IELTS Listening IELTS Reading Scoring Vocabulary

Do You Know This IELTS Vocabulary?

These ten sentences highlight key IELTS vocabulary by topic. For each word that you know, give yourself one point. Then check the scoring guide at the end to understand how good your IELTS vocabulary really is!


Business Studies is included as a subject in the school (1) curriculum at (2) secondary level in some countries, while in other countries it is only taught at (3) tertiary level.


Some (4) historians believe that there are ancient (5) civilisations whose (6) archaeological ruins have yet to be found.


Environmental pressure groups are opposed to the (7) destruction of forests and (8) campaign for their (9) conservation instead.


When travelling overseas, it is important to understand local (10) customs and avoid (11) offending your hosts. Follow this rule and you can be a wonderful (12) ambassador for your country.


Animal testing in (13) laboratories is wrong, even when it leads to the development of new (14) treatments for human (15) diseases.


The music industry is in crisis due to the (16) widespread (17) illegal downloading of songs which has led to a (18) collapse in sales of CDs.


(19) Spectators at sporting events should be (20) banned from stadiums if they are found guilty of making (21) abusive gestures.


When media (22) ownership is (23) consolidated in too few hands, it becomes harder for people to hear a (24) diversity of opinions.


When victims of crime visit (25) detention centres, this can often (26) deter criminals from (27) committing crimes in future.


Some people are so (28) addicted to their mobile (29) devices that they feel (30) anxious when separated from their phone for even a short time.

IELTS vocabulary scoring guide

26-30 points: Word wizard! You are ready to show your stuff in IELTS! But how many of these 30 words do you actually use? (IELTS 8-9)

20-25 points: Good enough to go! You know enough IELTS vocabulary to understand most of what you will read or hear in the test. Be sure to learn the words you didn’t know. (IELTS 6-7)

10-19 points: Getting there! You know some useful vocabulary for IELTS but it would help to study more before taking the test. (IELTS 4-5)

0-9 points: Time to learn up! Academic IELTS may be too difficult for people who don’t know most of these words. (IELTS 0-3)


IELTS Listening IELTS Writing Vocabulary

Common Spelling Mistakes in IELTS

Spelling is huge concern for my IELTS students. Writing scores are 25% determined by vocabulary, which includes spelling accuracy. Too many spelling mistakes can also seriously bring down your score in IELTS Listening.

This list of common IELTS spelling mistakes includes some of the words most likely to appear in the test. Try to master these basic rules in order to minimise poor spelling in IELTS. 

Single and double consonants

Spelling mistakes are common when single or double consonants occur nearby in a word.

A single consonant is followed by a double consonant:
Across, Process, Harass, Disappoint, Recommend, Tomorrow, Professor, Necessary

A double consonant is followed by a single consonant:
Parallel, Apparent, Exaggerate, Occasion, Occur (but Occurred), Commit (but Committed)

Some common words with two pairs of consonants:
Success, Possess, Access, Assess, Address, Accommodation, Embarrass, Millennium

Weak vowel sounds

Some words are difficult to spell because they contain the schwa or [ə], a weak vowel sound. It is almost impossible to know how to spell such words from their sound alone.

Examples of words containing more than one schwa include:
Separate (adj.), Definite, Desperate, Temperature, Literature, General, Relevant, Category

Other problematic schwa words include:
Describe, Decline, Despite; but Dispute, Discrete, Display
Capable, Achievable, Understandable; but Possible, Visible, Accessible
Performance, Attendance, Ignorance; but Independence, Sentence, Existence

Sometimes the schwa sound conceals a barely-pronounced [r]:
Opportunity, Pursue, Persuade, Surprise

Changes of spelling when words change form

A consonant can change when a noun becomes an adjective:
Benefit > Beneficial; Influence > Influential; Circumstance > Circumstantial

A vowel can change or be lost when a verb becomes a noun:
Maintain > Maintenance; Pronounce > Pronunciation, Argue > Argument

A vowel may double when a noun becomes a verb:
Success > Succeed; Excess > Exceed; Process > Proceed

A final consonant is often doubled when a verb changes form:
Occur > Occurred; Refer > Referred; Begin > Beginning

Silent letters in consonant clusters

[nm] in Environment, Government
[nm] in Column, Autumn
[sc] in Science, Conscious, Discipline, Fascinate, Ascend, Descend
[xc] in Excite, Exceed, Exception, Excellent, Excited
[dg] in Knowledge, Acknowledge (but just [g] in Privilege, Oblige)
[th] clusters in ordinals: Eighth, Twelfth, Hundredth

Pairs of frequently confused spellings in IELTS

Till ≠ Until (not *untill)
Lose ≠ Loose (one is a verb; the other is an adjective)
Affect ≠ Effect (one is a common verb; the other is its noun form)
Forth ≠ Fourth (one means ‘forward’; the other means ‘number four’)
Fourth but Forty (not *fourty)
High but Height (not *hight)
Great but Grateful (not *greatful)
Precede ≠ Proceed (one means ‘go before’; the other means ‘go ahead’)
Principle ≠ Principal (one means ‘truth’; the other means ‘main’)
Site ≠ Sight (one is a place; the other is something to see, as in sightseeing not *siteseeing)
Copywriter ≠ Copyright (one writes advertising; the other means ‘intellectual property’)

Finally, some notoriously tricky spellings in English

Here are 10 English words of foreign origin that even native speakers have difficulty spelling!

