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Extending Your Vocabulary for IELTS Using Word Families

Extending Your Vocabulary for IELTS Using Word Families

A useful way to extend your vocabulary is to spend time learning word families.

Word families consist of a base word and its related forms, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. For example, the word “economy” (noun) can be extended to “economic” (adjective), “economise” (verb), and “economically” (adverb).


Begin by compiling vocabulary lists organised by word families. Numerous resources, such as the members’ section of our own site, IELTS preparation books, and vocabulary apps offer such lists tailored for the exam.

Instead of memorising isolated words, learn them in context. Read news articles and academic texts related to topics commonly tested in the IELTS. Pay attention to how words are used in sentences and paragraphs. Think about the related word families.

Create Flashcards. Write down the base word on one side of a flashcard and its related forms on the other side. Regularly review these flashcards, testing yourself on both the base word and its derivatives.

Incorporate word families into your writing practice. Attempt to use different forms of the same word in sentences or paragraphs. This reinforces your understanding and helps you remember the variations and how they can be used.

Create memory aids to associate different forms of a word. For example, you could devise a sentence using the different forms, or you could associate them with images or personal experiences.

Actively engage with the words you’re learning. This can include speaking exercises, discussions, or even teaching the words to someone else. Teaching others is a powerful way to improve your own understanding and recall.

Review regularly. Allocate dedicated time each day to review word families. ‘Spaced repetition’, where you revisit words at increasing intervals over time, is particularly effective for long-term retention.

Regularly take practice tests to assess your progress. Pay attention to the words used in the questions and passages and make note of any unfamiliar word families for further study. The members’ section of our own site, for example, provides 15 full and complete practice tests alongside 80 hours of IELTS tuition and vocabulary.

Membership includes FOUR discussion sessions, one to one with your support tutor (30 minutes per session). Discuss your reading or listening skills, work through your writing line by line discussing how to improve, take a mock speaking test – whatever you want to help you reach your IELTS goals!