Well, for my first piece of advice about the IELTS test, I wanted to talk about vocabulary.

Now, improving vocabulary is a very important thing to do because it has a direct effect on every element of the IELTS test: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking.

We often get students who say “I feel that my vocabulary is weak, so how can I improve?” followed by “which IELTS vocabulary book should I get?” Actually, there are only a very few books which cover vocabulary well, because they do it in themes and have good practice examples. Unfortunately, many other ‘vocabulary books’ just have endless list of words which are not very useful at all. You would be better off just getting a normal dictionary!

To be more specific, the reason that those ‘vocabulary list’ books are not effective is because memorising 500, 700, or even a 1000 random words will not improve your range of vocabulary, and more importantly, you will not improve your ability to actually know how to use or apply them!

It is important to understand that the IELTS test is not just about learning so-called ‘high-level’ or complicated vocabulary, otherwise we could all just memorise a list of complicated and difficult words in the hope that we would automatically get a 7 or higher in IELTS. For example, the word ‘iridescent’ is a lovely-sounding ‘high-level’ word, but it has a very specific and limited usage. I have only used it twice in my life: once in my degree thesis, and once today!

Improving your IELTS vocabulary should be done with the view of thinking: “how well can I understand or talk about a topic?” It is about being of aware of how English language is used naturally. So this includes - of course - the occasional high-level word, but it also means understanding subject-specific terms, it means understanding how to use collocations (words that pair together), it means learning how to use idiomatic phrases, it means understanding common uses of phrasal verbs, it means showing your awareness of expressions that native speakers would use - it means improving your understanding across the range: from casual conversational language, to more academic vocabulary.

If you can do this, you’ll be able to be quicker and more precise at reading, you’ll find it easier to follow and understand the listening across all four parts, you’ll be able express much clearer and stronger viewpoints in your writing, and you’ll be able to tackle all manner of questions in speaking with more confidence and fluency.

Keep studying well!