Tricks to Watch Out For: ‘We teach you IELTS vocabulary/grammar’

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Tricks to Watch Out For: ‘We teach you IELTS vocabulary/grammar’

Instant IELTS ‘experts’ are everywhere now. Well, you need to be aware of the risks here. You could easily waste a lot of time and money, and send your IELTS mark downwards. In this post, I’ll look at the …

“We teach you IELTS vocabulary/grammar” syndrome.

Sounds good, right? That’s the trouble; it always sounds good, but then you begin to think about it, or do you? The trouble is, many students don’t. So, let’s think about it now, and let’s look at the facts – the real facts (hence the picture at the top of this page).

What is IELTS vocabulary?

What is IELTS vocabulary? That’s a good question. Is the word ‘society’ IELTS vocabulary, or not IELTS vocabulary? If it is IELTS vocabulary, is it IELTS 7 vocabulary, or IELTS 8 vocabulary? Is there a special IELTS police squad which decides which words are good for IELTS, and which are not?

Let’s take a long fancy word, such as ‘proclivity’. It is certain a difficult word. It isn’t commonly used. Does that make it ‘IELTS vocabulary’? Maybe IELTS 7 vocabulary? Longer and more complicated words are always better, right? But if I put this word in the sentence …. “I like proclivity”, it is actually IELTS 4 vocabulary, as the sentence doesn’t make any sense at all.

Well, I’m confused. I’ve been teaching IELTS for over 25 years, and I couldn’t write an ‘IELTS Vocabulary’ book, but the authors of all the books called ‘IELTS Vocabulary’ must have special knowledge? Maybe they know the IELTS police squad? But when I look at their ‘IELTS Vocabulary’ books, I can see words such as ‘society’, ‘computer’, and ‘hug’. Hmmmm. Actually, all the words I see could equally appear in a newspaper, so these books could also be called, ‘Newspaper Vocabulary’. They could also be called ‘English vocabulary’, but would you buy that book? No, you wouldn’t.

People long ago realised that if you put the word ‘IELTS’ on the cover, the book sells better.

  • If a book is just ‘Learn Vocabulary’, no one would buy it. So, the book becomes ‘IELTS 7 Vocabulary’, and everyone buys it.
  • If a book is just ‘English Grammar, no one would buy it. So, the book becomes ‘IELTS 7 Grammar’, and everyone buys it.

Of course, it gets worse.

  • If a book is just ‘IELTS 7 Vocabulary’, some people would buy it. But if the book becomes ‘IELTS 8 Vocabulary’, more people buy it.
  • If a book is just ‘IELTS 8 Vocabulary’, many people would buy it. But if the book becomes ‘IELTS 9 Vocabulary’, many more people buy it.

So, the word ‘IELTS 9’ is used everywhere now. ‘IELTS 9 teachers’, ‘IELTS 9 seminars’, ‘IELTS 9 tips’, ‘IELTS 9’ … well, you get the point.

But the average IELTS writing score in Taiwan is IELTS 5.5.

The average IELTS speaking score in Taiwan in IELTS 6.0.

You see, it didn’t work. Those are the fact (hence the picture at the top of this page). So, if those are the fact, why did not all this ‘IELTS 9’ stuff work?

Time to start thinking everyone.


Okay, let me get back to the point. There is no such a thing as ‘IELTS vocabulary’ and there’s no such thing as ‘IELTS Grammar’. It is just an invention to sell books. All those authors who make such books and all the schools/teacher which make such claims are playing a game: tricking you to make money.

At its worst, ‘IELTS vocabulary’ is just a long academic word list to memorise. However, all words come with their own grammar and pronunciation, their own situations for use, and their own connection with other words. Using these so-called ‘IELTS Vocabulary’ books is an inefficient use of your time, and can lead you into trouble.

So, don’t be fooled by that trick, right?

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