Master Lexical resources in IELTS Writing exam

lexical resources in IELTS writing

Master Lexical Resources in IELTS Writing exam

lexical resources in IELTS writing
lexical resources in IELTS writing

Lexical resource or vocabulary range is one of the four criteria that assess your IELTS writing exam.

Today, we will talk about vocabulary to be used in both writing tasks.

If you want to get a high band score, you need to be able to use a wide range of vocabulary.

In this article, IELTS Game will also touch on the assessment of lexical resource in both writing tasks.

The official exam paper says that lexical resources involve the ability to use a wide range of vocabulary with natural and sophisticated control of lexical features; when rare minor errors occur only as ‘slips.’

IELTS Vocabulary Range

First of all, let’s try to understand what we mean by vocabulary range.

Our range of English vocabulary shows how rich our language is in terms of words that we can understand and use correctly in different situations.

Vocabulary range is closely connected with using synonyms. Good knowledge of synonyms will help you in all IELTS sections.

For instance, instead of using the word “car” throughout your essay, you might also use a vehicle, automobile, means of transport, etc.

A wide range of English vocabulary for IELTS helps you fluently and skilfully convey a distinct message throughout the essay and persuade the examiner that you have an advanced vocabulary.

While preparing for IELTS, I recommend that you spend some time making lists of synonyms for the most common words used in IELTS writing.

For instance, important – vital, crucial, principal, key, essential, significant, etc. To make such lists, use Oxford Dictionary where you only have to type a word and you will see the possible synonyms.

Make sure you feel comfortable using some of them at the IELTS test; there is no need to memorize all of them.

When to use synonyms?

Using synonyms can be tricky since they may have slightly different meaning and cannot always be used interchangeably.

The best advice is to follow the “100% rule”: only use a synonym for a word if you are 100% certain that the new word has 100% the same meaning as the original word.

If you are less than 100% certain, use the same word and try other ways to demonstrate your vocabulary range.

Now, let’s take a look at the example with some very common words and choose most appropriate synonyms for them.

Out of four options given, one cannot substitute the underlined word. Which one is it?

A social network is a helpful tool to keep in touch with friends and family.

  • effective
  • beneficial
  • useful
  • advantageous

The answer is “advantageous” because, according to Oxford learner’s dictionary, advantageous means “good or useful in a particular situation”.

For example, A free trade agreement would be advantageous to both countries. OR This plan could be advantageous for people on low incomes. 

But our statement is a general description that applies to any social network.

And here are definitions of the other three options:

  • useful – that can help you to do or achieve what you want;
  • beneficial – improving a situation; having a helpful or useful effect;
  • effective – producing a successful result.

So, it is easy to imagine that a useful, beneficial or effective tool helps you to do something and produce an intended result.


Another important tip to master lexical resources is to develop a paraphrasing skill.

Ability to paraphrase is crucial for both writing task 1 and 2 since you shouldn’t repeat the sentences from the exam paper and even your words more than one or two times.

Effective paraphrasing includes 2 types of changes in the original statement:

  1. Changing words
  2. Changing the structure of the sentence
  3. Changing both words & sentence structure

1. Changing words

There are several ways to change words in a sentence. First of all, do not forget to use synonyms.

We already know that synonyms can be tricky so use one only if you are 100% sure what it means. Let’s look at this example.

Pay attention to how each part of a sentence is replaced by a synonymous phrase.

Original: Global warming is mostly caused by emissions from internal combustion engines.

Paraphrase: Climate change is mainly caused by the release of fumes from motor vehicles.

Another way of paraphrasing words is changing word forms. This means changing nouns to verbs, adjectives to adverbs, and so on.

So, you should practice word formation both with words you already know or are going to learn. For example:

Original: The number of rich people has increased noticeably in the past 50 years.

Paraphrase: The increase in the number of rich people has been noticeable in the past 50 years.

The verb in Present Perfect tense “has increased” has been changed into a noun “the increase,” and the adverb “noticeably” is transformed into an adjective “noticeable.”

Also, notice that when changing word forms, you need to make other necessary changes as well, such as adding a verb in a new sentence, “has been”; or restructuring the sentence by making “the increase” the subject of the sentence.

2. Changing the structure of the sentence

It is not enough to replace original words with others; you should also make changes to the sentence structure.

There is a variety of ways to do that. One very common way is converting active to passive voice. For example:

Active: Many schools require their students to wear uniforms.

