IELTS essay and vocabulary (climate change)

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To score high in IELTS writing you first need to understand how IELTS examiners grade this part of the IELTS test.

IELTS examiners do not give you one grade, they give you four grades. You never see these but they are added together to create an overall band score in IELTS Writing. The four areas that they grade you on are:

Task achievement
Cohesion and coherence
Lexical resource
Grammatical range and accuracy

This tutorial focuses on lexical resource:

  • What is lexical resource?
  • What can you do to improve your band score in this area?

Click here for the full tutorial:

Click here for a free master list of collocations!

Audio tutorial

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Read the transcript below:

Female Voice: Your host, Ben Worthington.

Ben: How can you get a high band score in lexical resource in the IELTS writing task? Hi there, my name is Ben Worthington. In this tutorial, I'm going to give you a very useful, very practical strategy to help you score higher with your lexical resource.

This is a strategy that's included in the online course. It’s very easy to learn. It's very quick and the course is absolutely full of these straight forward practical tips and advice that help you improve much, much faster.

So, before we jump into this tutorial, it's very important to understand how the IELTS examiners grade this part of the test. They don't give you one grade. They give you four grades that you do not see. Then these are added together afterward to get an overall band score for your IELTS writing. The four areas are task achievement, cohesion and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy.

I'm going to focus on lexical resource and how we can improve our score. So, as we just mentioned, lexical resource is going to represent 25% of your overall score. So, it's important you choose your vocabulary carefully. Now, a lot of students just focus on answering the question and don't pay enough attention usually to vocabulary.

This might end up us getting a 5 for lexical resource and then it might lower the overall band score. Now, to get over a 6 in your lexical resource, we're going to have to use a range of less common words and phrases. Let's have a look exactly how we can do this with an IELTS essay. We’re going to look at a typical question and this topic is very common as well. It’s about the environment.

Before we even start focusing on the vocabulary, we need to read and understand the question. Let's have a look. "It is the job of governments and companies is to deal with the huge environmental problems which we face. Individuals on their own can do little or nothing. What is your opinion about this statement?"

In this question, we need to focus on governments, companies, and individuals. So, the best answer would be-- I would take two strategies. We could take the five-paragraph model and write a paragraph for each one or we could kind of group them into organizations and individuals. We could say-- put governments and companies in the same basket, in one paragraph and then the next paragraph dedicate it just to individuals and it would make it easier to write.

Anyway, in this specific example, we've done three paragraphs. Now, we've understood the question and here is the tip I give in the online course, okay? It's very pragmatic. We're not going to jump in with two feet and start writing the essay. No. We’re going to note down some complex words and phrases we can use in our answer, okay? So, if you do it like this, you’re more likely to include it in your essay.

Now, what kind of vocabulary could we use to improve our lexical resource in this question about the environment? Well, not only are we going to use some less common words and complex language, but we're going to definitely, definitely, definitely use collocations. Collocations, if you don’t know, these are words that go together naturally and there's a higher statistical chance that we find them together when they are used.

They are used by native English speakers and they help you to sound more natural. Here are a few collocations. To tackle climate change: this basically means to deal with climate change. Next one, a pressing problem: a problem that needs dealing with urgently. A pressing problem.

Hopefully, you've whipped out your pen and you're writing these down. If you're not, I hope you're committing them to memory. Next one, a moral responsibility: a duty to behave in a way that is right. The key players: the most important people.

By the way, just as a side note, if you think this tutorial would benefit somebody, please send them the link. Send them a message. Tell them to download this tutorial or the tutorials in general and this way, we can just help make this IELTS burden of frustration a little bit easier for everybody else.

So, just to recap where we've got so far. We read the question, we understand the question, and then we brainstorm complex language related to the topic, complex language which is going to include topic-specific vocabulary and collocations.

So, let's jump into this. What I'm going to do is read you the question then I'm going to read you the answer, okay? Or at least the paragraphs I wrote. Now, as I said, in this example I divided it up into a range of paragraphs. What I'm going to do is read you the answer and I'm going to lower my voice when I mention a collocation, topic-specific vocabulary, or impressive language, less common language.

