Writing Task 1 | Processes Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

In the IELTS academic writing test task 1, we are sometimes asked to describe a natural process.
In this class you will…
  • learn some important academic vocabulary for discussing the topic of geology (the science that deals with the Earth).
  • analayse an IELTS process diagram.
  • practice grammar which you need to use to describe natural processes.
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Samur River in Azerbaijan – In the natural landscape /ArgoDag


Exercise 1 | Vocabulary

​This exercise teaches you the vocabulary you need to describe a geological process.
Choose the correct definition for each vocabulary item below based on the example sentence.
1. After the rain, you can see that the river looks dirtier. This is because sand and dirt is taken into the river by the rain. The sand and dirt then falls as sediment to the bottom of the river.

sediment (noun) is...
a name for a dirty river.
a type of rain.
something that falls to the bottom of a liquid.
a way to clean sand and dirt by using river water.



2. Although the Himalayas are the tallest mountain range in the world today, over millions of years, the wind, rain and snow will erode them. The process of erosion will leave these mountains as small stones and sand.

erosion (noun) erode (verb) is...
the process that creates wind, rain and snow.
the process that breaks down rocks into tiny pieces.
the process that created the Himalaya mountains.
the process that builds up hills and mountains from small stones and sand.



3. Water is formed of a combination of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

to form (verb) is...
a synonym of ‘make’. We often use it to describe how something is naturally made, not man-made.
a synonym of ‘destroy’. We often use it to describe how something is naturally destroyed, not destroyed by humans.
a synonym of ‘increase’. We often use it to describe how something naturally increases in number.
a verb meaning to grow food that will be eaten.



4. There are a number of layers in this cake. The bottom layer is made of biscuit. Then there is a thick layer of chocolate. On top of the chocolate layer is the final layer which is made of cream and cherries.

a layer (noun) is...
a line of material, such as in cake or rock, that is on top of or beneath another line of material.
a cake with many ingredients.
when something, such as cake or rock, is made of one material..
when something is made of circles of material, such as cake or rock, which are next to each other.




Exercise 2 | The Task

Now we have some vocabulary, we will look at a processes IELTS task. Read the instructions and study the diagram.
​You should spend 20 minutes on this task.

The diagram below shows how rocks are created and destroyed in the rock cycle.

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

You should write a minimum of 150 words.
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​Are the following statements about the task true or false?

1. You should try and write 150 words or more in 20 minutes for this task.
2. You can copy the sentence ‘The diagram below shows how rocks are created and destroyed in the rock cycle’ in your essay.
3. You should paraphrase the title (The diagram below shows…’) of the diagram.
4. You don’t have to include an overview of the process.
5. There is no clear beginning or end of the process because it is a cycle.
6. You should separate the body of the essay into two or more body paragraphs.
7. You may use the vocabulary on the diagram in your essay.
8. You must write a conclusion paragraph.




​A Note on Vocabulary
Notice that a lot of good vocabulary is provided for you on the diagram. You should use some of it in your answer but be careful that you use it correctly. Some candidates get confused about the form of a word and use a noun when they should use a verb. So, before you use a word from the diagram, decide if the word is a noun, a verb, or an adjective.

Before we continue, look at the diagram again. Spend 5 minutes planning your answer. Think about what you will write about for the overview. The paraphrase of the task and the overview will be your first paragraph.

​How will you logically separate your following two body paragraphs so that your answer is easy to follow? Where will you start describing the process in your first body paragraph? Where will you finish your first body paragraph and begin the second?


Exercise 3 | Grammar

A Note on Grammar
When describing a natural process, use a mixture of active and passive sentences. You should use the present tense to describe a natural process unless the diagram specifically tells you the process happened in the past.

To complete each sentence, type the correct form of the verb in brackets. Pay attention to the active and passive form and make sure the verb and the subject agree (think about whether you need to add an ‘s’ to the verb).
Picture
The diagram 1. (illustrate) how rocks are formed due to erosion, heat and pressure. Overall, there are three stages in the cyclical process which creates sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rock.
Rock on the surface of the Earth 2. (erode) by the weather into sand and small stones which are then transported to the sea. These 3. (fall) to the bottom of the sea where they form a layer of sediment. Over time, more sediment 4. (build up) on top and the pressure turns the sediment below into sedimentary rock. As the sedimentary rock 5. (push) down, the pressure and heat increases. Consequently, the sedimentary rock changes into metamorphic rock.
After metamorphic rock forms, it may slowly 6. (pass) up to the Earth’s surface and the process of erosion and sedimentation repeats. Alternatively, the metamorphic rock may 7. (continue) down into the earth. When it reaches a certain level of pressure and heat it melts, becoming magma. This magma may rise to the surface through a volcano. When this cools on the Earth’s surface, igneous rock 8. (form) and the process of erosion begins again.

(178 words)
​Answer explanations
  1. Diagram is a singular countable noun and is an ‘it’ subject. Therefore, the verb needs an ‘s’.
  2. The rock doesn’t erode itself; it is eroded by the weather. Therefore, rock is passive. As it is an uncountable noun in this sentence, the correct form of ‘be’ is ‘is’.
  3. This is an active sentence and the subject is countable (sand and small stones = 2 nouns, even though sand is uncountable) so the verb does not need to be changed in any way.
  4. Sediment is an uncountable noun and so the verb requires ‘s’ to agree with the subject.
  5. The sedimentary rock does not push itself. Therefore, it is passive. As sedimentary rock is an uncountable noun the correct form of the verb ‘be’ is ‘is’.
  6. This is an active sentence. The subject is uncountable. An ‘s’ is not used on the verb pass because it follows the modal verb ‘may’. Verbs following modal verbs do not need to be modified for verb subject agreement.
  7. The same rule as for question 6 applies to this question.
  8. Igneous rock does not form itself. It is created by the power of nature. Therefore, igneous rock is a passive subject in this sentence. As it is an uncountable noun, the correct form of the verb ‘be’ is ‘is’.
The complete answer

The diagram illustrates how rocks are formed due to erosion, heat and pressure. Overall, there are three stages in the cyclical process which creates sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rock.

Rock on the surface of the Earth is eroded by the weather into sand and small stones which are then transported to the sea. These fall to the bottom of the sea where they form a layer of sediment. Over time, more sediment builds up on top and the pressure turns the sediment below into sedimentary rock. As the sedimentary is pushed down, the pressure and heat increases. Consequently, the sedimentary rock changes into metamorphic rock.

After metamorphic rock forms, it may slowly pass up to the Earth’s surface and the process of erosion and sedimentation repeats. Alternatively, the metamorphic rock may continue down into the earth. When it reaches a certain level of pressure and heat, it melts becoming magma. This magma may rise to the surface through a volcano. When this cools on the Earth’s surface, igneous rock is formed and the process of erosion begins again.

(178 words)

​When you planned your answer earlier, did you have similar ideas to us? Notice for the overview we mention how the process has 3 stages. You may have a different idea about what the stages are and how many of them there are. Thats ok, as long as you explain clearly what those stages are in your two body paragraphs.

Notice that we divide our description into two body paragraphs. The first starts at rocks on the surface and ends at the formation of metamorphic rock. The second moves from metamorphic rock back to igneous rock on the surface.

Did you think about dividing your answer like us? If not, thats ok, as long as you clearly describe the process in a logical way.

Make sure that you practice what you learned today so that you don't forget the lesson and you can confidently use this language in the test.

For more on passive and active grammar, see our passive and active processes lesson.

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