Amateur, Entrepreneur, Hierarchy, Liaison, Medieval, Miscellaneous, Queue, Questionnaire, Rhythm, Vacuum

Do you make these IELTS spelling mistakes? Have I missed any important words from the list? Tell us what you think in the space below.

Start learning on Udemy today!

IELTS Speaking IELTS Writing Vocabulary

Informal & Formal Vocabulary for IELTS

As an IELTS teacher, one of the most common questions I get asked is if a particular word is appropriate for IELTS. People seem to be obsessed with using formal vocabulary!

In a way, it’s not surprising since one of the things that dictionaries are not so good at is explaining register: that is, the appropriate situation in which to use a certain word.

My rule is very simple: make your language as formal and academic as possible in IELTS writing, but try to use natural-sounding language in IELTS speaking.

However, there are some words that you shouldn’t use in any section of the test. What are they? See my list below for all the answers.

Informal (Avoid) Neutral (Speaking) Formal (Writing)
Stuff Things Items, Possessions
Folks Family Relatives
Kids (younger) Babies, Children Infants, Offspring
Kids (older) Teenagers Adolescents, Youths
Guy Man Male
Old people Elderly people Senior citizens, Retirees
Boss, Manager Supervisor, Superior
Cops Police Law enforcement
Crooks Criminals Offenders, Lawbreakers
OK, Alright Fine Acceptable, Satisfactory
Great, Awesome Good Preferable, Desirable
Rubbish, Useless Bad, Poor Unsatisfactory, Unacceptable
Nice, Polite Considerate, Agreeable
Kind, Friendly Sociable, Neighbourly
Nasty, Cheeky (person) Rude, Impolite Abusive, Disagreeable
Stupid, Crazy, Dumb (idea) Misguided, Questionable
Stupid, Crazy, Dumb (person) Misguided, Mistaken
Happy (person) Satisfied, Delighted
Happy (situation) Satisfying, Delightful
Sad (person) Regretful, Distressed
Sad (situation) Regrettable, Distressing
Sick of, Fed up with Tired of Dissatisfied with
Poor (country) Developing, Poverty-stricken
Poor (person) In poverty, Underprivileged
Rich (country) Wealthy, Developed
Rich (person) Wealthy, Privileged

Bonus tip 1: Contractions such as don’t are fine in IELTS Speaking but it is better to use do not in the Academic Writing module. Avoid very casual contractions such as gonna and dunno completely.

Bonus tip 2: Don’t use too much formal vocabulary in IELTS Speaking or your answers will sound very stiff and unnatural. Just be yourself!

Introduction to IELTS Teacher Tips Vocabulary

The Language of IELTS: A Glossary

cropped-IELTS-Academic-Logo.jpgThis article is part of the Teach IELTS series at IELTS Academic, which provides skills training for IELTS and English as a foreign language.

Confused by the language of IELTS? Try this glossary of key terms and their meanings.

Academic – The version of the IELTS test used for college and university entry. (See also: General Training)

Band descriptors – In the Writing and Speaking modules of IELTS, your scores are calculated according to which of the descriptions they match closest in the band descriptors. Public versions of these can be downloaded freely from the main IELTS website.

Band score – IELTS scores are divided into ten bands from 0 (non-user) to 9 (expert user). Half band scores are also awarded.

Candidate – A person taking an exam such as IELTS.

Coherence – How well you stick to the question in the Writing module of IELTS. This means each paragraph should include one main idea and you should not go off topic by introducing details unrelated to that idea. Your argument or opinion should also be coherent, i.e, clearly and consistently presented.

Cohesion – How well you link ideas within a sentence, paragraph or essay. This includes articles (the), pronouns (this), determiners (such) and logical links (on the other hand).

Criteria – The band descriptors each consider four criteria. These are important things the examiner is reading or listening for in order to determine your score.

Examiner – The person marking the IELTS test or asking the questions in the Speaking module.

Fluency – In IELTS speaking, how well you can string your ideas together and use filler expressions to avoid silence.

General Training – The version of the IELTS test used for immigration and employment purposes. (See also: Academic)

Lexical resource – Basically, the range of vocabulary you use, including accuracy in spelling, word form, and appropriateness for academic usage.

Module – IELTS is divided into four modules: Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking.

Paraphrasing – Saying the same thing but using different words or sentence structure. More than other tests, IELTS rewards candidates who can vary vocabulary and grammatical form.

Part – The Speaking module of IELTS consists of three parts.

Passage – Another word for article, as in the Reading module of IELTS.

Predicting – Trying to guess an answer before listening or reading for it. This helps you to focus on the type and form of information required to answer the question.

Scanning – Looking through a text quickly to find specific information. An important skill for answering questions in the Reading module of IELTS.

Section – The Listening module of IELTS consists of four sections; the Reading module of IELTS consists of three.

Skimming – Reading a text quickly to identify the main ideas and how they are organised. An important speed-reading skill for IELTS.

Task – The Writing module of IELTS consists of two tasks.

Task achievement – In IELTS Writing Task 1, how well you answer the question overall. In Task 1, this includes identifying all major features of the data and providing supporting details.

Task response – In IELTS Writing Task 2, how well you answer the question overall. This includes, answering all parts of the question and providing support for your opinions.

cropped-IELTS-Academic-Logo.jpgThis article is part of the Teach IELTS series at IELTS Academic, which provides skills training for IELTS and English as a foreign language.