I'm going to lower my voice when I do this because when somebody whispers, you pay much more attention, okay? So, when there is a lowering in the voice what usually happens is that our ears pick up, our listening picks up and we try to pay more attention. This will be a clue for you to pay more attention and you're more likely to remember it. If you've got that pen in your hand, you can write them down or you can just pause the recording, write them down in your phone.

Let's go. Question first. "It is the job of governments and companies to deal with the huge environmental problems which we face. Individuals on their own can do little or nothing. What is your opinion about this statement?" We’ve done our introduction. Let's jump straight into the body paragraphs.

"It cannot be disputed that the world is experiencing an environmental crisis. According to recent research, if nothing is done to tackle climate change in the near future, our planet will face the devastating consequences of global warming. Undoubtedly, it is the role of governments and corporate organizations to take action. However, I strongly feel that individuals need to make a contribution to deal with this pressing problem as well.

Politicians, this is a new paragraph, politicians could certainly invest public finances in order to research the issues connected with climate change and furthermore could pass laws in relation to industrial pollution, which is making a major contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Nevertheless, it requires constant pressure from citizens either alone or in environmental pressure groups on our leaders to make this happen. The general public can protest or lobby the politicians or vote for a political party who proposes introducing green policies if elected.

Similarly, (new paragraph) copper businesses should be adopting more sustainable working practices for instance, by switching to more environmentally friendly ways of manufacturing using renewable energies such as solar panels. Likewise, the individual as a consumer can play a role here too by refusing to purchase products which have been manufactured in a way that damages the environment.

It must also be acknowledged that individuals have a moral responsibility to care for our planet. For example, reducing consumption of fossil fuels whenever possible, becoming self-sufficient by growing their own vegetables and switching off lights when they are not needed. Although some of these actions may seem minor, the cumulative effect of everyone taking such actions would be enormous.”

There we go. I'll read you the conclusion in a second. Let me just recap the impressive or uncommon vocabulary, the topic-specific vocabulary, the collocations, all used in this essay, right? Notice as well that they are used in a natural way. In a second, I will tell you about how we can acquire this vocabulary.

So, the vocab used which would help us score points: an environmental crisis, to tackle climate change, planet, devastating consequences of global warming, this is a pressing problem, industrial pollution, the greenhouse effect, environmental pressure groups, lobby their politicians. "...the general public can protest and lobby their politicians..." Lobby just means to try and persuade, to take action through the courts, to persuade the politicians to do something.

Next one: green policies, sustainable, environmentally friendly, renewable energy, solar panels, a moral responsibility, reducing consumption of fossil fuels, and self-sufficient. All of that is topic-specific vocabulary and all of it is helping you score maximum points for lexical resource.

Now, on there is a whole page-- there is a whole massive tutorial on IELTS vocabulary and lexical resource. Just go to Google or Bing, whatever you use, put ieltspodcast lexical resource and you will find it, okay? There we talk about how you can learn this, how you can start incorporating it in a natural way because a lot of students might just go out and learn lists, which is better than nothing, but unless you learn those lists in context, unless you learn those words, phrases, and collocations in context, it's going to be a-- it’s not going to sound natural.

As we mentioned before, the environment is a frequently used topic. So, if you want to use decent vocabulary in your exam then hopefully you’ve written down the phrases I’ve just shared with you and go research those phrases and when you come across a new phrase don't just copy the phrase. Copy down the whole sentence and then maybe write down about four or five different sentences using a similar structure or using a different word, but using that collocation.

This will help you to get to use the collocation in a natural form especially if you're getting feedback on your work. If you're lost and you don’t know where to get feedback, then you can have a look at the Essay Correction service we've got on ieltspodcast and there you can send your work and the essay corrector will give you some feedback.

Sometimes I do it as well when the essay corrector is on holiday, but she will give you some feedback and she will help you understand where you need to improve. It’s a very fast and effective way of improving.

So, as I said, if you know anybody who's struggling with their IELTS, then perhaps send them a link with this tutorial or a link to the podcast. Also, the next step if you want to carry on improving is to go and subscribe at Leave your email and we'll send you more tutorials, a big, big PDF full of model essays and vocabulary resources. If you're in a hurry, then you might want to have a look at the online course.

My name is Ben Worthington. Good luck with your IELTS. Keep on practicing, keep on improving and you will get there. Have a great day.

Female Voice: Thanks for listening to