What is Coherence and Cohesion in IELTS Writing exam?

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cohesion and coherence in IELTS writing

Coherence and Cohesion in IELTS Writing

cohesion and coherence in IELTS writing
cohesion and coherence in IELTS writing
You should already know from our previous articles that there are four criteria on which the IELTS examiners assess your Writing paper.

These criteria are

  1. Task Achievement/Task Response,
  2. Coherence and Cohesion,
  3. Lexical Resource and
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

In this article, IELTS Game will look at one criterion, Coherence and Cohesion, in detail and discuss how you can improve your score for this category.

Coherence & Cohesion in IELTS Writing

What do we mean when we speak about Coherence and Cohesion?

To be more precise, coherence is the unity of ideas, while cohesion refers to the unity of structural elements.

By Coherence and Cohesion we understand:

  • skillful paragraph management,
  • logical sequence of ideas and information,
  • using a range of cohesive devices or linking word,
  • developing central topic in each paragraph of the essay.

The first advice I want to give you to succeed in this category is reading the task for your essay carefully.

If you do not spend some time trying to understand the question, you will be challenged to write a coherent answer.

That is why, it is vital to understand what the task wants you to do.

You need to make sure whether your main and supporting ideas are relevant, or you have got off the topic while planning and writing.

The most common pitfalls here are:

  • A person talks generally about the topic, but does not specifically answer the question in the essay task.
  • The message is lost throughout the essay.
  • The ideas are not fully developed.
  • Not enough linking devices are used.

Let’s practice a little and try to decide what paragraph is coherent and why.

Question:

The tendency of human beings to copy one another is increasing in popularity. Is this a positive or a negative development?

Body paragraph:

The foremost issue associated with copying others is that it hampers the originality of a human as he starts behaving and enacting like the other person. This diminishes his own creativity, and he remains no longer genuine and therefore has nothing new to bring to the world. Moreover, everyone possesses some unique skills, which are often lost when one tries to copy somebody else. According to a recent study by UNESCO, the people who intensely follows a celebrity are rarely successful in their careers.

Comment: the first supporting idea about losing creativity is well-developed, while the second idea about unique skills is not developed at all.

Moreover, the example brought in the end does not support any idea in the paragraph. So, this is not a coherent paragraph.

Let’s look at one more example:

Question:

The tendency of human beings to copy one another is increasing in popularity. What can be done about it?

Body Paragraph: 

In order to discourage this kind of behaviour, it is essential to focus on building self-confidence especially in school days. Teenagers should be encouraged to give attention to their own skills and learn about  the importance of genuineness, so that they can make their own name in whatever they do, instead of following someone else. This will make them self-confident and pave way for their successful future. To illustrate, a self-awareness program started in American schools in 2008 which resulted in 30% increased number of entrepreneurs within a span of 5 years.

Comment: This is a good paragraph as we see the person talking about starting to take steps from schools and develops it until late in adulthood with possible outcomes.

To strengthen the position, the person brings the example.

How to Get high score in IELTS Writing Coherence and Cohesion?

In order to get a good score for this category IELTS writing test, you need to make sure that you can use:

1. Linking words

Linking words are used to connect sentences, paragraphs and ideas in your essay.

If you do not use linking devices, it will be challenging to understand the content and how the various parts are connected to each other.

The examiner should not read the essay several times to see what you mean, or how different ideas are linked.

Now let’s look at these two examples. In the first extract we don’t use any linking words.

But in the second passage there are linking words. So, which example is better? What passage is easier to read?

Paragraph 1:

1. Firstly, nuclear power stations are very popular nowadays because of their cheap fuel consumption and high productivity. They could impose a very serious threat to the environment and people. There are a number of examples when nuclear power plants exploded and caused serious damage to the society and the nature. One of the biggest accidents took place in The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant at the end of the 20th century, this territory is still uninhabited.

Paragraph 2:

2. Firstlyeven if nuclear power stations are very popular nowadays because of their cheap fuel consumption and high productivity, they could impose a very serious threat to the environment and people. Moreover, there are a number of examples when nuclear power plants exploded and caused serious damage to the society and the nature. For instance, one of the biggest accidents took place in The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant at the end of the 20th century, and consequently, this territory is still uninhabited.

As we see, the second paragraph is easier to read and one can understand how the ideas are connected.

2. References

One cannot deny the fact that synonyms make our text interesting to read and ensure the reader that writer has good vocabulary range.

However, sometimes changing words with synonyms is not appropriate.

In this case, you may use reference pronouns instead.

Reference pronouns are: it, they, this, that, these, those.

They give a writer the chance not to overuse nouns or ideas.

Look at the following paragraph. What issue do we notice here?

Some people believe that using nuclear technologies has more advantages than disadvantages; nuclear technologies help to prevent wars. In addition, nuclear power technologies can be considered to be the cheapest source of energy. This source of energy is beneficial for the society.

In this passage, there are a lot of repetitive words and phrases which affect the cohesion. You need to replace some of them with reference pronouns.

Look at another version of the same passage:

Some people believe that using nuclear technologies has more advantages than disadvantages; they help to prevent wars. In addition, these technologies can be considered to be the cheapest source of energy, which is beneficial for the society.

So, my recommendation is not use repetitive vocabulary, but make a good use of reference pronouns to make your paragraph more coherent.

3. One central topic in a paragraph

And the last thing I would like to speak about is developing central idea.

Central idea holds the paragraph and the essay together; it is the focal point to which all details in your essay point.

So, where is the central idea expressed? The central idea of the whole essay is expressed in a thesis statement of the introduction.

In a paragraph, the central idea is expressed in the topic sentences. All other ideas and arguments logically fit under the central idea.

Let’s practice this a little. Here’s a paragraph without a topic sentence.

Read the paragraph and try to understand its central idea. Then try to make up a topic sentence for this passage.

This leads to enhancing public awareness which is an essential factor to create a developed society. Moreover, with rising living standards, wealthy countries are faced with the lower crime rate.

Finally, in the rich societies, the governments provide people with high quality public facilities, such as advanced hospitals, entertainment centers and public transit, which provide people with not only convenience but also mental-wellbeing.

Here is the topic sentence that I suggest: It is widely accepted that strong and healthy economy has brought about so many highlights for the society.

So, while planning your essay, make sure that each paragraph is focused on one idea, while the paragraphs together focus on the main idea of the essay.

Accurately state the central ideas and express them in the thesis statement in the introduction, and in topic sentences in the paragraphs.

Summary

Let’s sum up what you have to do to get a good score in cohesion and coherence category:

  • express clear and accurate central idea in the thesis statement of the essay and topic sentences of the body paragraph;
  • make good use of linking words to ensure logical sequencing of the ideas;
  • skillfully replace repetitive ideas or nouns with clear reference pronouns.

And the most important thing: keep working hard and do not forget about our recommendations. I’m sure you will succeed in your writing section.

Good luck!

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