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IELTS writing - paragraph coherence

Saturday, May 23, 2009 Posted by Dominic

One form of coherence is coherence within a paragraph. To achieve this you need to learn how to structure a paragraph with a topic sentence and to develop that sentence through the appropriate use of explanations and examples. In this post I am going to suggest a possible model to help you do this by teaching you to PEE - something everyone should be able to do quite naturally.

Understanding paragraph coherence - topic sentences - think reading

In the IELTS reading exam, one very familiar task is to identify the main topic of a paragraph by selecting the correct heading from a list. One way to complete that task is to identify one sentence that gives the main point of the paragraph - this is the topic sentence. Your goal in the writing paper is to ensure that each of your paragraphs contains a similar topic sentence. Learn how to write by thinking about reading.

Paragraph coherence - expanding the topic - think speaking

You can also learn to write by thinking about speaking. In the speaking exam, one of the goals is not to give very brief answers, but to give extended answers. In the writing the same applies: it is important to expand on the topic to show you have sufficient vocabulary and grammar to say what you want. The mistake is to write very short paragraphs or paragraphs which contain unrelated points. You should note that the question almost invariably contains these words:

"You should use your own ideas, knowledge and experience and support your arguments with examples and relevant evidence."

If you do support what you say with evidence and examples, your writing will become coherent.

A model - P-E-E (point, explain, example)

One way to expand your topic sentences is to

make the point (P)
explain it (E)
give an example (E)

This is not the only way to be coherent, but it is a good model to folllow in the context of an exam essay.

Some examples

Read through these three paragraphs taken from different IELTS essays and note how they all have a similar structure.




This is a pattern you can follow in most essays to give coherence to your writing by expanding on one point. I will add that this just a model guideline, it isn't a rule. There will be times when you do not use examples for instance.

There are those who argue that the internet has had an extremely positive influence on communication. They say this because in the past it was sometimes impossible to call people in other countries on the telephone, but now it is relatively simple to use a program such as Skype to talk to them for free or to send an email. A good example here are the students who go to study abroad and are able to send messages home with no difficulty, when in past they would have had to buy stamps and go to the post office which was much harder and more expensive.

A strong argument can of course be made from the opposite position. Part of this argument is that countries and nations need to preserve old buildings in order to preserve their heritage. In addition, however, to this cultural argument, there are positive economic benefits in preserving old buildings. An illustration here is Egypt once again, a country which depends on tourism for much of its national income simply because visitors pay to come from other countries to visit its ancient sites.

There are several reasons why it can be argued that television has a negative effect on cultural development. Perhaps the principle argument is the lowbrow nature of many programmes, particularly sitcoms and soap operas. People who watch these programmes do not learn anything, they are simply entertained. The other major argument is that because people watch so much television, they no longer take part in more traditional forms of cultural entertainment. An example here is how traditional dancing and music is becoming much less popular because people are staying at home to watch the television.

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