Strategies for Achieving Cohesive and Coherent Responses in the IELTS Speaking Test 

 April 3, 2024

By  Jonathan

Coherence and cohesion are essential elements for successful performance on the IELTS Speaking Test. Coherence refers to the logical organization and flow of your ideas. Cohesion refers to the “glue” – the words and phrases that create smooth transitions and seamlessly connect your thoughts. By honing these skills, you’ll project confidence in your IELTS speaking test and ensure the examiner can clearly follow your logic and explanations..

Why Do Coherence and Cohesion Matter?

  • Clarity: Well-organized, connected speech significantly enhances the clarity of your message.
  • Fluency Enhancement: Using cohesive devices smoothly bridges your ideas, aiding fluency and minimizing unnatural pauses.
  • Comprehension: A clear progression of ideas helps the examiner follow your line of thinking without struggling.
  • Scoring Potential: Coherence and cohesion are key components of the IELTS Speaking rubric, directly impacting your band score.

Strategies for Effective Implementation

  1. Utilize Transitional Words and Phrases
    • Master a range of linking words to signal relationships between ideas:
      • Addition: furthermore, moreover, additionally
      • Contrast: however, on the other hand, although
      • Example: for instance, to illustrate, specifically
      • Cause & Effect: as a result, consequently, therefore
      • Sequencing: firstly, next, finally
  2. Structure Matters
    • Part 2: Briefly outline your key points before speaking. Logically order your description or narration.
    • Part 3: Organize answers around clear supporting points for your opinion or argument.
  3. Employ Pronoun References
    • Avoid over-repetition by skillfully using pronouns (it, this, they, them, etc.) to replace nouns.
    • Ensure pronoun references are crystal clear to avoid ambiguity.
  4. Synonyms for Enhanced Cohesion
    • Instead of repeating the same keyword, use synonyms to maintain focus while creating a more sophisticated response.
    • Be cautious: Only use synonyms you’re absolutely confident in to avoid misusing them.
  5. Parallelism in Sentence Construction
    • Maintain consistent grammatical structures within phrases or lists for a balanced, rhythmic effect.
    • Example: “I enjoy reading, swimming, and exploring new places.”
  6. The Power of Summarizing
    • In Part 3 discussions, briefly summarize or rephrase the examiner’s question before launching into your answer. This ensures clarity and focus.
    • Use this technique to succinctly conclude your key points at the end of your Part 2 or Part 3 response.

Practice Examples

Topic: Technology’s Impact on Communication

  • Disconnected: “Technology is good. It connects people. But, it also makes us isolated. People text instead of talking.”
  • Enhanced with Cohesive Devices: “While technology undoubtedly offers increased connectivity, it has also created a paradox. For instance, while social media allows us to stay in touch easily, it can sometimes replace meaningful in-person interaction.”

Topic: Describing a Memorable Experience (Part 2)

  • Disjointed: “I went to Paris. It was beautiful. I visited museums. The food was amazing.”
  • Enhanced with Structure & Transitions: “One particularly memorable trip was my visit to Paris. Firstly, the city’s architecture was breathtaking. I enjoyed exploring renowned museums like the Louvre. Additionally, the culinary scene was outstanding…”

Practice Techniques

  • Cohesive Device Drills: Select a topic and practice forming a mini-paragraph using a variety of linking words.
  • Outlining Practice: Before answering practice questions, jot down 2-3 main points to structure your response.
  • Record & Analyze: Listen back for overused words, and brainstorm synonyms to incorporate.

Additional Tips

  • Vary Your Transitions: Avoid relying on the same few linking words. Learn a broader range for flexibility.
  • Avoid Overcomplicating: Don’t try to insert cohesive devices into every sentence; a natural flow is key.
  • Read & Listen Attentively: Observe how skilled writers and speakers connect their ideas for inspiration.

IMPORTANT: While coherence and cohesion are crucial, don’t let the pursuit of perfect transitions hinder your fluency or spontaneity.

Remember: Focused practice and conscious awareness will elevate your ability to organize and connect your thoughts during the IELTS Speaking Test, significantly boosting your communication skills and leading to a higher band score.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.