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Structuring Answers: Transition Words and Phrases
Let’s take a look at transition words and phrases, which can be very useful for you on the IELTS speaking and writing exams. Where you need to provide some extended, longer answers in some cases. Let’s begin with an example. So let’s imagine on the speaking exam that you get a question like this. What is a subject you enjoy studying and explain why you enjoy it?
So, a student might to answer in this way, I’ve always enjoyed studying Math. Math problems feels like puzzles to me. Figuring out an answer is very satisfying. This answer is pretty good. There aren’t any big problems with it and it’s clear, but it could be better. It could be improved.
One of the ways the IELTS examiners are measuring your speaking and writing ability is to see if your ideas are connected very clearly together. So there are these categories to measure your ability called coherence and cohesion. And with both of these, they’re looking for ways that your ideas make sense together that they hold together very clearly.
We could improve this paragraph by doing that just a little better. For example, this second sentence, Math problems feel like puzzles to me. Well, I think I know based on the first sentence, that this person might enjoy puzzles. But we don’t know that necessarily. Sometimes, for some people puzzles are frustrating or confusing and they don’t like them.
Adding a transition word or phrase to make this idea even clearer would make this connection even better between these two sentences. So, let’s take a look at what that could look like in this paragraph. We could say, I’ve always enjoyed studying Math, in part because Math problems feel like puzzles to me. What I mean is, getting a correct answer is very satisfying.
Okay, this because provides a direct relationship between sentence two and the first one now. And this one down here, what I mean is clarifies. It gives an additional piece of information to show that getting a correct answer is very satisfying. Okay, that’s clarifies this person’s feelings about puzzles.
They enjoy puzzles, and that phrase makes that especially clear. So the purpose of transition words and phrases is to help you sound more natural. It helps you to be easier to follow. People can follow your ideas from beginning to end a little better. And they work like a kind of glue. They hold the sentences together and make the relationships especially clear.
As you study transition words and phrases, one way that I think is best to do that is to focus on the function of the phrases. So, you can study the words individually, according to their dictionary definition. But, many of this phrases have uses, have functions in sentences that are clearly identifiable. And will help you to categorize similar phrases in order to study them more efficiently.
For example, one function could be giving your opinion. You probably already know some phrases that fit in this category. You could say, in my view, or in my opinion, or I think. These phrases all fit within this general function. Okay, but maybe you’re not familiar with this phrase, if you ask me. This is something we use at the beginning of the sentence to show that we’re about to give an opinion.
It fits very well in a similar category with those other phrases we just heard like in my opinion or in my view. Studying them this way gives you a range of options as you need to present opinions in your writing and speaking exam. Another category could be listing. So, when you have several things to say in an order, you can say first of all, secondly, third, okay.
Studying those getting the language for listing, and categorizing that way as you study, can give you a range of options to use as you list things in your writing and speaking. All right, now there are many, many of these categories, too many for us to go over in this lesson. Below, I’ve put a list of resources for you, some places you can go to study transition words and phrases.
But I also have some more categories added to this list here that you can link to below. It looks like this and it’s just something to get you started as you’re studying with some additional, very useful categories of transition words and phrases for you to study. You could add many new words and phrases that you learn into these kinds of categories that you’ll find useful for your IELTS exam.
So how can you improve with these? Well, as we said before, study the usage not just the meaning. So, don’t just look the words up of a phrase in a dictionary, go and study the usage and how native speakers use the word or phrase. When you read, underline transition words and phrases that you notice and go try to figure out how they’re being used.
You can go online and search for examples of how they’re used. Just put the word or phrase into a search and look at some examples of how it’s used online. As you keep track of new words and phrases, note the structure, so what the grammar of the phrase is. Note the kind of context it was used.
Is it a very formal phrase? Or an informal phrase, for example? And as we mentioned before, take note of the meaning of the phrase as well. Much like you would for other vocabulary words that you’re studying. And make sure as you’re practicing speaking questions and writing questions, that you use these words and phrases.
Use ones that you’re comfortable with, but as you practice, try to push yourself and use new ones, as well. And try to get feedback about how you use them, if you have someone who’s giving you feedback about your writing and speaking. Finally then, as I mentioned earlier, I have these resources below for you to study.
Focus on improving your ability to use these transition words and phrases. Because using them well can really boost your score on the IELTS exam.
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