Using cohesive devices correctly in IELTS Writing

Many IELTS candidates are already familiar with the importance of using cohesive devices in IELTS Writing, as this is an area that their description and essay will be assessed on, under the Coherence and Cohesion (Organisation) criterion. However, how many of them know how to use these properly? Remember, this constitutes 25% of your assessment in both your writing tasks.

An IELTS Band 6 essay “uses cohesive devices effectively, but cohesion within and/or between sentences may be faulty or mechanical” while

An IELTS Band 7 writing “uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under-/over-use.”

https://www.ielts.org/-/media/pdfs/writing-band-descriptors-task-2.ashx?la=en

Let’s take a look at an example paragraph using cohesive devices, focussing on the words in bold:

In the last two decades, education has changed in several ways. More and more people are now attending universities. For example, elderly people who were unable to have higher education when they were young could go to universities now. Moreover, there are more learning facilities for disabled people. For instance, lifts or escalators are built for people who are on the wheelchair. Hearing assistance devices are available for the deaf so they can learn more easily. Additionally, online courses are becoming more popular these days because of the improvement of technology. Some schools even provide overseas students with distance learning masters courses. As a result, they can study at home if they cannot afford the high cost of living abroad. Furthermore there are more practical training courses than before. For instance, students who learn cooking can apply for internship in famous restaurants during semesters. This could be a precious opportunity to let students put what they have learned from books into practice.

On the surface, it looks fine and that there appears to be nothing wrong with it. But look again.

For example, elderly people who were unable to have higher education when they were young could go to universities now. Moreover, there are more learning facilities for disabled people.

What is the relationship between these two sentences?

Let’s take a look at another:

Hearing assistance devices are available for the deaf so they can learn more easily. Additionally, online courses are becoming more popular these days because of the improvement of technology.

What is the connection here?

And what about this one?

As a result, they can study at home if they cannot afford the high cost of living abroad. Furthermore there are more practical training courses than before.

You will also notice that there is a linker in almost every sentence in the paragraph! This writing may be penalised for “over-use.” (Refer to the IELTS assessment description above)

You see, how you use these cohesive devices is very important. A lot of IELTS candidates seem to believe that as long as they use linking words like these without much thought, it would be OK. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. In fact, you have to put a lot of thinking into why you are using these linkers. How your sentences move from one idea to the next must make sense at first reading, without the examiner having to read your paper again and again to understand what you are trying to say.

Here is one suggested approach out of many possible approaches:

(Main idea) In the last two decades, education has changed in several ways. (Support 1) More and more people are now attending universities. For example, elderly people who were unable to have higher education when they were young could go to universities now. (Support 2) Another positive transformation in education is that there are currently more learning facilities for disabled people. For instance, lifts or escalators are built for people who are on the wheelchair. Hearing assistance devices are also available for the deaf so they can learn more easily. (Support 3) Compared to the past, there are more practical training courses than before. For instance, students who learn cooking can apply for internship in famous restaurants during semesters. This could be a precious opportunity to let students put what they have learned from books into practice. (Support 4) But perhaps the most significant change to date is the increasing popularity of online courses due to improvements in technology. Some schools can now provide students with distance learning courses. As a result, learners can study at home if they cannot afford the high cost of living abroad. This means that education is now available even in the remotest part of the world, if there is internet access.

Things to remember:

  1. Your cohesive device should connect one sentence to the next, not one supporting idea to the next.
  2. If you need to connect supporting ideas, link it back to the main idea (eg. Another positive transformation, the most significant change, etc)
  3. Not all sentences need cohesive devices. Using linking expressions with every sentence would make your writing appear awkward and unnatural.
  4. Read a lot of English because good writing comes from lots of reading. Notice how cohesive devices are used in the sentences as you read.

I hope this helps.

Until next time!

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