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IELTS Speaking Vocabulary
Below you will find the IELTS speaking vocabulary for different topics in the IELTS speaking test .
You’ll find example speaking questions and how to use these words in context and the definitions of each word.
Use this to increase your vocabulary with useful speaking grammar, lexical resources and idioms and phrases for your speaking.
Vocabulary for IELTS Speaking Topics
Each link below covers a familiar topic on the speaking test along with extensive vocabulary lists, definitions, and a sample answer.
- Friends and Family
- Food and Nutrition
- Travel and Tourism
- Modern Technology
- Coronavirus Vocabulary (new)
- Pollution and the Environment
- People, Personalities and Characters
- Fitness and Health
- School and Education
- Work and Careers
- University and Student Life
- Books, Film and Art
- Climate Change (popular topic)
- Working From Home
- Social Media (popular topic)
- Fashion and Shopping
Advanced vocabulary for IELTS speaking
Here are a list of words that can be considered ‘advanced’ because although they are understood they are used far less in everyday English.
These words were selected because we believe they could be used easily used in the speaking exam . For example, the cue cards usually ask you to talk about a person, place or an experience. You can see the meaning of the words followed by an IELTS-specific example.
Ludicrous – unreasonable, or out of place, so as to be funny. “Well, a person I admire a lot was the Queen of England, and I find it ludicrous some countries would prefer to be a republic, rather than have her as head of state”.
Pinnacle – the most successful point. “A person I admire a lot would be Sir Lewis Hamilton, during his career he has been at the pinnacle of motorsport”.
Proponent – a person who advocates for something. “I think I am a big proponent for making the world a cleaner place, for example…”.
Invigorating – making one feel strong, healthy, and full of energy. “Well, to relax, I find a long hot bath with some candles and music, really invigorates me for next day”.
Indulge – to enjoy the pleasure of something. “Well, to relax, I make a huge hot chocolate, loaded with marshmallows, then grab a pack of biscuits, and indulge my sweet tooth for an hour or two”.
Mere – used to emphasize how insignificant someone or something is. “The mountain cannot be climbed by mere mortals”.
Here is a post full of advanced grammar techniques for your speaking exam.
Is vocabulary the quickest win?
Even native speakers are impressed by other native speakers who have an expansive vocabulary. Similarly, a reduced vocabulary is often associated to reduced intelligence ( source ).
I always remember my English tutor saying ‘ Never use the word nice’. Nice is an incredibly plain and overused word. It is probably among the first 100 words you learnt in English.
There are so many richer and more elegant words for you to use in your IELTS exam:
- Being nice helps to develop confidence. vs. Being pleasant helps to develop confidence .
- Her spoken English skills are really nice . vs Her spoken English skills are profound .
- It is nice to hear phrasal verbs used correctly. vs. It is delightful to hear phrasal verbs used correctly.
Active vocabulary helps your fluency
If the word you are searching for only comes after 5 seconds of waiting and there are pauses in your speaking, you do not sound fluent. Your vocabulary is not activated / it is passive.
Therefore having an extensive vocabulary is useless unless it is activated. Practice exercises to activate your vocabulary must consist of using the word various times after learning it. This is one of the best ways to consolidate your vocab for IELTS speaking.
Make sure the word is used in context though.
Word lists can be helpful if you follow the above rule of using the word various times after learning it.
Listening and repeating authentic native English speaker material on common topics will not only help your pronunciation , your vocabulary but also your fluency.
In English individual words are often pushed together in what is called connective speech. Mimicking helps you get a feel for connected speech.
It is especially useful when you learn a new word because you get the context and the correct pronunciation first time.
Likewise, learning an entire phrase by mimicking it will help with your intonation and make you sound more like a native speaker.
TIP: Most people don’t know that if you know you make a mistake it is ok to go back and correct yourself, just make sure it does not happen very often otherwise it may start to affect your score. For more help on learning speaking vocabulary and tips on the IELTS speaking test check out this guide .
