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

To score 7+ on test day, you need IELTS synonyms.

This is especially vital for very common words.

Today we’ll share high-scoring alternatives for words you’re guaranteed to use on IELTS.

These will boost both IELTS Speaking and Writing scores.

How to raise your IELTS vocabulary score

The IELTS exam requires you to use varied vocabulary.

This means you need to use both informal and formal vocabulary.

Slang, idioms, phrasal verbs and topic-specific words should all be used.

This is the case for both your Writing and Speaking exams.

Without this variety of vocabulary, you can’t score higher than 6 on the Lexical Resources score.

#1: Big and small

You’re likely to describe sizes on test day.

The words “big” and “small” are extremely low-scoring because they’re so common.

Luckily, there are some alternatives that can increase your score.

  • enormous
  • colossal
  • gigantic

Replace “big” with one of these when writing essays and answering speaking questions.

“Small” is also common and low-scoring.

Instead, use an alternative.

  • miniature
  • microscopic
  • miniscule

Mistake to avoid

If you look for synonyms for small, the thesaurus will give you many results.

One is the word “insignificant.”

This cannot be used to refer to something’s size.

Instead, it is a synonym of unimportant.

#2: Good and bad

Every IELTS speaking test will require you to share opinions.

You will likely want to convey that something is good or bad.

This is also vocabulary that is often needed on IELTS essays.

Both “good” and “bad” are extremely common and therefore, band 6 or lower.

Use synonyms for good to boost your score.

  • exceptional
  • satisfactory

There are also many synonyms for “bad.”

  • dreadful
  • awful
  • poor

Mistakes to avoid

A thesaurus may give you the word “valuable” as a synonym for good.

This has a more specific meaning of worth a lot or having a high value.

Additionally, there are multiple meanings for “poor.”

Be careful to always use words in the correct context.

#3: A lot

You wil likely need to convey amounts.

This can happen both on Writing Task 1 and Task 2 as well as IELTS Speaking.

Replace “a lot” with something less common and higher-scoring.

  • a great deal
  • a vast amount
  • plenty

#4: Very

You are practically guaranteed to need “very” to emphasizse.

There are many higher-scoring ways to convey this idea.

  • extremely
  • tremendously

Mistake to avoid with “very”

Students often use “excessively” when they mean “very.”

This word has a more specific meaning.

Rather than just a lot, it means to much.


To score 7+ on the Vocabulary score, you need less common words.

Your vocabulary must be varied, with both informal and formal language.

Idioms, phrasal verbs, slang and less common words must be used.

Instead of common words big, small, good, bad, very and a lot, use today’s synonyms.

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

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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