Making connections


Improve your Lexical Resource score, at the same time as your Coherence and Cohesion score.





When I look at new vocabulary with my students, I encourage them to find other forms of the word.  So sweet can become sweetness or sweetly or sweeten. Verbs can easily become nouns, and this process is called ‘nominalisation.’

Here are some examples:

  • poor→ poverty
  • discuss→ discussion
  • popular→ popularity
  • transport→ transportation
  • intelligent→ intelligence
  • fail→ failure

We use these special nouns because they make it easier to write about abstract concepts.  We could write, “The government wants to stop people being poor.”  Or we could write, “The government wants to stop poverty.” This means we can actually use a simpler, more direct, sentence.

One problem students have with writing is that they use the words from the exam question, graphs, and diagrams repeatedly, and they use too many linking words (conjunctions).  Nominalisation can help you improve your Lexical Resource score.  Nominalisation can also give us a simple way to connect our ideas within a paragraph, which is an important part of your Coherence/Cohesion score.  

Imagine you have a Task 1 graph showing different ways people go to work: trains, busses, bicycles, walking, cars. On the graph is the word ‘transport.’

What I often see from students is this:

The graphs show changes in the most popular transport choices from 1997 to 2017.  For example, trains were popular with the same amount of people from 1997 to 2017. However, cycling became a more popular transport choice.

There is repetition of words from the original question, and linking words at the beginning of most sentences, which is unnatural in academic writing.  Let’s use a little nominalisation.

The graphs show changes in the most popular transport choices from 1997 to 2017.  Transportation by train has remained constant, while the popularity of cycling has increased steadily over the 20 year period.

I’ve connected my ideas but removed the extra linking words so I can use them somewhere else, and improved my vocabulary.  My final score for Task 1 will be higher.

The other thing to remember is that these nouns are usually used in writing, not speaking. So use some of them in your Writing Task 1 and 2, but not in the Speaking exam.  You can also use them in business emails, or formal letters of complaint.

But be careful!  When a person uses too many nominalisations, we joke that they have swallowed a dictionary. Watch Helen Sword’s excellent little video to see what can go wrong when we overuse nominalisations.


If you would like to read more about this topic, you can go here, Stephen Bruce is talking about a study done by Liardet with Chinese students learning how to use nominalisation.


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