Important Vocabulary for IELTS - Common Words for IELTS Speaking, Writing, Reading and Listening Section

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Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on Sep 28, 2022 7:18 PM IST

Being a language proficiency test, an expansive vocabulary for IELTS will be key to your success in the test. Therefore, before you start studying or attempting any of the sample questions or practice tests for IELTS, list down some of the more important words and phrases you can use to enhance your chances of getting a high IELTS band score.

Go through this page thoroughly to understand how and why enhancing your Vocabulary will be crucial for your IELTS exam this year. You will find some of the important words and phrases you can use in your IELTS exam this year and improve your scores. You will also find the best tips and tricks to enhance your vocabulary words for IELTS exams, on this page.

Why is IELTS Vocabulary Important?

As is oxygen for human beings, so is the Vocabulary for IELTS! Vocabulary is the heart of every language, so it is important to improve your vocabulary every day. To a great extent, your ability to comprehend what you read and hear is determined by your vocabulary. It cannot be built up if you never confront new words, and to meet them, you must read.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a globally acknowledged English proficiency test taken by international students aiming to pursue higher education abroad. The test evaluates a candidate's ability to communicate in English on four parameters: writing, reading, listening and speaking.

Nevertheless, candidates should be aware that vocabulary for IELTS constitutes about 25% of the total score in the reading and speaking tests. Understanding the weightage of vocabulary words for IELTS is, therefore, imperative. Candidates who hope to attain a high score in the IELTS exam should know how to utilise complex words in these sections since the examiner will be assessing how well they use vocabulary or how well they have prepared IELTS speaking vocabulary.

On the other hand, the lack of vocabulary in a passage results in the repetition of words and can leave the speaker short when conversing with the IELTS examiner. The only way to increase IELTS scores is to do good homework on vocabulary for IELTS writing task 2.

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Learning Vocabulary for IELTS – The What, Why, and How?

One of the issues that many candidates face when attempting the IELTS exam is their lack of vocabulary. The idea is to concentrate on the crucial vocabulary words for IELTS which you will most likely need for the exam. If you become a ‘word collector’, the exam will be fairly uncomplicated.

The IELTS exam is graded on a nine-band scale, with nine being the highest and zero being the lowest. Having a strong command of vocabulary words for IELTS and grammar can help you achieve a high band score. So, let us start with two Ws (What and Why) and one H (How).

What Vocabulary Does a Test-taker Need to Know?

An average native English speaker is estimated to have a vocabulary of approximately 20,000 to 30,000 words. This is where things may get complicated for non-native English speakers. There are so many topics you might encounter like science, health, education, environment, space, etc. for which you must latch on to a wide pool of wordlist i.e., vocabulary for IELTS.

The academic field is an excellent place to seek vocabulary words for IELTS because here you will learn most of the words used in the E2 IELTS Writing Vocabulary part. You can also enrich your IELTS speaking vocabulary by embracing the most frequent English words. You can find over 2,000 of these words in the General Service List or the New General Service List that account for nearly 85% of most IELTS reading texts.

The remaining 15% is made up of what we will refer to as technical or topic-specific terminology. If you are reading an animal-related text, for instance, this may include words like habitat, livestock, predators, foraging, and captivity. This type of language is best learned by considerable reading on your behalf, careful moderation by your teacher, or a hybrid of both. So that covers the first W (What), let us now look at the second W (Why).

Why is Building the Vocabulary for IELTS Exam Important?

When test takers and tutors are looking for shortcuts, techniques, and hacks, they often neglect a basic premise of language assessment. The general rule is that the higher your language proficiency, the higher your IELTS score.

To know IELTS Map Vocabulary, a reader must be familiar with 95-98% of the terms in a text in order to comprehend it. For example, the majority of the reading you perform in a General English course at an intermediate level is 'graded'. In other words, it has been updated to make it easier for the learner at that level to understand. Hence, intermediate learners have no trouble understanding the text.

In the case of IELTS, the texts are usually of a C1/C2 level (i.e. advanced level). The average learner at this level should know between 8,000 and 16,000 words. Therefore, if your vocabulary is at a B1 level or ‘graded’, you are unlikely to comprehend C1 material well enough to answer the questions. So that covers the second W (Why) and brings us to the last one H (How).

