IELTS Energy 177: Our Expert Advice on Improving IELTS Vocabulary

IELTS English vocabularyAre you confused and lost when it comes to IELTS vocabulary? What words should you use and when should you use them?

Today you’ll get our expert advice on how to improve your IELTS vocabulary.

Today we have a question from an IELTS Energy listener:

“My biggest concern is whether the examiners look for fancy phrases in writing and speaking or whether it’s more preferable to use a natural, daily life style with vocabulary and structure.

At the test center where I go the teachers always give us really bulky words.”

-IELTS Energy Listener


Jessica’s response:

Jessica Beck IELTS Professional“In speaking you do not need to use only fancy words. To get a 7 or higher you must use a range of formal and informal words.

You can go online and look at the descriptors.

You need to use “interesting and idiomatic language.”

– Jessica Beck, 10 year IELTS Professional


In Speaking Parts 1 and 2:

Use more informal and natural language.

To do this you can start with a short list and take a few of them into the exam with you.

Check out some of our vocabulary episodes like phrasal verbs about age.

You need to start with the list but then you must practice them.

This will start to move the examiner’s mind up from a 6 to a 7.


Speaking Part 3:

You need to throw in Academic words and phrases in Speaking Part 3.

Remember you MUST practice using these.

Take it one step at a time.

Take a chance and try to use a new word when you practice your English.

It’s easier to get used to using these words in writing but you need to use this range of vocabulary on both IELTS Writing and IELTS speaking.

Also you MUST have linking words!

Practice them.

Get comfortable with them.


Ask your teacher!

When your teacher gives you a list of vocabulary and tells you to use them on the test you should ask your teacher why those specific words are going to increase your score.

If they can’t tell you why and how, then you should make a better choice when it comes to an IELTS course.


Ask us your questions in the comments below.

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  • 1) Vocabulary in Speaking Part 1&2 :
    Use a range of more formal words and natural native language
    2) Vocabulary in Speaking Part 3 :
    Throw in awesome high-level academic / specific words , linking phrases , phrasal verbs , idioms , synonyms
    It doesn’t have to very fancy or bulky words to get a 7 or higher in IELTS Speaking Test .

  • Skander

    thanks thanks and thanks Lindsay and Michelle you’re awesome!

  • soongjae

    As suggested in the show, doing listening practice with transcripts is a good idea.

    First, I’d ask people if they are listening to NPR or CNN or something along those lines because they’re personally interested in it, or because it’s one of the highly recommended English study materials. If your answer is the former, consider reading the transcript of a radio program you listen to to get familiarized with the kind of English used by those hosting radio shows on certain topics.

    If your answer is the latter, which was the case for me a while back, first, relax. Your English listening skills aren’t doomed.

    Next, what are you into? What could you easily spend a couple of hours listening to every day? Identify it, get online (or go to Podcasts on your iPhone), and look for just the video or audio that talks about it. I think it’s best if the material is made by a native English speaker and geared to native English speakers, which means that the English used in the video or audio is 100% authentic, it’s not to teach English, and so on.

  • Thiago Silva

    Hi guys, my name is Thiago, I am from Brazil and I have a question for you 🙂 . I am starting to learn Japanese now, but I don’t know if the right thing to do is “study” the language through my native language or through English. I think that through English I’d be doing two things at once, practicing English and Japanese. But I heard that if you learn through you mother tongue, the ideas and concepts of the words and culture will deeper inside our brain(I don’t know if it’s true). So, that’s it, what’s your opinion. What should I do 🙂 . Thanks

    • Anne-Sophie Gambier

      Hi Thiago, a fascinating question to me, about dealing with one’s mother tong and foreign languages. I am French, when I was living in Germany, I practiced almost daily a good level of Spanish and English there (And I learned before a few Japanese, the kanas and some kanjis. Not to speak about the many languages I tried…)

      So some day, I decided to study Russian from a German method, I thought I’d become crazy. Horrible. It’s really difficult, painful sometimes, to switch from a foreign language to another foreign language. An example: I spoke better Spanish than German when I arrived in Hamburg. I came once into a bar to ask for an information — in German so — but the words came in Spanish into my mind! I was starring the waitress without saying a sound, until I translated in my mother tongue (in mind) to find a way back to German. But I met a French Girl in Germany studying there Chinese for several years, and feeling perfectly well! Perhaps a more trained brain.

      Scientists say if we are truely bilingual, it’s much easier to learn several languages. I suppose the better you know each of foreign languages, the easier your brain can switch between them. I don’t really answer your question, but the most important to me is really to avoid such stressful language learning moments which can really hinder it. You can give a try studying Japanese from English and see what happens. It’s also specific to Japanese to use 3 kind of writings, included “drawings”, maybe does it help to learn. And the structure of English is more relax than the German one.

      I am curious to know what Lindsay think of all of this.

  • akiko

    Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m Akiko from Japan.
    I’m really interested in this topics, and there are many tips for me.
    I studied english at uni but i didn’t have a chance to go study abroad or something kind of that. But I do want to make my listening and speaking skills more rich, I listen to this amazing podcast everyday.
    I get some good information or tips from every topics. I really love this podcast.
    Thank you for reading this. Have a great day!

  • AlUribe2020

    Hi again girls!
    I don´t know why, but this episode was so beautiful and useful than any other I have listened. This episode is a classic because you have tought us the really important about speaking: No matter how many words you know, but what you do with your English.
    We can know just 500 words but if your fluency of your ability to handle ideas is good, you are a good speaker.
    Maybe levels don´t exist but in our closed imagination. We speak well regardless any level.
    Thanks for giving this episode.
    And I reepeat: This AEE episode is a classic.

  • Argenis

    A very interesting topic, i liked it very much and i think your podcasts are great, I’m listening them at my mp3 player every day while I´m doing chores at home , thanks so much