How to Learn IELTS Vocabulary

Student reading to represent how to learn IELTS vocabulary

Learning and remembering vocabulary plays an essential part in acquiring English language as well as passing standardized tests such as the IELTS. So, how do you learn English words and remember them? Here are five fun and effective tips on how to learn IELTS vocabulary.

How to Expand Your IELTS Vocabulary

If you want to expand your vocabulary for IELTS, you should start by doing IELTS practice questions. As you practice IELTS questions, ask yourself:

  • How do you do with vocabulary?
  • How many words do you not know?
  • How does this affect your IELTS performance?

One quick way to get a feel for this is to take a full-length IELTS practice test. As you take an IELTS practice test, ask yourself: Can I understand all the necessary information in the recordings and the reading passages? Can I express my ideas in both written and spoken language effectively and accurately, by using various words?

Once you’ve taken a practice exam and have an idea of your current level of vocabulary, you can start to work to expand your vocabulary.

Get a higher IELTS score? Start your online IELTS prep today with Magoosh.

In addition to those basics, read on for five specific vocabulary-building methods that have worked well for many of our students.

Five Ways to Learn and Remember IELTS Vocabulary


1. Read and Listen

Learning new words through reading or listening is better than just memorizing words on wordbooks because they provide you with a meaningful context. Find the fields that you are most interested in and read news from BBCCNN or New York Times. If you have time, try to read short English novels such as Pride and Prejudice, The Old Man and the Sea and Animal Farm. TV shows and videos are also good resources for picking up new words. Watch Ted Talks , open college courses and your favorite English shows with subtitles. Try to guess the meaning of new words you come across while reading or watching and then look them up in dictionaries.

2. Use Effective Dictionaries

As you all know, a dictionary is a must when learning new words. However, as there are tons of dictionaries in the world, you may wonder what kind of dictionary is best for you. I recommend using two dictionaries. One dictionary gives definitions and examples of a word in English and the other gives translation in your native language.

I also recommend using Merriam-Webster. It is a free online dictionary where you can find English definitions, examples, origins, and related words. It also provides a word per day and some word games on its website so that you can learn a word every day and check how strong your vocabulary is.

3. Make Frayer Four-Square Vocabulary Charts

Below is an example of the four-square chart.

Frayer four square vocabulary chart sample -magoosh

Put the word in the center circle and write down definitions, home language translation, examples and non-examples in the four blanks. You can also replace any of them with pictures or key facts about the word. The point here is to understand the word more deeply so that you can remember it better. Besides, you can go over the words anytime and anywhere as the chart is easy to carry.

4. Arrange New Words Into Categories

Spend some time on arranging new learned words into categories on your notebook each week. For example, you can put adjectives describing a person’s personality, adjectives describing emotions and adjectives describing places into three different categories. It helps you to review what you have learned and make connections between the words so that you can stick them into long term memory better.

5. Use New Words in Conversation or Writing

Try to use new words in conversations with a partner. If you can’t find a partner, just create a possible situation and talk to yourself. It also helps when you use them in your writing. Think about the categories you arranged and use different words each time. Practice with these topics.

The best way to expand your vocabulary is to increase exposure to English, combine different memorization strategies, and practice using new words. Now, let’s talk about how to expand your vocabulary in preparation for the IELTS.

The Takeaway

Keep in mind: Expanding your vocabulary is not just remembering the spelling and translation of vocabulary lists. It is about learning meanings, functions, phrases, and more. Therefore, learning new words should be based on meaningful contexts. Check out these resources to get started with learning IELTS vocabulary!

By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

Most Popular Resources


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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