How Many Words Do I Need to Know for the IELTS?

words need to know for IELTS Jon Fife

A very common question from my students is ‘How many words do I need to know for the IELTS?’ Actually, there is no official answer to this question. Although there are tons of IELTS vocabulary books and lists, each of them contain a different number of words. Besides, just like the reasons listed in the number of words you need to know for the TOFEL, it is really difficult to count all the words in past and future IELTS tests. Therefore, let’s take a look at what you should do instead of counting how many words you need to know.

Test your vocabulary

Despite the fact that it is not easy to count the words, vocabulary is really important for taking an English test. Testing your vocabulary helps you to find out whether your current vocabulary size is enough for getting a high score in the IELTS test as well as how much you should focus on the vocabulary.

A quite easy way to test your vocabulary is to do a full-length practice IELTS test and then ask yourself these questions: 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?

If you find yourself struggling to understand and express information, then probably the vocabulary is causing trouble for you. In other words, your vocabulary is not enough for succeeding on the IELTS test and you need to expand your vocabulary before the real test.

Expand your vocabulary

The truth is that the more words you know, the better you may do on the test. Expanding vocabulary is not just remembering the spelling and translation of vocabulary lists, it is learning meanings, functions, phrases, and more. Therefore, learning new words should be based on meaningful contexts. Check out our five ways to learn and remember English vocabulary and our Magoosh IELTS vocabulary posts!

Another quick way to expand your vocabulary is to learn the meaning of prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes are letters attaching to the beginning of a word root while suffixes are letters attaching to the ending of a word root. Each prefix and suffix carry a certain meaning. We can deduce the meaning of new words based on the prefix or suffix, and the word root.

For example, the word imperfect consists of the word root perfect and the prefix im-. We know im- means “not” and perfect means “having no mistakes and flaws.” Then we can deduce that imperfect means “not perfect, having mistakes and flaws.”

Here is a list of common prefixes and suffixes with examples provided.

Make a study plan

After knowing your vocabulary size and the ways to expand vocabulary, the next thing you need to do is to make a personalized study plan based on your level and how much time you have before your test. Check out our IELTS study plan and guide for more information!


By the way, improve your IELTS score with Magoosh!

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  • Kuangyan

    Kuangyan creates IELTS blogs at Magoosh. She is passionate about language education and has a MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from New York University. Kuangyan has experience of teaching English both in China and in US. In her free time, she drinks mocha, does yoga, takes photos and travels to different places to explore the exciting world.

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