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Using Substitution in IELTS to Improve Writing Coherency

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This lesson shows you how you can use substitution in IELTS to increase your band score. 

If you look at the IELTS band descriptors, you’ll see that substitution is referred to at band 6 and 7 for coherency and cohesion in Task 1 and 2:

  • Band 7: A range of cohesive devices including reference and substitution is used flexibly but with some inaccuracies or some over/under use.
  • Band 6: The use of reference and substitution may lack flexibility or clarity and result in some repetition or errors.

So you can see that it’s very important in relation to your writing and your final score.

What is Substitution?

Substitution in English grammar is when a word, phrase, or clause in a sentence is replaced by a different word or phrase in order to avoid repeating the previously used word. 

You can use this method to improve the cohesion as well as the quality of your writing.

By substituting a different word or phrase for something written earlier, you are summarising the previous text, and as a consequence, you are linking the ideas in different clauses or sentences. 

Furthermore, using substitution in IELTS helps you to avoid repetition and also stops you from relying too much on conjunctions (e.g. while, although, and, so etc) and transitions (e.g. however, firstly, therefore etc) to make connections. 

So overall, the use of substitution in IELTS will increase the quality of your writing significantly. 

Examples of Substitution

To explain further how they can be used, here are some examples. 

Example 1:

Parents should get punished with high fines if their children are involved in anti-social behaviour at night. Introducing such a measure would ensure parents control their children.

Example 2:

Unemployment and poverty are reaching record levels due to the lockdown, facts that can no longer be ignored by governments who continue to use them as a tool against Covid 19.

In Both of these examples, the words in red refer back to the information in the previous sentence or clause of the same sentence.

They help to link the information together in the sentences and express ideas while avoiding repetition. 

You can see more examples of substitution here.


The substitution quiz below will help to show you how differing words can be used to replace words, phrases or clauses used previously. 

Look up in a dictionary any words you do not understand. 


Choose the right word that would fit in the space. Some words that may appear to fit may not do as they do not work grammatically or are incorrect collocations.

More Task 2 IELTS Lessons:


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