IELTS Writing – Using Linking Words and Phrases to Improve Your Score


Hi, I’m Stephanie. Welcome to Oxford Online English! In this lesson, you can learn how to use linking
words and phrases for the IELTS writing exam. Linking words are important for your IELTS
writing, especially for the essay. Using linking words well can make a big difference
to your coherence and cohesion score, which is 25% of your writing score. Even if you’re not preparing for an IELTS
exam and just want to improve your English writing generally, this lesson could help
you! Before we start, don’t forget to check out
our website: Oxford Online English dot com. You can find many other free IELTS preparation
lessons, or you can even take online lessons with one of our professional teachers to prepare
for your IELTS exam! Let’s start with a question. You’re thinking about ‘linking words’. Many students ask about ‘linking words’;
they ask things like, “What linking words should I use in my IELTS essay?” But what are ‘linking words’, and why
are they important? What are linking words? How would you answer this question? First, ‘linking words’ includes both words
and phrases. There are single words, like ‘however’,
and phrases, like ‘as a result.’ Secondly, linking words can be conjunctions,
like ‘and’ or ‘because’, which you use in the middle of a sentence. Linking words can also be adverbs, like ‘consequently’
or ‘on the other hand’, which you generally use at the start of a new sentence. Next, what do linking words do? Why do you need to use them? This is an important question, but it has
a simple answer: linking words make your writing clearer for your reader. Don’t use linking words because you want
to sound academic, or because you want to impress the examiner, or because you think
using linking words is going to get you a better score on your IELTS. It *is* necessary to use linking words to
get higher scores, but you need to use them in the right way. You use linking words to make the structure
of your ideas clearer. What does this mean? Let’s look at an example together. Read this sentence:
Next, imagine that the next sentence starts with ‘also,’ ‘on the other hand,’
or ‘consequently’. What do these tell you? What do you know if you see that the first
word of the next sentence is ‘also’? What’s the difference between using ‘also’
or ‘on the other hand’? These linking words show you the direction
of the next sentence. If the next sentence starts with ‘also’,
you know that it will add another, similar point. If it starts with ‘on the other hand’,
you know that the writer will make a contrasting point. If it starts with ‘consequently’, you
know that the writer will describe a result of this situation. This is why you use linking words, and this
is why they can be powerful. In this example, you can know the general
idea of the next sentence before you read it. This makes your writing easier to follow. Next, let’s look at the details of using
linking words well in your IELTS writing tasks. Learning about linking words for your IELTS
writing exam can be overwhelming. There are so many words and phrases: ‘in
addition’, ‘although’, ‘except for’, ‘due to’… There are tens of things you *could* study. However, we’ve got good news for you! You don’t need to learn big lists of words. So, what should you do? The best way is to think about linking words
in terms of function. What do we mean by ‘function’? Many different linking words do the same job. For example: However, on the other hand, nevertheless, and although all show a contrast between two related—but
different—things. This doesn’t mean they’re exactly the
same, but they are similar. So, what else can linking words do? Linking words can connect similar ideas together. Let’s call this ‘addition’. A very simple example is ‘and’. You can also use ‘furthermore’, ‘in
addition’, ‘also’, or ‘moreover’. Linking words can show the reason or purpose
of something, like ‘because’, ‘due to’, ‘in order to’, or ‘so that’. You can use linking words to connect a cause
and effect, like ‘therefore’, ‘so’, ‘consequently’ or ‘as a result’. There are others, but this is a good starting
point. Remember these four functions: contrast, addition,
reason or purpose, and cause-effect. Let’s practise! Look at four sentences. Each has a linking word or phrase highlighted
in red. Can you say what function the linking word
or phrase has in each sentence? Pause the video if you want more time to think. Ready? Let’s look at the answers. In the first sentence, ‘due to’ expresses
a reason. In the second sentence, ‘moreover’ expresses
addition. You’re making one point, then using ‘moreover’
to add a second point on the same topic. In the third sentence, ‘although’ shows
a contrast. In the fourth sentence, ‘as a result’
connects a cause and its effect. So, what should you do here? Here’s the most important point: you don’t
need to know every linking word and phrase to get a high score in your IELTS writing
exam. You need maybe two or three linking words
for each function. That means you need two to three linking words
to express addition, two to three linking words to express contrast, and so on. There’s one thing you should know: linking
words can have other functions which we haven’t covered here. That’s because we don’t want this lesson
to be hours long. Examples include: showing similarity, showing
a sequence of events in time, or expressing conditions. However, the basic idea is the same. Don’t try to learn big lists of linking
words. Instead, focus on functions. For each function, learn two to three linking
words and phrases. This is simpler and easier for you. You should do this now: write down a list
of functions, and write down two to three linking words for each. You can use the functions and linking words
from this section, or you can add your own. Pause the video and do it now! Ready? Let’s see what else you need to know to
use linking words well in your IELTS writing exam. To use a linking word or phrase well in your
writing, you need to know two things. One: you need to know the function, which
you learned about in the last section. Two: you need to know the grammar of the linking
word or phrase. Let’s look at this now! Linking words and phrases can be divided into
three categories. First, some linking words are conjunctions. Most are subordinating conjunctions, meaning
that they need to be used in a sentence with at least two clauses. For example, ‘because’ and ‘although’
are both subordinating conjunctions. After these words, you add a clause. Then, you need another, independent clause
to complete the sentence. For example: ‘I need to ask for some time
off work because I am planning to attend a training course.’ ‘Although social media can help people to
connect with each other, it also has several significant disadvantages’. Secondly, some linking words are prepositions. This means you need to use a noun after the
linking word. ‘Due to’, ‘despite’ and ‘because
of’ are all prepositions. For example: ‘Despite the well-known health
benefits of regular exercise, many people still lead a mostly sedentary lifestyle.’ Or: ‘Young professionals are increasingly
