Below are the main ways to improve your coherence.

  1. Whenever you make a sentence, try to connect it to the previous sentence.

Examiners especially look for your use of words and phrases that are used to show linkage to the previous sentence. (This is similar to the idea of linking parts of a sentence to make more complex sentences. But here, the idea is to link a sentence to the previous sentence.) 

Of course, not all sentences can or should be linked to the previous sentence, just many of them, especially when you are saying something that is complex, abstract or has a lot of detail.

In order to get a 6 or above for Fluency and Coherence, you must demonstrate that you know a variety of different ways to link sentences. Candidates who get a 5 for this sub-score only use simple connectives such as 'and', 'but', 'because' and 'so' but candidates who get a 6 show a larger variety of linking words and phrases. Candidates who get a 6 for the grammar sub-score make a few errors but they show that they have some knowledge of these various linking words and phrases. Candidates who get a 7 or above for this sub-score not only demonstrate a knowledge of a wide variety of linking words and phrases, they also show that they can use them accurately. It is important to understand that you cannot move from a 5 sub-score for grammar to a 7 without passing through the step of 6 for grammar. In other words, don't avoid trying just because you think you might make some mistakes. (Of course, to get a 6 for grammar, you should make only a few errors with these linking words and phrases – you should be correct more than 50% of the time.)

Most linking words and phrases are used at the beginning of a sentence. Some examples of such linking words and phrases are: however, although, even though, despite, in addition, as a result, since (=because), for example, in other words, first, next, then, after that, lastly, on the other hand, except for, other than, ...

See: Cohesive Connecting Words and Phrases and Adverbs


  1. Answer the question directly

You should listen to the question carefully, determine the key piece of information that the examiner wants to know, and directly (= first) answer that. This is the most logical form of answer.

After you have directly answered the key point of the question, in almost all of your answers in the test (except for the 4 introductory questions), you should follow your direct answer with a few more details that are suitable to the question. This not only adds clarity to your answer, it also demonstrates to the examiner the English that you know.


Question: Do you work or are you a student?

  1. I'm a student, a second-year student at Renmin University in Beijing.

  1. I'm a student.

  1. I'm a second-year student at Renmin University in Beijing.

  1. I'm a second-year student at Renmin University in Beijing, majoring in Law.

  1. I'm a journalist at a TV station.

Answers a, b, c and d are all acceptable although Answer a) is slightly better than the others, in my opinion. If you answered using b, c, or d, you would not lose points (especially since this is just one question of many). The point here is to illustrate what a 'direct' answer is. 

Answer a) is the best because it first focuses directly on the key word that the examiner wants to hear, either 'work' or 'student', and follows that with a few details that are suitable for the question. The question simply asks what the candidate does – work or study. Even for apparently simple questions such as this, in most cases you should still take the opportunity to add a suitable amount of extra, relevant detail to your answer. In this case, suitable means a very small amount. (In a real, everyday chat with someone, adding extra detail to almost every answer is not always very natural – this is an example of how the IELTS Speaking test has an atmosphere that is similar to a natural and friendly chat but the content is not always 100% natural.)

Answer b) is acceptable but it would be better if it had a little more information. 

Answer c) is also acceptable but it focuses first on 'second year' –  it would be more direct if it focused first on the word 'student'. 

Answer d) has the weakness of Answer c) and in addition, is giving too much extra information for this particular question. This makes it seem a little forced and unnatural. However, this answer would suit the question: "Tell me what you do." (But don't worry too much, this is still a good answer!)

Answer e) is a poor answer because it only indirectly says that the candidate works. This answer is more suitable for the question: "What work do you do?" or, "Tell me what you do."


  1. Answer a 'Yes/No' question immediately (= directly)

This is really just another example of answering a question directly. But I am highlighting it here since 'Yes/No' questions occurs so frequently in the Speaking test and are so important.  

For example:

Question: Do you like your subject? (= your major?)

  1. Yes, I do. I think it's both interesting and challenging –  it makes me use my brain but, at the same time, it’s easy enough for me to pass the exams.

