Being able to use a rich vocabulary is a major advantage in the IELTS and will certainly help you get a higher score. It will also be beneficial in your academic, personal and professional life. For example, if you wish to pursue higher education at university, research has shown that you may need up to 10,000 words.
There are a number of ways in which you can improve your vocabulary. Whichever method you adopt, you’ll want to create a vocabulary notebook in which you write down new words and sample sentences.
DIRECT OR INDIRECT METHODS
Your strategy may be direct or indirect.The choice depends on your current vocabulary level. If you need major improvement, you should set up a study schedule which includes a specific time in which you work on learning new words and expressions. You could select one of the many excellent vocabulary enrichment books available today, or one specifically designed for the IELTS, which covers a number of different subject areas. You could work for as little as 10 minutes a day to as much as one hour a day. No matter how much you do, working steadily and daily will produce impressive results.
The second way is to adopt indirect strategies to enrich your vocabulary. This includes reading newspapers, magazines, textbooks, brochures, and fiction or non-fiction books. It includes watching and listening to news broadcasts, interviews, songs, documentaries, movies, audio books, and discussions. Not only should you write down the new words and their meanings, but also use the new words in your own written or oral sentences.
With such a wide selection of vocabulary improvement materials available, you can select the system you feel most comfortable with and enjoy the most. Identify the best vocabulary books for your needs at the local library, though friends, teachers, or online. If you have an auditory learning style, choose tapes and CDs. It takes time to build up your vocabulary so find a program which appeals to you and you’ll stick with..
Along with general ESL vocabulary materials, there are general and specific IELTS vocabulary programs. General IELTS preparation materials address all the skill areas covered in the exam, and include vocabulary sections as well. An example of such a book is IELTS Masterclass by Simon Haines. On the other hand, specific IELTS vocabulary books are devoted exclusively to vocabulary enrichment. Examples areCheck Your English Vocabulary for IELTSby Rawdon Wyatt and Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS (with Audio CD).
CÁC LỜI KHUYÊN HỮU ÍCH BỔ SUNG TỪ VỰNG CHO CÁC KỸ NĂNG THI IELTS
- Bands 7 & 8 speakers can use idiomatic phrases quite well. Phrasal verbs (短语动词) (sometimes called ‘two-word verbs’) are especially good examples of idiomatic phrases. Some examples of these are: ‘look after’ somebody; ‘come up against’ difficulties; ‘look forward to’ something in the future. Even if you believe you are a Band 5 level English speaker, try to increase your knowledge of phrasal verbs.
- You should especially increase your knowledge of adjectives to describe feelings, such as: disappointed, embarrassed, fascinated, annoyed, inspired, thrilled, exhilarated, overwhelmed, delighted, disillusioned, astonished, appalled, mystified, relieved …
- You should increase you knowledge of adjectives to describe people’s personal qualities: talented, ambitious, co-operative, aggressive, driven, warm-hearted, open-minded, even-tempered, easy-going, analytical, introverted, extroverted, outgoing, empathetic, creative, imaginative, loquacious, philosophical, sophisticated, naïve, loyal, trustworthy, determined, motivated, persistent, goal-oriented …
- You should increase your knowledge of adverbs. These can often be used to begin sentences as well as in the middle of sentences. Adverbs greatly help to add precision to the meaning that you express. Many adverbs end in ‘ …ly’. Some examples are: hopefully, strangely, luckily, unfortunately, usually, rarely, frankly, seriously, actually, certainly, definitely, surely, probably, possibly, scarcely, hardly, barely, frequently, normally, absolutely, entirely, perfectly, virtually, merely, simply, distinctly, specifically, substantially, exactly, vividly, explicitly, consistently, reluctantly, deliberately, accidentally, (e)specially, personally, drastically, slightly, positively, moderately, fairly, utterly, apparently, theoretically, realistically, obviously, roughly, approximately, logically, typically, thoroughly, considerably, significantly, ultimately …
- Learn words that describe different types (categories) of: films; TV programs; music; foods; buildings; landscapes; clothes; climate etc.
- It is best to avoid using proverbs, especially those proverbs that are overused in China such as: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, “Every coin has two sides” and “No pain, no gain.”, which is not really a proverb but just a common saying. These proverbs usually fail to impress IELTS examiners, even when spoken in a suitable context and spoken correctly. The reasons why they usually fail to impress are these: they remind examiners of overly rehearsed answers and/or answers that were learned from the model answers in some IELTS books; and they often seem to be just a shortcut to explaining your meaning when the examiner really wants to see how well you can express meaning in everyday sentences. See this email on this topic.
- Learn some of the vocabulary needed to talk about computers and the internet.
- Using those ‘IELTS vocabulary’ books is good but it is best to use a book that has both examples and recordings of a native speaker reading these examples or at least pronouncing the key new vocabulary.
