Some learners struggle to follow SIGNPOSTING (starting, listing, adding, digressing, returning to topic, concluding, etc.) and other ways of cohesive linking in LISTENING tasks on the IELTS exam. 

As a result, they might have a hard time noticing where the speaker(s) change the topic slightly and move on to another aspect within it, which might be where they answer the next question.

To help them, try this exercise.

Besides chronological sequencing and listing items in a list, linking phrases can ‘do’ a lot of other things in a text, to orient the listener. Read the following categories A-D, and match them to the linking phrases 1-20 below.


A) starting:

B) digressing: 

C) returning to the subject: 

D) concluding: 


1) By the way

2) Anyway

3) I’d like to begin with

4) To sum up

5) Speaking of

6) First and foremost

7) While we’re on the subject of 

8) At any rate

9) All in all

10) In short

11) On the whole

12) In any case

13) In any event

14) To start with

15) First of all

16) Incidentally

17) Concerning

18) In conclusion

19) Basically

20) Anyhow

Can you add ONE more to each category?


A) 3, 6, 14, 15, 19

B) 1, 5, 7, 16, 17

C) 2, 8, 12, 13, 20

D) 4, 9, 10, 11, 18)

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Hi. I’m Fatime. I’m an IELTS Teacher Trainer, helping CELTA-qualified English language teachers become better at teaching SKILLS, as opposed to just testing them. 

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