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I don’t know that word

How to improve your English vocabulary before your IELTS exam.

Some English language students don’t seem to realise that the responsibility for learning is theirs. It is the student who has to commit to learning and make the effort to improve. Too many students complain that they don’t understand all the vocabulary in a reading but then do nothing about it. Sometimes, you simply have to get your dictionary out and look up the meaning of each word. This system really works. Do you do it or do you give up?

Look at these words. I’ll bet that you don’t know the meaning of most of them.


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A serious IELTS candidate would now take out their dictionary and find out the meaning of each of these words. What kind of words are they? Verbs? Nouns? Adjectives? Can we use them to make other words e.g. a verb to noun transformation : ratify > ratification? What about opposites and synonyms? How do we pronounce each of the words? A serious IELTS student would try to use each of these words in a sentence – in both written and spoken form.

You can hear words said here or you can read this post.

You can also simply type “define nullify” in the Google search bar to see a definition and hear the pronunciation. Google is your IELTS friend.

Why not challenge yourself to use a word or phrase?

I wonder whether you do all of these things. I wonder whether you are really making an effort to improve your own vocabulary. Carlos and Jia Chen certainly weren’t (oh no! I mentioned their names 😉 ) but hopefully they will start making an effort after today.

Serious students have to take responsibility for their learning outside the classroom as well as inside it.

Are you looking for a teacher to help you to get the grade you need in your IELTS exam? Do you want someone to push you so that you make fantastic progress? There are discounts available at English Only for IELTS students from IELTS Only. If you are looking for online IELTS classes with a qualified and experienced teacher, use this contact form. You’ll get a 10% discount.

Use a word or phrase challenge for IELTS

Use new words and phrases BEFORE the IELTS exam

How many times do you learn a new word or phrase and then think your work is done? How often do you look for the meaning of a word in the dictionary but never try to use the word yourself? (more…)

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.

IELTS vocabulary : take effect

Something takes effect when it starts working.

The sleeping tablet didn’t take effect for at least an hour.

The new laws took effect at midnight.

Idioms for IELTS

Pass the buck

This is when we try to avoid responsibilty by passing it on to someone else. Sometimes, we hope that someone else will take the blame for failure or for a poor decision.

He accepted responsibilty for the failure of the project and refused to pass the buck even though his manager had made the decisions that had led to the failure.

Remember that you won’t do yourself any favours if you simply throw these idioms into conversation during your IELTS interview. You must practice using them appropriately before the exam.