Need help with Coherence and Cohesion? Watch my bite-sized YouTube Video, or read the transcript below.
What are coherence and cohesion?
In the IELTS Writing Band Descriptors, Coherence and Cohesion is one of the four criteria that they grade you on (the others are Task Achievement, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy).
So what does ‘Coherence and Cohesion’ mean? And what is the difference between them? Here is my very simple guide.
Coherence – This is the big picture, the skeleton, the external framework.
Cohesion – These are all the little things which hold the framework together internally.
What is COHERENCE?
Let’s look at the framework first and see what you need to get Band 5, 6 and 7.
- Band 7 – clear paragraphs and a clear topic in each paragraph
- Band 6 – uses paragraphs, but they are not always logical
- Band 5 – paragraphing may be ‘inadequate’ (so maybe no paragraphs or maybe no clear topic for each paragraph).
The Band Descriptors also talk about showing progression, being logical and being organised:
- Band 7 – progression and logic going through the whole of the essay.
- Band 6 – it makes sense, and it progresses overall.
- Band 5 – there’s some organisation, but there’s no progression. The ideas don’t lead towards a natural conclusion.
So COHERENCE is all about logic, making sense, progression of ideas leading towards the conclusion, clear paragraphs and organization.
That is the framework, the skeleton, the big picture
What about COHESION?
Now let’s compare that to the little things which hold your writing together.
- Band 7 – you need the range of linking devices and you need to use them appropriately.
- Band 6 – where you’re using linking devices, but mechanically – e.g. just putting a linking word on the start of every sentence
- Band 5 – you may have too many cohesive devices, which make your writing sound unnatural. Maybe they’re grammatically wrong (e.g. difficult link words like ‘although’ or ‘despite’ etc), or maybe there are not enough, or all three of those.
3 types of linking words
So what are these linking devices?
I’ve divided them into 3 types,
1. Telling the reader what you’re doing
- (sequencing) first of all, secondly, finally
- (contrasting) on the other hand, however, although
- (giving your opinion) as far as I am concerned, it seems to me, in my opinion
- (summing up) in summary, on the whole, to conclude
2. Extending your main points to help strengthen your arguments.
- giving an example or evidence: for example, for instance, to illustrate this
- explanations: owing to, because of, due to
- results: as a result, for this reason, consequently
- adding more ideas: in addition, and another reason, furthermore,
- adding a condition: if, provided that, unless
3. Avoiding repetition
- reference or substitution words such as ‘this’ or ‘these’ or ‘it’ or ‘they ‘or ‘the former, the latter’ replace the words that you’ve already used in the previous sentence.
- synonyms – avoiding repetition but developing the same topic.
- ‘- ing’ verbs (Present Participle) link sentences and make them longer, more complex and more sophisticated.
So let’s have a look now at what this translates as in a real essay (please watch from this point in the video).
This essay is all about zoos. I’ve simplified it to help you see that when we’re talking about coherence or the big picture, the skeleton, the framework.
You can see that there are five logical paragraphs. Each paragraph tells the reader what the writer is doing and it’s very easy to follow.
Now look at the second example. All of the words in red (in the video) are the the linkers:
- such as
- On balance,
- they, this
So hopefully you can see the difference between those cohesive devices and the paragraphing and logic and organization needed for coherence.
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