IELTS Writing Task 1 – Describing a process

Sometimes you may have to describe a process in Task 1 of the IELTS Writing test. This means you may be given a diagram and will have to explain how it works. The first thing is to make sure you understand how it works and think about the most logical way to explain it. What is the start of the process? What happens in the middle? How does it end? Be careful not to copy too much language from the question or diagram but if you do not know another way to explain it, use the language you are given.

Have a look at this task, then check out our advice on how to answer the question and finally our sample answer.


The diagram below shows the process of water travelling in the water cycle on our planet.

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

Write at least 150 words.

Picture of the hydrologic cycle
By Heath, Ralph C. ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Advice on how to complete this task

Before you write

First, scan the diagram of the process to work out what exactly is happening. Make some notes of the main points you want to include. Make sure you take note of all of the stages as you will lose marks on task achievement if you miss out any stages when you write.

Watch this video to get some ideas about how to answer this question:

Writing Plan

The first sentence should describe what is happening in a very general sense, but in your own words (never copy the question). This is the overview. For example you could write:

The diagram illustrates how water moves through the water cycle on earth.

After this you want to describe each stage of the process. It is useful to use time phrases and prepositional phrases to make your answer flow. For example:

  • after that
  • next
  • in the third stage
  • finally etc.

In this example you can start at any stage (the model answer below chooses to start with the clouds). You can describe each stage of the process in a separate paragraph with a suitable linking phrase:

  • Paragraph 2: Starting with the clouds
  • Paragraph 3: Once the rain has fallen
  • Paragraph 3: In the third stage
  • Paragraph 4 In the final stage

In this example it is a natural process so we would use active voice, for example: the rain falls. A process done by man would be better written in passive voice such as: the rainwater is collected in tanks.

Finish the task with a rounding off phrase, for example:

and so the cycle repeats itself.

Sample answer

The diagram illustrates the hydrologic cycle on earth. Water moves through four main stages which together complete the cycle.

Starting with the clouds, the build-up of moisture in the clouds becomes heavy and temperature changes or movement over the hills causes the clouds to form water which falls as rain in the process of precipitation.

Once the rain has fallen, some of the rainwater  flows on the surface in rivers to freshwater lakes or the sea. Another route to the sea for the rainwater is by sinking into the water table and traveling to the sea underground.

In the third stage of the process, the water evaporates  into the air from the ocean and land, including plants as they give off water in transpiration.

In the final stage of the cycle he water cools in the atmosphere and condenses to form clouds. The cycle then repeats itself.

(148 words)
Practice this IELTS paper and get feedback on your writing