How Can New Vocabulary be Learned?

It takes more than just downloading a word list of vocabulary for IELTS from the internet to know the exact vocabulary words for IELTS. It is great to have a list of words provided by someone else, but it would not help you much to expand your own IELTS writing vocabulary and nor even IELTS speaking vocabulary. What you should concentrate on, according to Paul Nation (an internationally acclaimed scholar in the field of linguistics and teaching methodology), is incidental and deliberate learning. Can you use this method to learn vocabulary for IELTS? Let us go through it one by one:

Incidental Learning

This is what happens when your attention is diverted from acquiring words. Maybe you are reading the newspaper, watching a movie, listening to a podcast, taking an IELTS practice test, or conversing with a friend. You come across a word you have already come across before, this is called incidental learning. The more you come across these words in varied contexts (rather than just on a word list!), the better you will grasp them.

Deliberate Learning 

The deliberate acquisition of new vocabulary is an important component of vocabulary enhancement. It happens when you are completely focused on acquiring language. You could be looking for a definition, making a translation, composing an example phrase, or practising spelling or pronunciation. In other words, when you are learning consciously and intentionally then it is called deliberate learning.

Topic-Wise Vocabulary Words for IELTS

Candidates should have a broad vocabulary for IELTS in order to accomplish a band score of seven or higher. If one is unable to use the correct language, IELTS speaking vocabulary, grammar, and accent adequately, this can become a serious flaw that can lower one's overall score.

We have compiled a list of the most recent and popular vocabulary for IELTS and its exam-related topics. For a better understanding, the vocabulary words for IELTS in the list below are organised by topic, with their meanings or applications explained next to them.

Business Environment 

The following is a list of idioms for the IELTS topic related to the business environment:

  • To be self-employed: Working for oneself rather than for an employer

  • To balance the books: To avoid spending a lot of money than you earn

  • To do market research: To research what potential buyers would like to buy and not buy

  • To drum up business: To attempt to gain customers

  • To earn a living: Earning money

  • To cold call: Making a sales call to someone without first getting their consent

  • To draw up a business plan: To draught a business plan for a new venture

  • To go bust: When a company is forced to close due to its failure

Food

For the IELTS exam topic related to food, here is the list of idioms:

  • Processed food: Food that has been pre-prepared and purchased for convenience

  • A takeaway: A restaurant-prepared cooked dinner served at home

  • A quick snack: Consuming a little amount of food in between meals

  • To spoil your appetite: To consume anything that will prevent you from feeling hungry during lunchtime

  • To tuck into: To eat food heartily

  • A slap-up meal: A substantial meal

  • To wine and dine: To delight someone by providing them with food and drink

Books, Films, and Arts

Here is a list of idioms for the books, films and arts-related IELTS topics:

  • Genre: A style or category of art, literature, or music

  • A sea change: A significant shift in something

  • Cultural heritage: A country's background and history

  • Adapted from fiction: A movie based on a novel

  • Strong characterisation: To know who you can rely on and trust

  • Online streaming: watching something on the internet

  • Rom-com movie: A funny romantic comedy

  • Black humour: Funny, but also a little dark or mysterious

Advertising 

The following is a list of idioms for the IELTS topic related to advertising:

  • Radio advertising: This strategy targets a specific audience and relies on them listening to a specific radio station

  • Direct mail: Customers receive letters and advertisements straight from the company

  • Internet pop-ups: They have the ability to influence a viewer and provide quick access to the goods

  • Email advertising: Direct marketing to the client

  • Text messages: These promotions reach a particular audience in real-time, but the text is limited to a certain number of characters

  • Flyers: Face-to-face distribution of small flyers containing printed information to customers

Fashion World

The following is a collection of fashion world-related idioms:

  • Fashion House: A retailer of (typically pricey) new clothing trends

  • Fashion Show: An gathering where models demonstrate the latest fashion trends

  • Fashion Icon: A person well-known for their fashion sense

  • To go out of fashion: To no longer be fashionable

  • To get dressed up: Putting on stylish clothes to visit some special destination

  • Hand-me-downs: Clothes that elder brothers or sisters pass down to their younger siblings