Although many of these books are good, you should not only use these to improve your vocabulary because these books tend to focus on words in isolation, which is a little unnatural. In other words, you don’t really see how and when these words are used in these books, even if they have an example sentence. (See the next point, wide reading.)
You definitely should be very careful about learning new words from simple lists of words that just have English words and their Chinese translations. People who learn a lot of new words this way often use words incorrectly (or inappropriately) in the Speaking test. (Of course, learning simple words from lists such as: refrigerator and /jog should be no problem but learning more abstract and more complex words require good examples of usage.) If you don’t use words correctly or suitably in the speaking test, it will damage your score – the examiner won’t give you vocabulary points just for showing that you know an impressive word if you don’t use it correctly. This is because when you use a word incorrectly the examiner might not clearly understand what you mean, resulting in a communication breakdown. Remember, (clear) communication is ‘Number 1’ in the IELTS Speaking test. It would be better for you to use a simple word and to communicate clearly than to use an ‘impressive’ word that results in poor communication. Yes, it is good to learn ‘impressive’ new words but try to make sure you know the correct usage, when it is suitable to use this word (e.g., in writing or in speaking or both) and, of course, the correct pronunciation.
Overall, the ‘IELTS vocabulary’ books that I see students using in China are mostly teaching you vocabulary for reading and writing, not speaking. When we speak, we tend to use simpler words whenever possible, such as phrasal verbs. You won’t find these in most ‘IELTS vocabulary’ books. So, even though it is good to increase your vocabulary for reading and writing from these books, be careful about using words that are more suitable for written English when you speak. You don’t want to ‘talk like a book’. See Avoiding Overly Formal Language for more on this topic.
- It is well known that wide reading increases a person’s vocabulary. But you need vocabulary not just for reading and writing but also for listening and speaking. Therefore, if you can read new materials and, at the same time, hear a native speaker saying these sentences, you will be learning English at maximum efficiency. By ‘maximum efficiency’ I mean that you will better understand the usage and meaning of new words when you see them written in a passage. Not only that, you will better remember the new words because they are often repeated in the passage. By reading, listening and speaking at the same time, you will also reinforce many different language skills at the same time – your knowledge of sentence structures (grammar), and listening and speaking skills. I suggest using some of those condensed (= shortened) novels that have both Chinese translations and the recording of someone reading the sentences. Of course, you should also read a lot of other materials that don’t have recordings.
- Another excellent way to practice reading, listening and speaking at the same time is to use any of several British English textbooks that are especially suitable for IELTS preparation. Examples of these are Headway and New Interchange. Read the transcripts as you listen to the recording, pause the recording and repeat (mimic) the sentence as it was spoken.
- With all the materials that you read or listen to, don’t choose materials that are very, very difficult for you. This will just discourage you and cause you to have negative feelings about studying English. Instead, progress step-by-step, using materials that have only a handful of new words for each passage or page that you read. Don’t be afraid of using materials that seem a little easy – it is important, and a natural part of language learning, to ‘over-learn‘ easy language, (language that you already know), in order to make the next step easier to learn.
- There are certain topics that you know are likely to be in the IELTS test and it is important to read about them, on the internet, for example. However, sometimes these topics are boring or difficult for you. In order to make your study more interesting, you should also include some reading (in English, of course) of topics that interest you, such as basketball, pop singers, movie stars, fashion or interesting places to visit. This way, you will feel less like you are studying and you will actually learn English faster and with less effort because you will be more relaxed. Anyway, these topics are possible IELTS speaking test topics!
- You should keep a notebook of new words that you think are especially useful for the IELTS test. When you come across a new word that you think is useful for your IELTS preparation, write it in this notebook.
- There are some good free internet resources that will help you improve your vocabulary. The only problem is to find these websites. You should explore all the websites that I have listed on this page:http://www.yasi-kouyu.com.cn/INTERNET_ENGLISH_STUDY.htm, especially those websites that are listed under the topics of listening and pronunciation.
The ideal way to increase your vocabulary is to read and listen to English at the same time and to have an accurate Chinese translation of this material. I have not found anything for free on the internet that has all three of those attributes. Nevertheless, you will learn a lot of vocabulary from the listening materials that you will find when you explore those websites. Of course, you should also frequently try to mimic some of the the listening materials, not just use them for listening and reading (where transcripts are available).
One excellent website that I recommend is: http://dotnet.englishelearning.com/members/dictionary/Compact.aspx. See what I wrote for that website on the Internet English Study page. This allows you to see Chinese translations, listen to the words pronounced (in American English) and see a picture. [Actually, I think I found a couple of mistakes on that website. It sounds like 98% of the recordings are real human beings and these recordings are very good but maybe 2% of the recordings are computer-generated speech and are not very natural; for example, “running shoe”.
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