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

Students often get tripped up with similar vocabulary words that have very different meanings.

Today you’ll learn 4 different vocabulary pairs that you’ll want to keep straight on IELTS.

These are interesting, high level words.

You could see them anywhere on the exam.

  • Listening audio and answers
  • Reading passages and questions
  • Use them in Writing essays
  • Use them on IELTS Speaking

Be ready with today’s tips!

To find out what score you’d get if you took IELTS today, take our free quiz!

#1: Relocate / Dislocate

On a recent essay, Aubrey saw a vocabulary error.

The student was describing a map.

They used this sentence:

Regarding the other two rose gardens, they were dislocated to the other side of the park.

  • relocate: move to a new location
  • dislocate: to be put out of place

We usually hear ‘dislocate’ when describing bones that are out of place.

He dislocated his elbow and the doctor had to set it.

Study prefixes and suffixes

One way to avoid this type of error is to learn what each prefix and suffix means.

For example:

  • dis
  • re
  • un
  • pre

This will help you guess the meanings of words on the Reading and Listening exams.

You are guaranteed to encounter new words on the IELTS exam.

You need strategies to be able to understand them from context.

Pay attention to prefixes and suffixes to help decipher their meaning!

#2: Misappropriate / Inappropriate

  • Inappropriate: not suitable

This is used to describe actions or words that aren’t ideal for a situation.

They’re not appropriate.

It could easily be confused for the word misappropriate, as the only difference is the prefix!

  • Misappropriate: used unjustly or unfairly

We often hear this used to describe government bodies.

The committee misappropriated funds that were meant for schools.

This is a band 9 word.

It’s high level and impressive, and students should use it on Task 2 essays and Part 3 Speaking answers!

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#3: Overdone / Undone

  • Overdone: Done too much; too many times

When something is overcooked, we say it is overdone.

Every time I cook steaks, they end up overdone!

Use this to replace “too much” or “too many.”

I feel like that type of music is a bit overdone.

On Writing Task 2, you can use this to say something needs to be happen.

Instead, write that it cannot be overdone.

This type of governmental intervention cannot be overdone.

Undone: to come apart

Your shoelaces have come undone!

Idioms and slang for losing control

Undone can also be used as slang for losing control.

  • Undone: slang for panicking

I’m coming undone!

An idiom with a similar meaning is “unraveling at the seams.”

She’s really stressed out lately. She’s unraveling at the seams!

This has great imagery of an article of clothing unraveling where the seams meet.

Imagine pulling the thread of a sweater while it unravels.

#4: Amoral / Immoral

  • Amoral: without judgment of good and bad/right and wrong

Morals are judgments about what is right and what is wrong.

Policies or people that are amoral are not saying something is good or bad.

I have an amoral stance on marriage.

This means you’re not judging whether it’s bad or good.

You believe anyone should be able to marry and wouldn’t pass judgment.

  • Immoral: behavior that is judged as wrong or bad

I feel that it is immoral for nations to not help those in need.

Governments cannot have an amoral attitude about immigration.

Use your vocabulary notebook!

Choose a couple of these words that you feel would be especially helpful on IELTS.

Add them to your vocabulary notebook!

Be sure to add them in context with example sentences.

Use example sentences that have personal meaning for you.

This will help you remember them.

Then, most importantly, use them when answering practice questions.

Use them when conversing with others in English.

As you learn new vocab, it’s vital that you use it often!

This way you’ll be ready to use it correctly on test day!


You need high level vocabulary on the IELTS exam.

Not only that, but you need to understand unfamiliar words when they pop up on the exam.

Understanding the meaning of prefixes and suffixes will help with this.

Additionally, be aware of familiar words that can trip you up.

Today’s vocabulary pairs are good examples of these.

Now that you know the difference, you’ll avoid that pitfall.

You’ll also be able to use these high level words on Speaking and Writing!

For more strategies, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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