Top Tips for IELTS

Paragraph coherence – the P-E-E model

Coherence is crucial to IELTS writing. Why? It is up to 25% of your score: it is as important to your final score as both grammar and vocabulary. So, as you prepare your writing, you do need to think about it. What I want to do in this post is to show one relatively simple way to achieve it – in paragraphs.
Paragraph coherence is practical in that it will help not just to improve your score, but also make the writing process easier.

Paragraph coherence

One form of coherence is coherence within a paragraph. To achieve this you need to learn how to structure a paragraph with a topic sentence and to develop that sentence through the appropriate use of explanations and examples. In this post I am going to suggest a possible model to help you do this by teaching you to PEE – something everyone should be able to do quite naturally. It may help, however, first to think about how this works in the reading and speaking papers.

Understanding paragraph coherence – topic sentences – think reading

In the IELTS reading exam, one very familiar task is to identify the main topic of a paragraph by selecting the correct heading from a list. One way to complete that task is to identify one sentence that gives the main point of the paragraph – this is the topic sentence. Your goal in the writing paper is to ensure that each of your paragraphs contains a similar topic sentence. Learn how to write by thinking about reading.

Paragraph coherence – expanding the topic – think speaking

You can also learn to write by thinking about speaking. In the speaking exam, one of the goals is not to give very brief answers, but to give extended answers. In the writing the same applies: it is important to expand on the topic to show you have sufficient vocabulary and grammar to say what you want. The mistake is to write very short paragraphs or paragraphs which contain unrelated points. If you don’t believe me, you should note that the question almost invariably contains these words:

“You should use your own ideas, knowledge and experience and support your arguments with examples and relevant evidence.”

This is telling you that coherence is important. If you do support what you say with evidence and examples, your writing will become coherent.

A model – Learn how to P-E-E

One way to expand your topic sentences is to
make the point (P)
explain it (E)
give an example (E)

How it works

This is not the only way to be coherent, but it can be a good model to folllow in the context of an exam essay for two reasons.  Firstly, it helps the examiner – they should see immediately that your writing is coherent. It also makes the writing easier as many paragraphs can follow the same pattern and planning becomes much easier as you already know the shape of each paragraph before you start writing.


Some examples

Read through these three paragraphs taken from different IELTS essays and note how they all have a similar structure:

  • Point
  • Explanation
  • Example


There are those who argue that the internet has had an extremely positive influence on communication. They say this because in the past it was sometimes impossible to call people in other countries on the telephone, but now it is relatively simple to use a program such as Skype to talk to them for free or to send an email. A good example here are the students who go to study abroad and are able to send messages home with no difficulty, when in past they would have had to buy stamps and go to the post office which was much harder and more expensive.

A strong argument can of course be made from the opposite position. Part of this argument is that countries and nations need to preserve old buildings in order to preserve their heritage. In addition, however, to this cultural argument, there are positive economic benefits in preserving old buildings. An illustration here is Egypt once again, a country which depends on tourism for much of its national income simply because visitors pay to come from other countries to visit its ancient sites.

There are several reasons why it can be argued that television has a negative effect on cultural development. Perhaps the principal argument is the lowbrow nature of many programmes, particularly sitcoms and soap operas. People who watch these programmes do not learn anything, they are simply entertained. The other major argument is that because people watch so much television, they no longer take part in more traditional forms of cultural entertainment. An example here is how traditional dancing and music is becoming much less popular because people are staying at home to watch the television.

This is a pattern you can follow in most essays to give coherence to your writing by expanding on one point. I will add that this just one guideline, it isn’t a rule. There will be times, for instance, when you use much shorter examples as shown in this lesson where the examples are part of a more general explanation.

How to practise this

If any of this is new to you, I have a suggestion. For now, don’t practise writing essays: go back to the paragraph. This may seem limiting, but again it is practical. Once you can write a good paragraph, the exam essay becomes easy, for it is really little more than 5 paragraphs and if you can write one paragraph, you can write 5.

