Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test
Speaking
Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test

In this post, we will focus on cohesion and coherence in speaking and how improving these can help you to improve your score in the IELTS Speaking test. What do we mean by ‘cohesion’ and ‘coherence’ in speaking? Both are related to how you organise your ideas when speaking. ‘Cohesion’ describes the methods used to link words and ideas together. You often do this by using specific words and phrases called ‘cohesive devices’. ‘Coherence’ describes the quality of being easy to understand. Even if a text or presentation is ‘cohesive’, it will only be ‘coherent’, if the ideas make sense and are clearly linked to one another.  What are some common features of cohesion in speaking? One cohesive device that is probably familiar to you is linking words or ‘linkers’. These can be used to link ideas together in either spoken or written English and have a range of different functions. For example:   Linkers used in speaking are usually simpler and more informal than those used in writing. Furthermore, there are some cohesive devices that we would use when speaking, but that would be too informal for writing. These are often called ‘discourse markers’. If you can learn to use these correctly, they can make you sound more natural in English. For example:   It is important to understand how to use these discourse markers. Keeping a list of example sentences for when to use new discourse markers can help you to learn to use them correctly. For example: (Click to enlarge) Why are cohesion and coherence important for my IELTS Speaking score?  Cohesion and coherence are assessed under ‘Fluency and Coherence’ in the IELTS Speaking descriptors. A Band 9 candidate ‘speaks coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features’, while a Band 7 candidate ‘uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility’. A Band 6 candidate ‘uses a range of connective and discourse markers, but not always appropriately’, while a Band 5 candidate ‘may overuse certain connectives and discourse markers.’ What can I do to practise using features of cohesion in speaking? 1. Learn a range of discourse markers and practise using them  Starting a list of useful discourse markers with example sentences will help you speak more cohesively and naturally. Listen for discourse markers that people use when they are speaking. You could listen to sample IELTS speaking test tasks (and look at the transcripts). Make a note of how they used it and then write down your own example. Then practise using them, both when you are doing IELTS speaking practice and when you are speaking to anyone in English.  2. Reflect on which discourse markers you feel more or less confident about using Using familiar discourse markers when speaking will help you to feel more confident, but you want to avoid overusing them. Think about the ones you use often and then ones you would like to use more. Record yourself giving a task 2 speaking presentation if you don't know which connectives you use. Check your understanding of the meaning and write down an example of when you would use it. You may find it helpful at first to record yourself saying these example sentences so you can get used to them.  3. Record, listen and play back Once you are feeling more confident about using a range of discourse markers, record yourself responding to an IELTS Speaking question. You could do this with a friend, so that one of you asks the question and the other responds. Then play back the recording and pay attention to the linkers and discourse markers you have used. Did you use them appropriately? Do you overuse certain discourse markers? Make a note of any points that you need to improve and continue to practice.  Hope you found this useful! You can find the rest of my series here. Lucy {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/g_BmfLcuboY.jpg?itok=cBDTZ9KQ","video_url":"https://youtu.be/g_BmfLcuboY","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}

Lucy Passmore

31 March, 2021

Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test

Developing cohesion and coherence for the IELTS Speaking test

In this post, we will focus on cohesion and coherence in speaking and how improving these can help you to improve your score in the IELTS Speaking test.

What do we mean by ‘cohesion’ and ‘coherence’ in speaking?

Both are related to how you organise your ideas when speaking. ‘Cohesion’ describes the methods used to link words and ideas together. You often do this by using specific words and phrases called ‘cohesive devices’. ‘Coherence’ describes the quality of being easy to understand. Even if a text or presentation is ‘cohesive’, it will only be ‘coherent’, if the ideas make sense and are clearly linked to one another.

What are some common features of cohesion in speaking?

One cohesive device that is probably familiar to you is linking words or ‘linkers’. These can be used to link ideas together in either spoken or written English and have a range of different functions. For example:

Adding ideas and contrasting ideas

 

Linkers used in speaking are usually simpler and more informal than those used in writing. Furthermore, there are some cohesive devices that we would use when speaking, but that would be too informal for writing. These are often called ‘discourse markers’. If you can learn to use these correctly, they can make you sound more natural in English. For example:

Examples

 

It is important to understand how to use these discourse markers. Keeping a list of example sentences for when to use new discourse markers can help you to learn to use them correctly. For example:

Cue Card Example

(Click to enlarge)

Why are cohesion and coherence important for my IELTS Speaking score?

Cohesion and coherence are assessed under ‘Fluency and Coherence’ in the IELTS Speaking descriptors. A Band 9 candidate ‘speaks coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features’, while a Band 7 candidate ‘uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility’. A Band 6 candidate ‘uses a range of connective and discourse markers, but not always appropriately’, while a Band 5 candidate ‘may overuse certain connectives and discourse markers.’

What can I do to practise using features of cohesion in speaking?

1. Learn a range of discourse markers and practise using them

Starting a list of useful discourse markers with example sentences will help you speak more cohesively and naturally. Listen for discourse markers that people use when they are speaking. You could listen to sample IELTS speaking test tasks (and look at the transcripts). Make a note of how they used it and then write down your own example. Then practise using them, both when you are doing IELTS speaking practice and when you are speaking to anyone in English.

2. Reflect on which discourse markers you feel more or less confident about using

Using familiar discourse markers when speaking will help you to feel more confident, but you want to avoid overusing them. Think about the ones you use often and then ones you would like to use more. Record yourself giving a task 2 speaking presentation if you don't know which connectives you use. Check your understanding of the meaning and write down an example of when you would use it. You may find it helpful at first to record yourself saying these example sentences so you can get used to them.

3. Record, listen and play back

Once you are feeling more confident about using a range of discourse markers, record yourself responding to an IELTS Speaking question. You could do this with a friend, so that one of you asks the question and the other responds. Then play back the recording and pay attention to the linkers and discourse markers you have used. Did you use them appropriately? Do you overuse certain discourse markers? Make a note of any points that you need to improve and continue to practice.

Hope you found this useful! You can find the rest of my series here.

Lucy

Lucy Passmore

Lucy has been teaching IELTS for more than 10 years at language schools and universities across London. She has also contributed to the Mindset for IELTS course book series for Cambridge University Press, working on writing units for the Students’ Books, a Teachers’ book and additional online practice tasks.

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