making a cup of tea, we might start with the kettle.

What do we do with the kettle?

Well, we fill it with cold water.


So, we put cold water into the kettle.

Now, how could we make this into the passive voice?

What's a passive voice sentence we could use?

"The kettle __________ with cold water."

Well, the first thing we know is we need to have our "be" verb somewhere.

And we're talking about the present, we're talking about a process that still happens today.

So, let's put: "The kettle is", so we have our "be" verb, and now we need a past participle.

Let's say the kettle...

We fill a kettle, so what's the past participle of "fill"?


So, we can say: "The kettle is filled with cold water."

First step.

If I wanted to add a sequencer here, that would make the sentence even better.

I could say: "The first step is where the kettle is filled with cold water."

Or: "First of all, the kettle is filled with cold water."

Okay, what's the second step?


"The kettle __________ on the stove top."


What do you think we do with a kettle?

We would put the kettle on the stove.

So, if we wanted to put that in the passive voice, again we need our "be" verb, so we'll put "is",

and then we can put a verb here in the past participle.

"The kettle is put on the stove." or "The kettle is placed on the stove."

We can also say that.


So these are both par-...

Past participles.

Now, what about if, you know, we were using many kettles at the same time?

And so, we had an "s" here, and we were talking about many kettles.

Would this still stay as "is"?


When we're talking about plural, "kettles" has an "s" and it's plural, so this would

actually turn into "are": "The kettles are put on the stove top."

"The kettle"-because there's only one-"is filled with cold water."

Okay, so what's another step in the making of tea?

In this case: "A cup and teabag __________ from the cupboard."

So, I take a cup and a teabag from the cupboard.

So, how can I make this into the passive voice?

Well, "A cup and teabag"...

So how many things do we have here?

We have a cup and a teabag, so that's two, so we would use the verb "are".

So, they are "taken from the cupboard".

We take the cup and the teabag from the cupboard.

"The cup and teabag are taken from the cupboard."

So, again, we have our "be" verb and our past participle.

In terms of past participles, these are things you just need to memorize.

Logically, sometimes, you know...

Sometimes you'll see "ed", sometimes you'll see "en", so they have different endings.

So the best thing to do is find a past participle list, and memorize it for the words that you use a lot.

Like "take".

"Take" is a common word. "Taken", that's the past participle.


So, there are many more stages to making a cup of tea, but we're going to end in the

middle of making the tea.

So, this is our last stage we're going to talk about.

"Once the water boils, it is poured into a cup."

So, we can use this in the past participle: "is boiled".

"Once the water is boiled, it is poured into a cup."


So, this is not the final stage.

In the final stage, we drink the tea.


So, again, very important to use this type of grammar when you're writing about processes,

especially on the IELTS because they want to see that you are...

You know different types of grammar.

You have a range of grammar.


And so this can help show the range of grammar, and that you know the appropriate grammar

to use when you are describing a process.

So, let's look at one other tip on how to do processes.

Okay, so, so far I have talked about sequencers and the grammar of writing about processes.

Now, I want to talk a little bit about the IELTS, and something you really shouldn't

do when you write the IELTS, especially...

Well, with processes or anything, but here is an example of a question on the IELTS that

has to do with processes.

Now, here in this question you don't actually see a diagram, but usually there would be

images or a diagram of a process.

So, the question is: "The diagram below shows the process of making a cup of tea.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features."

So, this is the type of question you'll get.


It might be: "The diagram below shows photosynthesis" or "The diagram below shows how concrete is made."

Okay? So, it might be man-made, it might be natural.

Now, what a lot of students do is they see this, and they decide to write their introduction,

and they copy the words from here into their introduction.

So they read this, and then they start their answer with:

"The diagram below shows the process of making a cup of tea."

You should not copy the question words.

Okay? It's very important that you paraphrase, that you use your own words in your first sentence.

So, if this was the question I had, a couple things I might do is, instead of using the

word "diagram", I might use the word: "illustration", or "image", "images". Okay?

And instead of using the word "shows", I'd use a different verb.

So, instead of: "The diagram shows", I would say: "The illustration demonstrates"

or "The diagram illustrates". Okay?

So, it's good to change the language, and this is one of the easier ways to do it, is

change the verb.

If they use "show", use "demonstrates" or "illustrates".


And if you can, instead of the word "diagram", use the word "illustration" or "images".


Another thing a lot of students do is they would copy the rest of it:

"The process of making a cup of tea".

You can also change this around.

So, in my example, I put: "The diagram illustrates how a cup of tea is made."

So, I've changed it from the active voice to the passive voice.

You don't have to do that.

My main point here is: Don't copy the instructions.

Use your own words in your introduction.


Another tip that's very important when you're describing processes is:

Take a couple of minutes to actually look at what's happening.

A lot of students, they start writing, but they don't actually understand the pictures

they're looking at.

So, take a moment to figure out: Where does the process start, what happens,

and where does it end?

What is the final product?

How many stages are there?

How many steps?


So it's important to ask yourself some questions before you start writing to make sure you

really understand what the pictures are showing you, and what the illustration is showing you.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this video.

I know the IELTS, for a lot of students, is very stressful and scary thing.

So, I'd like to invite you to come

visit our website at,

and there you can

do a quiz to practice what we've talked about in this video, as well as there's other videos

on IELTS and on English in general.

So, I highly recommend that you come visit our website and check those out.

Until next time, take care and good luck.