As you may be aware the S in IELTS stands for system and, as with any system, it is vital to understand its requirements to excel within it. One misconception, with regard to writing, is that is needs to be complex and elaborate. That it is, in effect, a work of art which requires examinees to paint a highly creative picture. However, to my mind, when it comes to Coherence and Cohesion, it better resembles a jigsaw or puzzle – there are a limited number of pieces which can be learned without an extraordinary amount of effort. Put these together in a relatively similar and simple pattern and a high score for Coherence and Cohesion – which constitutes 25% of your score – becomes very much attainable.
Keep it simple – three paragraphs are all you need. The first sentence should contain your introduction, and an overview of the general ideas, trends and anything remarkable that truly stands out. The following two paragraphs should contain more in-depth analysis incorporating detail and data. If any of your paragraphs are only one sentence, something is wrong. Follow this rule of thumb, divide the information logically and equally between the paragraphs and sequence it sensibly within them and you are already en route to a good score for CC. Be sure, however, to remember that under no circumstances is a conclusion required. Given that an overview is an essential part of a decent Part 1, this will be nothing more than unnecessary repetition and that, as we will find out, can seriously harm your chances of performing well.
To score highly you must make adequate use of cohesive devices, or – to put it simply – use enough of them. Key points where they are required include introducing your overview and each following paragraph. However, don’t forget to choose appropriate ones to connect ideas or introduce new points within paragraphs two and three. Similar ideas within a paragraph can be linked with similarly or likewise, contrasting points with a huge range of phrases. Reinforce the key point of a previous sentence by using in fact, add information to support it with furthermore, in addition or additionally. Know, however, that the difference between a Band 7 and Band 8 can be using too many of these devices, so there is a limit to how many you should use. A connector in absolutely every sentence may well be considered too many.
It is all well and good using enough connectors, but if you repeatedly use the same ones, you will still only score 5, due to over-use. This considered, it is vital to know which are synonyms and can be easily used to replace each other. Whereas and while, for instance, are practically identical in their usage; on the other hand, conversely, in contrast and by contrast likewise.
Of course, it is no good completing Steps 2 and 3, if you make basic errors. Practically any inaccurate use will, again, bring your score crashing back down to Band 5. It is, therefore, essential to familiarize yourself with the precise meaning of the devices you learn and the grammatical structures they can be used within. Continue reading to learn about some of the most common traps students fall into, in order to avoid these when you practice.
Following Steps 1 to 4 to a tee, will reward the conscientious student with a Band 6 for CC. However, I know many of you have higher expectations when it comes to your score. The good news is, this handy tip will elevate you above the crowd and push you into Band 7+ territory. Many students systematically use all of their linking language at the beginning of their sentences. Don’t and you will thrive. Some devices are, of course, more conducive being deployed elsewhere than others. While and whereas, for example, can be easily employed to attach a non-defining relative clause to a main clause, thus appearing in the middle of a sentence. Be aware, however, that others are equally flexible as this very sentence reveals.
Substitution and referencing are both key to acquiring an impressive score for CC. However, by being vigilant in avoiding repetition throughout your answer and employing appropriate pronouns doing well in this regard is relatively straightforward for those with an intermediate knowledge of English grammar. Using the correct pronoun in place of a noun or noun phrase will set you well on the way to achieving 6 or above for CC, assuming you’ve followed the other tips laid out above.
These can, of course, take many forms. When under pressure, often nerves affect performance and simple mistakes can manifest themselves. It is not uncommon, for instance, to see an overview introduced with ‘Overview’ rather than ‘Overall’. There is also a tendency to combine the perfectly accurate ‘Generally’ and ‘In general’ into disastrously imperfect ‘In generally’. My solution? Don’t overwhelm yourself with information. Learn one connector for this job well and use it… always. Remember, your IELTS examiner will only ever read one Writing Part 1 that you’ve written, so over-use between different practice tasks you write simply isn’t a problem.
Additionally, know that whereas, while and although must linking contrasting ideas in one sentence, whereas, however, on the other hand, conversely and the contrasts are generally used to lead in to contrasting ideas in a new sentence. That said, if you really want to up the ante, you can use the latter devices after while or whereas. The key, that said, is to keep within your limits – if you aren’t sure, use a word or phrase you are sure about and if there are none you are sure of, no word is better than a wrong one.
IELTS Trainer Mr. Hamish Mcnair-Wilson