IELTS Vocabulary Tips

Many IELTS exam candidates don’t obtain the IELTS result they desire because their vocabulary is not wide enough.

Certain topics, such as health, environment, education and public transport appear regularly in the IELTS exam. If students were to take the time to learn vocabulary related to these topics they would increase their band score.

Many students don’t bother because they find learning vocabulary is boring. Here are some IELTS Vocabulary tips that will help to make vocabulary learning fun and interesting:

YouTube and TEDx Talks.

YouTube and Tedx are great resources for English learners and have two very useful features:

    • You can adjust the speed of the video by clicking on the gear icon at the bottom of the video.
    • You can turn on subtitles.

Subtitles can be used in several ways:

    1. Use them to check the spelling of words. Make a note of words that are new to you and learn them and how to pronounce them. This will help you to develop your vocabulary and your speaking skills.
    2. Listen to the video first without subtitles and write down what you think you heard. Play it again and check what you have written with the subtitles. This will develop your listening, reading and writing skills.

You can also use videos to develop your pronunciation skills by playing the video again and copying what the speaker is saying. This is called “shadowing” and is an effective way to develop your speaking skills. 

Read Books

DON’T just learn vocabulary lists – that’s boring and not helpful unless you also learn how to use the word in context.  Reading books ensures that you learn vocabulary in context and understand the meaning and how to use the word.  Read books about topics that interest you and keep a notebook and a dictionary nearby so that you can make a note of the meaning of new words.


Audible has a huge range of interesting books.  You are able to adjust the playback speed to a level that you are comfortable with.


IELTS Vocabulary Tips


Podcasts are short audio programs which can be automatically downloaded using an app on your phone. You can find podcasts on almost any topic so they are really convenient for language learners. For example, the BBC Six Minutes Website contains audios about all sorts of things including health and environmental topics, which are favourites for IELTS.


Recent topics include:

  • Tattoos
  • The future of food
  • How can I help the environment
  • Disposable coffee cups

You can use these podcasts in various ways to practise for IELTS Speaking:

    1. Choose a topic from your podcast list, for example tattoos.
    2. Take a minute to plan a short talk on the topic.
    3. Present the talk and record yourself.
    4. Listen to the podcast making notes about the key points.
    5. Listen to your talk and check if you had made any of the same key points.
    6. Plan your talk again, incorporating the key points from the podcast, then present it again, recording yourself.

This will help you to develop your Listening, Speaking and Writing skills and will expand your vocabulary.

Practise listening for the overview of the talk and also for specific detail. Also, planning the short talk is good practice for the IELTS essay test.

Another great podcast app is Pocketcasts, which is available for iOS and Android. It has the benefit of Variable Speed Playback so that you can play it at a speed that you can follow and understand. You can speed up the playback rate as your listening improves.  Pocketcasts has a huge range of topics that you can listen to so you are bound to find subjects that interest you.

Vocabulary App

A great App for learning vocabulary is Anki.  This is a spaced repetition system (SRS), which is a very effective method for memorising anything. It also helps you to learn how to use the word in context. 

Using these IELTS vocabulary tips will provide you with a fun and interesting way to learn new vocabulary about your interests, hobbies and the topics that are likely to occur in the IELTS test, helping you to achieve a higher IELTS band score. 

Another way to achieve a higher band score is by having lessons from a native English speaker. Check out our online lessons.

Paul Andreas

Paul Andreas is a Certified Speaking Coach and qualified TEFL Teacher Online English Lessons delivered by Skype for IELTS exam preparation and conversational English. Get a free trial lesson.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Pamela Johnson

    A very apt insight on the use of YouTube in improving vocabulary. It is true that most times, what we think we heard in a movie or TV show isn’t exactly what the speaker said. I think turning on the subtitle feature of YouTube video and any other visual output will be a great way to learn new words and most importantly, their spellings as well.

  2. Joyce Wesley

    This post reminds me of the podcast app I had on my Apple device. The app was truly a saving app for me, especially when it comes to planning a speech, speaking and listening to myself. To be frank, I was really bad at speaking at first, but with time, I developed the confidence to speak fluently without trying to force accents on myself unduly.

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