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How Do I Score Well on IELTS® Vocabulary?

By Marlene de Wilde
Updated May 17, 2024
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Doing well in the vocabulary section of the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS® vocabulary, is a matter of strategy as well as study. Candidates for the academic part of the test would do well to concentrate on the academic word lists which have been compiled specifically for this purpose as well as broader resources. Candidates for the general IELTS® test would do better to focus on vocabulary relating to social and workplace contexts.

The IELTS is a test of English language proficiency which is divided into four components - reading, writing, listening and speaking. Doing well in the IELTS® vocabulary is very similar to doing well in any vocabulary test. Access to past test papers is invaluable as it is often the case that vocabulary is repeated over the years. It may be that the same words are not used for a year or two but then there is a tendency towards recycling on most test papers. Using past papers is also an excellent way to understand the level required for the test.

The use of a vocabulary enrichment book is advisable, especially those specifically written to cater to IELTS® takers. Depending on the level at which the test taker is, then up to an hour a day of vocabulary work should yield results. There are books available which cover all sections of the test including vocabulary as well as those which concentrate only on IELTS® vocabulary. For less disciplined learners who find it difficult to work on their own, a course may be a better bet.

There are online vocabulary tests which can be used to practice relevant vocabulary. The Internet is an invaluable resource for succeeding in the IELTS® vocabulary in other ways as well. Reading newspapers and listening to online news broadcasts opens the mind to world issues and the level of vocabulary used in serious media is an interesting way to study for IELTS®. Any words which are unfamiliar and keep coming up in reports are likely to be important words for every day communication and so should be noted down and researched for meaning.

Further indirect methods of preparing for IELTS® vocabulary is any other reading or listening activity. Reading an interesting fiction or non-fiction book is an often painless way of absorbing new vocabulary as is watching movies or listening to songs without sub-titles. Any activity which requires immersion into the English language will help the IELTS® test taker not only pass the test but also improve their level for the professional or personal life they wish to pursue in an English speaking country.

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