How coherence and cohesion in IELTS writing can pave the way to success

This video looks at coherence and cohesion, which together make up one of the four writing criteria individuals will be tested on in their writing tests. The others are grammatical range and accuracy, lexical resource and task achievement/response.

Coherence and cohesion are closely linked, but they also matter independently.

Coherence refers to the ‘flow’ of a candidate’s writing. For good flow, ideas should be logically organised and appropriately sequenced into paragraphs, so they are easy to follow and understand.

Cohesion refers to linking words that help the writer connect ideas and show the relationship between paragraphs, sentences or parts of sentences.

Coherence in IELTS writing

In this video, you’ll find an example of how individuals might sequence ideas for effective coherence using the following structure:

  • Introduction: paraphrase the question and include your opinion
  • Body paragraph: arguments for 
  • Body paragraph: arguments against 
  • Conclusion: paraphrase your opinion.

Paragraphs are important for giving structure to a piece of writing. They also act as signposts for the reader, indicating when the topic or focus is likely to change. Typically, those taking the test should stick to one idea or set of ideas per paragraph.

A good way to start a paragraph is with a short sentence that introduces the main idea – also known as a ‘topic sentence.’ The remainder of the paragraph can then be used to expand on that idea, e.g. with explanations, evidence or personal experience.

Cohesion in IELTS writing

Individuals taking the test should be encouraged to use a wide range of linking words or phrases to connect different paragraphs and sentences. 

Some of the most common cohesive devices are listed below (and there are plenty more examples in our coherence and cohesion download):

  • adding similar ideas – e.g. ‘in addition…’
  • contrasting ideas – e.g. ‘on the other hand…’
  • giving examples or evidence – e.g. ‘for instance…’
  • explaining results – e.g. ‘for this reason…’
  • sequencing  - e.g. ‘firstly…’
  • providing explanations – e.g. ‘owing to…’
  • drawing conclusions  - e.g. ‘in conclusion…'
  • introducing your opinion – e.g. ‘it seems to me that …’

To bring this learning to life, you might ask individuals to circle all of the linking devices they have used within a practice essay in order to highlight any repetition or the overuse of certain words or phrases. This is important, as excessive use of linking techniques can be jarring for the reader.

Finally, please encourage everyone who is planning to take the test to engage with the coherence and cohesion download so they can get to grips with all the key pointers.