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

Today we answer a student question about the best way to learn collocations.

We’ll teach you all about prepositions and collocations, also known as phrasal verbs.

You’ll hear a clip from a native group conversation.

We’ll teach you phrasal verbs that can boost your IELTS Vocabulary scores.

For more listening practice like this, sign up for Conversations & Coffee!

Today’s question

3 Keys student Fumika asked the following question:

When I get into writing, I am out of sorts once in awhile thinking of word collocations.

Are there any useful resources to learn collocations?

Or is reading books and articles the most effective way to study them?

This is a common question from students!

Why collocations are difficult

We feel your pain, as we’ve faced the same struggle learning Spanish and French!

Prepositions are a nightmare!

You can’t memorize a list.

You have to learn these in context.

What is the best way to learn these in context?

  • Reading books
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Watching TV shows and movies

However, you can’t just be a passive listener!

You have to be intentional about it.

You must be an active listener and take note of collocations.

Think about the meaning.

Listen to the recording a couple times to absorb the context.

Write it in your own sentence in your Vocabulary notebook.

Grammar and Vocabulary scores sometimes overlap

The Examiner often can’t tell the source of the mistake.

  • Is it because you don’t understand the grammar?
  • Is it due to a misunderstanding of the vocabulary?

In that case, it can bring down both your Grammar and Vocabulary scores.

This is why it’s so important to learn phrasal verbs in context so you can use them correctly on IELTS!

Audio clip from Conversations & Coffee

We play a clip from a conversation about homework.

This clip comes from the subscription we have available called Conversations & Coffee.

When you sign up, you get weekly native group conversations with vocabulary lessons and a quiz.

Sign up at!

Strategies Created By a Former Examiner

100% Score Increase Guarantee with our Insider Method

Are you ready to move past IELTS and move forward with your life vision?

Find out why our strategies are the most powerful in the IELTS world.

When you use our Insider Method you avoid the BIGGEST MISTAKES that most students make on IELTS.

Click here to get a score increase on IELTS. It’s 100% guaranteed!

Phrasal verbs to listen for

Natives use phrasal verbs all the time!

In this clip, listen for these phrasal verbs:

  • Ownership over
  • Translate to
  • Figure out

Pay attention to the context they’re used in and see if you can understand the meaning.

After the clip, Jessica and I break down the meaning of each one.

#1: Ownership over

Lindsay says, “…letting them have ownership over their own schooling.”

  • ownership over: to have responsibility for something

A parallel phrase is to “take responsibility for” something.

This is a phrase used often by parents.

They can’t be there to make sure they complete every assignment!

Aubrey shares how she needs her kids to have ownership over their grades.

A common phrase that could be confused with this is “ownership of.”

  • ownership of: to own or possess something

These phrases are perfect for IELTS Speaking.

They are also formal enough for IELTS Writing.

Avoid using easy, common phrasal verbs.

However, higher level, less common phrasal verbs like these are impressive.

#2: Translate to

Lindsay says, “I translated that to the workplace.”

This means she took her organizational skills used in class and now uses them at work.

  • translate to: transfer skills from one area to another area of one’s life

A similar phrasal verb is “translate from.”

Don’t confuse these two!

  • translate from: translate from one language to another

#3: Figure out

Aubrey says, “It might be really tricky to help them figure out how to organize their time.”

  • figure out: to solve or discover; to finally understand something

This is perfect for Speaking Part 1 or Part 2 and general training letters.

Natives use this all the time, but students do not.

This makes it high-scoring.

You’ll also hear this as a verb.

  • figure: to think

I figure we’ll go to this restaurant tonight.

Bonus phrase: let go!

When Michelle misunderstands Lindsay she says, “You need to let go!”

  • let go: move on and leave something in the past.

This is a fun, playful use of the phrase.

It can definitely be used more seriously as well.

Bonus idiom: a happy medium

This idiom comes up right after this audio clip in this Conversation & Coffee chat.

  • to strike a happy medium: to compromise

Michelle uses this idiom to talk about the perfect amount of homework for a child.

Listening questions for Section 3

These group conversations are perfect for Listening Section 3, which has 2-3 speakers.

It’s often about this type of topic, education.

Answer these questions while listening to the clip.

1. What is something Lindsay still has from her childhood?

A. Ownership over her own schooling

B. Homework assignments books

C. Time management skills

D. Textbooks from elementary school

2. Why does Aubrey like homework?

A. Kids waste time on homework after school

B. Extra activities help children learn

C. Homework offers a schedule

D. It provides quality time

Check the comments to check your answers!


The best way to learn collocations, otherwise known as phrasal verbs, is by learning them in context.

Immerse yourself in English!

Be an active listener and pay attention to collocations.

Make note of them and use them in context in your own sentences.

Practice using them in IELTS Speaking and Writing.

For more IELTS Listening practice with group conversations, sign up for Conversations & Coffee!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X