Top Tips for IELTS

Teaching coherence and cohesion

This is one of my favourite lessons – something that I run with pretty much all my classes in some form or another and seems worth sharing. The concept is quite simple: you take a text, butcher it by wrongly inserting linking language and then ask the students which one is the better text. Rather worryingly, I’ve yet to meet a class who didn’t choose the wrong text – normally en masse. That’s my route into a lesson on how there is rather more to coherence and cohesion than “moreover” and “furthermore”.


Most students (and a majority of IELTS textbooks) look no further than standard linking words when thinking about cohesion. This exercise (which slightly blurs the lines between coherence and cohesion) encourages them to think of sentence structure and vocabulary choice as equally valid means of linking language and achieving cohesion.It works best as an awareness raising activity:

  • linking words have meanings
  • “vocabulary” adds to cohesion
  • sentence structure/grammar adds to cohesion
It is also perhaps no accident that the simpler text is the more cohesive text too.


It some ways this is a very technical lesson and rather than blind with science I tend to present this as a “linking” exercise or an exercise on “coherence and cohesion” and how they can be achieved. I omit all reference to deictic, anaphoric and exophoric – concepts that I once understood but don’t often feel the need to transmit.

Engagement and pacing

For a fairly technical writing class, it can be surprisingly engaging – especially if/when they fail to choose the correct text to begin with. I tend to keep the pace up, however, and concentrate on awareness raising than in-depth textual analysis.

English examability factor

Is this an IELTS lesson? For me, yes. To write well for IELTS, you need to write well. If that doesn’t work, then it never harms to point out that c and c are 25% of the writing score.

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cohesion parallel texts (3665)

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