Top Tips for IELTS

IELTS essay vocabulary

What is the most useful vocabulary for writing IELTS essays? I’d suggest that it is the vocabulary that you can use in any essay, no matter what it is about. I this post I give you a useful list of vocabulary that you can down load and use in all sorts of essays. I also show you a way of using this vocabulary to help structure your essays and make them more coherent.

IELTS  essay vocabulary for download

IELTS essay vocabulary (138045)– a download of IELTS essay vocabulary list

Problem vocabulary – language to help you write about problems that need solving (download here: Problem vocabulary for IELTS essays (72711))

Cautious vocabulary – language to make your writing more academic (down load here: Academic caution vocabulary (64628))

How to structure an IELTS essay using key vocabulary

I would suggest that one way you can use this type of vocabulary is to help structure your writing. This has two benefits:

  1. it makes the writing process easier because a significant amount of the language you need is “structural” – if you learn to use this vocabulary, almost half your essay is already written
  2. it makes your writing more coherent by helping you to write essays with a clear structure

An example of an essay map

To show you what I mean, take a look at this outline of an essay. It contains 125 words: that is half of all the words you need for an IELTS essay.

One of the most controversial issues today relates to . ……………. In this essay, I am going to examine this question from both points of view

On one side of the argument there are people who argue that the benefits of considerably outweigh its disadvantages. The main reason for believing this is that …………………. It is also possible to say that …….One good illustration of this is ………….

On the other hand, it is also possible to make the opposing case. It is often argued that in fact ……….. People often have this opinion because …………… A second point is that ………..A particularly good example here is…………..

As we have seen, there are no easy answers to this question. On balance, however, I tend to believe that ……………..

Where else can you find this vocabulary?

  1. A sensible way to find more similar vocabulary is by reading sample essays and noting down useful phrases. Look for phrases that seem useful to you and note them down.
  2. Another great resource is of course the Academic Word List which comprises the 560 words most used in academic writing of all kinds.
  3. You will also find lots more vocabulary resources on my vocabulary page together with advice on how to use it.

Should you just learn these phrases?

That depends. If you are looking for a “quick fix” to get a result asap, it is one possible approach. However, that may not work. If your general English is of a lower standard, the examiner is likely to realise that these are “learnt” phrases and you may not get credit for them.

If you have more time to prepare, I have another suggestion. Adopt and adapt. This means:

  • you choose a few of these phrases – not all of them
  • you see how they work by trying them in your own essays
  • you adapt them to your writing

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33 Responses to IELTS essay vocabulary

  1. D.A.S. April 30, 2009 at 5:56 am #

    Hi Dominic! 🙂 This is my reply to the comment you posted on my blog. Sure, I’d like to help you out. Actually, I was really planning to put a tutorial and link on templatize regarding dropdown menus, but since it may take a while to write down that post, just follow this link to download your menu creator. It’s pretty simple to use anyway. 🙂

  2. D.A.S. April 30, 2009 at 6:27 am #

    Sorry, my mistake…this is the correct link–>

    I'm now making a tutorial for this to be posted at templatize. Sorry if I tried reaching you by using comments. I didn't know how else to get to you.

  3. claire January 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    hi dominic! I would like to know if your pen craft (whether you write in bold or script) affects your score. I have taken ielts twice and although I got 8 in all subtest, the result of my writing remained to be 6.5. It’s frustrating because I need to get a score of 7 on this subtest but I cannot pinpoint why I keep on getting 6.5. I wonder what is lacking on my writing. Please reply. Thanks!

    • Dominic Cole June 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

      Your handwriting is unlikely to affect your test score – unless the examiner cannot read it. However, it is a mistake to write in capitals (if that is what you mean by bold).

  4. Ankit Bhardwaj March 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    First of all, i would like to appreciate your blog which helps the ielts test takers like me immensely to score good bands.However, i want to ask you about the confusion which i have about the opinion or situation based essay. It sometimes ask about the reasons to be addressed behind the situation. How should we proceed with that? I am giving an example like:
    “Paying more money is the only possible motivation to make employees work harder and to increase their productivity. Do you agree? Give reasons and include relevant examples”.
    Can we make this an argumentative essay?

    Ankit Bhardwaj

    • Dominic Cole June 26, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      The “give reasons” language is asking you to expand your points sensibly – don’t say what you think, explain why you think it. Here you need to say whether you agree and explain why. That’s all there is to it.

      • sam September 16, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

        i just want to get to phone numbr to get some valuable tips about ielts writing to talk diract to you to clear my confusion about writing tips.

  5. student May 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    i am facing abig problem with writing, could you pleas help me

  6. john September 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Have you actually tried pushing this past a real IELTS examiner? The ones I know say that using boilerplate like you suggest will just lose marks, particularly in speaking, because it is nothing more than a time-waster, a distraction strategy, and it adds nothing to the answer.

    • Dominic Cole September 25, 2011 at 3:15 am #

      If you read the post, you wouldn’t need to ask the question. But may I direct you to the section headed “Should you just learn these phrases?” and ask you to do a little reflection?

      Which is more valid – learning individual words or learning language chunks?
      Which is more effective – learning words in context or learning words out of context?
      Which makes the better essay – one that uses structural language to add coherence or one that doesn’t?

      As it happens, I did all the training to become an IELTS examiner. i simply decided that I had had enough of public examining.

