Top Tips for IELTS

Improve your word power – think word formation

I sometimes get asked how many words you need to know for IELTS. There are lots of different estimates and I include some links to interesting places to check out at the bottom of this lesson where you can test your vocabulary, but my personal answer is that it is far fewer than you think. I believe that what really matters is that you are able to use the most important words well. You may be surprised at how much you can achieve if you focus on the words that really matter and in many ways this is what my series of daily word activities is all about.

What you will find here is:

  • a brief explanation of word families/word formation and vocabulary learning
  • some basic help on making new words
  • a series of fairly simple exercises (based on list 2 of the Academic Word List) for you test your vocabulary skills

The general idea is to get you interested in vocabulary learning and get you focused on the idea of thinking about learning to use words in context. A really, really important idea.

Understand how English words work

The academic word list only includes 570 words. Not enough you may think. In fact, isn’t 570 words, it includes 570 word families. This means that it introduces you to several thousand words. Plenty of words. Better than that it can help you learn words in an efficient way, as these words are grouped together in related families and it is much, much easier to learn related words than a series of unrelated words. Here’s an example of what I mean. Regulate is one word, but just look below at how many different variations it has. You don’t have to focus on the AWL, but this should demonstrate to you how you can help yourself by learning different forms of each new word you meet.





Test yourself a little – can you identify different parts of speech?

You don’t have to be able to tell what is an adjective/noun/verb/adverb, but it does certainly help. If you can, then you will find that you should be able to choose the correct form of the word more easily and so make fewer grammatical mistakes. You should note that sometimes two answers are correct. This illustrates an important point about English – very often one form of a word performs two jobs: verbs can work as nouns and nouns as adjectives.

Know your parts of speech - AWL list 2

Decide whether these words are adjectives, nouns, verbs or adverbs
Congratulations - you have completed Know your parts of speech - AWL list 2. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Shaded items are complete.

Test yourself some more – complete some sentences

This quiz is slightly tougher. This time I give you some sentences (all of which come from my daily word exercises) and you have to choose the correct form of the word to complete the sentence. As you do this, you should think about:

  • if you need a verb/noun/adjective/adverb
  • what suffixes you add to words to make them verbs/nouns/adjectives/adverbs
  • the words around the gapped words: is there some set phrase you know?

Making new words - AWL list 2

Decide which word best completes the sentence
Congratulations - you have completed Making new words - AWL list 2. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Shaded items are complete.

Really challenge yourself – can you make the words yourself?

I warn you these exercises are much harder. This time around I don’t give you the options. What you need to do is look at the base form of the word and decide how you need to change it to complete the sentence.

Improve and test your vocabulary online

How many words do you know?

  • Testyourvocab – a test that claims to work for small children to college professors!
  • Vocabularysize – another interesting test – this time from Victoria University in Wellington. It also looks at word parts too.
  • JustintimeEnglish – a much quicker test that gives you a rough idea of how many words you know with some sensible comments on how many words yo


Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there


Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email

One Response to Improve your word power – think word formation

  1. Robert July 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Fantastic posts.

    I am learning every corner of your site all this morning.

    Thank you sir.