  • To have a sense of style: The ability to dress in fashionable attire

Travel and Tourism

For the IELTS exam topic related to travel and tourism, here is the list of idioms:

  • Travelling light: Travelling with limited luggage

  • Holiday brochures: Booklets/Pamphlets promoting vacation places

  • Wildlife safari: A trip to view or hunt wild animals

  • Value for money: A great return on investment

  • Magnificent landscapes: Spectacular landscape

  • Long haul flights: Extended distance flights

  • Lush rainforests: Stunning equatorial forests

The best way to study abroad is to seek help from one of our study abroad advisers, who have years of experience helping students get into their selected colleges after extensive IELTS preparation.

Phrasal Verb Vocabulary for IELTS With Example and Meaning

A phrasal verb is made up of two or three words that belong to various grammatical categories. When they are all utilised together, it presents a new meaning, so they must be applied in accordance with the situation. Phrasal verbs are a part of the list of vocabulary words for IELTS, so applicants can use them while conversing with the IELTS examiner to show that they are proficient in English and have a good grasp of IELTS speaking vocabulary.

Prior to that, an applicant must make an effort to comprehend the phrasal verb's meaning because improper usage may also lower the IELTS band score. The following table contains a list of IELTS Speaking vocabulary and their meanings along with the examples described in the respective sections for a clear understanding:

Phrasal Verb

Meaning

Example

Go by

The passing of time

It was ten years before we went by crossing paths.

Kick back

A strong reaction

Rather than playing games, we decided to kick back and watch TV

Limber up for

Stretching body to prepare for some physical activity

The company is limbering up for the end of the year.

Measure against

To compare something/somebody with something/somebody

As a measure against our competitors, our project does not look good.

Pass over

To ignore or show disinterest in something/someone

Let us pass over our gloomy past and concentrate on our future.

Peel away

Get separated from a group by moving in a different direction

They peeled away from the mob and took a side route.

Quarrel with

An angry argument or disagreement

I may not quarrel with their beliefs, but I suppose there are other alternatives.

Romp in

To play in a happy and noisy way

When I continuously hit three sixes, I played the next three balls romp in.

Salt away

Discreetly save or store something, especially money

She makes good money, yet she salts it away instead of squandering it.

Stick with

perseverance or continue with something

We should better stick with our original business idea.

Tee off

Make a start on something

Our new project will tee off in the next few months.

Venture forth

To proceed, particularly bravely yet cautiously or warily

As soon as the storm ends, we might be able to venture forth.

Note: This is not an extensive list of vocabulary words for IELTS. Get detailed information about how these words are spelt forth by checking out 1200 Most Commonly Repeated Spellings of Words in the IELTS Listening Test.

Common Idioms for IELTS With Example and Meaning

Many test-takers find the IELTS Speaking section to be the most difficult and thus could not soak an adequate amount of IELTS Speaking vocublary. For this, one of the reasons may be the inability to clearly pronounce complex vocabulary words for IELTS, or the lack of linguistic proficiency in this section. In such cases, regular speaking practice can help. Additionally, idioms are a good way to convey our ideas in a more natural, effective, impressive and concise way.

However, using idioms without comprehending their proper meanings may result in marks being deducted. Therefore, applicants must avoid doing so if they do not have a regular habit of using idioms. It is advised that candidates only use it in tasks when they are certain of its semantics. Here is a list of common idioms for IELTS along with their meanings and examples described in the respective sections for a clear understanding:

Idiom

Meaning

Example 

A white lie

To tell a lie about a small matter to avoid hurting someone 

I do not think it is a good idea for you to get in trouble for telling a white lie.

Better late than never

It is better to do something now rather than not doing it at all

It is better late than never to learn how to cook delicious food at home.

Blind as a bat

Having very bad eyesight

Without my favourite spectacles, I am as blind as a bat.

Bookworm

A voracious reader (a person who reads a lot)

Johnny is a bookworm, therefore he will read a book quickly.

Break a leg

Wishing someone good luck 

You better break a leg today, I really do.

Day and night

Something that happens all the time without stopping

The earth revolves day and night

Drop out 

Abandon a course of study or involvement in something

She could never be dropped out of college as she always scores good marks.

