• Pallavi Kumar — IELTS Grader

Ultimate Guide to Excelling at Coherence & Cohesion in IELTS Writing Task 2: Cohesive Devices

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Strategically using cohesive devices will help improve your score.

IELTS Grader - Cohesive Devices

The IELTS Writing Task 2 assesses test takers on four key criteria. In this post, I will focus on the use of cohesive devices, a big part of the area of Coherence and Cohesion, which accounts for 25% of your score. Essentially, Coherence and Cohesion assesses how well you connect your ideas and sentences. If you are able to do this, then you will create a good flow, which will make it easier for the reader to understand what you are trying to convey.

If you want to excel in Coherence and Cohesion, then you should be able to effectively employ cohesive devices.

What are Cohesive Devices?

Cohesive devices have many different names, such as transitions, transitional words, linkers, connectors, discourse markers and signposting language. These connectors are those words, pronouns, and sentence structures which link the ideas in writing. These devices ensure that your essay has flow and is readable. They also signal the relationships between sentences and paragraphs.

Let’s look at two examples:

  • Buses in this city are erratic and they’re cheap.

  • Buses in this city are erratic, but they’re cheap.

There are two linkers in the sentences above: and and but. Each word changes the meaning of the sentence and gives a different signal to the reader.

And in the first sentence simply adds two pieces of information; however, but in the second sentence gives a contrasting opinion to the first part of the sentence.

This shows how simply changing one word in the sentence can completely change the feeling that’s being communicated. The effective use of cohesive devices in your sentences can make the message succinct and clear. But does that mean we should use as many cohesive devices as possible?

Overusing Cohesive Devices

The biggest challenge for test takers in the IELTS Writing and Speaking sections is using cohesive devices accurately. They often think that using more and more linking words will make their writing more academic and increase their score; unfortunately, this is not the case!

The overuse of cohesive devices makes your writing sound boring and mechanical and may cause the reader confusion. It can actually negatively impact your score.

Let’s take a look at the IELTS Writing Marking Criteria:

  • Band 5 - makes inadequate, inaccurate or overuse of cohesive devices

  • Band 7 - a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under-/over-use

As you can see, there is a fine line between scoring a Band 5 and Band 7, thus you must be strategic and thoughtful on how often you use cohesive devices.

Don’t Use Words Without Understanding the Meaning

This may seem obvious, but before using a cohesive device in your essay, you must understand the meaning of the word. Some test takers try to use big words in their essay, but unfortunately it is not always in the right context. Ultimately, this will confuse the reader, and will lead to receiving a lower score.

As you are preparing for the IELTS, learn the meanings of different types of cohesive devices. This will adequately prepare you for the test, and give you an arsenal of options for your essay.

List of Cohesive Devices

To make it easy for you, I have listed some key cohesive devices below, arranged by use type. The great thing is that you will not only be able to use this for the IELTS Writing section, but the IELTS Speaking section as well:

  • Addition: finally, and, besides, moreover, what’s more, additionally, furthermore, next, in addition, again, equally important, next, lastly

  • Comparison: conversely, in contrast, balanced against, although, compared to, however, but, meanwhile, on the other hand, on the contrary, nevertheless, whereas, by comparison, after all

  • Emphasizing: unquestionably, without reservation, without a doubt, never, indeed, in fact, certainly, absolutely, always, in any case, obviously, extremely, emphatically, definitely, surprisingly

  • Exemplification: on this occasion, as an illustrate, take the case of, to demonstrate, for example, for instance, in this situation, to illustrate

  • Validation: in any case, because, in addition, for the same reason, furthermore, in example, moreover, in fact, for, obviously, since, evidently, besides

  • Showing exception: unfortunately, yet, of course, however, sometimes, despite, in spite of, still, once in a while

  • Sequencing: therefore, following this, first, second, third, thus, as a result, concurrently, now, afterward, consequently, simultaneously, hence

  • Time: soon, later, immediately, formerly, next, then, previously, thereafter, soon after, finally

  • Summarization: as demonstrated, therefore, hence, in conclusion, summing up, as a result, accordingly, on the whole, overall

  • Reformulation: that is to say, in other words, rather, put more simply, in simple terms

  • Highlighting: especially, above all, in particular, mainly, particularly


The aim of your writing is to express your views and structure your ideas logically. With the use of cohesive devices, you can achieve that flow and enhance the readability of your essay. Remember, you need to use cohesive devices thoughtfully and strategically. Using them too often or out of context can hurt your score. While you are preparing for IELTS, go through a list of cohesive devices (such as the ones above) and understand their meanings so you can use them confidently and effectively.

Do you have any questions about cohesive devices? If so, please comment below!

Are you looking to improve your score? IELTS Grader offers free online IELTS test preparation with various features, such as instant scoring and feedback, expert evaluations, and unlimited IELTS practice tests.

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