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

When should you avoid using phrasal verbs on IELTS?

Often they are too informal!

They may also be replacing higher-scoring verbs.

Today we answer a question about the phrasal verb ‘bring about.’

You’ll learn when to use it and band 9 synonyms.

Today’s question

We are often asked about phrasal verbs.

They can be confusing because they often have multiple meanings.

It’s also difficult to know if they’re formal or informal.

Is bring about a formal word? Can I use it for writing task 2? Thanks in advance.


Phrasal verbs on IELTS

In general, you should avoid using phrasal verbs on Writing Task 2.

This is because they are usually more informal than other verbs.

However, you should definitely use them on Speaking Part 1, Part 2 and general training Task 1 informal letters.

These help you reach the variety of vocabulary the scoring system requires.

Some phrasal verbs, such as ‘bring about’ are formal enough for Writing Task 2.

However, there are also many high-scoring alternatives.

#1: Provoke

This verb means to cause an action or emotion.

With specific lessons in school on empathy and negative outcomes, teachers can provoke change in their students’ behavior on social media.

This can be used any time you’re describing how one action led to another.

It is also useful on IELTS speaking!

We use it to say something caused us to become angry or frustrated.

I feel provoked.

The teacher provoked me.

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#2: Generate

This verb means to cause to happen.

It’s hard to generate change without 100% commitment. For example, if I only go for one walk a week, I’m not going to achieve my fitness goals.

This will be useful for many Task 2 Problem/Solution questions.

You can use it to discuss how a government or person can generate change.

#3: Precipitate

This verb means to cause an event or situation.

It’s usually used when discussing situations that are undesirable.

It also means happening suddenly, unexpectedly, or prematurely.

Lack of police presence often precipitates high crime rates.

#4: Give rise to

This phrasal verb means to cause to happen.

Though it is a phrasal verb, it is quite formal and can be used on Writing Task 2.

The recent pandemic gave rise to a host of changes in work-life balance expectations. I think a great number of people have realized that their mental health is more important than their salary.

In fact, some phrasal verbs are too formal for Speaking Part 1.

‘Give rise to’ and ‘bring about’ are examples of these.


Most phrasal verbs should be reserved for the sections of the exam that require informal vocabulary.

However, there are some exceptions!

It’s vital that you learn whether vocabulary is formal or informal.

Today’s vocabulary will help boost your IELTS scores.

For all the strategies you need, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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