Build Your Vocabulary – Using Notebooks

Knowledge of vocabulary is really important for all parts of the IELTS Test if you are going to succeed in getting the score you need. Without grammar, communication in language becomes very unclear and confused but without vocabulary there is virtually no communication at all! Using a notebook can be an excellent tool to build your vocabulary.

Therefore, buy a simple notebook just for recording vocabulary. Then, find useful reading texts and when you read make a note of new vocabulary items.

What texts are useful?

Find texts that you think will have useful vocabulary for IELTS. Remember there are some common topics that frequently appear in the IELTS Test, so build your vocabulary in these topic areas:


Health Globalisation

Public Transport

Criminal Justice











What kind of notes should you make about vocabulary? Well, the most obvious answer to this important question is that you should write down the main meaning of the word. Do this in English, using an English-English dictionary.

What dictionary should you use?

One of the best dictionaries you use is the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary which is available online:

This dictionary is for English language learners and has some excellent features. You can see what kind of word it is (verb, noun, adjective etc.). You can also check the pronunciation. The dictionary will then give you the main meaning indicated by a number system, with ‘1’ being the main meaning. The definition will then have an example of the word appearing naturally in a sentence. This always helps to make the meaning clear. It also helps memory of the word. Understanding the meaning is one step, but remembering the word is essential. If you make a note of the word in context in a sentence you will have more chance of remembering it. Furthermore, you will also learn how to use the word.

Let’s look at an example of a word and the notes you can make:




2nd syllable is stressed in pronunciation

= to state firmly and clearly that something is true   

‘assert that’ e.g. ‘He continued to assert that he was frightened’

‘assert something’ e.g. ‘He continued to assert his fear’  

Memorising vocabulary is essential. Therefore, seeing the word in context will help this. We remember words better when they are seen (or heard) in context. Finally, using a notebook to record vocabulary may seem old fashioned. You may be thinking, why note use a laptop or other electronic device? Well, it has been shown that when we write by hand, we remember information better.

So, get a notebook, find some useful texts to read, use the online dictionary and get started today! Tell us what you think, or of you have any questions.

Improve IELTS, achieve your goals.

Positive thinking can produce positive results in the Speaking Test

It’s important to pay attention to a bit of useful psychology. How positive thinking and how you present yourself and the way you behave can strongly influence how others see you. When you are being evaluated in any live situation, it is natural to feel nervous or stressed. This applies to common events in life including job interviews, public presentations, speeches and also the IELTS Speaking Test.

What you want is for the IELTS examiner to think that you are confident and in control. In fact, the examiner will be actively giving you the opportunities to show this. The examiner will be looking to see if you are confident when speaking and if you can control the English language well. It is challenging to feel nervous because someone is evaluating and, at the same time, be aware that you need to appear confident and in control.

To act in a confident way you need to think in a confident way. If you act in a confident way, you will see this reflected in the interaction. I use the word act because you know how you need to appear even though you’re likely to be feeling nervous. We can train ourselves to think positively so we feel more confident and project this to others. We think in words, so you can tell yourself positive phrases and sentences in your thought process.

This positive thinking can start at very early stages of preparation but is particularly important in the few minutes before the IELTS Speaking Test. A few minutes before your speaking test, you may find yourself in one of many situations: walking to the test room, sitting or standing in the waiting area, or even in the toilet. Wherever you are, you need to find some time to think to yourself.

The kind of language you need to be thinking includes positive phrases and sentences about yourself and what you have to do. For example, you could think “I am good at speaking English and can control a conversation in English” or, “I can smile and make frequent eye-contact with the examiner”. Smiling and making frequent eye-contact can really contribute to giving an impression of confidence and control. Think to yourself, “this test is only for 11-14 minutes and I can act like I’m confident and can be in control of a conversation for that time” and “I will sit with a confident posture and speak with a confident tone of voice”. Notice how confident people use positive body language and a confident voice to impress people.

It’s incredible how positive thinking can influence the way we act and seem to others. The negative thoughts tend to come without any effort, especially when we’re feeling nervous. It’s your role to make sure that you make an effort to think enough positive language so the negativity doesn’t win. If you tell yourself positive messages, you will appear more confident and in control and you will perform better. We generally achieve much more when we think positively and act confidently and in control. You are in your space. Start thinking.

Improve IELTS, achieve your goals.

