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Helpful Words and Phrases to Order Steps in a Process

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

Are you taking IELTS Writing soon? Are you nervous about getting a process diagram to write about on Task 1? Here’s some help!

Some IELTS Writing exams require you to write about a process in Task 1.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “process”, or it’s plural “processes”, I get nervous! It sounds hard. I mean the word “processes” just seems fancy!

But the truth is - we use processes every day! Whether it is making a cup of tea, cooking dinner or going to a movie, most activities can be described as a process.

Today, we are going to look at some vocabulary to help you write about processes!

First, what the heck is a process? In this case, a process is a series of actions that accomplish a result. These actions are called “steps” in the process.

For example, making a cup of tea is a process. Why?

Because you have to perform a series of steps, such as boiling water and steeping the tea, that result in a cup of tea.

1) Boil water 2) Add a tea bag to a cup 3) Pour boiling water into cup with tea bag 4) Allow tea bag to sit in hot water for 3-5 minutes 5) Remove and discard the tea bag 6) When tea has cooled enough to drink, enjoy!

Then, what is a diagram? Great question! A diagram is an image or visual representation of a something, in this case, a process.

If we use the cup of tea example, the diagram would look something like this:

For IELTS Writing Task 1, you may have to describe a process from a diagram.

When writing about a process diagram, you use words or phrases that describe a transition from one step to another.

  • Beginning steps: first, the first step, to start the process

  • Middle steps: second, then, next, after that, following this, the next stage is

  • End steps: finally, the final step, lastly, the last step

But what about using words like third, fourth, fifth? Another good question! It is true that these words can be used when describing steps in a process. However, when writing about processes, it is more common to use transition words that take the reader from one step to another, rather than using numbered words for every transition. You can, and should, use these numeric words in your answer, but not for every sentence.

Not recommended: First, boil water. Second, add a tea bag to a cup. The third step is to pour boiling water into the cup. Fourth, let the tea bag steep in the hot water for three to five minutes. Fifth, remove and discard the tea bag. Sixth, you can enjoy your tea once it is cooled.

Recommended: First, boil water. Then, add a tea bag to a cup. Once the water is boiling, pour boiling water into the cup. The next step is to let the tea bag steep in the hot water for three to five minutes. After that step is complete, remove and discard the tea bag. Finally, when the tea is cooled enough to drink, enjoy!

Most processes have specific orders of steps, but some may show actions that can take place at the same time.

In the case of the cup of tea, we could add the tea bag to the cup while we wait for the water to boil. For these types of transitions, you can use words like: during, while, at the same time.

Let’s break up the steps into beginning, middle and end and look at the words and phrases we can use to describe moving from step to step.

Now see if you can use the these words and phrases to tie the steps in the process together. Be creative!

Want to learn more about writing about processes for IELTS Task 1? Then enroll today in "Unlocking IELTS: Academic Writing Task 1 - Processes".

This course is all about learning how to write about process diagrams for Task 1 of the IELTS exam.

It will give you a simple easy to use formula for how to approach Task 1 when you are given a diagram of a process on the IELTS exam. This formula will work every time! This course also gives information on vocabulary and grammar to use in your answer.

Visit us at for more information on IELTS courses and to enroll!

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