Give someone the green light

To give permission to start or continue something 

I received the green light to study higher education abroad.

Green with envy

To be jealous or envious

Seeing her as a topper of the class made him green with envy.

In the red

Exceeding one's income by spending and accruing debt

Sadly, I do not have the funds to study abroad, so, I am in the red.

Learn by heart

To learn something by memory

I always listen to and learn the advice of my professors by heart.

Out of the blue

Something sudden or unexpected 

It was raining today out of the blue.

Pass with flying colours

an overwhelming victory, success, or triumph

I cleared the IELTS Writing section with flying colours.

Practice makes perfect

To get better at something by practising it often

Since practice makes perfect, I should put forth my best efforts to ace the test.

How much Vocabulary is Enough for IELTS?

A native English speaker retains around 20,000 words by the time they graduate from university, but the amount of words or vocabulary they actively use is substantially lower.

To earn a good IELTS band and interact efficiently in an English-speaking community as an English learner (especially if you are preparing for IELTS), you should have an encyclopedic vocabulary of roughly 6,000 to 7,000 words.

Is Vocabulary for IELTS All About Tough Words?

No, vocabulary for IELTS is not all about tough words, neither for IELTS Speaking vocabulary nor for IELTS Writing vocabulary. Instead, it is about spying on how elegantly a candidate may play with those perplexing words. When you use words like 'tough' or 'complex' in your IELTS Academic or General Writing, it is pretty clear that you are trying to impress the examiner. You stutter or keep repeating the statement when chasing complex terms in the IELTS Speaking section. As a result, your fluency or accent suffers and you lose marks.

You must have a vast vocabulary for IELTS, beyond a doubt, but you must also know how to avail yourself of it systematically and intelligently. Only knowing a huge list of vocabulary words for IELTS and using them in your essay or in a discussion with your examiner without thinking about their meaning will get you into trouble. Therefore, you should engage in more English conversations and thoroughly comprehend even difficult words.

Tips to Prepare for IELTS Vocabulary

Candidates should adhere to these guidelines meticulously as they prepare for the IELTS exam. At the end of the day, getting a decent grade is the first step toward fulfilling the dream of studying abroad.

Read, Listen, Understand and Converse in English

Read English newspapers to develop a reading habit. If you come across a new word while reading, make a note of it and look it up. To expand your vocabulary words for IELTS, search the internet for blogs, articles, texts, and so forth. This habit will ensure that you come across new phrases or vocabulary for IELTS and will also provide you with a better grasp of how the words are used.

Listen to YouTube Instead of Watching

You can use YouTube to learn how to pronounce academic words and watch English shows to learn a new lexicon. Listen to podcasts and TED talks and take notes on the words the speaker uses. This will assist you in comprehending the impact of various words and eventually improve your vocabulary for IELTS.

Progressive Practice

Progressive practice is the key to achieving a high IELTS result. If you do not have time to read and expand your vocabulary words for IELTS, you may look through several lists of essential words for the IELTS exam. Start with 10 words, then 15 the next day, and 20 the day after that. This will help you to focus on the exam-relevant words.

No Memorisation, Only Comprehension

The memorisation of words should be avoided because the meaning of words changes depending on their context. Reading comprehension requires decoding, fluency, and vocabulary abilities. Understanding the entire text depends on your ability to connect ideas within and between phrases. You can improve your reading skills by reading aloud and discussing your experiences.

Invest In a Dictionary and Make the Most Of It

Do not limit your search to the definitions of a dictionary. Examine the word's pronunciation, spelling, and usage, that is how you learn vocabulary for IELTS. Scrutinise every new word you encounter and look at how its meaning varies in different contexts. If the provided phonemic characters are unclear to you, you can listen to and practise the sounds by viewing the British Council's interactive phonemic chart provided on its official website.

Keep Track of All New Words You Come Across

Keep an IELTS writing vocabulary notebook handy with you at all times. Keep reading it frequently, but immediately note down any new word you encounter so that you can go back to your mini-dictionary and learn it afterwards. Translations made only by switching between languages might occasionally be deceptive. In addition to a translation dictionary, try using an English-to-English dictionary. Why not note down new words on your phone to keep an eye on them later whenever and wherever you need them?

