IELTS Vocabulary 

General Facts 

So you’ve decided to take the International English Language Testing System exam or IELTS for short. IELTS is an exam that tests your language proficiency and gives you a score from a low level (band 1) to expert (band 9). You can use an IELTS certification for academic reasons, professional reasons, or many more. There are many different locations around the world where you are able to take the test. But first, let’s talk about the types of vocabulary that you have to study when preparing for IELTS.

Vocabulary Topics 

When you take the IELTS exam you are going to have to be able to use and understand vocabulary from a series of different topics. You never know what you will have to talk about, so make sure to be able to hold a conversation about many things. Below is a list of popular topics that you’ll find on the test.

Vocabulary Topics 

  • Advertising
  • Environment
  • Shopping
  • Weather
  • Music and Entertainment
  • Towns and Cities
  • Business
  • Describing People
  • Clothes and Fashion
  • Accommodation
  • Books and Films
  • Health
  • Work
  • Education
  • Food
  • Sport and Exercise
  • Technology
  • Relationships
  • Holiday


It seems like a lot to study, so here are some tips for the best way to tackle the vocabulary:

  • Don’t just study a list of vocabulary – try to learn the vocabulary in ways that are interesting to you! If you sit down and try to memorize a list of words you are more likely to forget them! Instead, try reading books and articles in English that use vocabulary from different topics. Or maybe, if you prefer, you can watch a short youtube video about it, listen to a podcast, or watch a film or series! 
  • Try and incorporate the vocabulary in your daily life. You should try and use the vocabulary you learn as much as possible so it becomes natural. For example, if you are practicing vocabulary about food, try to think of words in English when you’re at the supermarket! Or, if you are going on a trip try and describe what you will do on the trip in English!
  • Give extra attention to the topics that you do NOT find interesting. It’s easier for us to learn vocabulary for a topic that we like to talk about. While this is great, it means you have to give extra attention to the vocabulary you find more challenging.
  • Study it a little bit at a time. It takes our brain time to absorb new information so don’t overload it! Practice for 20 to 30 minutes a day and then choose one day a week to review the vocabulary in that topic.

Phrasal verbs 

It doesn’t just stop with learning vocabulary. In English, there are lots of phrasal verbs that you have to learn if you want to score high on the IELTS exam. A phrasal verb is a phrase that is made of a verb and another element, normally a preposition or an adverb, or sometimes both! Common phrasal verbs you may know are turn on, turn off, shut down, come across, drop by, etc…

      • The best way to learn phrasal verbs is to use them in context. Watching movies in English with subtitles in English will help you hear and see the phrasal verbs in a context, this way you can understand and remember them better!
  • Also, whenever you are practicing English and you use a verb, think about whether or not that verb could be replaced with a phrasal verb, most of the time it can!
  • Be really careful though, you have to focus on the prepositions in phrasal verbs because using the incorrect preposition can change the meaning entirely!


Don’t let collocations scare you away either! Collocations are just a group of words that tend to be used together. Examples of collocations are pay attention, make an effort, or have fun. You probably already know a lot of collocations without even realizing it. 

      • Similar to phrasal verbs, the best way to learn them is to watch movies and series in English as well as talking to natives. That way you will learn them naturally and start using them!


Finally, we get to idioms. An idiom is a group of words, normally a sentence, that means something different than what each individual word means. For example, to say you have cold feet does not literally mean your feet are cold, it means that you are nervous about something.

      • Some idioms are the same in multiple languages and so they’ll be easier to learn. Other ones are not! The best way to learn idioms is to think of a common situation that an idiom could be used in. That way the idiom will make more sense and be easier for you to use on your exam. 

To Summarize…

Make sure to have a general knowledge of each vocabulary topic, be able to use phrasal verbs instead of verbs, review collocations so you sound just like a native, and make sure to incorporate some idioms in your studies!


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