Increasing your IELTS vocabulary is the KEY to getting a high score in all 4 skills.
But what exactly is ‘IELTS vocabulary’? Is it different from any other kind of vocabulary?
Not really, but there are specific words that come up again and again (get a daily keyword list in my free 28-day planner)
If you think your vocabulary is holding you back from a higher IELTS score, this page gives you tried and tested free resources to help you build your IELTS vocabulary.
Academic IELTS Vocabulary
A really good place to start is the Academic Word List.
Try not to get too overwhelmed though – just use it the short version as a handy guide, and tick off new words as you encounter them.
Always remember to check 3 main things:
i) The meaning
ii) The form/use (how does it work in a sentence?)
iii) The pronunciation
Keep a notebook, and use some of the free websites below to review them regularly (I’ve created some free Word List activities for you on Quizlet, so you can easily practise them track progress and on your phone.
- The Academic Word List (AWL) – PDF version and sublists
- Academic Word List – with all forms (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs)
- Compact version of the Academic Word List – easy to print off and carry around.
- Academic Word List Quizzes – the site is being updated and may not be free for much longer so make the most of it now.
- Sheldon from EAPFoundation.com has an excellent list of Academic Collocations for IELTS here. He also wrote this blog about Wordlists for IELTS.
- Road to Grammar also has a nice quiz using words from the AWL.
- Academic Word List Practice Exercises – another good place to practice.
- Academic Phrase Bank – from Manchester University.
- Phrasal Verbs and Formal synonyms
- A-Z of formal and informal synonyms – the Plain English Campaign
- Try this Academic Word List Highlighter and gapfill tool
Try my Quizlet Set 1 of Academic Words here:
The best way to learn collocation is in context (by reading and listening) but sometimes you need a helping hand.
Here are some useful lists to use as a reference guide (don’t try to learn them all; just start to familiarise yourself with the concept of words that go together)
Pearson Academic Collocation List – 42 pages of academic collocations in a PDF
A – Z of collocations (English Club website)
50 Useful Academic collocations (Italki blog)
My absolute favourite place to check if collocations (plus grammar and lots of other things) are correct is Ludwig.guru.
If you haven’t tried this tool yet, you are seriously missing out. In the Members Academy when students have a tricky question, my first response is “Have you asked Ludwig?”.
Useful sites for IELTS Vocabulary
If you don’t have much time to study, it’s important that you’re reading and listening to the right kind of texts.
My free podcast takes you through different IELTS Listening and Reading texts every week.
See also my blog about where to find IELTS-related Reading Texts.
- Scientific American A useful podcast with 1-minute IELTS-style articles
- TubeQuizard is a fabulous place to do exercises based on well-chosen YouTube videos.
- Sciencedaily.com has very typical IELTS-style articles in bite-sized daily chunks.
(get a student subscription to Newsela and CommonLit included in the Members Academy)
I really love these bite-sized Academic English mini-lectures on YouTube by Mike Gibson. All of the topics are very IELTS-focused.
Useful apps and websites
‘HelloTalk is a great way for students to use and develop their language skills whilst also teaching their own language. The app now has more than 10 million users and a great range of tools to help make the interaction between learners meaningful as a learning experience.’ (Nik Peachey EdTech)
- Youglish Use YouTube to improve your English pronunciation.
- Ulangi ‘A better way to memorize vocabulary’
- Get really useful example sentences and more with Lexico
- Try Memrise for Advanced vocabulary recycling
- See all your words as mindmaps with Visuwords
- Make your own flaschards (or borrow some) with Tinycards
- Download Anki for regular revision of new words
- How to use anki
- The Collocation Game App revises academic words
Do you need motivation, high-quality materials, a roadmap, feedback, guidance and an IELTS specialist teacher?
Upgrade to the Members Academy today.
Get instant access to all courses, challenges, boot camps, live classes, interactive and engaging classes, 1:1 support, and a friendly tight-knit community of like-minded learners to get you to Band 7+.