Over the past few weeks, we have looked at sample answers to writing questions from Cambridge IELTS 16, the latest edition of that series. Now, we are going to look at how to describe the process diagram that is included in that book.

Cambridge IELTS 16 – Process Diagram

Here is the process diagram that appears in Cambridge IELTS 16:

Interestingly, it is quite straightforward. I felt that some of the questions in Cambridge IELTS 16 were a little tough this time, but the process diagram contains no nasty surprises.

However, that does not mean it is easy to describe this diagram. It is just not as hard as it could be.

In fact, I personally found this diagram a challenge to describe because of its simplicity! I wrote my sample answer and then realised that I had only written 130 words! I had described everything but was still below the word count. As a result, I had to go back and keep adding words until I reached the minimum threshold!

Language for the Process Diagram

Hopefully, you are already aware that process diagrams require the passive voice. That’s because we either don’t know or don’t need to say who is doing the action. In this diagram, we can look to stage 4, for example, and say that “the juice is purified.” That’s because we don’t know who exactly is doing this.

Note the use of purified here. The diagram says “purifying juice,” but for IELTS writing task 1 we must convert the word given in the diagram (usually a noun) into the appropriate verb form. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be a verb… but it is important that you can manipulate language to provide accurate meanings.

It is worth mentioning here that you will often encounter difficult vocabulary in process diagrams, but you will never be expected to know unreasonably difficult words. For example, you would not have to know what a “centrifuge” is (stage 6) but you would be expected to determine the meaning from the given description and also the image.

Finally, note that the question talks about “sugar cane” and the diagram is labelled with “sugar canes”… Well, which one should you use?

sugar cane vs sugar canes

Sugar cane refers to the idea of sugar cane and can be used as a collective noun.

Sugar canes refers to them individually – ie the stalks that are grown.

In some cases, either of these could be correctly used. I am going to use “sugar cane” throughout my essay because this seems correct to me. However, you would not be penalised for writing about “sugar canes,” given that this term appears in the diagram.

Sample Band 9 Answer

The process diagram shows how sugar is made from sugar cane. There are seven stages, with only two variables. The process begins with sugar cane and ends with plain sugar.

To begin with, the sugar-making process requires sugar cane, which is grown for a period of twelve to eighteen months. This is then harvested, which can be done in one of two ways. Either it is mechanically collected by means of a tractor or it is gathered by hand.

Following its collection, the sugar cane is fed through a crushing machine in order to extract the juice. This is then purified by being fed through a limestone filter, before then being heated in an evaporator. Here, the juice turns into a syrup. Next, it is fed into a centrifuge, where sugar crystals are separated from the syrup. In the final stage, the sugar is cooled and dried in some kind of vat.

Notes on the Answer

As usual, I have combined both the introduction and overview into one paragraph. That shows more organisation and logical development. (Task 1 structure is explained here.)

I have then split my body paragraphs into two parts. I felt that the appropriate place to do that was after the sugar cane was collected. It seemed to me like a logical place because this marks the end of the farming section and the beginning of the processing part.

I have not added much in terms of vocabulary. You really don’t need to with process diagrams because the important words are often given in the diagram itself. I have mostly turned those words into descriptions, then linked everything together as logically as possible.