How to Improve IELTS Academic Writing Skills

How to Improve IELTS Academic Writing Skills

We, the IELTS aspirants, wish to attain higher grades and score well. However, what turns out to be extremely challenging, is the written component, where it becomes difficult to get a decent score. If you too wish to improve your grade in the written component, then you should read on to learn some very important components of Academic writing, which are, conjunctions and linkers.


Linkers or linking Words


We will look at four of the most common ways to link sentences that is, linkers to express;


1. Addition - words that mean ‘and’


2. Contrast - words like ‘but’


3. Consequence - words like ‘so’


4. Reason – words like ‘because’.


And, but, so, and because are fairly informal words.  While these are okay in speaking, but for Academic Writing, you may need to choose alternatives to make it more academic, more varied, or more sophisticated.


Addition - let's look first at addition and alternatives to the word ‘and’. It is important to note that in academic writing we don't usually start a sentence with ‘And’. Better alternatives at the beginning of a sentence are;


 ‘in addition’, ‘additionally’, ’besides this’, ‘furthermore’ or ‘as well as’.


These words usually go at the beginning of the second sentence, followed by a comma, like this;


            In addition,




            Besides this,




            As well as,


Examples –


In addition to picking up bread from the store, I also need to get some milk.
Additionally, the organizers are required to provide snacks and drinks for the party.

Contrast - Now, let's look at ‘contrast’. The word ‘but’ is often used to introduce a clause that contrasts what has already been mentioned. For example –


There was a deadline for the assignment,  but the tutor extended it.

We can also make this into two sentences by using ‘however'. Like this-


There was a deadline for the assignment.  However, the tutor extended it.

As you can see ‘however’ used in this way usually goes at the beginning of a new sentence and is followed by a comma, or it can come after a semicolon followed by a comma. For example –


There was a deadline for the assignment;  however, the tutor extended it.

Another alternative to ‘but’ is ‘although’. Notice that it comes at the beginning of the sentence before the first clause, not in the middle of the two clauses-


Although there was a deadline for the assignment, the tutor extended it.

It is probably better to avoid using ‘though’ in your academic writing as this is more informal. If we want to put more emphasis on the sentence, then we can also use ‘despite’ or ‘nevertheless’.


let's imagine that the tutor has extended the deadline by two weeks. This is a long time for an extension and we want to emphasize this with our linking words, we can then say,


There was a deadline for the assignment. Nevertheless, the tutor extended it by two weeks.
Despite the deadline for the assignment, the tutor extended it by two weeks.

Note that when we use ‘despite’, we have to use a noun after it and not a clause or we can say- ‘despite the fact that’, if we want to use a clause. (Too technical!! Don’t bother!!)


One pertinent point to notice is that you must not use the word ‘but’. If we have other contrast words in the same sentence. Beware!! This is a common mistake.



Consequence - Now let's turn to linkers related to consequence, like ‘so’. Once again know that ‘so’ is a fairly informal word and for Academic Writing, we might choose alternatives that are more formal and sophisticated. For example:


There was inadequate preparation for the cyclone.  As a result, the storm caused a great deal of damage.

There are some other linkers too that we could use to say this, such as ‘consequently’, ‘thus’, ‘hence’, and ‘therefore’.

                    1. There was inadequate preparation for the cyclone.  Consequently, the storm caused a great deal of damage

                    2. There was inadequate preparation for the cyclone.  Hence, the storm caused a great deal of damage

                    3. There was inadequate preparation for the cyclone.  Thus, the storm caused a great deal of damage

                    4. There was inadequate preparation for the cyclone.  Therefore, the storm caused a great deal of damage.

Notice in these examples that the words or phrases related to 'consequence' start a new sentence and are followed by a comma.


Reason - A final group of linking words provides reasons. The most common of these is the word ‘because’ so you might find yourself repeating it a lot in your writing- something you must avoid and use as an alternative. Some common alternatives to ‘because’ are ‘as’ or ‘since’. For example-


We continued with the research because/as/since we had found interesting preliminary results.

Another alternative to ‘because’ is the phrase ‘because of’. This means the same as ‘because’, but it is followed by a noun, not a clause. For example-


We continued with the research because of (we had found) the interesting preliminary results.

Due to’, ‘owing to’, ‘on account of’, and ‘as a result of’ are some other options that mean the same as ‘because of’, which you should make an endeavour to incorporate into your language.




After having looked at four common ways of linking, let us now look at some important conjunctions.


Conjunctions are words that join together other words phrases clauses or sentences. You have probably read or heard almost every conjunction in the English language and for that reason, some students may think that conjunctions are simple. But, conjunctions do more than just glue sentences together; conjunctions connect your ideas. Conjunctions help a reader understand and follow the logic of your writing and for that reason, it is important that you understand how best to use them.


There are three types of conjunctions;


Coordinating Conjunctions
Correlative Conjunctions
Subordinate Conjunctions

There is, however, a fourth group of words that you can use to join together your ideas which are called ‘Conjunctive Adverbs’.


It is, though, useful to know these different groupings because the words of each group have some similar characteristics.


Coordinating Conjunctions – let us first start with the easy ones. The coordinating conjunctions are words like ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘or’, ‘so’, and a few others. Coordinating conjunctions are very versatile and can be used in many different ways to join subjects, verbs, and sentences.


When joining two sentences, coordinating conjunctions are usually preceded by a comma.


The board of directors met and discussed the issues,  but it was not able to agree on a solution.

Correlative Conjunctions - The second group is the correlative conjunctions. These conjunctions are pairs of words that can be used to give equal weight to two ideas in a sentence. Some examples of correlative conjunctions are, ‘either-or’, ‘not only - but also', and ‘neither - nor’.


Neither CEO nor the board of directors was able to agree on a solution.

Subordinate Conjunction - The third group is the subordinate conjunctions. These are words such as, ‘after’, ‘because’, ‘even if’, ‘since’ and many others such as, ‘unless’, ‘whenever’, ‘while’, ‘as if’, ‘as soon as’, etc.


While using them, if the sentence is not joined to another sentence properly, the sentence becomes fragmented and is considered to be bad grammar. Just have a look at the example –


Because corporate social responsibility is an important factor, it must be considered.

Conjunctive Adverbs - Finally, let us have a look at another important group of words - ‘the conjunctive adverbs’, which are very common in academic writing. These are words like ‘however’, ‘in addition’, ‘nevertheless’, ‘hence’, ‘thus’, and many others.


Conjunctive adverbs are used to show more complex relationships between different ideas in your writing. Conjunctive adverbs can be used at the start, such as,


Finally, the concept was understood.

Or in the middle of a sentence. Like-


The concept was finally understood.

And like coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs can also be used to join two independent sentences. However, when joining sentences (clauses). conjunctive adverbs must be used with a semicolon. For example-


The students understood the concept; otherwise, they would not have passed the exam.

I, through this write-up, tried to give an introduction to the three types of conjunctions, two conjunctive adverbs, and some important linkers. This is but a small list. There are many other ways that we can link and make our writing cohesive, and make our academic writing more impressive and eligible for higher grades.


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