IELTS Speaking: Improving your vocabulary

Getting to IELTS band 7+ is tough and most students never manage it but why? Well, people at that level are similar to native speakers because they know lots of language and have a very naturally way of using it. More importantly, they know lots of different ways to talk about or reference the same thing using synonyms. Very high level students also know a large amount of collocations and are aware which nouns, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions go together to show off their IELTS Speaking vocabulary. The topic of Art is common in the speaking. Here’s a typical type of question for part 2:

Describe a well-known painting you have seen or know about You should say:

  • What it looks like
  • What is interesting about it
  • Why it is well-known

And say if you would buy this painting or not, and why.   In part 2 you have to speak for 2 minutes so you need lots of language!!

1) Related words

A band 4/5 student has very limited vocabulary and so will probably repeat lots of nouns such as ‘painting’ and the pronoun ‘it’ which is taken from the question. They’ll probably also use the adjectives ‘interesting’ and ‘well-known’. Saying them once is fine because they relate directly to the points but when you say them twice or three times it’s not effective. It shows that you just don’t know other words so you can forget a band 6+. Using you can see and learn lots of related words to anything you type in. Here’s a screenshot for painting:

  The highlighted words are: Cityscape Landscape Mural Wall painting Graphic art Oil painting  

2) Collocations

Another problem for low level student is when they get a question that is unfamiliar then they will have a hard time because they just don’t know enough related words about unfamiliar topics. For instance, how many words do you know that collocate with painting? Could you name 6 adjectives or 5 verbs? Well, a band 7 student probably wouldn’t have a problem with that. This is a screenshot from Oxford’s excellent collocations dictionary available at:

Useful words include:

Adjectives for types of paintings: Watercolour, decorative, portrait, still-life, Adjectives to describe your opinion of paintings: Famous, original, valuable Adjectives to say the style of painting: Impressionist, abstract, surrealist Verb Paining: Hang up, display, exhibit, collect Useful nouns: Style, technique   Now, think about which words you would use to answer the question then listen to this:

Practise using these 2 sites to extend your vocabulary for different IELTS topics.

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