How to use TED Talks to boost your IELTS score?

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It is the name of a non-profit organization that has been running conferences since 1984 with the mission of sharing “ideas worth spreading” to change the world.

Inspired thinkers from around the globe share their innovative ideas in less than 18 minutes talks. Leading entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with scientists such as Sir Ken Robinson and many politicians and even monks, are amongst the speakers.

TED topics are inclusive, from science to art and business, with emphasis on global problems. TED even has talks about learning a new language!

There are also independently run TEDx events that take place in local communities around the world. It is a grassroots initiative to bring the spirit of TED to local communities to spark conversations. Events are organized by individuals under a TED free license. There are more than 3000 TEDx events held annually!

TED talks are an excellent opportunity for you as an IELTS candidate to learn and practice. That is why I’m writing this article to help you do just that. Here are 5 simple steps to use TED talks to boost your IELTS score.

1- Listen to TED talks related to IELTS topics

The fourth part of the IELTS listening test is always a lecture. These lectures often centre on global issues such as global warming, air pollution, sustainability, health, pandemics, etc. The IELTS speaking test also contains questions that focus on academic or social topics.

Despite its original topics that make up its name (technology, entertainment and design), TED covers all aspects of the global community. This is the most significant advantage for you. There are plenty of interesting talks related to IELTS topics that can both entertain and educate you.

Choose talks based on your interest so you can maximize your learning by being invested in them. Pay attention to the vocabulary that the speakers use. Learn how they talk about these topics, how they present their ideas. Pay attention to the way speakers maintain the flow of speech and connect different sentences.

2- Practice understanding accents

IELTS listening is all about people with different accents talking about various topics. You need to be familiar with their accent in order to understand them and find the answers. Your own accent is also important in IELTS speaking. That is where TED comes to your help.

TED talks are presented by great speakers from many different countries that each has their own accent. They are the best source of natural speech.

You need to actively pay attention to the accents and familiarise yourself with how different nationalities pronounce words. British, American, Australian and Canadian accents are the most common in the IELTS listening test. Practice the words you can’t pronounce correctly and record yourself to improve your speaking.

How you deliver your words using stress, intonation and rhythm can all be influenced by your accent. Therefore, working on your accent can also be beneficial to your speaking band score and TED talks can really help.

3- Practice guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words

IELTS incorporates a wide range of vocabulary to test candidates at different levels. You need to expand your range of vocabulary in order to earn a higher score.

The good news is that TED talks are all about science, business and social issues presented by successful academics and leaders with immense knowledge in the topic. Obviously, they use an expanded range of vocabulary that is the lexicon of the subject. By listening to them, you will learn related terminologies and hear many new words that are maybe unfamiliar to you. But you don’t have to worry about them!

Instead, guess the meaning of the new words based on the context of the talk, like you would do on the IELTS listening test. Later you can find the actual meaning of them and see how close you were.

4-Summarize the talk

IELTS reading is based on passages that should be scanned and skimmed to find answers. IELTS writing is also about critically exploring a given subject and organizing your thoughts in paragraphs. Practising note taking and list making is the best way to overcome these tests.

That is where TED talks come in handy. After listening to each talk, write a summary of what you have understood. List the main points that often include a problem and a solution or even pros and cons. By doing this, you practice critical thinking that will save your reading and writing in the actual IELTS exam.

5- Check the transcripts

IELTS is a challenging task that you should really prepare for. All practices that you do should have solid material so you can identify your weaknesses and target them.

So when you are done with watching or listening to a TED talk, check the transcript. There you will realize the difference between spoken and written language in different accents.

By reading the transcript, you can identify the new words that you guessed their meaning. Now you can check the dictionary and find the actual meaning. This way, the word will be hardwired into your memory.

You can also check the spelling of the spoken words in unfamiliar accents, so you avoid making spelling mistakes in the actual exam.

Grammar can also be practised with the transcript. Notice how verb tenses are chosen and a variety of sentence types are used. Please pay attention to discourse markers and complex sentences because they are critically important for higher scores.

Also, pay attention to the logic and organization of the talk on the transcript. Identify the pattern and use it for your writing practices.

Compare your summary with the transcript to see how well you understood the main idea of the talk and how many details you identified.

Go back to the talk and micro-listen to the parts that you had a problem with. The new words, specific elements of accent or grammatical issues, and replay them repeatedly until you memorize them.

Now, you can move on to the next TED Talk!


TED talks are short videos of 18 minutes or less presented by the world’s most inspiring thinkers and speakers who are masters of their field. They often introduce innovative ideas and solutions that are worth spreading.

TED talks are also excellent sources for you to boost your IELTS score. You can technically improve all your 4 skills by watching them because their transcript is also available.

So choose a topic that you love that is preferably related to IELTS topics. Watch them or listen to them over and over. Identify words, accents and grammar with which you have problems. Check the transcript and find those identified items. Repeat them over and over until you truly learn them.

Once you have practised with TED talks, it’s time to put your IELTS skills to the test. Taking an online IELTS mock test is the best way to find your weaknesses, monitor your progress and improve your band score.

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