Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

Today you’ll learn band 9 IELTS vocabulary for reputations.

You will likely need to describe yourself or others.

A great detail to include is what type of reputation they have.

However, you need high level words and phrases for this!

We’ll teach you these with sample answer sentences today.

Today’s question

If I could asked you a question about episode 1855: “Why Does Times Square Get a Bad Rap?

I’m trying my best to understand ‘a bad rap.’

However, I listened to the episode more than twice.

Hope you can assist me in this point.

This question is about an episode of one of our other podcasts, All Ears English.

However, we’re answering it here on IELTS Energy because this is great vocabulary for the exam!

#1: Bad rap

To answer this listener’s question, a ‘bad rap’ is a bad reputation.

You will hear both ‘bad rap’ and ‘bad rep.’

It is sometimes talking about a reputation that is unfair or not deserved.

You can use this to talk about both people and places.

My city gets a bad rap sometimes, because of the homeless people everywhere, but it’s really one of the most stunning places I’ve ever lived.

You can also talk about a celebrity having a ‘bad rap’ and share whether you think it is deserved or not.

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#2: Unsavory

You will hear this about people, places, events etc.

It means unpleasant and sometimes implies a lack of morals.

I find heavy metal to be unsavory, shall we say.

Honestly, it just sounds like someone is screaming at me and it makes me very uncomfortable.

#3: Black mark

This is used as a noun and indicates something that negatively affects a reputation.

  • Black mark: something that makes a person or thing less perfect or less good

You can use this to describe something that affected your reputation or someone else’s.

I was always late when I was in high school, which was a black mark against me, but my teachers all really loved me because I got straight A’s and made them laugh.

#4: Besmirch

This verb is used both literally and idiomatically.

The literal definition of besmirch means to make dirty.

Idiomatically, it means to damage one’s reputation.

I found out my friend was spreading rumors about me in an attempt to besmirch my reputation.

This phrase will be useful for questions about work and study, which you’re likely to get on test day.

It can also be used to discuss wanting success or achievement.

I don’t want to besmirch my family name so I am always on my best behavior.

#5: Sullied reputation

‘Sullied’ is a band 9 verb for hurt, destroy or ruin.

We often collocate it with reputations.

She sullied her reputation for being an A student when she failed the exam.

You can describe your reputation at work or with friends.

The flexibility is here to share that something is or isn’t sullied.


You will likely need to describe people or places on the IELTS Speaking exam.

Be ready with high level vocabulary to describe reputations!

Today’s phrases can be fit into so many answers.

Practice using them to answer questions about people, places, study and work.

For all the strategies you need on the IELTS exam, sign up for our online course!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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