Reading (not the shy or perfectionists)
Although reading is definitely useful you do not want to have ‘text book English’ which means all your English is in your head and not in your mouth. Basically you know a lot but cannot use it.
This is common among shy students and perfectionists who are reluctant to make mistakes and hate being embarrassed.
Unfortunately, the only way to get a high score and improve your speaking skills is to get out there and make mistakes. Get feedback and learn from the errors. Make the most of the classes at school or online by insisting your tutor either corrects you or notes down your mistakes. Otherwise, the lesson is just casual chit-chat between friends.
A mistake in speaking is only a failure if you failed to learn from it.
Improving your writing can help
A strong writer is often a strong communicator. Articulate writers often find their skills carry over into the speaking domain. This is especially true with the topic specific vocabulary learnt for the other modules such as writing task 2, and the reading test .
A high score through the accurate use of idioms can be achieved, if they are used naturally and accurately, here is a guide on how to use idioms in your speaking exam.
Be warned though, you must be confident you are using it aptly otherwise it can sound forced and unnatural.
Quick Speaking Tips
Tip 1. Don’t memorize your answers before the exam.
Tip 2. Develop the skill to talk spontaneously on different topics.
Tip 3. Practice your IELTS speaking using sample questions with other students.
Tip 4. Don’t be shy to ask for clarification.
Tip 5. Elaborate, explain, and develop your answers. If possible try to use more academic language.
Tip 6. Don’t rush your answers. Speak slowly and clearly (it may seem slow to you but will most likely be a natural pace).
Tip 7. Don’t panic if you make a mistake.
Tip 8. Practise fluency and accuracy separately.
Tip 9. Practise speaking about different topics with native and non-native speakers.
Tip 10. Use anecdotes, especially in your practice lessons, so as to avoid errors on exam day.
Tip 11. When using examples in your responses, try to avoid hypothetical situations.
Tip 12. Learn useful phrases for the exam, especially phrases related to the IELTS speaking topics .
Tip 13. Write out your sample answers and try and upgrade them (especially the basic vocabulary!).
Tip 14. Developing your listening skills is also essential for a high score. You want to be able to understand the examiner without asking for clarification.
Get the full lesson about speaking tips here.
More IELTS Speaking Tutorials
Take a look at some more speaking tutorials to help you in your IELTS exam
- Full guide to speaking part one of the exam
- Learning English Idioms
- How to give your opinion in the speaking exam
- Complex sentence structures to use in your speaking exam
- How to Greet the Examiner when you start your IELTS Speaking test
- Idioms to use in your IELTS Speaking exam
- IELTS Speaking tips to Achieve Band 9
- How to Speak about Hobbies in Part 1
- Using Conditionals in your Speaking Exam
- Questions and Model Answers for IELTS Speaking
- Advanced Grammar | Inversion
- IELTS Advanced Speaking: Cause and Effect
- IELTS Academic Language Word List
- IELTS Speaking: Part 2 – Past and Past Perfect Tense
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Vocabulary to help prepare for common IELTS topics
Build your everyday vocabulary to improve your ability to talk or write about a range of topics. Having a wider range of vocabulary will help you to communicate your ideas more clearly. See how mind maps can help build vocabulary.
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What is a mind map, what does a wider range of vocabulary mean, what are common ielts topics, how do i make a mind map, two more mind maps, now, it's your turn.
In our previous article on using mind maps to build your vocabulary we told you what mind maps were, and how they can be used to increase your range of vocabulary.
Being able to talk about a range of everyday topics is important for everyday communication. We are all aware of what is happening around us in the world and we can communicate about these topic areas easily in our own languages. However, it can be difficult to discuss topics in the same way when we have to use English. By increasing your range of English vocabulary, it is easier to think of what to say quickly and it helps to understand the topics you are listening to, reading, writing, or speaking about.
