OK. So you know that vocabulary is important for IELTS. But really, did you know it is THE most important factor in increasing your band score? So what do I mean by vocabulary? Good vocabulary does not mean big words. In fact, quite the opposite. Having a good vocabulary means using:
- Collocations e.g. bar of soap, utterly stupid etc.
- Common phrasal verbs e.g. ask around, break down etc.
- Fixed and semi-fixed expressions eg. little did I know, all of a sudden
- Less commonly used words and phrases e.g. interpersonal skills, broaden my horizons, human existence
So how does one go about developing a good vocabulary that can enable you to get a better band score? Here’s what I tell my students:
1. Read, read, read – Reading is one of the best ways of developing a good vocabulary. This is because – unlike listening – reading allows you to set the pace.
You can slow down, pause, look up a word in the dictionary, look up it’s synonyms in a thesaurus, look up it’s usage in an online concordance, personalize and write down new vocabulary in a notebook. All of these steps are crucial in ‘making a word / phrase your own’.
2. Listen, listen, listen – Reading is not the only way to improve your vocabulary. Listening allows you to hear how words are used in speech – and remember, speaking is a more important form of communication than writing. Listening is also very important to learn how to pronounce new words.
Most students, however, say listening is boring. My answer is – listening without a purpose is boring. If you have a purpose, if you want to find out something – listening is meaningful. Remember that in the IELTS exam, you will be listening to answer a set of questions. Practise listening the same way – to answer question, to find out something, and you’ll find listening is not a boring activity at all.