How to use cohesive devices effectively

A guide to linking and cohesion in IELTS writing.

Updated: December 2023

One of the most important skills for getting a good score in the IELTS writing exam, is the way cohesive devices or linking devices are used. In the marking criteria for task 2 essays and Writing task 1 reports, Coherence and Cohesion accounts for 25% of your marks. So it is important to have an essay that flows naturally and is easy for the reader to understand. A key component of this is cohesive devices, however, use them correctly and sparingly.

In this lesson we will look at:

1. What cohesive devices are.
2. How they are marked in the exam.
3. Examples of cohesive devices.
4. Faulty use of cohesive devices.
5. Example sentences with cohesive devices.

If you prefer, you can watch the video below


What are cohesive devices?

These are often called by different names such as : Linkers, Discourse markers, Transitional words, Signposting Language or Connectors. These are words like “However” “For example” “To Conclude” “Also” “In addition” “Therefore” “Similarly” and so on. However, they need to be used correctly and effectively and many IELTS students have trouble with their use.

Here are 2 examples from an essay about environmental issues.

1. The government should tackle the issue of river pollution, in addition, the problem of factory emissions has to be resolved.

2. The government should tackle the issue of river pollution, however, the problem of factory emissions has to be resolved.

In the first example the student has given extra information. We can also use another linker such as ‘additionally, also, and, furthermore’

In the second example the meaning is slightly different because there is a linker which shows contrast. The second part of the sentence puts emphasis on the issue of factory emissions and that they need to be tackled or resolved first.

This demonstrates that you shouldn’t just memorise them. Practice using them in your essays and get feedback on coherence and cohesion.

How are they marked in the Exam?

Click to see the marking criteria.

linkers in ielts
Source: British Council

Click here for the PDF to the marking criteria from the British Council.

  • Band 5 : “makes inadequate, inaccurate or over use of cohesive devices”
  • Band 6:Uses cohesive devices effectively but cohesion within and/or between sentences may be faulty or mechanical.’
  • Band 7 : “uses a range of cohesive devices appropriately although there may be some under/over-use
  • Band 8: “manages all aspects of cohesion well”

Use them sparingly

The problem is that some students either over use them or they use them incorrectly. They often put cohesive devices in every sentence or every 2 sentences thinking that this will impress the examiner. In fact this technique is going to cause problems with your essay and could lead to a band 5 or 6 in coherence and cohesion.

Band 7 or 8 essays show that cohesive devices are used effectively. Interestingly, if you look at most Band 8 or 9 essays there are not that many cohesive devices, but when they are used they are very effective. It is not necessary to have them all over the essay. Just one or two per paragraph is fine. Cohesive devices are also very important to use in Writing task 1 especially when describing a process and sequencing.


Examples of Cohesive devices

Here is a list of linkers and cohesive devices, but I don’t recommend memorising them, you should practice using them in your writing first. Remember not to over use these.

Example of faulty use

The marking criteria for Band 6 says:

Uses cohesive devices effectively but cohesion within and/or between sentences may be faulty or mechanical.’

Can you spot the faulty cohesion in the example below?

Despite of the dangers of eating too much junk food, people are still consuming these types of food and risking their health. In addition, there is a growing number of people turning to healthy eating these days, so that many more are becoming vegetarian. On the other hand, junk food is tasty so many people are eating it.

In the above example the candidate has made a mistake with ‘Despite of’, it doesn’t need ‘of’ after Despite. Also ‘in addition’ is wrongly used, this is faulty use. It would be better to say ‘However’ ,also the word ‘so that’ just doesn’t seem to fit well here. Cohesive devices are faulty and overused in this paragraph.

‘Mechanical use’ means that they are unnatural or seem to be memorised. This is why you should not memorise sentences and just plug them into your writing. For example: ‘As outlined in the above essay I agree with the view put forward’  This sentence looks odd and seems memorised..

Example sentences with good cohesive devices.

  1. Crime is increasing in big cities in the developed world. To illustrate this, robberies have risen by 35% in London since 2008. (giving an example)
  2. The quality of air in most big cities is getting worse, in particular, cities such as Beijing and Delhi have had real issues with air pollution over the past 10 years. (Emphasizing and giving an example)
  3. Global warming is a big concern for the world. In addition, sea levels pose a threat to low lying coastal areas. (addition)
  4. There are certainly advantages to fast food such as low cost and convenience. On the other hand, there are health issues that must be considered, namely heart disease and diabetes. (contrasting and giving an example)
  5. One parent families need financial support from the government, additionally, educational support should be part of that.  (addition)
  6. Many company employees have been working more and more overtime in recent years due to the fear of them losing their jobs. Consequently, the health and wellbeing of company workers has become a big concern.  (cause and results)
  7. In my view, public transportation should be made cheaper to motivate people to take the train or bus to work. (opinion)
  8. Shopping online is very convenient. Moreover, it is cheaper than most high street shops. (addition)

Notice the punctuation used here, ‘Moreover’ should be used to begin a new sentence.


Key Point: Remember not to overuse these as the essay will end up sounding unnatural if the reader reads it aloud. Here is a paragraph from an essay about internet shopping. Notice how I have used cohesive devices sparingly.

‘One main advantage of purchasing online is that it is much cheaper than buying from high street shops. This means that buying items such as books, clothes and household goods is much more cost effective if consumers get them on the internet because of the wide range of shopping sites. To illustrate this, a recent report in Business weekly magazine stated that since 2018, the number of shoppers making purchases on Amazon has risen considerably due to low costs and free delivery.’

In the paragraph above there are only 2 cohesive devices to help with cohesion. This is a natural way to use them.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions.

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