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A to Z about IELTS

Vocabulary Module                                                                                                                                           

Vocabulary Module                                                                                                                                         

The lexical resource is about how flexibly and fluently you can find the right words and phrases to convey precise meanings. The more you improve in this area, the better your chance of securing a high band score.


It is important to vary your vocabulary when your writing or speaking is being assessed, and one way to do that is to use different parts of speech of a word. For example, if you hear a verb in your Speaking test question, you can reply with a noun or an adjective.  Here is a sample question:

“Do you prefer fast food or traditional food?”

Instead of answering with “I prefer fast food because…”, you can try:

Actually, I have a preference for fast food for the reason that …”

Well, I’d say I have more of a preference for traditional cuisine because …”

Personally speaking, I find traditional food more preferable given that …”

In these examples, you can see the candidate uses the noun form (preference) and the adjective form (preferable) instead of just copying the word ‘prefer’ which is used by the examiner.


Good use of collocations is important in your IELTS Writing and Speaking tests. Collocations are how particular words and phrases are grouped together. Using the previous example of ‘preference’, we need to think about which other words belong with it when we use it.  In this case, the verb ‘have’ belongs with it (along with the article ‘a’), plus the preposition ‘for’. 

Therefore the full collocation of the noun form is:

have a preference for

As for the full collocation of the adjective form, you can use:

find (something) more preferable


One way to show the examiner you have a wide range of vocabulary is to use vocabulary that is less common.  However, please remember that it is not a good idea to use vocabulary like this repetitively.

Let’s look at the sample question from earlier and compare these two responses:

1. I prefer traditional food because it is much tastier than …

2. I am quite partial to traditional food because it is much tastier than …

What you ‘prefer’ and what you are ‘partial have the same meaning, but in the second example, this is more useful in your response because this collocation is not used very often.  Please note that whenever using less common words, you should always ensure you are using them in the right context.

One of the challenges of Task 1 in the IELTS General Writing test is when you have an informal letter.  Quite often, less common vocabulary tends to be formal, so the difficulty here is to think of a less familiar language that is informal instead. The second challenge here is to make sure the informal language you do choose is appropriate as well.

Here are two different sentences which say the same thing, but the second one has a less common informal language.

So, if you are still interested in visiting my hometown anytime soon, call me.

So, if you are still itching to visit my neck of the woods anytime soon, give me a buzz.

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