How to Expand Your Vocabulary for a Higher Band Score

It is essential to have flexible use of a wide range of vocabulary for IELTS as it comprises 25% of your total score on the Writing and Speaking tests. The examiners assess your ability to use a wide range of appropriate vocabulary and use those words accurately. For example, when your IELTS Writing task is being graded, the examiner will look at four main criteria: “task response, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, and grammatical range and accuracy”. If you look closely at “lexical resource” criteria, you’ll see that your IELTS Writing band score will depend, in part, on the range of vocabulary you use.

Vocabulary is also critical in your reading and listening tests so that you understand the words as you hear or read them. Good IELTS vocabulary is particularly important for those candidates wanting to achieve a band six or higher.

Here in this article, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about IELTS Vocabulary so that you can improve your skills and get the score you need.

The first step

The first step is to widen your vocabulary. Reading and listening to good sources is a great place to start. Choose a magazine, book, TV show, radio show, YouTube series or podcast that interests you. People usually learn more effectively when they enjoy what they are doing, so don’t pick something boring! Doing so will improve your overall reading, listening, and vocabulary skill, which will benefit you in the long run.

But reading and listening to these sources is only half the story. Read/watch/listen to whatever you chose and pick out the words and phrases you don’t understand. Try to guess their meanings from the context. Once you are finished with guessing, look up the new words in a dictionary. Then note the definition, an example sentence or two, collocations, synonyms, antonyms, and pronunciation beside each word in a notebook.

The most important step that will help you absorb these words’ meaning is to review them.  So review the new words after one week, two weeks and then one month. Practice using them in a sentence.

Follow this simple routine for five days a week, and you will have 300+ new words in your notebook after just 1 month.

Next step: Collocations

Being able to use collocates properly is very important when you speak or write in the IELTS exam, and your skills in this area will be something the examiner is looking out for. For example, you can read in the IELTS public band descriptors for an IELTS band 7 for lexical resources (vocabulary):

“uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation.”

Therefore, to achieve a band 7 in this criteria, not only you need to be using less common words, but you also need to show that you know what other words these less common words are usually used with.

You should, therefore, try not to learn new words in isolation. Instead, you should see what other words collocate with the new word that you are learning. For example, here are some common verb-noun collocations that you may encounter every day:

To catch a cold / a bus / a fly

To make the bed / money / a noise

To do homework / the shopping / nothing.

To come late / on time / to a decision

As I said, learning words this way is much more effective than learning them in isolation. If you learn words on their own, you are prone to making mistakes when you try to use them in sentences.

One last thing: idioms

Idioms are also very important for achieving a better band score, especially in IELTS speaking. It can be very hard for non-native speakers of English to use idioms correctly since they are phrases that do not have the apparat meaning of the words actually spoken. However, since they are quite common in English and will offer you a chance of a higher band score, so you must learn how to use them. Be aware that if you don’t use them correctly or try to use them for the sake of it, it could make your speaking sound worse and even decrease your band score.

Online Sources of Information

Below you can find a very short list of my favourite websites that you can use for reading online and expanding your vocabulary. The good thing about them is that they are all connected to the most common topics of the IELTS exam:

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