Build up Your Vocabulary to Increase Your IELTS Score – Key Word: Ability

1          Verb + ability

Use the correct form of these verbs:

affect               assess              overestimate               

lose                  doubt               show

  1. Examinations are not the only means of _____________ someone’s ability. There are other ways of measuring potential.
  2. At first I questioned his abilities, but he has done the job so well. I’m now ashamed that I had so little confidence in him and that I ____________ his abilities in the first place.
  3. It is a well-known fact that even small amounts of alcohol can ____________ your ability to drive safely.
  4. She was so shocked by the accident that she ____________ the ability to speak.
  5. Although Peter ____________ a lot of ability as a teenager, he just wasn’t good enough to go professional.
  6. I had to give up half way through the race. I had obviously____________ my ability to run a marathon.

Go back and underline all the verb collocations with ability.

2          Noun + preposition + ability

Use these nouns in the sentences:

confidence                  best

lack                              refection

test                               use

  1. Tiger Woods may be the best golfer in the world, but the Open Championship next week will be a real ____________ of his ability.
  2. Raymond is very clever, but he doesn’t make full ____________ of his abilities.
  3. I was surprised when he failed his examinations. His results are certainly not a true ____________ of his abilities.
  4. He’s extremely competent and will do the job properly. I have every ____________ in his ability.
  5. He said that he would try to do the job to the ____________ of his ability.
  6. I believe he lost confidence. His failure was not due to a____________ of ability.

Go back and underline all the noun + preposition + ability collocations.

 3         Common adjective collocations

Use these adjectives in the sentences:

average                     considerable

mixed                         natural

incredible                 proven

  1. Most of us have to work hard to learn to play a musical instrument. However, there are people who are born with a____________ ability and who learn effortlessly.
  2. The students in my class are of____________ ability, so I teach them in groups according to their level.
  3. I have no doubts that he has____________ ability, but I don’t think his personality is suited to this kind of work.
  4. We need somebody who has done this before – with the ____________ ability to do the job.
  5. I’m not a genius and I’m not stupid. I would describe myself as being of ____________ ability.
  6. I don’t know how she does it, but Annie Lennox has this____________ ability to electrify her audience.

Go back and underline all the adjective + ability collocations in this exercise.


1.         Here are three ways to describe ‘great’ ability:

She has a remarkable ability to recall long poems after only reading them once.

She has exceptional abilities as a musician.

His examination results are proof of his outstanding ability.

2.         Remember that an adjective collocation can come before or after the noun:

She has remarkable ability.

Her ability is remarkable.

3.         Notice the use of ‘best’ in 2-5.‘Best’ is usually an adjective, but it is used as a noun in the expression to ‘do something to the best of your ability’.

4.         We can talk about specific abilities:

musical ability             physical ability

linguistic ability           technical ability

artistic ability               acting ability

5.         When we talk about very intelligent children, we often call them ‘children of above average ability’. 



Exercise 1:

  1. assessing     2. doubted      3. affect       4. lost           5. showed       6. overestimated

Exercise 2:

  1. test     2. use       3. reflection     4. confidence     5. best         6. lack

Exercise 3:

  1. natural      2. mixed       3. considerable       4. proven         5. average        6. incredible

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