We mentioned that you can build your vocabulary resource by reading daily, watching English programmes and movies, singing in English and by studying word lists. You can also build your vocabulary by using mind maps.
Mind maps are a visual representation of a topic area including words and phrases connected to this topic. By arranging the words and phrases in a pattern, this helps us to remember the text more easily than if it was presented in lists.
If you organise language and ideas in a way that makes it easier for you to remember and use on test day, this will boost your performance. It will not only help you prepare for the IELTS test, but it will also mean that you can communicate better and understand more using a wider range of English vocabulary.
In order to reach a band 7 and higher, you need to have a flexible resource that is used to discuss a variety of topics. You also need to show that you can use some less common and idiomatic vocabulary, showing an awareness of style and collocation. If you can't access the right words, you need to use paraphrase to express what you are trying to say. Look at the following links to read descriptions of the different band scores for IELTS Speaking and Writing .
What do the terms in the band 7 lexical resource description mean?
flexible resource: being able to access the right words and phrases to talk about a range of different topics (without pausing or using the wrong words)
less common and idiomatic language: being able to use less common words , or phrases that have idiomatic meaning .
awareness of style and collocation: Using words that go together correctly and that are grammatically correct. For example, 'environmental pollution', 'steep rise', 'an improvement in'.
uses paraphrase successfully: being able to fill a vocabulary gap successfully by using other words and phrases ( synonyms or antonyms ) to communicate. For example, 'disappointed' - I felt so sad when my holiday was cancelled, I wasn't happy , I was sad about it because it happened again.
So, being able to access a range of words and phrases about different topics will make it easier for you to reach a higher band.
In our last article on building your vocabulary with mind maps, we asked you to explore some topic areas and to create mind maps from the list we gave you. Our previous article showed you two mind maps; 'the environment' and 'hobbies and interests'. We also created a third mind map for you in our article on how to perform at your best in the part 3 discussion in the IELTS Speaking test.
This mind map explores vocabulary related to famous people and celebrities.
In our article today, we will share two more mind maps with you - tourism and travel and health and diet .
hobbies and interests
famous people and celebrities
tourism and travel
health and diet
When you make a mind map, the visual representation of the topic should contain a number of areas. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you brainstorm enough vocabulary to be able to extend appropriately when asked about it.
What are the common words connected to this topic?
Are there any idiomatic phrases used when talking about this topic?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this topic area?
Are there famous names and places connected to this topic area?
Are there some good (recent/famous) examples of this topic area?
What does the government do to support this topic area?
Are there any future developments that might happen in this topic area?
What other topic areas might be linked to this topic area?
When you decide on your answers, create a mind map using squares, or circles, or any shapes that might help you to remember the topic more easily.
The following mind maps show a range of vocabulary and ideas related to Tourism and travel, and Health and diet.
If you want to see a larger image, right-click on the image and open it in a new tab.
For Tourism and travel, we have looked at the advantages and disadvantages of the tourism industry for domestic (in your home country) and international tourism. We have also looked at some idiomatic language that might be used with this topic, as well as some terms related to government policy.
Look at the common questions that you might be asked on this topic, and then use the language in the mind map to answer them.
For Health and diet, we have looked at a few areas:
reasons for why we might be unhealthy
reasons for why we may not be fit
possible results of being unhealthy
possible solutions for being healthy
ways that the government can increase the health of the nation
Now that you can see how mind maps are designed, have a look at the rest of the topic list and try and make up your own visual representation of the topic areas.
learning and education
leisure and entertainment
crime and punishment
sport and competition
art and music
modern lifestyles and societal changes
traditions and customs
fashion and advertising
Increasing your vocabulary over a wide range of topics will help when you read, write, listen and speak to people. You will also be more prepared on a test day, being able to access the language and ideas you need more easily to communicate more clearly.
If you think you are now ready to test how much English vocabulary you know, why not check how you are progressing with an official IELTS practice test with IELTS Progress Check .
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