IELTS Marshalls

The biggest lie about IELTS Vocabulary

Our students come to us all saying the same thing:

“I need advanced vocabulary!!!”

“My vocabulary is too simple!”

“I need big words!”

This isn’t necessarily true.  You do not need to know “big” or “advanced” words to get a 7, 8, or even a 9. In fact, using awkward, big words can LOWER your score.

During a Part 2 Speaking speech, a student was talking about how happy she was after she graduated college, and she said:

“My elation knew no bounds.”

Umm…what?! Native speakers don’t talk like that! 

That’s why it’s better to use simpler, more common vocabulary so that you sound like a fluent English speaker.

If you look at the IELTS rubric, to get a 9 in Speaking, you need “flexible” and “precise” vocabulary – not necessarily advanced. You also need to use idiomatic language “naturally” – and big, clunky words do not sound natural or native.

Let’s look at an example of a Part 2 Speaking question about throwing a party; this answer has good, precise vocabulary.  Look at the end of this blog post for a list of this natural vocabulary that you can use, too, for an answer about parties.

Talk about an event or dinner you have organized recently.

You should say:

  • When it happened
  • Where it happened
  • What was it

And explain the feedback from your guests.

Here’s a 9-level answer to this question:

Last year, I decided to throw a party for my mom who was turning 60 years old. I decided to book the party at a restaurant near my house called Maggianos. I put down a deposit a few months before the party to secure the venue.

This party required a lot of planning on my part. After booking the venue, I had to create the guest list. Then, I asked my mom for the guests’ addresses in order to send out the invitations. The theme was “Ladies Night,” and I made the RSVP date two weeks before the event. I also specified the attire for the night, which would be cocktail attire.

On the day of the event, I showed up two hours early to set upI put up the decorations, which included pink balloons, streamers, and a banner; I chose pink and gold as the color scheme since those are my mom’s favorite colors. I displayed the place cards with everyone’s table assignments, and placed a party favor in front of each person’s chair. The DJ arrived early, too, and he set up his equipment on the dance floor

Finally, the guests started to arrive, including my mom’s best friends, coworkers, and family members. While the DJ played top hits from the 80s, the waiters started passing out appetizers

Then, the guest of honor arrived – my mom looked beautiful! She was so happy to see everyone, and immediately started enjoying her party. The dinner had four courses – salad, hor deurves, the main entrees, and dessert. It was the perfect buffet!

The guests had the time of their lives and were sad to leave! As my cousin was leaving, she told me that she had a blast! The party was perfect from beginning to end, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. 

Let’s look at some of the vocabulary from the answer! Again, these aren’t overly advanced – they’re common and native.

  • Throw a party: organize a party 
  • Book the party: make a reservation
  • Put down a deposit: pay a percentage of the money required to make the reservation
  • Venue (noun): the place where a party is held
  • create the guest list: make a list of people you want to invite
  • send out the invitations: send the invitations
  • Theme: the subject of the party (it determines the environment of the party)
  • the RSVP date: the deadline to say yes or no to a party invitation
  • the attire: the appropriate clothes people should wear
  • to set up: prepare for the party (hang the decorations, organize the tables)
  • I put up the decorations: hang the decorations
  • color scheme: a combination of colors for decoration
  • the place cards: paper with the guest’s name on it and table number
  • party favor: a small gift you give each guest
  • The DJ: a person who plays songs on special equipment
  • the dance floor: the area where people dance 
  • played top hits: played popular songs
  • Appetizers: small food items before the main meal
  • the guest of honor: the person being celebrated
  • Courses: a specific set of food items served at the same time
  • the main entree: the main meal
  • buffet: the meals are placed in a public area and the diners serve themselves  
  • The guests had the time of their lives: they had a really good time
  • she had a blast: she had a really good time

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