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IELTS Vocabulary Words: Life Sciences, Plants, and Animals

The IELTS often deals with life sciences, especially in its reading section. Expect to encounter a lot of life sciences vocabulary words on the exam.

In this post, we’ll look at the most common type of life science IELTS vocabulary words: words related to plants and animals.

Flora and fauna

“Flora and fauna” means “plants and animals.” Flora referring to plants, and fauna refers to animals. Think of a flower and a fawn (a baby deer). These two words will always go together in the fixed phrase “flora and fauna.” The words are not truly English. Instead, these words are borrowed from Latin. This confuses many test-takers. Now that you know this phrase, you don’t have to be confused when you see it on the IELTS.


ielts vocabulary

Photo by Carsten.nebel

Mammals are animals that have fur (or hair) and have warm blood. Female mammals make milk that they feed to their babies. Mammals include dogs, cats, humans, etc. Most–but not all–mammals give live birth. There are a few egg-laying mammals in existence too.
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While mammals are warm-blooded (able to regulate their own body temperature), reptiles are cold-blooded. This means that the temperature of a reptile’s body is strongly influenced by the air temperature immediately outside of the reptile’s body. The reptile group of animals also have scales and no hair or fur. Common reptiles include turtles, lizards, and snakes.


A species is a very specific type of living thing. Mammals and reptiles are not in the same species because these are large categories of very different animals. Dogs and turtles aren’t in the same species either because there is still a lot of variation between these types of animals. For a type of animal to qualify as a species, it must be able to mate with other animals of its kind and produce babies that are the same kind of animal. Humans are a species, and so are–for instance–individual types of snakes or dogs, such as the timberwolf or the coral snake. There are plant species too, like the Giant Redwood tree, or the tiger lily.


ielts vocabulary

“Evolve” is a life science verb. To evolve is to change in some way in order to survive. Individual species of animals and plants evolve over long periods of time–millions of years. The way the human brain has slowly gotten bigger over thousands of generations is an example of a way that humans have evolved. With a larger brain comes higher intelligence and a better ability to survive.


A cell is a tiny living thing, so small it can only be seen with a microscope. Every cell has a thin skin that protects it, called a membrane. The membrane can take in food for the cell. Each cell is controlled by a nucleus, a kind of tiny simple brain in the middle of a cell. Cells can be part of a larger living thing. Every part of an animal or plant’s body is made up of tiny cells. A cell can also be an independent living thing. An ameba is an example of an organism (living thing) that has just one cell.


Soil is sometimes called “dirt” in informal English. Soil is the dark, dirty stuff under our feet that plants grow out of. Worms, rabbits, and other hole-digging animals stay in or under the soil.

Want more practice?

There are so many resources and places to go to find and practice new vocabulary. Read books, watch movies, and dedicate yourself to IELTS prep. Do these and you’ll feel more confident with your expanded vocabulary!

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