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Cohesion in IELTS Writing Task 2

2020年8月7日

In the IELTS writing paper, as you may know already, your two writing tasks are marked based on four criteria. These are:

 

Task Achievement (25% of the final score)

Coherence & Cohesion (25% of the final score)

Lexical Resource (25% of the final score)

Grammatical Range & Accuracy (25% of the final score)

 

In my experience, three of these are very simple to understand:

1) Task Achievement is simply whether you did what they asked you to do.

2) Lexical Resource is based on your vocabulary ability.

3) Grammatical Range and Accuracy is exactly what it says; it measures how wide the range of your grammar is, and how accurately you can use it.

 

Coherence & Cohesion however, often causes students a bit of trouble, and I find that they often don't have a very clear idea of what exactly is being assessed here. This is rather important, as it makes up a quarter of your entire IELTS writing score!

 

One way to look at Coherence and Cohesion is that it is measuring the organisation of the writing, the way it is logically sequenced and holds together as a text (in fact, if you are taking the CAE (C1)/FCE (B2) exams, then this part of your writing is scored under 'Organisation').

 

To divide them further, 'Coherence' is whether your text makes sense in terms of the structure, whether the ideas flow logically from one to the next, and whether it is clear to the reader what you are trying to say; with bad coherence, it can be hard for the reader to follow your thoughts. At its most basic, coherence is about making sure that your paragraphs each contain a single idea (i.e. 'introduction', 'disadvantages').

 

Cohesion is about the connections between the ideas, how each sentence and paragraph is related to the previous and the next; with bad cohesion, each sentence and paragraph can feel like an island, or clumsily joined to the next. At the most basic level, cohesion involves basic cohesive devices like linking words, such as 'however' or 'in addition', but there is a whole world of phrases and ways to connect your sentences so they link together into a seamless whole.

 

Here are some rather silly examples to illustrate, first a few sentences with basically no cohesion between them:

 
"I like chicken. Chicken is delicious and easy to cook. Even when I was a child, chicken was my favourite food. This afternoon I will buy some chicken. Tonight I will cook and eat some chicken. When I go to bed, I will be happy because of my chicken dinner."
 

Now, this is very simplistic and cohesively terrible, with each sentence being totally isolated, but there is a certain coherence to it. The subject is clear, and the motivations and goal of the writer unambiguous, with the text staying on topic throughout.

 

As another ridiculous example, lets take a look at a paragraph where every sentence is connected to the next one with a cohesive device (here mostly substitution), but where the text is incoherent:

 
 
One of the most well-established untrue ‘facts’ must be the commonly-held idea that America was discovered by Christopher Columbus. The famous explorer, born in 1451, has had numerous organisations and locations named after him in the years since his death, and probably the most famous of these is the Latin-American nation of Colombia. Often misspelled with a ‘U’ by English speakers, this country at the northern point of the continent is the only one in South America with access to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Having such access has often been seen as one of the United States of America’s geopolitical strengths, and one of the necessary preconditions for maintaining a blue water navy of the scale that they do. How then, will the People’s Republic of China project sea-power globally without such a force? Since its founding in 1948, the current political incarnation of the Middle Kingdom has experimented with a number of economic systems.
 
 

Where are these cohesive devices? Let's use some colours to see the connections between the sentences!

 
One of the most well-established untrue "facts" must be the commonly-held idea that America was discovered by Christopher Columbus. The famous explorer, born in 1451, has had numerous organisations and locations named after him in the years since his death, and perhaps the most famous of these is the Latin-American nation of Colombia. Often misspelled with a ‘U’ by English speakers, this country at the northern point of the continent is the only one in South America with access to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Having such access has often been seen as one of the United States of America’s geopolitical strengths, and one of the necessary preconditions for maintaining a blue water navy of the scale that they do. How then, will the People’s Republic of China project sea-power globally without such a force? Since its founding in 1948, the current political incarnation of the Middle Kingdom has experimented with a number of economic systems.
 

Notice how it flows nicely together, without ever getting to the point? Obviously there is more to it than this, and we will take a look at some specific 'cohesive devices' in a later blog, but I hope this has given you a general idea of what IELTS mean when they talk about 'Coherence and Cohesion'!

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