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IELTS Cohesion: how to improve your IELTS essays

Cohesion is the way you connect paragraphs and sentences together in your essay. Together with coherence, cohesion makes up 25% of the mark in both Writing Task 1 and Task 2.

IELTS candidates often get their lowest score in coherence and cohesion. The good news is that it’s easy to make coherence and cohesion better. This article will look at some examples of cohesive devices, how you should use them and what IELTS examiners want when assessing cohesion in an IELTS essay.


IELTS Cohesion: what is good cohesion?


In IELTS, cohesion means using cohesive devices. Cohesive devices are sometimes called linking words, discourse markers, connectives or signposting language. Some examples of cohesive devices are “for example”, “on the one hand”, “secondly”, “in conclusion”.

Cohesive devices make it easier for the reader to understand your essay because ideas are introduced and linked to other ideas.


So what are IELTS examiners looking for when grading cohesion?


Examiners want cohesive devices to be used appropriately, effectively and correctly.


1. IELTS examiners want cohesive devices to be used correctly.


One of the biggest mistakes made by IELTS candidates is using cohesive devices they don’t really know. They include words like “furthermore” and “consequently”, thinking that the IELTS examiner will like it. But if they use these words incorrectly, the examiner will mark them down. This is especially important in IELTS Writing Task 2, where incorrect use of cohesive devices can be very confusing for your reader.

Band 5 of the IELTS assessment criteria says:

The candidate makes inaccurate use of cohesive devices.

In other words, if you use cohesive devices incorrectly, you may get no more than a band 5.


2. IELTS Examiners want cohesive devices to be used in the right quantity


Appropriate and effective use of cohesive devices also means using them in the right quantity: not too many and not too few. Many IELTS candidates make the mistake of using too many cohesive devices. They throw in lots of cohesive devices, thinking the IELTS examiner will like it. In fact, they will mark you down.

Band 7 of the IELTS assessment criteria says:

Candidates use a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under or over-use.

In other words, if you use too many or too few cohesive devices, the maximum score you can get is a band 7.

IELTS Cohesion Assessment Criteria

Here are the assessment criteria used by IELTS examiners, in more detail:


Band 5

· makes inadequate use, inaccurate use or overuse of cohesive devices

· may be repetitive because of lack of referencing and substitution

Band 6

· uses cohesive devices effectively, but cohesion within and/or between sentences may be faulty or mechanical

· may not always use referencing clearly or appropriately

Band 7

· uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under or over-use.

Band 8

· manages all aspects of cohesion well

Band 9

· uses cohesion in such a way that it attracts no attention


To sum up, if you want a Band 8 or above for cohesion, only use cohesive devices when necessary. Use them appropriately, use them correctly and use them effectively.

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