Top Tips for IELTS

Using collocations to increase your word power

This is another review lesson on the words from list 2 of the academic word list. The focus this time is on collocations. The idea is that if you want to be able to use a word, you really need to know what the next word is too. We don’t use words by themselves, we use them together. So don’t learn individual words by themselves, focus on what other words they are used with – collocations. To help you on your way, I show your 4 ways learning collocations can improve your English, then give you a quick quiz on some collocations from list 2 of the AWL.

Some examples of collocations in action

Here are just four ways in which learning collocations can help improve your English:

1. new meanings and uses for old words

Construct may mean almost the same as build. The word is much more useful than that though. If you combine constructive with criticism, you get the collocation constructive criticism, where constructive means something like positive. This is efficient learning: you don’t need to learn new words all the times, you can learn as much by using words you already know more flexibly.

2. saying something more precisely

Another way collocations can help is that they help you add meaning to what you say. So  “There is no doubt but that television commercials affect our buying habits.” is a good sentence, but knowing the collocation significantly affect allows you to add meaning so that you can now write: “There is no doubt but that television commercials significantly affect our buying habits.”

3. avoiding mistakes

One common problem in IELTS is that candidates use words wrongly. The word may mean what you think it means, it’s just that we don’t typically use it that way in English. So, for instance, you may try and write “home consumers are responsible for a large amount of waste”. Your meaning may be clear but the much better variation is “domestic consumers are responsible for a large amount of waste.”

4. learning grammar

Sometimes it is quite hard to see where vocabulary ends and grammar begins. One way of “learning” some more complex grammar is not to think about rules – which may be very complex – but rather to look at examples of correct English. An example of this in action is by learning patterns of usage such as adverb-adjective from the collocation potentially fatal.

AWL list 2 collocations

Choose the best word to complete these sentences. Sometimes more there may be more than one choice but you should aim for collocations that are as accurate as possible.
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Congratulations - you have completed AWL list 2 collocations. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
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7 Responses to Using collocations to increase your word power

  1. roshav July 23, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    Thanks Dominic,

    71%. Is it enough? If it is possible next time put again some explanations to the answers.

    Thank you for your effort.

    • Dominic Cole July 24, 2012 at 8:24 am #

      It depends on how many times you get 71%. It’s not so much how good you are, it’s whether you are improving or not.

  2. Farah August 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I achieved 81% and I think it was easier for me.I want to practice more please give me more list

  3. aman dhillon December 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Thanks Dominic,

  4. MIRGANI February 23, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    I got 91 % .thanks for the test looking for more .

  5. Abdikadir August 11, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to Dominic, I come across my websites which are meant to help ielts students but I believe your examples and the way you design the lessons is the best method to get an overview of the exam.

  6. Tuan September 10, 2015 at 8:52 am #

    I got 11/12, 94%

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