Describing a natural process in task 1 writing

If you are unlucky enough to get a process diagram in academic task 1, it is quite possible that you will need to be able to describe a process or cycle from nature. In this lesson, I talk you through how to approach this type of task with tips on understanding the diagram and writing a description that is coherent and well-structured.

The diagram


Understanding the cycle – what are the stages in it?

The first step is to remember that your goal is to provide a clear summary of what the diagram shows. This cycle is difficult in that it has no obvious beginning or end. The idea is to try and look and see if you can divide the diagram into separate parts. This makes it easier to write about than if you look at he whole diagram at once. Put another way, I ask myself if there are any stages within this cycle I can use to structure my description.

The top tip is to look for visual clues and here I see two distinct stages by looking at the arrows: some point down and some point up.

1. The food chain

Looking at the central part of the diagram, I see a row of arrows pointing downwards. This shows how carbon from the atmosphere is used by plants and animals. It is, if you look closely, a food chain. The atmosphere provides CO2 to plants which are eaten by insects which are eaten by small animals which are then eaten by larger animals. All I have to do now is put this into decent English, trying not to repeat the language of the diagram too much.

2. Return of CO2 to the atmosphere

The second part of the cycle is quite straight forward. There are on either side a set of arrows pointing upwards to show the return of CO2 to the atmosphere. This shows me that respiration, fuel consumption and waste products are the 3 ways in which CO2 returns to the atmosphere to complete the cycle.

Thinking vocabulary

This diagram gives you a certain of language. You have the choice of whether to repeat it in your description or try and vary it. What you do here will depend on how well you understand the diagram and the words. It is not an absolute disaster in this task if you do repeat some of the words from the diagram as they are technical terms. You should, however, try and find alternatives for the more general English words.

carbon dioxide: no alternative

atmosphere: no alternative

terrestrial and aquatic: either repeat the words, or if you understand them try “land and water”

primary, secondary, tertiary: these mean first, second and third level

consumers: try the word “eat” or vary it to “consume” or “consumption”

respiration: this means “breathing”

Read my sample description

This diagram shows how the carbon cycle works in nature. The first part of the cycle is providing plants and animals on both land and sea with the carbon dioxide they need to exist and the second part of the cycle is the return of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The first part of the cycle shows a food chain where plants and grasses absorb carbon dioxide from the air. These plants are a food source for primary consumers such as insects which are in turn eaten by the second level consumers, including smaller birds and fish. At the end of this food chain are larger animals and mammals which use the secondary level consumers as a source of carbon and food.

The second part of the cycle shows how there are two main ways in which carbon dioxide is returned to the atmosphere. This can either happen as a result of living beings breathing or consuming fuel, or as a product of the waste and remains from their death.

Understand the coherent structure of the description

It is important that you make your description coherent and well-structured. The main idea is to think carefully about how you start your sentences and paragraphs. “This” is a very useful word here.

See the coherence

This diagram shows how the carbon cycle works in nature. The first part of the cycle is providing plants and animals on both land and sea with the carbon dioxide they need to exist and the second part of the cycle is the return of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The first paragraph is a summary of the whole diagram

I show the examiner/reader that the cycle can be understood in two parts. These two parts are my two content paragraphs.

Both land and sea: I have shown the examiner I can rephrase some of the language from the diagram

The first part of the cycle shows a food chain where plants and grasses absorb carbon dioxide from the air.These plants are a food source for primary consumers such as insects which are in turn eaten by the second level consumers, including smaller birds and fish. At the end of this food chain are larger animals and mammals which use the secondary level consumers as a source of carbon and food.

I start my paragraph with a short summary like sentence that links back to the introduction paragraph

Each sentence begins with a linking phrase to connect it to the sentence before. The key word is THIS.

The second part of the cycle shows how there are two main ways in which carbon dioxide is returned to the atmosphere.This can either happen as a result of living beings breathing or consuming fuel, or as a product of the waste and remains from their death.

This paragraph also starts with a short summary sentence. This links back to the first paragraph and the introductory paragraph

“This”: I use the same linking technique to make sure my sentences are coherent

 

 

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20 Responses to Describing a natural process in task 1 writing

  1. punam chuniyani August 20, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    It was described very correctly, Offcousrse it will help all IELTS students

  2. Lasam Ola September 7, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    IIt’s also an important tip.Thanks

  3. sssssssssssss November 21, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    uselessssssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Avatar of Dominic Cole
      Dominic Cole December 4, 2011 at 7:49 am #

      Sorry. Will try harder next time.

      • Sal February 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

        Allow me to respectfully disagree with the above commenter. This article was friggin’ excellent and it logically lays out a method for tackling one of the most difficult tasks in the IELTS. I am going for an 8.0 and I have come to realise that the IELTS is not just an English test, it is also an “IELTS test”. This article provides sound advice for IELTS test takers at all levels.

    • meme August 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      u have to say why its useless so he can correct it or watch out the next time not to repeat the same thing … but you can’t just say it useless and go away as u didn’t read it -_- !!

  4. Mi Young December 8, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    You’re such a great teacher, your posts help me a lot, appreciate your effort \(^o^)/

  5. smsm December 13, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    thank you very much it was very helpful

  6. hackneyed February 24, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    I went through an IELTS tutorial two years ago and I don’t specifically remember having been taught this particular strategy. thank you so much. i will be taking my IELTS tomorrow. will bear this in mind.

  7. izzeldien March 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    excellent

  8. Sangee April 16, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Your website is very useful for students preparing for IELTS exam all over the world. Thank you so much Sir.

  9. marian June 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    hey,

    i find all the posts very useful, but i find also quite difficult to understand the diagrams (describing procedures or cycles). maybe its because of stress but in any case,
    i would appreciate it a lot if you could provide me with a few more examples.

    thanks a lot.

    mariana

  10. rajesh kana August 23, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    sir i want to learn raeding skills that means like how to identify the answers quickly in short span of time

  11. Gauri November 6, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    Thank you so much for your tips aand illustration in all apects of possibilities in IELTS tasks. My test date is coming very soon and I’m trying my best to score 8 in each modules, let’s see how I go! Credit will be given to you!

    Regards,

    Gauri

  12. Farhana Haque November 17, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    Could you please give some vocabulary for speaking like that you have posted for hometown. If you post some more by topic it will be a great help.
    Thanks

  13. Debo November 18, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    very good post.. i must say… :)

  14. Julia November 29, 2013 at 3:51 am #

    I just want to say that it’s a brilliant website and you’ve helped me a lot to prepare for my IELTS!

  15. Mahdi October 1, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    Thanks a million !

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