How to avoid repeating the same words in IELTS Writing

In one of our writing classes, a student has asked me this important question:

“What can I do if I don’t want to repeat the same words in my writing?”

This question arose as we were discussing the importance of referencing when it comes to the criterion of Coherence and Cohesion (or Organisation) in IELTS Writing Task 2. For a score of Band 5, the candidate’s writing

may be repetitive because of lack of referencing and substitution

A slightly better score of Band 6 still leaves something to be desired in this area. The essay

may not always use referencing clearly and accurately.

Let’s take a look at a student example:

Cities are preferred by many people because of the wide variety of amenities and facilities they can offer. For example cinemas bars theatres and other types of entertainment places. Another important aspect about cities is that they offer better prospects as more jobs and better education. Most universities are found in cities and also better schools. Moreover, cities offer better transportation network as everything seem nearby and you do not need to cover long distances with a car or in a bus to get …

You will notice that the word cities appears four times in this paragraph and makes the writing seem rather repetitive. This candidate will not receive a very high score in Coherence and Cohesion because referencing is inadequate here.

A improved version would be:

Many people prefer to live in cities because of a wide variety of amenities and facilities they can offer. For example, cinemas, bars, theatres and other types of entertainment places are easily accessible. Another important aspect is that urban areas offer better career and educational prospects as residents can find more jobs and better schools. Not only that, cities also have a better transportation network as everything seems nearby and you do not need to cover long distances with a car or in a bus to get ..

As you can see, you can easily make your writing appear more cohesive by replacing them with reference words (eg. they), synonyms (eg. urban areas) or by removing expressions altogether, eg. about cities (3rd sentence). The 4th sentence:

Most universities are found in cities and also better schools.

is also removed because it repeats the same idea in the last sentence: better education. However, cities shows up again in the last sentence. This is fine as there is considerable geographical distance between the first time it appears and the next one.

Sometimes, re-structuring a sentence can also help to convey the same idea without echoing the same word. For instance,

Cities also have a better transportation network …

can be re-phrased to:

Those who live in these locations are able to enjoy a better transportation network …

So, to avoid repetition, consider:

  1. removing the word/expression/sentence altogether
  2. setting some distance between the same word
  3. re-phrase/structure the entire sentence

I hope you will find these suggestions useful and apply them carefully to your IELTS Writing Task 2 essay.

Until next time!

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