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Imagine you’re deep in an English conversation, and just at the right moment, the perfect word pops into your mind. This moment is an example of “serendipity”, which means a happy, unexpected discovery. What other words would you have used to describe such a moment?

A rich vocabulary is more than just the ability to use fancy words, it is about being able to express yourself clearly and vividly.

Think of vocabulary as your superpower in the world of English. It lets you convey subtle differences in meaning — like using “exhilarating” (happy and excited) instead of just saying “happy”.

These words add depth to your conversations and writing. And while you might not use words like “pandemonium” (wild and noisy disorder) or “idyllic” (extremely peaceful) every day, knowing these unfamiliar words broadens your understanding and prepares you for a variety of situations.

This includes the IELTS test. Improving your vocabulary will not just help you get better results in the IELTS Speaking test, but it will help you get better in the IELTS Writing test as well. With that in mind, let’s explore how to improve your English vocabulary.

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Best books to improve your English vocabulary and grammar

Try to learn new English words every day

What you do every day can really help you get better at English. Try making learning unfamiliar new words part of a small, fun daily challenge. This way, you turn improving your vocabulary from something tough into something exciting.

Read from books, newspapers, magazines, and more

Reading different kinds of books, newspapers, and other written work is a great way to learn new words.

For example, an English novel might introduce you to “eternal” (lasting forever), while a newspaper could teach you “contentious” (likely to cause an argument). This helps you learn more words for use in different scenarios, such as when you need to be more lively and descriptive or when you need to be more serious.

Try keeping a vocabulary journal to note down the words you learn, their definitions, and examples of how to use them in sentences. For example:

  • Word: Eternal

  • Definition: Something that lasts forever

  • How to use it in a sentence: The idea of eternal love is popular in many storybooks.

Watch movies and television shows in English

Watching movies and television shows is a fun way to learn colloquial language, which means words or phrases used in everyday conversation rather than formal language. You get to hear how people really talk, including idioms and expressions that you might not find in textbooks.

Different types of media can teach you different types of words. A comedy sitcom might introduce you to humorous phrases or slang, making your conversations more lively. On the other hand, a romantic movie could teach you expressions of love and affection, helping you to describe your feelings better.

For example, the iconic movie quote “may the force be with you” from Star Wars is often used to wish someone good luck. This phrase has become a pop culture reference that showcases how movie quotes can become a part of the everyday English language.

Using this quote is a great way to connect with others in conversations over shared knowledge of popular media.

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Listen to English music and podcasts

Listening to English music is not just entertaining; it's a powerful way to immerse yourself in the language.

Different genres of songs can introduce you to a wide range of vocabulary, from informal expressions found in pop to poetic terms often used in ballads.

For instance, upbeat pop songs might use casual slang, making your everyday conversations more relatable and lively. Conversely, listening to classic rock can expose you to descriptive language that enriches your ability to express complex emotions or describe scenes vividly.

For example, the lyrics “shake it off” from Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” is an idiomatic expression meaning to let go of one’s worries or negative experiences and move forward, which is very different from the phrase’s literal meaning!

Similarly, podcasts cover a wide range of topics, from casual chats to in-depth discussions, offering plenty of opportunities to learn new, unfamiliar words and phrases. They allow you to hear how native speakers use the language in real-life contexts, making it easier to understand and use the words yourself.

Try your hand at creative writing

Trying your hand at creative writing, like blogging or writing stories, is a fantastic way to broaden your English vocabulary by actively applying new words you’ve picked up from various sources.

For instance, you could write a blog post about overcoming challenges, using phrases like "shake it off" to describe resilience or "may the force be with you" as a way to wish readers success in their endeavors.

Perhaps in a story, you could create a character who believes in "eternal" love, or love that never ends, weaving together the diverse vocabulary you've encountered. This practice not only commits these words in your memory but also allows you to experiment with their usage in different contexts, making your writing richer and more expressive.

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Play English language-themed games

Improving your English vocabulary skills doesn't have to be boring. Playing English language-themed games is a great way to improve your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills without sitting at a desk.

The IELTS by IDP app has word-based games that help improve your vocabulary, such as:

  • a word match game wherein you select words that mean the same thing

  • a guessing game where you are asked to select the correct meaning of the word

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Practical strategies for retaining your vocabulary

Learning new English words is great, but remembering them is just as important. Here are some easy ways to make sure those new words stick with you:

The power of repetition

Going over new words often helps lock them into your memory. For instance, if you learn the word "solace", which means finding comfort during tough times, try to use it in different sentences while you go about your week. This practice helps reinforce what it means and how to use it properly.

Using words in context

Putting unfamiliar words into sentences of your own is another great way to remember them. Say you learn "tenacious," meaning someone who holds on tightly to something. You might write a sentence like, "His tenacious hold on the rope saved him." Sharing these sentences with a friend can be fun, and you'll get to learn from the words they've discovered too. This way, new words become part of your everyday language, making your English stronger and more colourful.

Improve your vocabulary while studying for IELTS

Expanding your English vocabulary is like unlocking new levels in a game. Each unfamiliar word mastered opens up possibilities for richer communication and deeper understanding.

Throughout this article, we've explored practical and enjoyable ways to enhance your vocabulary, from reading to immersing yourself in English media, and even expressing yourself through creative writing. These activities not only prepare you to engage in conversations but also equip you with the skills to excel in all aspects of the IELTS test.

Remember, the journey to a rich vocabulary is continuous and rewarding. Every new word learned is a step towards expressing yourself more effectively and grasping the nuances of the English language. To support you on this journey, IELTS offers a wide range of resources tailored to your learning needs.

Whether you're looking to master everyday English or aiming for a high score on your IELTS tests, resources such as IELTS Masterclass and IELTS practice tests can provide you with the guidance you need to succeed.

For even more preparation tools and tips, don't forget to download the IELTS by IDP app for exclusive access to preparation courses. With consistent practice and preparation, you'll be well on your way to becoming a confident and articulate English speaker.

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Published on June 19, 2024

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