  1. Yes. I think it's both interesting and challenging.

  1. Oh, it's very interesting and it's also challenging –  it makes me use my brain but, at the same time, it’s easy enough for me to pass the exams. 

  1. Well, because we have to do so much reading and memorizing, I don't really like it very much. 

  1. Maybe. For example, I like doing the experiments but I don't like writing the reports on the experiments because it seems to take me so long to write them well.    

Answer a) is the best answer because it immediately answers the question, followed by relevant detail explaining why the candidate likes it. In addition, using, "Yes, I do," is more emphatic than a simple, "Yes". Emphatic answers are clearer, i.e., easier to understand. 

Answer b) immediately answers the question but a simple, "Yes" is not as emphatic and clear as, "Yes, I do." (You should try to demonstrate to the examiner that you can make and say this kind of emphatic short sentence.)

Answer c) does not directly answer the question, "Do you like it?" This answer is more suitable for the question: "How do you feel about your subject?" If the candidate makes some pronunciation or other mistakes in his answer, the examiner might not have been able to follow this answer easily. 

Answer d) is a poor style of answering 'Yes/No' questions because it causes the examiner to wait until the end of the sentence before finding out the answer to the key point of the question. If the candidate does not speak clearly in the first half of his answer, there is little to help the examiner understand what the candidate is saying until the last part of the answer. 

Answer e) is not a good way to answer this question because, 'maybe' just means, 'maybe yes or maybe no' – after hearing that word, the examiner is still left wondering whether the candidate likes his major or not. A better answer would be, "I have mixed feelings about it. For example, I like doing the experiments but I don't like writing the reports about the experiments because it seems to take me so long to write them well.

The words 'maybe' and 'perhaps' are more suitable when stating that, depending on the situation, the answer could be either a clear, 'Yes' or 'No'. For example: "Will you take the bus to work tomorrow?" "Maybe. If it rains, I'll take the bus but if it's fine, I'll walk." The candidate's use of 'maybe' here means depending on what aspect of the thing but the question was not, 'Do you like all aspects of your major?' Be careful when using, 'maybe'.


  1. Answer a question using the same verb tense as the question

Most people know this, in theory, but many people still make mistakes here. 

As mentioned above, when answering a question, good coherence is shown by closely linking the words of the answer to the words of the question. For example, if it is a past tense question, answer using the past tense.


Question:   Why did you choose to study that? (Computer Science)

Answer a):  Well, because I like computers very much.

Answer b):  I chose it because I liked computers when I was in high school and my father said that computer experts would be in demand in the future.

Answer c):  I chose it because I think Computer Science is interesting and will help me get a good job in the future.

Which is the best of these three answers?

Answer b) is the only really good answer here because it is the only one that states why the candidate chose to study Computer Science. The other two answers state how the candidate feels now but do not refer back to the time when the candidate made his choice to study Computer Science. The question is really asking you to say how you felt about Computer Science or what you thought at the time you made the choice. These are past tense verbs.

Many candidates make mistakes with the pronunciation of the verb 'choose': choose, chose, chosen.

'Because' is the most common word to use to begin an answer to a 'Why ...?' question but there are other ways to begin such an answer, for example:  'The main reason I chose this major is because ...'


  1. Whenever you state your feelings, preference or opinion, always immediately follow with some details about WHY you said that.

As explained above, giving extra details adds clarity and it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your linking skills.  This is especially true when talking about your feelings, preference or opinions. If you seize these opportunities to show your skills at coherent speech, you will naturally score higher for coherence than a candidate who frequently avoids these opportunities. Even if you make some mistakes in the grammar of the linking words or phrases, you still get some points for at least showing some knowledge of how to link ideas, but a candidate who rarely tries at all to link ideas will get far fewer points.

Another reason to do this when talking about your feelings, preference or opinions is that the examiner's question book often has the word, 'Why?' written after these questions and if the candidate does not say why when he or she answers the question, the examiner must ask you to say why. In other words, for most questions concerning your feelings, preferences and opinions, if you don't voluntarily say why, the examiner will ask you to do so.