How to Use Connectors in IELTS Writing Task 1

Many, many IELTS students are told that they need to connect their shorter sentences, or, that they feel they would like to connect their Task 1 observations better. Here’s how.

The 2 general rules to apply when wanting to use more connectors are simply:

  • Argument Connectors:
    • Use connectors to move from one topic to another within your answer.
    Argument:(here) logic and direction of someone's discussion
  • Information Connectors:
    • Find two of your observations on the same characteristic and choose a phrase that shows their logical connection.

Sounds easy… and it is!

NOTE: Connecting language does not necessarily mean making longer sentences, it can mean just connecting your logic, or the flow of your argument.

So, for example, many times connecting language can appear at the beginning of sentences, like this one!


The most common Argument Connectors to use in IELTS Task 1 are:

  • Introducing
    • For example: Looking at, Starting with,
    • Used: To introduce a new area of focus
  • Switching / Linking
    • For example: As for, In regards to,
    • Used: To move from one topic or subject to another
  • Particularization
    • For example: In particular, specifically
    • Used: To focus the reader on precise details
  • Exemplification
    • For example: Can be seen, For example
    • Used: To use an example to confirm a general observation
to switch: (here) to change/move from one thing to another

The most common Logical Connectors to use in IELTS Task 1 are:

  • Comparison
    • For example: Compared to, In comparison to
    • Used: For neutral comparison
  • Contrast
    • For example: In contrast, However, Conversely
    • Used: To compare and focus on differences
  • Similarity
    • For example: Similarly, likewise
    • Used: To compare and focus on similarity
  • Sequencing
    • For example: Firstly, Initially, Then, Finally
    • Used: To order information
  • Time / Temporal
    • For example: At First, Finally, While at the same time
    • Used: To order information in relation to time or chronologically

EXAM TIP
Some types of connecting language will not normally be used in Task 1 because they are used in more subjective or argumentative writing, for example giving reasons, or consequences, or hypothesizing. These are much more common in Task 2.

Keep Task 1 Observational and Objective!!

Imagine when you are trying to communicate information that you do not know where the other person is looking or thinking, so you must be very clear about your logic, otherwise they may get confused.

A great way to view the use of connecting language is what I call ‘Driving the Bus’.

When you are explaining something, imagine you are driving a big yellow school bus, now every time you turn, or accelerate, or want to stop, you should tell people before you do it. If you don’t, they might fall off their seats!

And even when you do do something… do it slowly! Remember the IELTS exam is as much about HOW you communicate information as to WHAT information you communicate!

to do + verb (here: to do + do}: using DO + Verb acts as an intensifier, for emphasis

Basic Connector Usage in IELTS Task 1


Of all the 9 types of connecting language I think there are FOUR, in particular, that students MUST USE in the writing task 1. Learn examples in each of these and make sure you incorporate them into your answer!

ARGUMENTATIVE LOGIC CONNECTORS

There are two types of structural connectors that will be common in IELTS Task 1. Introduce & Particularization.

1. Introduce

Look to introduce and move between subjects being discussed smoothly:

smoothly:(here) in a way that is natural and easy

State clearly what you are talking about:

For example;

“Looking first at the graph we can see…..
“From the first diagram it can be observed that…

And state when you change focus:

For example;

“And in regards to the second graph...
“While if we compare this to the information about X...

2. Particularization

As well as choosing general trends to describe, consider isolating a couple of the most important data points in the question material.

You can do this by focusing on data that is especially large or unique, and I recommend particularization here:

For example;

“All the groups watched television, in particular the age group 15-20 who watched more than 300 hours…

“Each of the groups increased their performance percentage, in particular the...

You can also do this by finding shared features, and I recommend exemplification here:

For example;

“The two processes are quite different, however, they do share some common features, for example they are about exam testing and they both…

“The two pie charts have some shared characteristics, for example, in both sets of data women are...


INFORMATIONAL LOGIC CONNECTORS

Once again we are 'driving the bus' here, and we really must make sure that we help the reader to understand what we are trying to describe.

EXAM TIP
Yes, the IELTS Task 1 is a ‘dry’ task, but that does not mean you just have to repeat the data. Try and make information out of the data.

For example, “John is 9 and Mary is 8” is data. Perhaps more informative is “John who is 9 is one year older than Mary.” This is obvious, but still, you have made a simple relationship between the data points and this makes it 'comprehensible'.
dry:(here) direct, plain, uninteresting, not exciting

The two main connecting ideas that I think all students should include are similarity and contrast.


3. Similarity

Find a general trend, feature or data grouping that shows some similarity, and then, caveat that with a contrast!

caveat:(here) a proviso, a condition, a note, a limitation

It can be very efficient and effective to succinctly group data as similar in some way, and, it can be great to also show how they are not completely the same.

succinctly:(here) in as few words as possible

For example:

“Both graphs increased gradually over the period however the sales figures did not fluctuate at all unlike the marketing results.

"The data for the two countries is very similar however in country A all of the outdoor activities were less common.


4. Contrast

And then try and do the opposite! Find a general trend, feature or data grouping that shows some contrast and then caveat that with a similarity!

The idea here is the same. By grouping, and then highlighting, a lot of information can be communicated effectively!

For example:

“The contrast in data between leaving age and health is very large, but similarly they both show an acceleration of change in recent years...

“The pie chart data between 1980 and 2015 are almost complete opposites but they similarly share a common feature of having two categories that have most of the percentage share between them….


Bonus 5th Type: Temporal (if relevant)

NEXT we will look at two more scenarios that could be in the data presented to you, they are specifically to do with the passage of time.

Time Sequences or Processes in Task 1

The 2 most common examples of this are:

  • Line graphs
  • Diagrams or processes


For example:
[These questions are copyrighted to Cambridge University Press and are being used for educational purposes.]
[Question taken from Cambridge IELTS Published material
IELTS Exam Book 10, Page 101
]

But this is possible in other data questions if there are numerous changes over time, for example a series of pie charts or bar charts.

Here the language could be:

“At the beginning of the process… then… after that… finally...”

“Initially… before rising/becoming… and then subsequently… until eventually”

With processes and flows there may also be a division of a process, use EITHER, OR.

“Then the [NOUN] can either be [FORK A] or [FORK B].”

So for example:

The life cycle of Salmon can be said to begin when they are ‘fry’ where…. And after a period of about 4 years they… then subsequently they move on after approximately 5 years… eventually reaching the upper river…. Before finally the new ‘fry’ arrive once again at...

The second most common scenario for time is BEFORE and AFTER.


Before and After in Task 1

This is very common in maps, but it is also possible in pie charts, bar graphs etc etc


For example



[Question taken from Cambridge IELTS Published material
IELTS Exam Book 12, Page 50
]

2 maps in the past:(going backwards in time)

Previously there was...
Prior to that there was..

2 maps in the past:(going forwards in time)

Subsequently this became...
Later this was transformed into…

A map in the present to an older map:

And now this has become…
Finally in the present time…

A map in the future to a map in the present or past:

In the future this is planned to be…
Later this will become…

Example

Currently the area has… but in the future this is planned to become… While the present town centre is … in plans for the future the area will later be used as...

FINAL EXAM TIP
Remember that you are ‘driving the bus’ and that in the IELTS there is a lot of value in organizing your ideas well, not only for the examiner’s actual checklist, but also because they will have a general feeling that you are in control, a great sign!

Thanks for your time, good luck in your studies and exams!
Adam

Here are some links that could be of interest!

Check out: start-ielts-task-1-graph-question

Check out: Phrases-To-Describe-A-Graph

Check out: Template-For-IELTS-Task-1-Writing