IELTS Vocabulary

Introduction to IELTS vocabulary

If you are new to IELTS you should understand that:

vocabulary is 25% of your score in both writing and speaking

both reading and listening also test your vocabulary

What is the best way to learn IELTS vocabulary?

Easy. Read and listen lots and lots and then practise using the words you’ve read or heard. It’s important to see that there’s a big difference between understanding a word and being able to use it.

This lesson on reading skills shows you several different exercises that you can do to improve your vocabulary skills:

activities to train your reading and vocabulary skills

Tips on studying and improving vocabulary

General advice on learning vocabulary for IELTS

10 top tips on learning IELTS vocabulary – advice on how to improve your vocabulary for IELTS.

A 5 step procedure to avoid mistakes with vocabulary – advice on different ways not to make so many mistakes with vocabulary in essays

Don’t forget your dictionary

Dictionaries may seem boring but they help in lots of ways. They are not just for finding the meanings of words. If you’re smart you’ll use a free online dictionary to help yourself learn the most important words better. I show you how to do this in this lesson:

Improve your IELTS vocabulary with online dictionaries


The vocabulary you need for IELTS

You’ll find a huge amount of resources linked to from this page. Why? You need a huge amount of vocabulary in IELTS. These are some of the areas you need to work on:

topic specific words – e.g. words for the environment and technology

academic words for writing

functional words for speaking – e.g. how to give opinions and examples

functional words for writing – e.g. common linking words and phrases

idioms and colloquial phrases for speaking

words for academic task 1 e.g. words to describe trends

specialised letter writing words

IELTS essay vocabulary

This is where I keep my essay vocabulary – downloaded over 150,000 times so far! See if you like it too.

IELTS essay vocabulary

You will also find that all my model IELTS essays come with vocabulary exercises too. One of the best ways to learn vocabulary is to see how it is used in context:

Get over 30 IELTS essays  – all with vocabulary exercises

The Academic Word List

You may also try my  exercises on the Academic Word List to help with IELTS essay writing. They are the most commonly used words in academic writing and are among the most useful words for you to know how to use in IELTS.

Daily words

8 exercises to improve your essay vocabulary

Academic Word List exercises

Task 1 writing

For academic task 1 there are several areas of vocabulary you need to master.

Trends over time

Basic vocabulary to describe graphs: basic variations of trend vocabulary

More advanced vocabulary to describe charts and graphs: a list of words and phrases to boost your band score


How to use quantifiers correctly to describe numbers : a grammar/vocabulary lesson on how to avoid some basic mistakes and a gapfill exercise to complete a table


More advanced vocabulary to make comparisons: useful words that you can use to qualify your comparisons (eg considerably greater)

Processes and maps

Download of vocabulary to help you describe process diagrams: Sequencing language for process diagrams (42285)

Letter writing vocabulary

In IELTS letters you need to be able to use a range of different vocabulary.

Informal letters

some phrasal verbs

some idioms

chatty vocabulary quite like speech

More formal letters

formal phrases

Standard letter writing phrases

There are certain phrases we commonly use in letters. These vary between more formal and less formal letters.

phrases to start and close informal letters

phrases to start and close more formal letters

Common functional vocabulary

You also need to be able to use words and phrases for the things we do in everyday life such as

apologiseApology words and phrases:




More functional writing vocabulary 

This set of vocabulary is extremely important as it helps you with the things that almost every type of IELTS writing requires.

Connectors to express contrast – a range of different ways to join sentences without using “but” or “although” – excellent for improving your range of grammar

The language of problems – a post explaining the need to use varies vocabulary to describe problems with a download and an interactive exercise

Cause and effect 1 : basic variations of cause and effect vocabulary

Academic caution (1) – advice on how to extend your answer in part 3 speaking by being more cautious

Academic caution (2) –  how to improve your writing with specific and general language

Impersonal language for academic essays: a list of impersonal “it”. “there” and “one” phrases to make your writing more academic

IELTS topic Vocabulary

These are the most common topic in IELTS and so I suggest you try the vocabulary lists here



Climate change







University education


The environment

Music –


Your home town in part 1 speaking: download and quiz


Advice on vocabulary for use in the speaking test

Idioms and phrases for speaking about time: some excellent natural phrases to help you improve your part 2 speaking score

IELTS speaking – opinion vocabulary – a video post with a download to help improve the range of your opinion vocabulary by not saying “I think” all the time

IELTS speaking – the language of comparison – how to use the language of comparison in speaking to extend your answers with an emphasis on using a range of different structures. Comes with a downloadable worksheet.

Vocabulary for giving more fluent answers –  a downloadable list of helpful phrases to allow you to pause intelligently and make your speaking more fluent

Idioms for relationships: 30 idioms that are great for speaking about people in part 2

Really useful words

This is a series of lessons of individual words that we use a lot in English and can make a big difference to both your speaking and your writing.

actually and in fact


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