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IELTS essays – essay coherence 1

Coherence is an important part of the essay writing process in IELTS. In this lesson I look briefly at how it works and how you can use it to impress the examiner by analysing a sample essay. But coherence is not just a boring way to impress the IELTS examiner, it can also make your essay easier to write – and that must be something worth learning.

What is coherence?

A difficult question with any amount of possible answers. My own answer is that if cohesion is about connecting words, then coherence is about connecting ideas. Put another way, a coherent piece of writing is one where the reader understands why each point has been included and never has to stop and think “Why did the writer put that bit there?”. Everything flows.

IELTS coherence: make it explicit

It’s a fact of life that IELTS examiners do not spend too much time marking an IELTS essay – they are not paid by the minute! Therefore – and this is a logical connection – it only makes sense to make it easy for them to see that you are being coherent. My personal advice is to give them something to tick: show them clearly that you are being coherent – don’t try and be clever.

How to make your essay coherent – a demonstration

One way to achieve coherence is to focus on openings. The openings of paragraphs (and sentences) need to connect with something that has come before. If there is no connection, the reader will have to stop and think to work out what the writer is thinking. If that happens, the flow of the writing will be lost and coherence will be damaged.
Here is a demonstration of what I mean. Look at the connections in my last paragraph:
One way to achieve coherence is to focus on openings. The openings of paragraphs (and sentences) need to connect with something that has come before. If there is no connection, the reader will have to stop and think to work out what the writer is thinking. If that happens, the flow of the writing will be lost and coherence will be damaged.
Each sentence opening reflects language from the previous sentence so each sentence flows easily into the next. More than that, there is strong connection between the topics of each sentence: they all relate to “coherence”.

A sample essay – coherence between paragraphs

Read through this sample essay and note how each paragraph is explicitly connected to previous paragraphs so that the reader can easily identify the progression of the argument.

Subjects such as Art, Sport and Music are being dropped from the school curriculum for subjects such as Information Technology. Many people children suffer as a result of these changes. To what extent would you support or reject the idea of moving these subjects from school curriculum?


In recent times there has much debate about which subjects should be included on the school curriculum. One particular issue is whether the introduction of more modern subjects such as IT for more traditional subjects such as art and music disadvantages the pupils. This essay examines both sides of this issue.


There is one major argument in favour of replacing art, music and sport on the curriculum with subjects like IT. This is that the purpose of school is to prepare children for their working life after school, so the subjects on the curriculum should be relevant to their potential careers. From this point of view, IT is much relevant to schoolchildren as they need to be computer literate if they want to survive in the workplace. For example, it is easy to see that word processing and programming skills will impress employers more than the ability to run fast or draw well.


There are also, however, strong arguments for retaining the more traditional subjects as part of the curriculum. One significant counter-argument is that the purpose of education is not just to prepare children for later careers, but also to develop their all round “culture”. It is important that children leave school with some knowledge of art, music and sport as all these are all help develop aspects of young people’s personalities.


My own personal point of view is that there is merit in both sides of the debate and that all children should study some IT, art music and sport at least at primary school. At secondary school, however, children should be offered a choice between these subjects so that they can continue to study them if they wish. In this way, no child will be disadvantaged. 

Explanation

Each paragraph contains red language right at its start to show the reader what is going to happen in that paragraph. Anyone reading the essay – no matter how quickly – is going to see that it is structured.
The two content paragraphs contain similar blue language to emphasise the balance of the argument. Paragraph 3 relates to and answers paragraph 2.

The green language of the conclusion relates to and answers the green language of the introduction

Coherence makes writing easier

As I mentioned in the introduction, learning coherence can make the essay writing process easier. This is because in a 4 paragraph argument essay:
  • paragraph 3 borrows and reflects the language of paragraph 2
  • the conclusion borrows and reflects the language of the introduction
What you are doing is repeating language intelligently with the result that you have less to write. The skill is to discover ways of varying the language so that it is not simple repetition. In the sample essay “strong argument” reflects “major argument” , “pupils””children” and so on. With a little practice it’s surprisingly simple to do.

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2 Responses to IELTS essays – essay coherence 1

  1. Kay September 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    it sounds good. I will have a try. Thx~

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