How to improve your academic vocabulary – IELTS speaking

The IELTS examiner expects you to show ‘some awareness of style and collocation’ to reach a Band 7 or Band 8. Compare the sentences – which is better?

Smoking is bad for your health. Smoking has a major impact on your health.

The sentence on the right is better because it shows style because it has an academic tone, and collocation because you are using the correct verb, adjective and preposition with the noun ‘impact’.

What if I get a difficult topic?

It is useful because it doesn’t matter what topic the examiner presents you with in Task 2:

  • Water pollution has a major impact on the number of fish in lakes and rivers.
  • Social networking websites have a major impact on how we spend our free time.
  • Education and training can have a major impact on prisoners.

What vocabulary should I learn?

Focus first on academic collocations you can use for any topic. Here are five strong academic collocations for IELTS Writing Task 2:

Smoking is bad for your health. Smoking has a major impact on your health.
Acid rain is bad for buildings. Acid rain does enormous harm to buildings.
Team games make children’s social skills better. Team games lead to an improvement in children’s social skills.
Living in a city is better than living in a rural area. Living in a city has many advantages over living in a rural area.
Imported films and music are bad for local traditions. Imported films and music have a negative effect on local traditions.

How can I get better?

Here is a Writing Task 2 Sample question:

Technology has enabled increasing numbers of employees to work from home via email and computer. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working from home?

Make example sentences using the collocations in the table above. Check that you use the correct verb and preposition.

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