If an IELTS candidate wants to get Band 9 in Speaking, they are expected to do much more than merely show proof of wide-ranging vocabulary, great grammatical range and almost flawless pronunciation. So, for Band 9 a candidate should
- speak fluently with only some repetition or self-correction,
- speak coherently with fully appropriate cohesive features,
- develop topics fully and appropriately.
Let us look more closely at what coherence and cohesion mean and learn how to make your exam answer more coherent and cohesive.
Coherence in speech or writing is defined as connection of ideas, while cohesion is an effective grammatical linking that leads to one’s speech being more connected and logical.
So, if you intend to make your speech sound clear, organised and connected, it should contain cohesive features or link words. These help you structure your response and show clear relationships between your ideas.
In both speaking and writing they help you add ideas, compare, contrast, give reason or explanation.
More importantly, the use of these words and expressions helps your ideas flow and connect seamlessly.
They also help you convey your message efficiently carrying from sentence to sentence and let the listener or examiner better understand the logic of your ideas.
Now let’s look at a sample answer in Part 3 of the Speaking exam and observe coherence and cohesion are built.
Part 3 – Topic: Events and Celebrations
Should an event be prepared in advance?
Yes, by all means. Only few celebrations can be successfully organised on the spot without too much planning effort. It would be so easy to throw a surprise birthday party for a friend or a family member.
There’s such a wide range of products that one can buy at a Dollar store for such purposes – all sorts of paper cups, plastic plates and cutlery, single use tablecloths and so on. Most events do require a good deal of planning. Family celebrations – Christmas, Thanksgiving, wedding anniversaries, wedding parties, product launches or various receptions simply can’t be spontaneous. Their organisation needs a good plan. There are way too many aspects to take into account – the menu, guest list, or even gifts. Good planning of large events always equals order and peace of mind.
It is not uncommon for people to overplan their events and then, when something small deviates from the initial plan, it wreaks havoc on the whole event and the festive feeling associated with it. I don’t think we should plan every single detail of every single event. We should leave some space for adjustment in case the circumstances change.
At first glance this may seem a rather good answer. It is indeed developed rather appropriately – the speaker makes an introduction, maps out the answer and concludes.
It also shows an appropriate range of vocabulary and grammar and does answer the question, providing personal opinion supported with examples and explanations and ending in a conclusion.
Yet, at a closer look you will realize that the sentences sound somewhat abrupt and disconnected, even though the ideas follow a logical order.
Despite coming up with examples, reasons, explanations or opinions, this sample exam answer barely contains any linkers that would signal the transition from one idea to another, or flow from a general idea to example.
This makes it difficult for the listener to follow the message of the speaker and the whole answer appears to be fragmented and poorly organised.
How could you improve such an answer? By using link words in places where you intend to introduce what you think, show comparison/contrast, provide examples, give explanations/reason, or show result.
Here are some examples of link words that can make your answer more cohesive.
|Also, as well as||To add ideas|
|Similarly, as, in the same way||To compare|
|Even though, despite, yet||To contrast|
|So that, so, for this reason||To express a result/purpose|
|For example, for instance, to illustrate this||To give examples|
|Because, since, thus, that is why||To give an explanation or reason|
|Actually, I have to say||To preface what you really think|
|I must admit||To confess that something is true|
|On the other hand||To introduce another point of view|
|Well||To give yourself time to think|
This list is far from being exhaustive, yet it is quite a good start.
Another suggestion for a Band 9 answer would be not only to use link words, but to avoid repeating them and certainly not to use only the simplest ones (like and, or, but, however, still).
Make sure you vary your linkers and that they are appropriate in style, as some (like notwithstanding, hereby, therefore, correspondingly) are better used in writing and sound less natural in speaking.
Now let’s have a look at the improved answer and the function of each linker in context.
Should an event be prepared in advance?
Well [give yourself time to think], I have to say [preface what you really think] yes, by all means. I must admit [confess that smth is true] that only few celebrations can be successfully organised on the spot without too much planning effort. For instance, [give example] it would be so easy to throw a surprise birthday party for a friend or a family member since [give reason] there’s such a wild range of products that one can buy at a Dollar store for such purposes – all sorts of paper cups, plastic plates and cutlery, single use tablecloths and so on. Yet, [contrast] most events do require a good deal of planning. Family celebrations like [give example] Christmas, Thanksgiving, wedding anniversaries, as well as [add ideas]wedding parties, product launches or various receptions simply can’t be spontaneous. Their organisation needs a good plan because [give reason] there are way too many aspects to take into account – the menu, guest list, or even gifts. So [express a result] good planning of large events always equals order and peace of mind. On the other hand, [introduce another point of view] it is not uncommon for people to overplan their events and then, when something small deviates from the initial plan, it wreaks havoc on the whole event and the festive feeling associated with it. That is why [give an explanation] I don’t think we should plan every single detail of every single event, so that [express purpose] we leave some space for adjustment in case the circumstances change.
To sum up, coming up with appropriate ideas when answering the exam question, providing detail and using impressive vocabulary and grammar are not the only conditions to attain Band 9.
You should also make sure that your ideas flow well and are relationships between them are clear. So, using a range of appropriate link words will help you make your answer organised and coherent, and show to advantage the logic of your thinking.
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