moving to smaller cities because of the high cost of living in large urban centres.’ Finally, many linking words are adverbs, like
‘on the other hand’ or ‘therefore’. These are generally used at the beginning
of a sentence. When you use adverbs like this, you need to
put a comma afterwards. For example: ‘Freedom of the press is more
important than individuals’ rights to privacy. Therefore, newspapers should be able to publish
stories about the private lives of celebrities if they choose to.’ Or: ‘Of course, elderly people should be
paid a pension which reflects the money they paid into the social security system during
their working lives. On the other hand, the pension system needs
to be sustainable over the long term.’ This is most of what you need to know about
linking word grammar. Is your linking word or phrase a conjunction,
a preposition, or an adverb? We have a task for you! At the end of part two, you wrote down linking
words that you wanted to learn. Now, use an online dictionary like Cambridge
or Longman, and find out if the words you wrote down are conjunctions, prepositions,
or adverbs. Go on, pause the video and do it now! Done? There are still a couple of things you need
to think about. One problem is that similar-looking words
can be different parts of speech. For example, ‘because’ is a conjunction,
but ‘because of’ is a preposition. ‘In spite of’ is a preposition, but ‘in
spite of the fact that’ is a conjunction. So, don’t assume that linking words are
used in the same way just because they look similar. Another problem is that some linking words
can be more than one part of speech. For example, ‘so’ can be an adverb or
a conjunction. What should you do with this information? Let’s look in more detail! At this point, you hopefully have short lists
of linking words, divided by function. You should also know which part of speech
each linking word is. Let’s think: why are you doing things in
this way? How will this help you in your IELTS writing
exam? Here’s what you need to remember: it’s
*much* more effective to know a smaller number of linking words or phrases and know how to
use them really well. Many IELTS students take the opposite path. They learn lots and lots of linking words,
but they don’t know how to use them correctly. This won’t help your IELTS writing score. It’s much more important to focus on accuracy. So, what should you do next? Your next task is to find out *exactly* how
your linking words are used. Linking words with the same function aren’t
always the same. Many linking words have a very specific meaning. For example, ‘furthermore’ and ‘besides’
are both used to add information to a topic, but they aren’t the same. Do you know why not? ‘Furthermore’ is used to add a point which
is more important than your first idea. For example: ‘Using plastic products generates
litter which harms the environment. Furthermore, plastic can take hundreds of
years to degrade.’ In this case, you’re saying that the second
point, after ‘furthermore’ is more important than the first point. ‘Besides’ is used to add a point which
is often less important than your main idea. For example: ‘Smoking has been proven to
cause many serious illnesses. Besides, it is an expensive habit.’ In this case, you’re saying that the second
point, after ‘besides’, is *not* more important than the first point. You’re adding an extra point which is not
essential to your argument. We’re not doing this because you need to
learn about ‘furthermore’ and ‘besides’. The point is that every linking word is used
in a slightly different way. To improve your IELTS writing score, you need
to understand exactly how to use linking words. How can you do this? Here are a few suggestions. First, use online dictionaries to find example
sentences. The Cambridge dictionary has many examples
for each word. Next, try to understand what makes this linking
word different from other, similar linking words. Is it more formal, or more conversational? Is it only used in very specific situations? Finally, check your ideas. If you can ask a teacher, then do that. If not, use online resources such as Quora
or the Wordreference forums. By the way, you can find links to all the
resources mentioned in this lesson below the video. This is a big topic, and there’s a lot of
information in this video; however, you haven’t even seen the most important thing about linking
words yet… Here’s the most important idea about linking
words: you can’t connect ideas with linking words. What? That doesn’t make sense, you say. What do linking words do if they don’t connect
ideas? Linking words don’t connect ideas; they
highlight a connection which is already there. They make the connection—which already exists—clearer
to your reader. This is important because it’s one of the
biggest problems IELTS students have with linking words. IELTS candidates know they need to use linking
words, so they do. But, very often, their linking words don’t
fit the logic of their ideas. This is a common feature of band six writing. Here’s an example, which is from a real
practice essay written by one of our students: We see this problem all the time. There’s a linking phrase—‘for instance’—which
should be used to introduce an example of the preceding point. But, in this case, the points before and after
the linking word are not obviously connected at all. The point after ‘for instance’ is certainly
not an example of a trade war between manufacturing companies or countries. Remember: this is *very* common, and it’s
also a common reason why students can’t get scores above six or six point five. If you do this in your writing, your coherence
and cohesion score will be limited to six maximum. We’ll say it again: you can’t create a
connection by using linking words or phrases. The connection is already there, in the logic
of your ideas. You use the linking word to highlight the
connection which already exists. So, to use linking words well, you need to
have a clear understanding of your essay structure and how your ideas are organised. This mostly depends on planning before you
start writing your answer. If your ideas aren’t well-organised in your
mind, then using linking words won’t help you. Like you heard, this is a big topic, so let’s
review what you should do. One: divide linking words according to the
idea they express. Start by learning two to three linking words
or phrases for each function. Two: understand the grammar of each linking
word; find out what part of speech it is, and how to use it in a sentence. Three: go into more detail. Many words have a similar meaning, but very
few words have exactly the same meaning. Most words have unique features which you
need to know about if you want to use the word well. Four: practise planning and make sure your
ideas are well-organised before you start writing. Effective linking depends on logic and structure,
not on the words and phrases you use. Good luck if you have an IELTS exam coming
up soon, and thanks for watching! See you next time!

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