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Making More Sense in your General Training Writing Tasks: Coherence and Cohesion Part One

1 Apr 2020
Making More Sense in your General Training Writing Tasks:  Coherence and Cohesion Part One

Knowing how to communicate clearly in your writing is one sure way to score higher on the IELTS general training exam, so let’s take a closer look at coherence and cohesion.  

One of the four criteria for assessing your writing is coherence and cohesion, but how do these elements of fluency show up on paper?   

Cohesion refers to connections within and between sentences that make your response easy to read. For example, pronouns rename nouns and noun phrases to connect one sentence to the next and keep your writing from becoming repetitive and boring 

Similarly, linking words and phrases connect ideas and, in an essay, they signal the progression of your points, while in a letter, they signpost the unfolding reason for writing  

Here is a sample of what linkers can indicate: 

  • the sequence of ideas (first, then, two weeks later, when I first had this problem) 
  • reasons for something (because, given thatin view of the above, I have recommended) 
  • additional ideas (moreover, furthermoreanother issue I’m having) 
  • comparison or contrast (similarly, but) 
  • concession (despite, although) 
  • restatement (in other words, to be more precise) 
  • conclusion (therefore, consequently) 

Coherence is more about making connections at the idea level. In an essay, it means fully developing your points so that the reader can understand and be influenced by your reasoningIn a letter, it means making the purpose of the correspondence clear and providing relevant information to influence the recipient to do or feel something.  

So how do you achieve coherence in your writing?  It’s very simpleEssay and letter writing follow specific conventions that examiners will be expecting to see. If those conventions are correctly employed, you will raise your score because your writing will be more fluent. 

It comes down to paragraphing. Each paragraph of the letter or essay has an essential functionOnce you understand this, your writing will become much easier. As a bonus, once you understand the functions of the paragraphs, using cohesive devices starts to get easier too because when YOU are clear where your writing is going, logical order and signally comes naturally.  

Paragraphing Conventions in the Essay 

The introductory paragraph states the issue of importance, the premise or premises being examined and usually your position in the matter. The last sentence outlines how your essay will unfold.  

The middle or body paragraphs each begin with a topic sentence stating the main idea of the paragraph followed by an explanation or elaboration of this point and specific evidence to support it. 

The conclusion summarizes the main ideas that were presented and states a conclusion that can be drawn. It may provide further recommendations based on that conclusion. 

NOTE:  Essay body paragraphs tend to be at least three or four sentences long because a point needs to be made, explained and supported with examples. 

Let’s look at this paragraphing in actionHere is a sample essay prompt:  

Some people believe that teachers need to be strict to be effective in a classroom while others argue that students learn better if they have a teacher who is friendly.

What follows is a detailed outline that explains the typical function of each paragraph and the sentences within it. 

 

Introduction 

 Paragraph One 

 Sentence 1: States the issue of importance. 

Most people agree that having an effective teacher is one of the key elements of a good education. 

Sentence 2: States the two opposing points of view from the prompt. 

Some, however, believe that a teacher needs to be strict to be effective while others argue that students learn better if their teacher is less demanding or rigid in their manner. 

Sentence 3: States your opinion on the matter 

I tend to believe that it depends on the situation and a good teacher needs to be strict but also understanding and fair. 

Sentence 4: Briefly outlines what you’re going to write about in the paragraphs that follow. 

This essay will examine the opposing views and then come to a reasonable conclusion.  

Body  
Paragraph Two 

 

Part 1 (topic sentence): Tells the reader what this paragraph is about. 

One strong argument in favour of a strict teacher is that someone who firmly enforces rules makes students accountable for their and others’ learning. 

Part 2: (explanation and elaboration): Assumes that the reader doesn’t know anything about this topic and discusses why some people might have this view. 

Being firm about keeping the classroom organized and group behaviour in control makes it possible for everyone to learn. If rules are not strictly followed, chaos can break out as young students test boundaries and disrupt lessons.  

