Improve your vocabulary for the IELTS exam

by / Thursday, 14 May 2020

Top 5 tips to learn new vocabulary

Our students tell us that vocabulary is one of the biggest problems they have when studying for the IELTS exam. Academic vocabulary holds them back in the reading, writing, listening and speaking tests. There is no easy fix for this problem, but here are a few tips to help you out.

Tip 1 – Little and often

It’s important that you work on vocabulary on a regular basis.   You should set goals for a set number of words each week. You can use the Academic Word List which shows the top 100 words used in academic texts.

Tip 2 – Don’t be scared of vocabulary

You will be surprised at how much you can understand even if you don’t know all the words.   Imagine that you are in a busy shop or restaurant. You might not be able to hear everything word your friend is saying, but you can still understand the message. When you are reading, practise jumping over words you don’t know. Don’t stop reading. Use the clues in rest of the sentence and guess at the meaning.

Tip 3 – Use the vocabulary at least 8 times

To improve your vocabulary in the writing and speaking, you need to be able to put the words in a sentence.  You can’t do that without practising them repeatedly. Put post-it notes up around your house with new words. Every time you go walk past a word, make a sentence.

Tip 4 – Learn all the words in the word family

Don’t just learn one part of speech. To be able to use a word, you need to know all it’s forms. Try making a table with all words in the family. Use the root of the word to guess the meaning.


Verb Noun Noun – Person Adjective Adverb
To befriend someone Friendliness


Friend Friendly



Tip 5 – Know how you learn best

Some people remember words better when they see them, and can retain vocabulary if they hear it. Try different ways to learn and see which way works for you. You can try:

  • Highlighting words in different colours
  • Record yourself using words on your phone
  • Drawing pictures of the words

Keep checking this blog for more tips and share this with any friends who are having problems too!

If you urgently need a higher score, why not join our Online Intensive IELTS course starting on the 1st of June? For details, click here.