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IELTS Writing: Better vocabulary, better band score

IELTS Writing: Better vocabulary, better band score

The challenge

When your IELTS Writing tasks are being graded, the examiner will look at four main areas — task response, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, and grammatical range and accuracy (check out the detailed band descriptors for IELTS Writing). If you take a closer look at lexical resource, you’ll see that your IELTS Writing band score will depend, in part, on the range of vocabulary you use. You only have 150 words in Part 1 and 250 words in Part 2 to do this, so you need to make every word count. Examiners are looking to see if a candidate:

  • ‘uses an adequate range of vocabulary for the task’ (Band 6)
  • ‘uses a sufficient range of vocabulary to allow some flexibility and precision’ (Band 7)
  • ‘uses a wide range of vocabulary fluently and flexibly to convey precise meanings’ (Band 8-9)

In this post, we look at how you can improve your vocabulary and show the examiner how much you know.

The solution

The first step is to widen your vocabulary. Reading is a great place to start. You can start by reading IELTS-related texts, newspapers, any readings that interest you, and even use vocabulary apps. By doing so, instead of just quick fixes, you will be improving your overall reading skill, which will benefit you in the long run. But that’s only half the story. It’s equally important to be concise in both of your writing tasks.

George Orwell, English novelist and stylist, wrote six rules for effective writing in his essay Politics and the English Language back in 1946. Rule number 3 is ‘If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.’

It is often easy to do this. Look at the example below, and replace each one with a single word (you’ll find suggested answers below).

  • at this moment in time
  • in spite of the fact that
  • smaller in size
  • red in colour
  • few in number
  • in the event that
  • is allowed to
  • last but not least
  • with the exception of
  • at all times

Incidentally, you may think that Orwell’s rule — at 13 words — is too wordy, and that it contradicts itself. Can you replace them with just three words?

When you build a better vocabulary, you have the tools to write with fewer and better words. This will make it easier to say what you want to say within the IELTS Writing 150 or 250 word limit.

Next step

When you have completed the exercise above and checked your answers, go back to a practice essay you have written recently. Look at each sentence and see how many words you can remove while still expressing the same idea. You may need to rewrite the sentence, or simply remove some unnecessary (or ‘filler’) words. Then, read the essay one last time and see how your style has improved.

For more tips, take a look at our four keys to success in IELTS Writing here.

Suggested answers

now; although; smaller; red; few; if; can; finally; except; always; Remove unnecessary words


  1. Donna says:

    useful suggestion. I thought some phrases like in spit of the fact that would look more high-level before and this article really makes me refresh this idea.

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