Part 3: Gives a real-life or made-up example that supports this view. 

In support, studies have shown that most children learn better in a controlled and predictable environment. 

Paragraph Three 

Part 1 (topic sentence): Tells the reader what this paragraph is about by stating the second viewpoint. 

Others argue that a strict teacher can be detrimental to students’ learning and teachers need to be friendlier. 

Part 2 (explanation and elaboration) Assumes that the reader doesn’t know anything about this topic and discusses why some people might have this view. 

Some might equate strictness with being harsh or regimental to the degree that it scares or traumatizes learnersThis can cause them to withdraw from the class, be fearful to ask questions or even afraid to come to school. 

 

Sentence 3: Gives a real-life or made-up example that supports this view. 

Teachers who come across as understanding, kind and less rigid, have been found to have better class attendance, more productive learning discussions and greater student happiness which has been shown to increase learning overall. 

Paragraph Four 

Part 1 (topic sentence): Tells the reader what this paragraph is about by stating your viewpoint.  

I believe a teacher needs to be balanced to be effective. 

Part 2: Discusses why you have this view. 

The reason being that there needs to be some sense of order in the room to create a space that supports learning for all. Discipline can usually be achieved without rigid authoritarianism, however, even a friendly teacher needs to enforce those rules strictly when students step out of line. 

Part 3: Gives a real-life or made-up example that supports your view. 

As a teacher, I can attest that firmness with a smile has ensured the success of many students in my classrooms.   

conclusion
Conclusion
Paragraph Five

 Part 1 and 2:  Rephraseor summarizes the different opinions on the topic then states your conclusion about the matter. 

While there is still some debate about whether a teacher needs to be strict or amicable to ensure learning, I tend to believe in a balance of the twoChildren who feel comfortable and cared for in the classroom are more open to learning, but teachers need to be able to enforce rules to stabilize the room, which may require some level of sternness. 

Now, here is what it looks like all together with some cohesive devices highlighted:  

     Most people agree that having an effective teacher is one of the key elements of a good education. Some believe that a teacher needs to be strict to be effective while others argue that students learn better if their teacher is less demanding or rigid in their manner. I tend to believe that it depends on the situation and a good teacher needs to be strict but also understanding and fair. This essay will examine the opposing views and then come to a reasonable conclusion. 

     Perhaps the greatest reason for preferring a strict teacher is that someone who firmly enforces rules makes students accountable for their and others’ learning. Being firm about keeping the classroom organized and group behaviour in control makes it possible for everyone to learnConversely, if rules are not strictly followed, chaos can break out as young students test boundaries and disrupt lessons. In support, studies have shown that most children learn better in a controlled and predictable environment. 

     Others argue that a strict teacher can be detrimental to students’ learning and teachers need to be friendlier. Some might equate strictness with being harsh or regimental to the degree that it scares or traumatizes learnersThis can cause them to withdraw from the class, be fearful to ask questions or even afraid to come to school. Teachers who come across as understanding, kind and less rigid, have been found to have better class attendance, more productive learning discussions and greater student happiness which has been shown to increase learning overall. 

     I believe a teacher needs to be balanced to be effective. The reason being that there needs to be some sense of order in the room to create a space that supports learning for all. Discipline can usually be achieved without rigid authoritarianism, however, even a friendly teacher needs to enforce rules strictly when students disrupt learning. As an educator, I can attest that firmness with understanding and care has played a role in the success of many students in my classrooms.  

     While there is still some debate about whether a teacher needs to be strict or amicable to ensure learning, I tend to believe in a balance of the twoChildren who feel comfortable and cared for in the classroom are more open to learning, but teachers need to be able to enforce rules to stabilize the room, which may require some level of sternness.  

Using this structure will ensure that your writing is arranged in a logical order and that you will be able to use signal words and phrases to smoothly lead the reader along. 

In the next blog, we examine how paragraphing convention is similar and different in letters so that you can be sure you’re ready to do your best on your general training exam. 

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