Cause and effect
In the IELTS writing test, thinking of cause and effect allows you to extend your ideas and justify your opinions.
Using a range of connectors will also make your essay more academic.
‘Further education has become more accessible for a wider range of people. As a result, an increasing number of people have degrees.’
Read the sentence above and answer the questions below.
- Why do more people have degrees?
- What has happened because of the increasing accessibility of further education?
- What words connect the answers to (1) and (2)?
Answer #2: More people have degrees.
Answer #3: ‘as a result’
In the sentence above, the sentences can be broken down into cause, effect and connector.
The cause: Further education has become more accessible for a wider range of people
The effect: …an increasing number of people have degrees
The connector: As a result
Test your ability to identify the sections of a cause and effect sentence for each of the following statements. You need to consider:
- What is the cause?
- What is the effect?
- What is the connector?
A Due to an obligatory level of education, illiteracy in many countries is low.Show answerCause: an obligatory level of education
Effect: illiteracy in many countries is low
Connector: due to
B Understanding the applications of technology has become increasingly difficult. Consequently, university courses are becoming increasingly specialised.Show answerCause: Understanding the applications of technology has become increasingly difficult
Effect: university courses are becoming increasingly specialised
C Many overseas students find the first year of university courses difficult because of the language barrier.Show answerCause: the language barrier
Effect: many overseas students find the first year of university courses difficult
Connector: because of
D He did not get the required grade in his IELTS test and thus the university he had applied for rejected his application.Show answerCause: He did not get the required grade in his IELTS test
Effect: the university he had applied for rejected his application
E Teaching as a profession is not as prestigious as it was 50 years ago, in part a result of increasing problems in the education system.Show answerCause: increasing problems in the education system
Effect: Teaching as a profession is not as prestigious as it was 50 years ago
Connector: a result of
Tip 1: The order of cause and effect or effect and cause depends on the type of connector you use. Make sure you are familiar with the different types as mistakes can make your point very unclear. For example:
Further education has become more accessible for a wider range of people. As a result, an increasing number
of people have degrees. CORRECT
Further education has become more accessible for a wider range of people because an increasing number
of people have degrees. INCORRECT
Tip 2: Punctuation is very important in cause and effect sentences, with each connector and sentence structure. For example:
Understanding the applications of technology has become increasingly difficult. Consequently, university courses are becoming increasingly specialised. CORRECT
Understanding the applications of technology has become increasingly difficult, consequently university courses are becoming increasingly specialised. INCORRECT
Test yourself! Which is the correct connector for these cause and effect sentences? Be careful of punctuation!
1. He finished the exam ______ he left the exam room.
so | because |consequentlyShow answerThe correct answer is so. Because is incorrect because this is used when the effect comes before the cause, and consequently is incorrect because it needs to either a start a new sentence of have a semi colon first (He finished the exam; consequently, he left the room).
2. He had significant health problems later in life ________ he smoked 50 cigarettes a day for many years.
so |because |as a resultShow answerThe correct answer is because. Both so and as a result are incorrect because the effect is given before the cause
3. The students felt they had to work hard ______ the cost of tuition was high and they needed to graduate first time.
thus |as |thereforeShow answerThe only logical answer is as. Thus and therefore suggest that high tuition costs came about because the students had to work hard, which is not logical.
4. Overseas courses are easier to enrol in. __________ , an increasing number of students are choosing to study abroad.
As a result | because | Due toShow answerThe correct answer is As a result. Due to and because both need to be used when the cause and effect are together in one sentence, not split into two sentences.
5. Private education has become increasingly expensive; ________ , more students are joining the public sector.
and as a result | because | thereforeShow answerThe correct answer is Consequently. And as a result is incorrect because it would not need the preceding semi colon, and therefore is incorrect because the order of the sentence is cause then effect (because is used when the order is effect then cause).
Writing about root causes
You can further extend cause-and-effect constructions by writing about secondary or root causes.
Some people believe that global warming is a result of burning fossil fuels, as this causes increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
- The cause: increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
- Effect: global warming
- Connector: is a result of
- Root cause: burning fossil fuels
Here are five common constructions:
- (Z) has been directly affected by (X), as this allows for (Y).
- As a result of (X) leading to (Y), (Z) has been possible.
- (X), thus allowing for (Y), has resulted in (Z).
- (X) results in (Y), which in turn leads to (Z).
- Given (X), it follows that (Y) would mean (Z).
Putting it all together
The essay below uses causes and effect constructions, as well as using some of the expressions from above.
You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.
Present a written argument or case to an educated reader with no specialist knowledge of the
What factors do you think are important in promoting a higher standard of education?
Globally, there is an increasing requirement for ever higher level of education, with many students opting to study overseas to ensure they have the best available opportunities. This has been the result of an number of both external and internal influences as will now be present.
Internally, there have been a number of definite factors. With the governments of most nations eager to have more educated citizens, more funding has also been allocated to education. Given this, if follows that there is a the potential for increased resources, which would then inevitably allow for a higher educational level. Better teacher training, thus allowing for better teachers, has also been influential.
Externally, the job market requirement to have qualifications and certificates, often at the expense of experience, has resulted in pressure from students to raise the educationally level. With many industries and companies becoming increasingly specialised, there has also been a demand for equally specialised courses and higher education programmes. This, in turn, has led to a higher standard of education. In addition, the majority of people find a correlation between their expected salary and their educational achievements, and this naturally acts as a factor in promoting education.
One final factor which can be considered is that a higher standard of education has been directly affected by abusing the government’s interest in educating its citizens, as this allows for people to remain studying for some considerable time, with the only goal being to maintain a stress-free life for the student.
To conclude, it can be observed that there a number of both internal and external factors contributing to a higher level of education.