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Learning Vocabulary

To do well in the IELTS test it is very important that you have a wide vocabulary. This lesson will look at what vocabulary we need to learn and how to acquire it.

Exercise 1

Read the following text about vocabulary and the IELTS test. Decide what is the appropriate title for each section of the text.

 

1. How important is vocabulary in the IELTS test?
What kind of vocabulary should I be learning?
How should I record new vocabulary?
Where can I find new vocabulary?
How can I practice new vocabulary?

Quite simply, candidates with a poor vocabulary receive a poor band score in all four sections of the IELTS test. Therefore, it is very important for you to improve your vocabulary as you prepare for the test. Scientists suggest that we can effectively learn around eight to twelve new words per week. As you prepare for the academic IELTS test you need to learn academic vocabulary. Not only will this be needed for you to pass the test, but also in the future when you go on to study in a university in an English speaking country.


2. How important is vocabulary in the IELTS test?
What kind of vocabulary should I be learning?
How should I record new vocabulary?
Where can I find new vocabulary?
How can I practice new vocabulary?

It is difficult to learn and remember individual words off lists. It is better to learn vocabulary in context (when it is being used in a real situation). We recommend reading serious magazines such as National Geographic, New Scientist and The Economist as well as the news from a source such as the BBC. TED talks are another good source of vocabulary. Use the subtitles so you can see the spelling of new words. The reading texts and questions in IELTS reading practice books are also full of useful vocabulary.

Of course, on this course you are going to learn a range of important vocabulary for describing data, processes and maps. However, make sure that you do more self-study in order to learn as much as possible before the test. The more prepared you are the better you are likely to do.


3. How important is vocabulary in the IELTS test?
What kind of vocabulary should I be learning?
How should I record new vocabulary?
Where can I find new vocabulary?
How can I practice new vocabulary?

It is very important to write new vocabulary items down in a vocabulary book. If you see a new word and google it you are very likely to quickly forget it, whereas if you write it down you are much more likely to remember it. Good students don’t just write the word down; they also include other information such as…

  • The part of speech (noun/verb/adjective etc.) of the word
  • The new vocabulary used in an example sentence
  • A definition of the new vocabulary item including how formal it is
  • Any synonyms (words with the same meaning) of the new vocabulary
  • Any antonyms (words with the opposite meaning) of the new vocabulary item
  • Common collocations (collocations are words the often go together such as major impact / interested in / good at etc) using the new vocabulary item
  • The pronunciation of the new vocabulary item

4. How important is vocabulary in the IELTS test?
What kind of vocabulary should I be learning?
How should I record new vocabulary?
Where can I find new vocabulary?
How can I practice new vocabulary?

There are a number of methods that can be used to practice new vocabulary. First, read back through your vocabulary book every day. Another good idea is to have a friend or family member test your ability to remember new vocabulary items. To do this, you should make vocabulary cards. Each card should have a different vocabulary item and information about the word such as part of speech, example sentence, etc. A family member or friend can then test you and if you do well why not give yourself a small reward? This will also show you which words you need to go back and practice more. An important way to improve your use of new vocabulary is to use it when possible in your writing and to get feedback from a tutor.


5. How important is vocabulary in the IELTS test?
What kind of vocabulary should I be learning?
How should I record new vocabulary?
Where can I find new vocabulary?
How can I practice new vocabulary?

As you are an academic IELTS candidate, you should really be focusing on academic vocabulary. Many students think they need to learn long lists of idioms and phrasal verbs but this is not true. Academic candidates need academic vocabulary in order to understand texts and write reports and essays. You do not need to learn topic specialized vocabulary but the general vocabulary of academic writing and speaking.

Consider the sentence below taken from a text about trees.

There was a dramatic decline in the geographical range of the Ulmas Rubra species over the period.

  • Dramatic decline – Important academic collocation (should be learnt)
  • Geographical range – Important academic collocation (should be learnt)
  • Ulmas Rubra – topic specific vocabulary (does not need to be learnt)



Exercise 2

You should try to work out new vocabulary in context (in the text where you find it). This will help you to remember the item of vocabulary and to use it effectively in the future. After you have considered a new word in context, check in the dictionary to make sure that your predictions were correct.

An important part of being able to work out the meaning of words is to be able to identify a word’s part of speech (verb/adjective/noun etc). Read the short text about changing weather in a region and complete the table below with words from the text.

 

Find the Adjectives

 

Find the Nouns

 

Find the Verbs

Notice that there are far more adjectives and nouns in academic English writing than there are verbs.

Exercise 3

An extended version of the text about changes in weather in a region is shown below. Read it below.

The region has seen a dramatic increase in rainfall over recent years. This year, heavy winds and rains in coastal areas left 23% of the population homeless and around 70% without electricity. Floodwaters inundated towns and villages next to rivers in inland areas but the damage to buildings was not as serious as in coastal areas.

The text contains a new and interesting word – inundated. Answer the questions about this word to help you predict its meaning.

1. What is the topic of the text?
Rainfall and flooding
Extreme heat
Not enough rainfall
Unusual changes in temperature and rainfall



What this can tell us

We can predict that the word is connected to the topic of rainfall and flooding

2. The spelling of the word inundated helps us to guess the part of speech, why?
ed is a common ending for nouns
ed is a common ending for adjectives
ed is a common ending for verbs
ed is a common ending for verbs and adjectives



What this can tell us

Based on the spelling we know this word must be a verb or an adjective.

3. What position is 'inundated' in this sentence?
The subject position
Modifying (changing the meaning of) a noun
Directly after the subject
In the object position



What this can tell us

We know that inundated is a verb because it directly follows the subject.

4. The subject of the sentence is 'floodwaters' and so inundated is likely to mean…
The action of water quickly covering something
The action of rain falling
The action of water moving quickly in the river
The action of water destroying buildings



Answer Explanation

The action of water quickly covering something

This is correct. Inundate (verb) for a liquid to quickly cover something.

The action of rain falling

This is not connected to the topic of flooding.

The action of water moving quickly in the river

This is not connected to the topic of flooding.

The action of water destroying buildings

If you read on in the sentence you discover that the buildings in the towns and villages that were inundated were not destroyed.

In this exercise you have logically analysed a new word and worked out its meaning. Try this method in the future to work out other new words and so learn new vocabulary more efficiently. This technique will also help you to answer questions in the IELTS reading test.

Let’s move on to look at the key grammar needed for the IELTS writing task 1 test.