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Substitution for Coherency in IELTS Essays

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. 


Substitution in IELTS


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.

1. Millions of people are dying each year because of a lack of basic medicine, a _____________ that surely cannot be ignored.
2. Old people should be given a higher pension during the cold winter months. This seems to be the best possible ______________ to the problem.
3. Many inner cities have been disfigured by insensitive office development, but the ______________ is not irreparable.
4. The government is being advised to make safety belts compulsory in both the front and rear of cars. If this ___________ were adopted, it would certainly help to reduce injuries.
5. More swimming pools, leisure centres and sports clubs are being built all over the country. Despite this, there are still not enough _______________ like this to satisfy demand.
6. Young people have many types of technology to amuse them. Teachers often disapprove of such ________________ as it tends to make students lazy and unable to think for themselves
7. Society often fails to meet the needs of people with physical disabilities. Nevertheless, they are a ______________ that obviously deserves more help.
8. Scenes of murder and physical assault are now commonplace on TV. Such _____________ , unfortunately has a negative effect on the minds of young people.
9. Making petty criminals wear electronic tags has been a failure in the United States. Surprisingly, the _________________ is being considered by the Home Office in the UK.
10. An agency of independent transport experts has proposed the introduction a green tax on fuel to reduce pollution. This ________________ is still being considered by the government.
11. The government introduced the new rule while everyone's attention was engaged elsewhere. It was quite a clever _________________ .
12. Scientists are claiming millions of people could be displaced due to climate change. This is a ______________ that needs to be addressed urgently.
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