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Formal and informal language for IELTS

Contractions in the IELTS exam

In the IELTS Academic writing module, avoid using contractions. Contractions set a more informal tone to a piece of writing. It is fine to use contractions in the speaking module – in fact, not using contractions when speaking will make your English sound halting and a little forced.

The number of job applications hasn’t increased over the last ten years.

The number of job applications has not increased over the last ten years.

The contraction in the first example above makes the sentence seem more informal. The second example is more suited to academic writing.

gonna gotta wanna & dunno in the IELTS exam

Gonna, gotta, wanna and dunno are used in informal, colloquial English, especially in American English. Students that use them sometimes think that they are speaking American English. They aren’t. They are just being very informal and, in my experience, often sound a little strange. These forms are best avoided in spoken English (unless you are really really comfortable with them) and MUST NEVER be used in the IELTS writing module!

gonna = going to

gotta = have got to

wanna = want to

dunno = don’t know

Read more about this here.

Different word – same meaning
formal and informal vocabulary for IELTS

Some words are inappropriate if used in the IELTS writing paper. They are too informal. It might seem strange but, even though one word has exactly the same meaning as another, one will be more appropriate in the IELTS writing exam.

Here are some sentences. The words in bold are too informal and should be avoided. Can you think of an alternative word for the words in bold?

1 In my country, 70% of guys find work immediately after leaving full-time education.
2 Old people should be looked after by society.
3 In modern society, young people own too much stuff.
4 The film was OK.
5 The government made some dumb mistakes.

The sentences above are fine grammatically but changing the words in bold to something else makes them more formal in the written form. This creates a good impression in the IELTS writing module.

guys – men (or male members of the population.)
old people – senior citizens
stuff – possessions (notice that stuff is uncountable and preceded by much. Possessions are countable and preceded by many.)
OK – acceptable
dumb – misguided

Make sure that you edit your IELTS writing carefully and check for informal contractions, expressions and vocabulary.


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for posting a great tutorial. I guess I get your point, keep the formality of the sentence as possible. In doing so, avoid contractions as possible.

  2. […] Formal and informal vocabulary for IELTS | IELTS ONLY From – Today, 6:45 PM formal and informal alternaltives of IELTS vocabulary for the IELTS writing and the IELTS speaking exam. Get a high IELTS band score. … your English sound halting and a little forced. Via Berni Wall […]

  3. Don says:


    I think this is one of the easy things IELTS candidates should take into account right away.

  4. Hi!

    I think this is one of the easy things IELTS candidates should take into account right away. Very helpful indeed!

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