More connected lessons

Learn different techniques – be flexible

The sentence by sentence approach I explain here can be a great starting point to improve the coherence of your writing. But it may just be a starting point – especially if you’re aiming higher. It helps to be able to be as flexible as possible in how you write and learn different ways to write paragraphs coherently. Try some of these lessons to see how:

In this lesson I discuss how you can add shorter examples to your writing and not put them in their own sentences

How to give shorter examples in IELTS essays

In this lesson I discuss a different form of paragraph – the listing paragraph

Listing paragraphs

Learn different ways to introduce examples

It helps to vary your vocabulary. Here are some different ways to do that:

Vocabulary for giving examples


Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

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Essay writing guide

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26 Responses to Paragraph coherence – the P-E-E model

  1. Truden December 12, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    Hi, Everything dynamic and very positively! 🙂

  2. zain May 21, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    I really appriciate your work. i have selected 5th june for test, and i am practising writing tasks, and your blog is helping me to learn new structures, vucabulary and how to deal a paragraph for ielts writing task 2, : )

    • Irais July 6, 2011 at 5:23 am #

      I can’t believe I’ve been going for years without kionwng that.

  3. Aiping January 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    The advice is very helpful. But could you tell me where I can get materials to help me to develop paragraphs.
    Thanks a lot

    Happy New Year!

  4. Dominic Cole January 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    I’m planning a series of online exercises soon. For the time being I suggest UEfAP a truly excellent site with lots of good resources and exercises for academic English.

    Happy new year to you as well.

    (I’m busy at the moment putting together some letter writing materials – if that’s of any interest. They should be appearing in the next few days.)

    • Fabiana October 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

      Dominic, thank you so much for such an interesting webpage (I found it really helpful!!)

  5. Thang Trinh March 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Hi Dominic!

    I’ve just got my IELTS result: 7.5 overall band with 7.0 writing at the lowest partial band score. Thank you very much for such excellent work, especially the PEE model in writing, that greatly benefits IELTS candidates!

  6. karthikeyan May 3, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Thank you very much for your effort sir. i really appreciate your work on this site. These materials surely going to helpful. There is no doubt in that. Once again thank you very much. keep on your good work.

  7. Kasthuri June 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    I really appreciate your work !!! it was really helpful. I’m doing my IELTS exam tomorrow! 🙂

  8. Appy September 1, 2011 at 4:56 am #

    Thank you very much for valuable guidance.

  9. koko September 22, 2011 at 6:32 am #


  10. H. October 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Dear Dominic,

    hope you are well.

    I will be highly obliged if you could please tell me what is the question for the above sample essay.

    Awaiting your kind early reply.

    kindest regards


    • Dominic Cole December 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      It’s from one of my older sample essays. Sorry I no longer have the question.

      • Virender kaindal September 22, 2015 at 11:05 am #

        Sir i request you to teel me about new way to write task 1

  11. vesna March 8, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    You are my helper ! Thnak you. Best, Vesna

  12. vesna March 8, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    You are my helper ! Thank you. Best, Vesna

  13. Rashid March 15, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    it is really helpful . thank you very much.

  14. Ghyath September 4, 2012 at 9:26 pm #


    Thank you very much for your work.

    I would like to ask a question, can I write the first paragraph by using pee method,and the second one by listing method?

    Another thing, I do not know how I solve the writing problem,I did the exam four times before, but my score was 6.5 in writing.I need 7 in each band,but always I could not get 7 in writing(academic).

    Thank you again

  15. Yang Yue September 23, 2012 at 5:54 pm #



  16. priya February 26, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    Dear Dominic

    Its really a very good site for understanding the IELTS exam. I gave my exam twice and always ended up with 6.5 in writing and rest above 7 bands and for my registration i need 7 bands in all modules. I found your site very helpful and im giving my exam on march 9th and hopefully i get thru this time.


  17. girl chat February 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    What’s up i am kavin, its my first occasion to
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  18. Sunny May 13, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    These techniques are really helpful,thanks a lot!

  19. Nikhil Bhosale September 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    I have got general idea of writing essay by reading this blog.
    My exam is tomorrow..

    • Dominic Cole September 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

      Good luck and let me know how it goes.

  20. Dee September 24, 2016 at 11:13 pm #

    Hi Dominic. I just would like to ask if when are we required to provide two or more ideas for a discussion-opinion essay? As what I have observed, there are some essays that only give one point for each argument while others have two. Thanks

    • Dominic Cole September 25, 2016 at 3:22 pm #


      I’ll be upgrading my essay pages quite soon and looking at different types of questions and possible approaches to them.

      One thing to be emphasised is that there are multiple ways of answering one question. Your job is just to find one logical one that fits with what you know. If you have two strong ideas use both.

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