English test-taking tips: words to describe chronology

Describing a series of events is a vital skill in English. It is important to report with clarity and organization so that you are not misunderstood. Start from the event that happened first, and describe the sequence in order.

You should also strive to vary your vocabulary. On English proficiency exams such as the TOEFL and IELTS, you must use a varied and advanced vocabulary to attain the highest score for writing and speaking tasks.

For example, instead of repeatedly using “first,.. next,… last,…”, you could say “to begin with,… afterwards,… finally,…”. Depending on the topic, you can also use specific vocabulary sets.

If you are describing a person’s life story, you might use “as an infant”, “during her childhood”, “in her teenage years”, “throughout her adult life”, “in old age”, etc.

Here are some more vocabulary words to talk about time.

When discussing:

Try these words:

At what time?

in (year), on (day), at (time), between__ and__ , since__ , every year, at the turn of the century, in the 1990s

What came first?

in the first place, originally, prior to, previously, in/at the beginning, earlier, before

What came next?

second, subsequently, thereafter, later on, from then on

What happened during?

meanwhile, in the meantime, simultaneously, while, at the same time, for the time being

What came last?

in the end, at the end of the day, eventually, at last, in conclusion, in the final stage

image: Ben Mason