A study space that works for you

In the previous blog we discussed your study plan and the importance of planning time when your are preparing for the IELTS Test. Its also important to consider the space where you will study. You may have already have a special space where you prefer to study, but it’s worth thinking about alternatives that you could work well for you.
We tend to develop habits and continue them. It’s possible that we always use the same place to study but in fact, if we think carefully, we could try studying in a new place or in different places. There may be a different part of your house or flat that could work better for studying. People usually want somewhere quiet where they won’t be disturbed. So think about different places in your home that could be suitable for this.

You need to be comfortable and the place needs to be practical too. Make sure the space is somewhere you are happy to spend time and that it has what you need. When preparing for IELTS, you may need a light, a desk, a computer and a comfortable chair. Everyone has different needs and preferences when studying, so think carefully about what you need and prefer.

It could be that it’s better for you to find a place that isn’t in your home. There are often other options outside your home that are worth considering, such as public libraries, your office or another space. In fact, you could decide to study in more than one place as this might suit you. Sometimes variety can stimulate our motivation or it could be just more practical. If you do use different places, it’s important to keep organised.

Where you choose to study could also depend on your study activity. For example, if you want to practise listening, you could think about listening to podcasts in English using a mobile phone and headphones. This could be while you are walking or on a bus or train journey. However, if you want to work on vocabulary, you may need to be sitting at a desk and have enough space so you can write vocabulary notes. So some places are more suitable for different study activities.

If you are worried about being disturbed, it could be useful to tell the people around you what you are trying to do so they don’t disturb you. Some people use instrumental music when they’re studying and wearing headphones (even without music…) can help stop people from disturbing you!

Think carefully about the different possibilities you have for study space and try different options. You need to make the environment practical and enjoyable. The choice will depend on your own personal preferences and the study activity you plan to do.

Improve IELTS, achieve your goals.

Making your own study plan will help you focus

So, you have to take the IELTS Test. In an ideal world this is probably not something that you would choose to have to do. You may already be very busy with work or other studies that can take up a lot of your time, but if you want to achieve your goals you need to succeed in the IELTS Test.

To make the process less stressful it is important to take control of the time you have and make a plan. Remember the IELTS Test is expensive, so make sure you’re ready to take the test. To improve your IELTS score you need to have a good base in English language.Taking the IELTS Test again and again is not the best way to improve your English language level; you need to develop your English language first. So you should think carefully about how much time you need to prepare properly before registering for the test. This decision is personal because it depends on how many other responsibilities you have, for example, family, work or other studies. When planning, you must be realistic about the time you need.

It’s useful to think that the time you need will depend on supply and demand. The demand is how much time is needed for you to achieve the level you need to reach and supply is how much time you can give. Demand will depend on your current English language level and your target level. It could also depend on how quickly you learn because people learn at different speeds. Using a language is a skill just like any other, for example playing football, and some people are more naturally talented than others. The supply is the time you realistically have available to dedicate to your studies and IELTS preparation. This depends on your personal context, because you may have a job or family that takes up a lot of your time. The supply needs to match the demand, so do good business with yourself and be realistic!

When you have made a careful decision about registering for a specific date to take the test, you need to make plans. Making a careful study plan will help you feel more in control and confident as you prepare for the IELTS Test and this will positively contribute to you getting the score you need.

In the free support guides you can find detailed information on the components of the test and plenty of advice on what you need to do to prepare. In the guides, it’s interesting to see that to get the score you need in the test you will need to do three activities:  

  • Improve your English language level
  • Know the test and best strategies so you can demonstrate good skills
  • Practise (and get feedback)

So in your study plan you need to include these three activities. Make a weekly study plan and carefully plan realistic time slots for IELTS preparation. Referring to the three activities above, decide which one you will do in which time slot. Think carefully about the best options for IELTS preparation time and always leave enough time for your other responsibilities and time to socialise and rest.

Think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses in English. Make sure you build on your strengths, but you must plan time to work on your weaknesses. For example, you may need to improve your writing, so arrange more time in your study plan to work on your writing.

Now, it’s important to remember that it’s not enough to have a great study plan. A plan just says you’re going to do something. The important thing is to follow the plan. Make sure you stick to it and when you do it will make you feel good and you can look forward to doing well. Take one day at a time. Improving a skill can take time so make sure you actively participate in the process. Take action.

Just like in the test, planning your time is very important. Put the weekly plan on a large piece of paper on the wall in a place where you will frequently see it. This could be in any part of the house so it reminds you.  If it doesn’t make you feel good when you see it, just remember that you need to improve your score in IELTS so you can achieve your goals!