Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Did you know there are simple steps you can take to do this immediately?

Many students make long, long lists of vocabulary words and phrases that they find in native speaker materials, such as newspapers and movies.

Although this is a great strategy for learning more words, students often do not use these lists correctly. So, while they are spending hours in compiling excellent vocabulary, they are not actually learning these words, let alone using them on the exam.

Today, I met with a student enrolled in our online IELTS course, 3 Keys IELTS, and I helped him to develop a strategy that he could employ mere hours before his Speaking exam to increase his IELTS Speaking Vocabulary scores.

Let’s be smarter about our practice and preparation!

Step 1: Make a list

Now, I know I just told you that lists don’t help. What I should have said is long lists don’t help!

First of all, you need a list of words that could be employed almost anywhere on the exam.

Think of how often you say “very” or “good” or “bad”.

Simply replacing these oft-used words will help to push your score to a 7 or higher for vocabulary, especially if you are using a variety of interesting adverbs and adjectives to replace them.

Watch this video for interesting, high-scoring adverbs that can take the place of “very”.



You should make two lists, and keep them both short! We can’t memorize and use 50 words at a time!

  • Write down 3-4 interesting, native-speaker like ways to say very, good and bad. Also, add 3-4 more topic-specific words/phrases/idioms for topics that are likely to come up on the IELTS Speaking exam.

For example, you should add 7+ vocabulary for topics of travel (like wanderlust), school (like cover a lot of ground), and health/exercise/free-time (like swagger).

  • Also, in Speaking Part 3, using a variety of high-level linking words will not only improve your Vocabulary scores, but also your Fluency and Coherence scores.

For example, many students use easy linking words, and all the examiner hears is, “and, and, because, because.” Don’t be that student!

Make a list of 3 linking words/phrases that you can use for the three most common linking functions, taking the place of and, but and because.

Step 2: Use the list while you practice

Obviously, simply writing down a list of words is not going to help you miraculously produce them on test day!

So, while you are practicing your answers for a variety of IELTS Speaking questions, use the list you just made. Literally stare at it while you speak, and force yourself to use as many of the words as you can.

One extra tip for the IELTS Speaking exam: speak more slowly than you do normally.

This will help give you time to think of vocabulary to use, and it will also allow you to draw out more interesting intonation and stress, raising your IELTS Pronunciation score.


Step 3: Practice! Repeat! Repeat!

Now that you have practiced using the vocabulary words that will increase your IELTS Speaking scores, you must make sure that you have learned them and can actually produce them on exam day.

Answer the same IELTS Speaking questions that you did in Step 2; however, this time, do not have the list in front of you.

Try to remember all the new words you have learned, and remember it’s OK to speak a little more slowly than usual while you search your memory for them!

What did you think of today’s strategy for increasing your IELTS Vocabulary scores?

Leave us a message in the comments section below!

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