How to Give Your Vocabulary a Boost as You Prep for Your IELTS Exam
– A Guest Post by Ofer Tirosh
The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is a standardized test of the English language used to measure the proficiency of non-native speakers. Recognized by employers and universities all over the world, it remains one of the most popular and trusted tests for determining one’s overall ability to communicate in English.
There are four components to the exam – listening, speaking, reading and writing – and each individual will find that the difficulty of each section depends on their own skills and strengths.
While it is often said that the IELTS is difficult, preparing well can make it seem much less so. This article aims to offer you some fun and practical ideas to help you get ready for the exam. Because not everyone learns the same way, we have provided a variety of approaches to help you boost your vocabulary.
It may look a little funny to visitors and guests, but one of the easiest ways to learn new words is through labeling everything within eyesight.
Get yourself a pack of post-it notes and cover your entire house from top to bottom with the name of each object. Then, as you learn them, remove the ones you are sure you know and focus on the more difficult ones that you have left.
Look at Lemmas
Lemmas are units of meaning or root words. Around 75% of daily conversation in English can be understood through the learning of approximately 800 root words. When you learn a new word, try to learn all of its inflections in just one go – e.g. swim, swam, swimming, swum.
Hum a Tune
Your kindergarten teacher was right all along: setting things to music helps you learn. Set tough words to the tune of simple nursery rhymes and hum them to yourself over and again to make them stick in your memory (I can personally attest to this working – I can still reel off which words in German take the dative, thanks to them being set to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by my German teacher nearly 30 years ago!).
If you are a creative type, you can write your own lyrics and music. If not, why not choose your favorite rock and roll song to set the words to? As long as it is something memorable to you it should work very well.
Use flashcards with your own language on one side and the English translation on the other. Set yourself a target of 10 words per day (in addition to your other learning methods) then test yourself regularly throughout the day.
You can also customize your flashcards by cutting colorful pictures out of magazines and sticking them to one side. Some people find this visual approach makes learning easier. Experiment with various methods to see what works best for you.
Reel off a list of words you need to learn while videoing it on your phone, then play the video back whenever you’re doing a task like washing up where your hands are busy, but your brain isn’t fully occupied.
Download an App
If you find learning with apps to be helpful, the British Council has developed an IELTS practice app that may be useful to you. It contains free exercises, practice tests, quizzes, grammar tips, sample questions, and more to help you succeed.
Watch Films and Listen to Music
Why not immerse yourself in English films? This can be especially helpful if you turn on closed-captioning. That way you are hearing and seeing the words all at once. Make a pact with yourself that you will only watch English films or listen to English music until you have passed your exam.
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Many social media language groups and pages can be helpful. Finding a couple of online buddies for whom English is their first language can be an invaluable experience. Synergy happens during real conversation and connection and making friends with someone who you can converse with about ordinary topics is sure to improve your vocabulary.
Take Advantage of YouTube
There are many Youtube channels devoted to learning English. One channel in particular – Learn English With Mr. Duncan – is not only helpful, it is entertaining as well. The best part is that Mr. Duncan provides these vocabulary lessons free of charge.
There are so many more ways to prepare yourself for the IELTS exam than just studying pages in a book. This article should have provided you with some inspiration to get you started. As you put some of these methods into practice, you will probably come up with even more ways to improve your vocabulary as you go about your everyday life.
Remember that positive experiences tend to stick in the memory better than negative ones, so try to make learning as relaxed, fun and stress-free as possible. By following these tips, you will be well on your way to passing the IELTS exam with flying colors!
Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, a translation agency providing language and interpretation services. Tomedes has been supporting clients around the world with their translation needs for more than a decade.