The development of comprehensive IELTS vocabulary is crucial to your IELTS score.

Vocabulary is one of the building blocks of language and a necessary requirement for success in the IELTS. Being ready for the IELTS requires a lot of preparation, including understanding the test, knowing the strategies, and practicing. In addition to all of that, you need vocabulary. It is essential for the reading section, the listening section, for writing a good essay and for being able to speak impressively in the speaking test. To do well, you need to know words. It is believed that it takes 15-20 exposures to a new word for it to become part of your vocabulary. So here are my top 10 methods for integrating new words into your English library.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Read, read, read!

The more you read, the more words you’ll be exposed to. This is essential for IELTS preparation, and for increasing your English fluency. Reading doesn’t have to be boring. Read about things that interest you: Food, gardening, fashion, celebrity news, economics, science, politics, etc. As you read, you will discover new words in context. You can infer the meaning of new words from the context of the sentence. If not, then look the word up in an English to English dictionary.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Use an English to English dictionary and thesaurus.

You can use hard copies or online versions such as dictionary.com and thesaurus.com.  When you come across a new word, look it up in the dictionary. An online dictionary will give you the definition and will let you hear the pronunciation. It’s important not to just use a translation tool. A translation may be helpful for you to understand the meaning of the word in your native language, but it will not help you integrate the word into your English mental library. You need to be able to think of the word in English, and not rely on a translation. Otherwise you will be thinking of the word in your own language and will have difficulty recovering it in English when you need it. Then use the thesaurus to find synonyms. You don’t have to memorise every synonym (there may be too many). Choose a couple of interesting ones and add them to your vocabulary journal.

IELTS Vocabulary

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Use a vocabulary journal.

This can be a little notebook that you keep with you where you record new words that you hear or read. Steps 4-7 will explain useful ways to use a vocabulary journal.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Organise your journal thematically.

Group words together that relate to a similar topic to make it easier to remember and relate them. These categories could be food, hobbies, nature, society, etc.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: List the different forms of the word.

For example its noun, verb, adjective and adverb form, as well as its past participle. Let’s take the word “manage”. It is a verb. The noun form is “management”, the adjective is “manageable” and the adverb is “manageably”. The past participle is “managed. Now you know five new words instead of one! This will impress your IELTS examiner and increase your mental word bank. A dictionary will usually give you the different word forms abbreviated as (n) for noun (v) for verb, (adj) for adjective and (adv) for adverb.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Collocate!

List words that the word collocates with. For example, manage effectively; manage competently; efficient management; competent management, etc.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Write, write, write!

Writing helps to ingrain new words into your memory. When we hear and see a new word, it becomes part of our passive Our passive vocabulary includes words that we can understand but not use. We want to make new words part of our active vocabulary. This means we can both understand and use new words. To do this, we need to use them! One way is to write sentences using the new word in two or more of its word forms. Even better, integrate reading with writing by writing a short summary of an article you have read using 2 or 3 new words from the article in their various forms. Remember to check your spelling! At the end of each week, go back to your list. Pick 10 words from that week and write a short story, even if it’s just 100 words. It can be a personal reflection, a review of something you read that week, or a practice IELTS essay.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Listen!

Hearing words in context will help you hear how words are used and also familiarise you with their pronunciation. Watch music videos or short movie clips on YouTube with English subtitles. When you hear a word that you don’t know, or have difficulty pronouncing, play it again and sound it out. Also, Ted ESL and Ted Ed are great sources for interesting and inspiring talks on a variety of topics. You can watch videos and read the transcripts to see the spelling of new words that you hear in the talks. This will help you understand the pronunciation of words, how they are used in context, and how they are spelt.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Learn a word a day.

Check the English Learner’s Dictionary word of the day for a new word each day with the definition, pronunciation, word form and example sentences. Add them to your journal list and use them in your journal writing and IELTS writing practice.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Speak!

Incorporate the new words into your everyday conversation. Talk to your friends about a movie you saw or an article you read, or a hobby you did, using new words you learned that week. The best way to remember words is to use them! This will grow your vocabulary and make the word part of your mental word bank. This will increase your speaking fluency which will help you in the IELTS speaking test, and in your everyday English development.

Learn about Jay’s experiences in his IELTS Speaking Exam, on How to get an IELTS 9.

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Written by Jamal Abilmona.

Jamal Abilmona is an expert IELTS teacher, curriculum designer and language buff. She has taught English for general and academic purposes in classrooms around the world and currently writes e-learning material for E2Language.com.

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