Less common vocabulary

The IELTS public band descriptors for speaking state that in order to achieve band 7 or above for Lexical Resource (LR - vocabulary), then you should use some less common vocabulary.

It's so hot today. I'm parched!

In this sentence, parched is an example of less common, or low-frequency vocabulary. If you use a word like parched, the IELTS examiner will begin to consider you as potentially band 7 or above.

Band 7 candidates, even band 8 candidates, might not know parched. Perhaps it is new to you today?

An example of a typically band 7 low-frequency word might be plummet:

In recent months, sales have plummeted.

Word forms and frequency

Sometimes one form of a word is frequent, while another form is less frequent.

  • I'm still very young, and so domesticity is still a long way away for me!
  • (less frequent than domestic)
  • My government definitely needs to think harder about inclusivity.
  • (less frequent than inclusive, which is less frequent than include)
  • Presidential candidates in my country like to demonstrate their religiosity.
  • (less frequent than religious)

Notice that in each of these examples, the low-frequency word form is the noun form! In a lot of academic writing, the noun form is more useful than other word forms, because it can be strategically located at the beginning of a sentence in what is known as theme position.

Vocabulary from your field

If you are scholar preparing for study abroad, then you have probably acquired a large vocabulary of low-frequency items related to your academic specialisation. If the examiner asks questions related to your field, use this vocabulary!

It would be fair to describe the following as band 9 items:

  • I don't really like music that is aleatoric.
  • (when asked about music you do not like, a specialist term from the field of music)
  • I prefer calisthenic training rather than using weights for strength.
  • (when asked about what kind of exercise you do, a specialist term from the field of health)
  • In my work I specialise in cantilevers.
  • (when asked about the kind of work you do, a specialist term from the field of engineering / architecture)

The importance of reading

An awareness of the frequency of vocabulary items comes through reading. When you read a novel, and you see a word often, then that word is a high-frequency word.