  7. somi January 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    hi sir

    when i was checking ur ielts essay vocabulary lesoon i came across an essay map for task 2 i found it very helpful i thank u for dat

    and i request u send me an essay map of task 1 pie chart and bar graph too as i am very much confused and have less time to prepare
    waiting eagerly
    thank u

  8. somi January 11, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    hi sir

    when i was checking ur ielts essay vocabulary lesoon i came across an essay map for task 2 i found it very helpful i thank u for dat

    and i request u send me an essay map of task 1 pie chart and bar graph too as i am very much confused and have less time to prepare
    waiting eagerly
    thank u again

    • Dominic Cole January 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

      Thank you for reminding me – I need to update that “essay map”. I’ll think about task 1 too. I’m concentrating on essays this month, but I’ll try and post something on task 1 next week.

  9. somi January 12, 2012 at 3:58 am #

    hi sir

    actually my exam is tomorrow if u can plzzzzzz send me an essay map for the task 1 pie chart and bar graph today itself i will very greatful to u as i am very much tensed because of shortage of time of time.

    hope u will help me
    thank u

    • Dominic Cole January 12, 2012 at 4:11 am #

      Sorreeee. Busy with an essay task at the mo. In any event, if it’s tomorrow – today is too late. Instead, I’d try relaxing and forgetting all the good advice you have read – here and elsewhere – and just focus on one thing – ANSWERING the QUESTION.

      There are, as we say in English, many different ways of skinning a cat and it can be positively dangerous to learn a map. In fact, the post you refer needs revision – it’s one of my first posts. While the advice in it is good – I worry that it is slightly dangerous in that it could encourage you to answer questions in one way as opposed to focussing on the question in front of you.

      For task 1 – here is what I say. Spend time understanding the diagram. Look for the key points. Then pick out the details that explain those points. Then organise those points logically into paras. In other words, treat it as you would treat an essay. You won’t go far wrong that way.

      It’s really just another bit of writing. Problems tend to come when you start to treat it as a specialised form of writing. You can argue that you can do different things in the intro/conclusion, (i.e. use the intro as a summary/conclusion) but that is not so very important.

      Best of luck and let me know how it goes.

  10. vesna March 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Dear Cole,

    I am seriously the worst test taker and have anxiety thinking about taking this test again…My band score is avarage 7 . I have problems putting these two marks at a required minimum which is 6.5 for reading and 7.0 for writing. I have done this test many times and my scores always vary. My listening and speaking skills are fine.I am stuck!

    I really appreciate your help Dominic !!!

    Thanks, you are fabulous !

  11. Soomro April 9, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    Hi Dear Cole

    I need to write Academic IELTS and need 7 Band in each section.

    Would you please advice me where and how can I purchase the IELTS Preparation material, if you have, as I can not read on computer. I would appreciate if you have printed material for IELTS Academic preparation ( all sections )…I want to purchase it as I really like you web site and material and advices.

  12. sandeep grewal April 26, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    i just want to know, should we used this essay map for ielts exam, because i am
    not good in writing eassy, plz send me some example done through this essay map.
    plz plz revert me asap.
    sandeep grewal

  13. Nadia May 14, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    I just want to say that your essay structuring style is amazing……..No words to describe your talent of teaching…..

    Many thanx for the great help & effort.

    Best wishes & regards.

  14. Arash May 29, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Anywhere on the web that I can find such phrases as you mentioned above Dominic? thanks

  15. Tahin November 22, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    Hi Dominic. Your site is very useful thanks a lot for your help.

  16. Bimal December 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    Thank you for operating this wonderful website. I went through this website and was able to get 7 in writing, reading and listening. Even i am happy for my overall band score, which will definitely help me to join top university in Australia.

    Best wishes and regards.

  17. jon December 28, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    hi i want ask you that i will do ielts exam for the first time and i scare a lot what i should focuse on my exam after 8 days i scare from reading and speaking alittle help me

  18. jon December 28, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    oh sorry i forget to thank you about the amazing writing subject here

  19. Chet April 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Hi Dominic my headache is reading. I think i need soecial tricks. Looking fir your advice. Ta..

  20. Parag September 7, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Hi Dominic
    i want specific subject wise vocabulary

  21. Gajendiran September 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    Hai..Dominic, SEP 21ST i am going to write my IELTS Exam..Earlier july 27th i was appeared my exam,i got overall score 5, But I need 6 in each module and overall score 6.5 …Many times I practiced Reading and Listening..but I am not get good score in Mock test….wat can i do?

  22. Joe October 10, 2013 at 1:30 am #

    Hi Dominic I am pretty much pleased with your good Work. You put really very helpful information.

    Thank you

  23. Sudheer November 26, 2014 at 2:48 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    1) I attempted IELTS twice, with BT for the first time and with IDP for the next. But my IDP scores were very bad compared to ones with BT. And that’s why I enrolled with BT this time. Does the score really depend on this?
    1st attempt – L-7.5, R-8.5, S-7.5, W-6.5 (Overall-7.5)
    2nd attempt – L-7.0, R-7.5, S-6.0, W-6.0 (Overall-6.5)

    2) One of my tutors said that we should avoid writing MUST, SHOULD in essays because we should always try to be morally good by using words like MAY HAVE TO. Is it really the case? Does IELTS examiners cut marks for writing such words (MUST, SHOULD)?

    Thank you

    • Dominic Cole December 1, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      In a word no. But your tutor does have a point about the need to vary your language and not use must and should blindly.

  24. satish March 26, 2015 at 11:56 pm #

    I have written mu exam 6 times

  25. Arics October 25, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Firstly, thanks to your contribution, but I still have a question about the introduction of an IELTS essay. If the question is “discuss both of the opinions and then give your personal opinion”, should we include the personal thought in introduction or not? looking forward to your reply~

  26. Daniela September 10, 2017 at 11:36 pm #

    I have recently thought of a question, I think I know the anwser but I want to be sure, writing in first person is allow in all types of essays? (Essays on the test)

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