Passive: Students are required to wear uniforms in many schools.

However, remember that passive voice does not always sound natural; you should use it when the doer of the action is either unknown or unimportant.

Another way of changing structure is to combine 2 sentences into 1 with the help of relative clauses. For example:

Original: Sportspeople earn much more money than people in other professions do. This creates a lot of dissatisfaction among many members of the public.

Paraphrase: Sportspeople earn much more money than people in other professions do, which creates a lot of dissatisfaction among many members of the public.

There is a range of other ways to change sentence structure using numerous conjunctions such as while, although, because, etc.

For example:

Original: Many people consider social networks are a menace to normal human communication. Others think they are a viable alternative enabling more frequent and close contact.

Paraphrase: Many people consider social networks are a menace to normal human communication while others think they are a viable alternative enabling more frequent and close contact.

3. Changing both words and structure

So far we’ve talked about ways of changing words in a sentence and using alternative structures.

However, you should keep in mind that an effective paraphrase does both – uses different words and structure at the same time.

For example:

Original: More and more people these days prefer social networks to keep in touch with friends and family.

Paraphrase: Nowadays, social networks are preferred increasingly often for contacting friends and family.

Look at how synonyms have been used:

  • More and more – increasingly often
  • these days – Nowadays
  • to keep in touch with – for contacting

Notice that “friends and family” are not changed at all, and “people” is not mentioned because the structure is changed with the help of passive voice, which makes the doer of the action clear and unnecessary to point out.

These paraphrasing methods will only help you in the IELTS exam if you practice using them.

Try finding some sample writing questions and paraphrasing them using these methods.

You can practice each method separately to become confident and then combine a few at the same time.

The more you work on paraphrasing, the easier the process will be, the more natural your sentences will sound.

Using Collocations

One distinctive feature of native speech is a use of collocations, which are set expressions of two words that typically go together, for example, give a chance, take an exam, make a presentation, etc.

The examiner will be judging your lexical resources on the correct use of such combinations.

For example, here is what the IELTS public band descriptors say for an IELTS band 7 for lexis (vocabulary): “uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation.”

So to achieve a band 7 in this criteria, you need not only use some less common words, but you also need to show to some extent that you know how to use other words not to affect the meaning or the message of the statement.

Avoid using common and simple words

There is usually a better or advanced synonym for almost all words.

Your choice of words will determine whether you state your position skilfully and fluently.

And also do not forget that advanced vocabulary used accurately will definitely increase your band score.

These are the so-called strong word lists. For example,

  • to say – announce, command, declare, emphasize, explain;
  • to get – achieve, acquire, attain, borrow, buy, earn, obtain, receive;
  • to do – accomplish, achieve, complete, execute, fulfill, perform.

The other side of the coin is that many of strong words might slightly differ in the context they can be used, so be very careful.

You don’t need to show off your knowledge of extremely difficult or uncommon words.

Otherwise, your writing will suffer from having a bunch of advanced words with confusing meaning.

In order to show a good range of vocabulary, you need to know specific topic-related words.

It will help you in writing your essay and speaking section too.

There are some basic topics which are covered by the IELTS writing section, including but not limited to:

  • Education
  • Crime and punishment
  • Food, Fitness and Health
  • Work
  • Information Technology
  • Environment
  • Science
  • The Arts and painting
  • Business and money
  • Communication and personality
  • Economics
  • Family and children
  • Media and advertising
  • Reading
  • Space exploration
  • Transport
  • Society
  • Sport

I’d recommend that you learn basic words connected with each topic and think over the common challenges or mostly discussed questions in each area.

For instance, when we have an essay topic related to the environment, we might need to discuss such issues as animal extinction, protection of endangered species, conservation programs, environmental problems, etc.

So you need to be ready not only to use appropriate vocabulary but also discuss the issues connected with the topic.

Lexical Resources Summary

So, now let’s make a summary. We have covered 5 basic topics related to a lexical resource that is essential in preparation for IELTS exam.

  1. Use a wide range of vocabulary in your writing tasks.
  2. Paraphrase effectively.
  3. Use collocations appropriately.  
  4. Do not use common and simple words; use advanced vocabulary instead.
  5. Be able to use topic-related vocabulary and discuss common topics.

I hope this article will prove useful in your studies and wish you good luck with your exam!

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