The 4 Things Examiners Love: Coherence & Cohesion - IELTS University (Singapore)

Part 1: Task Response

Part 2: Coherence & Cohesion

​Part 3: Lexical Resource (Vocabulary Range)

​Part 4: Grammatical Range & Accuracy

This blog post is a continuation of 3 Things Every IELTS Student Needs To Know About The Writing Band Descriptors. Have you read it yet? If not, go ahead and click here.


In this blog post, we are discussing how the Coherence & Cohesion criteria has a profound impact on your writing grade. More importantly, we will learn how to write so that you score well in this aspect!

Together with Task Response, this criteria is another one of the easier areas for you to improve in IF you work on it and remember to apply what I will be teaching you.

Coherence & Cohesion: How well your essay demonstrates a logical organisation of ideas by using a range of cohesive devices (linking phrases). The appropriate use of paragraphs is also a main ingredient in writing a coherent essay.

To write an essay that presents information which flow logically, writers throughout the ages have used linking phrases. The aim is to help readers read your written text with ease, and help them to see how your ideas are related to each other.

One trick to speed up your learning process is to make a list of all the linking phrases and words, and then categorise them into their functions. Place it on your desk and refer to it whenever you practice past IELTS exam essays.

All my students get the complete Linking Phrase table which I have created for them for purpose of the IELTS exam. It is only fair that I do not share everything which they have paid for here. They get the complete set of my resources and teachings, but right here, I’m still going to give you a simplified version of what my students get in my classes.

Let me demonstrate how linking phrases work together to improve the readability of a paragraph.

The first paragraph below is written WITHOUT linking phrases, and the second paragraph is written WITH linking phrases. Can you tell the difference in readability?

BEFORE

There is a tendency for schools to over-emphasise on academic subjects. Students can progress to enrol tertiary courses which will equip them with the necessary skills to become useful in the work place. People who are not academically inclined will fail to perform well, even if they have other outstanding talents not recognised by school. 

AFTER

A further reason for my opinion is that there is a tendency for schools to over-emphasise on academic subjects in the hope that students can progress to enrol tertiary courses which will equip them with the necessary skills to become useful in the work place. When this happens, people who are not academically inclined will fail to perform well, even if they have other outstanding talents not recognised by school. 

Most people would say the second paragraph is much easier to understand, and here how the additional linking phrases come into play:​

"A further reason for my opinion" shows that in the paragraph you are going to read, the writer is going to present a reason to support his view. The word "further" also implies that he has ALREADY presented a reason before this paragraph. It helps your mind's eye to see how this paragraph fits into the entirety of the essay.

"in the hope that" tells you what the DESIRED OUTCOME of a certain action.

"When this happens" gives you the clue that the writer is going to show you the RESULT in the sentence.​

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Another Example

BEFORE

The city transport authority can improve and widen roads in order to raise higher safety standards for cyclists. People will feel safe on the road. They will naturally be more confident of cycling to get to their destinations. They can install bicycle stands outside train stations or major bus stops. People who live far away can then cycle to these train stations and bus stops before continuing their commute to work or school.

AFTER

Various courses of action could be taken in order to address the above. To begin with, the city transport authority can improve and widen roads in order to raise higher safety standards for cyclists. When people feel safe on the road, they will naturally be more confident of cycling to get to their destinations. Another way forward could be to install bicycle stands outside train stations or major bus stops. As a result, people who live far away can then cycle to these train stations and bus stops before continuing their commute to work or school.

Now, to get you more involved, mix and match the following 4 linking phrases used in the paragraph above to each of their 4 different purposes:

Make sure you attempt the short exercise above before looking at the answer below!

A Word of Caution!

Be sure to also pay attention to your GRAMMAR. Just because a linking phrase or word can show the accurate relationship between your ideas does not mean it is the correct one to use. You need to select one that can fit into your sentence with grammatical accuracy. 

You also do not want to overuse these linking phrases. It is a misconception to think that you need linking phrases or words in every sentence. Just remember that linking phrases are there to help you readers understand your ideas more quickly. They are not there to distract your readers!

Try the exercise below and choose the best linking phrase or word for each question.

Check your answer, and read the answer explanation for each question.

Road safety is a topic that is forever on the agenda because of the conflicting interests by, on the one hand, users 1) such as / for example motorists and motorcyclists and, on the other, most vulnerable groups like the cyclists and pedestrians.

The former group of users certainly need to consider their behaviour when pedestrians and cyclists are nearby. 2) Similarly / After all, they have the speed and the power to do damage. 3) Alternatively / However, it is also essential that pedestrians and cyclists be aware of such speed and power and not put themselves in positions where there might be a problem. 4) Apart of / Apart from lessons for young children, adults need regular reminders to behave appropriately. Everyone should be aware that the rules of the road are not inconvenient and irrelevant impositions, 5) but / like guidelines for the safety of everyone. Another party in road safety are, of course, the government, which draws up the rules and provides the road system.

Try the exercise above BEFORE you read the answers below!

Answer 

1) such as
When you use "for example", you need to tag it along with a complete sentence. e.g. "For example, I like to eat ice cream." "I like to eat ice cream" is a complete sentence.

However, in our original sentence, the noun phrases "motorists" and "motorcyclists" come after the blank which you have to fill in. Therefore, using "for example" would be wrong (you will need a complete sentence to use "for example" accurately).

"Such as" or "like" are used to list noun phrases like "motorists" and "motorcyclists". Hence, "such as" is the correct answer in this question.

2) After all
Similarly is used to show a same trait between two groups of people or objects. In this sentence, the “former group of users” refers to motorists and motorcyclists. They are not being compared to any other group at all. Rather, "after all" provides a reason to explain why the writer argues that they need to "consider their behaviour". 

​3) However
No alternate solution is given here, therefore the answer is not “alternatively”.

“However” is the answer because the previous sentences discuss the responsibility of motorists and motorcyclists, but now goes on to state that pedestrians and cyclists also have responsibility to stay safe.

4) Apart from
"Apart of" is just not grammatically correct. The correct preposition to use is “from”. Therefore, you always say “apart from”.

5) but
The “guidelines for the safety of everyone” is not given as a example, so you do not use “like”.

Two contrasting ideas are given here. One is that everyone should not think that rules are a source of inconvenience. Rather, rules are there to be like guidelines to keep everyone safe. Hence, you need to use “but” to show the contrast here.

Are you more enlightened now? Comment below, and tell me how many points you got from this short exercise!

Which question was the most difficult, and why?


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