Final Thoughts

You do not require a large IELTS writing vocabulary or IELTS speaking vocabulary of advanced, technical, or even academic terms. What you do need are the necessary words to communicate about a variety of issues in common English, as well as the skill to use them wisely and accurately. Most questions in the IELTS exam can be answered with a well-selected IELTS Writing Task 2 vocabulary of keywords and phrases.

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FAQs on IELTS Important Vocabulary

Is vocabulary for IELTS important for IELTS writing?

Yes, vocabulary for IELTS is important for the IELTS writing test. This is because vocabulary words for IELTS account for 25% of the marks in the IELTS writing and speaking tests. A good vocabulary for IELTS writing task 2 also comes in handy during the reading and listening tests. To succeed in IELTS, particularly in the writing and speaking sections, one must be confident with the language and one way to do this is to have a good vocabulary.

What type of phrasal verb vocabulary for IELTS can I use in the IELTS writing section?

You can use phrasal verb vocabulary for IELTS in the IELTS writing section like Quarrel with, Salt away, Stick with, Go by, Limber up for, Pass over, Romp in, Venture forth, Tee off, Kick back, Measure against, Peel away, etc. However, the candidate must make an effort to comprehend the meaning of the phrasal verb before using them, as incorrect usage can result in a lower score.

Is there any vocabulary for IELTS test as a part of the IELTS writing?

No, there is no vocabulary for IELTS test as a part of the IELTS writing section. A broad vocabulary can help candidates to score high on the exam. However, candidates should also be aware that vocabulary accounts for around 25% of the total score on the reading and speaking exams. 

What should be the ideal length of an IELTS essay?

The ideal length of an IELTS essay for IELTS writing task 1 is about 170-190 words. For IELTS writing task 2, a candidate should aim to write somewhere between 270-290 words. Candidates should always write over the word count provided. However, this does not mean writing too many unnecessary words, always aim for quality over quantity.

How can I improve my IELTS writing task 2 test?

You can improve your IELTS Writing Task 2 by including a solid introduction along with two body paragraphs (at least) and a proper conclusion. Rephrase the question in the introduction and construct a thesis statement based on your viewpoint. Start each body paragraph with a single subject statement; utilise explanations and examples to support the topic sentence throughout the paragraph; and conclude with a summary of your main points.  

Can I get a higher score if I use quotes or idioms in my IELTS writing?

No, you cannot get a higher score if you use quotes or idioms in your IELTS writing. This is because idioms are only one type of idiomatic language that is mostly considered as informal. On the other hand, if we talk about quotes, the IELTS examiner will only assess you based on your level of English proficiency and not your ability to remember some famous quotes.

Can I use proverbs in IELTS writing?

You can use proverbs in IELTS writing but it is recommended that you use them as less as possible or avoid them completely. If you use the saying 'all that glitters is not gold,' for example, the meaning may bring your work to perfection, but those are not your words. Instead, if you use the concept of proverbs and expand on it in your own way, you will improve your chances of getting a good grade.

Is spelling important in the IELTS writing task?

Yes, spelling is extremely important in the IELTS writing task, rather it is also important in listening and reading tasks too. You will not be given a mark if you spell a word incorrectly in the listening test. Your ability to spell correctly will also be assessed during the writing test. Spelling perfectly in English is notoriously tricky, and the only way to improve your spelling is to learn and improve your vocabulary.

How can I improve my vocabulary to score high on the IELTS exam?

You can improve your vocabulary to score high on the IELTS exam in many ways. Some common everyday activities can help you improve your vocabulary such as watching Hollywood movies, reading English language news daily, writing a vocabulary book for yourself, conversating in English, comprehending new words, practising essential words, using vocabulary building apps, etc.

Which English-English dictionary is best to learn vocabulary for IELTS?

To learn vocabulary for IELTS, there are three best English-English dictionaries that are extremely good, available, as well as free to use. These are the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, the Cambridge Dictionary, and the Free Collocation. You will find definitions, examples, synonyms, uses, collocations, and even idioms for almost every word you need to learn for IELTS in these dictionaries.

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