You need a large ‘active’ vocabulary to score well on a highly competitive test like IELTS. In many cases, the range of your vocabulary determines your score in the writing section. Examiners are particularly interested in testing your ability to express the same idea using different words. Here are some ways to improve your vocabulary before an exam or an essay.
Learn words in the Academic Word List
Learn the words in the Academic Word List. These are the words that frequently appear on competitive tests like TOEFL and IELTS. When you learn a new word, try to learn every form of that word as the same word can appear in different forms. For example, the word analysis is a noun. In its verb form it is analyze. Analytical, another form of the same word, is an adjective. Analyst, on the other hand, is a noun. An analyst is a person who analyzes. When learning a new word, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with all the forms in which the word can appear.
Check in a dictionary to see how each form of the word is used. Just learning the meaning of a new word is not enough. To use a word correctly you must also understand its grammar.
For example, if it is a verb, you should know what words can follow it. Different verbs can be followed by different kinds of word and structure. Some verbs can be followed by either infinitives or gerunds of other verbs. Some verbs, on the other hand, are followed by infinitives. There are also verbs that are normally followed by –ing forms (gerunds). If it is an adjective, check whether it takes a preposition. Some adjectives do, some don’t. For nouns, you will need to know whether it is countable or uncountable.
Other information that you need to know is the level of formality. Some words are only used in formal situations. Some words, on the other hand, are only used in informal speech and writing. In your IELTS essay, you must avoid using words that are too informal.
Organise your vocabulary notes.
Organize your vocabulary notes in such a way that they are easy to learn and remember. You can, for example, organize them by subject. And when you learn a new word, try to learn some of the alternatives too.
Practise the words
Start practising the words you have learned. A good dictionary will show the correct usage of each word. Look at the example sentences given in the dictionary. Can you create another sentence using the same word? If you can’t you require more practice.