Good vocabulary is definitely one of the most important criteria in the IELTS test. Not only does vocabulary makeup 25% of your mark in IELTS writing and speaking but it also plays a crucial part in IELTS Listening & Writing.
However, a vast majority of IELTS learners (90%) don’t build their vocabulary. Majority of them download long lists of words without having seen them used in any setting and think that they could simply rely on their memory. This is not the right way to improve your vocabulary. Why? Because words don’t always have one strict meaning, so learning out of context is, in essence, an absurd idea. They don’t read it in a way that relates to a context and hence is at a loss to use them effectively. Learning new words will definitely improve your vocabulary but learning to use them in the right circumstances is more important. In order to gain a high score in vocabulary, IELTS learners have to use the right words in each situation.
Focus on examining the words in context, together with learning word forms ( countable, uncountable, noun, verb,…), collocations related to these words ( followed by which adjectives, verbs or nouns…).
The IELTS does not have a separate exam for vocabulary, but it is tested in every section of the IELTS exam, be it, reading, writing, listening and speaking. The most important thing is that you can score 20% to 30% of marks through vocabulary. So it is important that you focus a lot, on vocabulary.
Let’s get down to improving your vocabulary in an effective way with the following 5-step plan:
Read & Listen!
Most words are learnt from context. So let’s pick a TV show, radio, podcast, magazine or book that interests you. (Bear in mind that you shouldn’t force yourself to watch or read something you are not a fan of, because you can feel distracted and then can’t stick to your plan). The more words you’re exposed to, the better vocabulary you will have. While you read, pay close attention to words you don’t know & how they are used. First, try to figure out their meanings from context. Then look the words up.
Get in the habit of looking up words you don’t know.
It is absolutely essential to set up at least either of the online dictionaries named Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Keep in mind to have it open with thesauruses on its toolbar, to look up any new word you are not entirely sure of. Beside each word, you should jot down a brief note of the meaning, collocations, synonyms, example sentences, antonyms and pronunciation. You can also draw pictures, relate them to words you already know.
- Firstly, you can look up the dictionary to check if you used it correctly (its meaning, its form) and read the examples they made.
For example: if you used “ “knowledges” instead of “ knowledge” –> you ‘re wrong.
- Secondly, check the synonym
Synonym: knowledge = understanding, perception, comprehensionThen, read an example sentence or two:
My teacher was well-known for her great knowledge, the most of which he had obtained from books.
- Then, checking collocations:
For example :
|large knowledge||broad knowledge|
|Contribute in something||Contribute to something|
|Expensive price||High price|
|Scarce population||Sparse population|
|a flock of fish||a school of fish|
Own a notebook :
Have your own notebook and take note of all the new words with meaning, collocations, examples, synonyms and the mistakes you made when using these words.
Use mnemonics ( memory tricks) :
Learning a word won’t help very much if you promptly forget it. Research shows that it takes from 10 to 20 repetitions to make a word part of your vocabulary. Therefore, you better review the new words after 10 minutes –one day – 4 days – one week – two weeks – one month – two months (based on spaced repetition, a learning technique to exploit the psychological spacing effect). Also, practice using the new words in a sentence.
Practice, practice, practice!
You should use the new words you noted down in your speaking, writing and check your vocabulary regularly to make sure the words stick in your long-term memory. You can use the following materials to practice at home:
- Check your English Vocabulary for IELTS (by Rawdon Wyatt)
- Vocabulary for Top 9 Common Topics in IELTS exam
- English Collocation in Use (Advanced)
- English Vocabulary in Use
The human mind can effectively remember up to 15 new words of a foreign language per day, so if you practice your vocabulary five days a week, you can learn around 70 new words. After 1 month, you will have at least 250 new words in your notebook.
This learning method is the most powerful way I know for improving your Vocabulary and a lot of my students have been successful in this. I bet you will do the same if begin learning vocabulary with this simple 5-step plan.
The image below is a quick summary of how to learn new words before your IELTS test.
IELTS Vocabulary Topics
Vocabulary Topics for IELTS Speaking :
- Relationships (Family, Love, Friendship)
- People – Physical Appearance
- People – Personality and Character
- Travel & Adventure
- Diet, Fitness and Health
- Education: School & University
- Clothes and Fashion
- Books and Films
- Towns & Cities
Vocabulary Topics for IELTS Writing :
- Government & the authorities
- Nature, Environment & Energy
- Education & schooling
- Children & Family
- Global challenges
- Work & careers
- Cities & infrastructure
- Countryside & agriculture