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

What is the difference between the verbs “realize” and “notice”?

It might surprise you to know that these are not synonyms!

Today we’ll teach you 5 “knowing” phrases.

These all describe how our brains know things.

Many of these seem like synonyms, but they’re not.

We’ll discuss each verb and how they’re different.

Today’s question

I have a question here. I’m not really clear about the difference of those verbs below. Especially this verb “acknowledge”  is the one that makes me baffled all the time.

  • To be aware of
  • To realize
  • To acknowledge
  • To notice
  • To know

#1: To be aware of

To be aware of: keep in mind, watch for

This verb has 2 meanings.

  • 1) same as know, no time connoted
  • 2) warning-watch out

You could use this in Speaking if you get an unfamiliar question.

Be aware, sir, that I do not have a lot of experience with museums; nonetheless, I will do my best to answer.

You can also use it on Writing Task 2 as a parallel for “know.”

Many countries are aware that their policies greatly affect…

#2: To realize

This is related to time.

It’s when you start to be aware of something.

To realize: become aware of, understand clearly

Suddenly, I realized that the room was empty and I had the wrong time for the class!

Use it at the beginning of a Speaking answer.

I realize not everyone would agree with this, but…

This is a good filler phrase to give you a second to think of an answer!

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#3: To acknowledge

This has 2 uses as well.

To acknowledge: publicly accept or recognize something; to recognize or accept as true

We used this in the beginning of the episode to acknowledge and congratulate Ivan for his great IELTS exam scores!

You’ll hear it at an awards ceremony where someone is acknowledged for an accomplishment.

The second use is to recognize something as true or possibly true.

We use this often for concessions.

I acknowledge you feel that way and you might be right; nevertheless, I still think that…

Jessica recently leveled up our 3 Keys IELTS Writing module and added lessons on how to write high scoring concessions.

These are necessary in order to address both sides of an issue when writing an Opinion essay.

#4: To notice

To notice: observing or paying attention to something you see at the moment

This is related to time.

It’s about something you observe in that moment.

Even if you’re talking about something that happened in the past, it’s still connected to time.

As soon as I arrived, I noticed something was wrong.

#5: To know

To know: to have an awareness gained by experience

This is a band 6 word.

You can definitely use it, but there are higher level options!

Be sure not to repeat it.

Instead, use one of the other phrases about knowing that fit the context.

Will you see these on IELTS Reading and Listening?

Most definitely!

Be aware that any of these could be a parallel on the Reading or Listening exams.

Though they each have different meanings, they are similar enough that IELTS can use them as parallels for keywords.

Rarely will the same keyword be in the question and the passage.

It’s vital that you’re familiar with parallels that you might see on IELTS!


There are many verbs that can be used to describe knowing or being aware of something.

They each have specific meanings!

Practice using these in context so you use them correctly on test day.

And be sure to subscribe to the IELTS Energy podcast so you don’t miss any of our amazing IELTS content!

Not only do we teach high level vocabulary, but we also share tips about the exam as well as strategies to use!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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