Learning collocations are highly recommended.
Some of the most important vocabulary needed for IELTS writing are collocations. These are essential for a higher score. Basically, collocations are 2 or 3 words that commonly go together and sound just right to a native speaker. For some tips on building your vocabulary take a look at this blog post here. If you do not know how to use collocations then they will sound or look ‘wrong’ to a native speaker.
For example if you go shopping, ‘use money’ sounds strange. The correct word is to ‘spend money‘, or if someone speaks in a loud way I can’t say he has a ‘big voice‘ I need to say he has a ‘loud voice’. Or maybe he has a ‘big mouth‘ to describe him as arrogant, not a ‘large mouth‘. When I want to relax in the evening I wouldn’t ‘look at a movie‘ I would ‘watch a movie‘…. and so on…
Why are collocations so important?
In the marking criteria in IELTS, you are marked on Lexical Resource (vocabulary). You will be marked on the way you use collocations in the writing section. Here is what it says in the Public Band Descriptors about Writing task 2 Band 7.
- uses a sufficient range of vocabulary to allow some flexibility and precision
- uses less common lexical items with some awareness of style and collocation
- may produce occasional errors in word choice, spelling and/or word formation
Not only are collocations in IELTS important for writing, but they are also useful in the speaking test. They give your speech a smooth natural flow, which if used well can help you get a Band 7 or more in the speaking test. You have to know how to use them correctly though.
How do I learn collocations?
When you learn new words you must learn the surrounding words or the matching words that help it collocate. Do not just memorise words on their own. Collocations are like chunks of language and there are various patterns to these.
The best way to learn collocations is through reading, listening and making your own sentences. I advise making your own vocabulary book where you write out example sentences. I do not advise using word lists because you must know how collocations work in the surrounding sentence. These also have to be reviewed regularly and put into practice, so word lists are of no real use.
This is drillpal.com a very good online resource for studying collocations , there are exercises that help you remember how they are used in context and many of the topics presented are connected to IELTS writing topics. Click here to see it. Make sure you practice them though.
If you really want a much deeeper understanding of collocations with many practice exercies, you can get the book ‘English Collocations In Use’ from Cambridge See this link here. You can get this book on amazon.
There are quite a few patterns such as:
- Verb + Noun
- Verb + Adverb
- Adjective + Noun
- Adverb + Adjective
- Noun + Noun
- Collocations with ‘have’ or ‘take’
Let’s take a look at some example sentences.
These are for example purposes only. I always advise against just memorising vocabulary because the IELTS examiners are trained to spot that. Try using them in your own sentences and get feedback from a teacher if possible.
Verb Noun collocations
a) It was his 21st birthday so he decided to throw a party.
b) The student raised a question about the topic in class.
c) The teacher paid him a compliment about his well written IELTS essays.
d) She was late for work so she made an excuse about the train being delayed.
e) The government is giving priority to the issue of air quality in cities.
f) I made an appointment to see the dentist.
g) The student made an effort to improve his essay writing.
Verb Adverb collocations
a) The customer complained bitterly about the terrible service.
b) The guests were welcomed warmly when they arrived at the party.
c) She spoke loudly over the phone because the signal wasn’t very good.
d) He smiled proudly when he got his IELTS exam results.
e) He apologised profusely after bumping into the man and spilling his drink.
f) She is a very gentle person who speaks softly.
Adjective Noun collocations
a) The boy shows a keen interest in going to University and becoming a Doctor.
b) We had a brief chat about our travel plans next week.
c) There was heavy snow overnight, the roads were all blocked.
d) I was given invaluable advice from the teacher about doing the reading test.
e) He suggested going to the beach. It was a fantastic idea so we all decided to go.
f) There is a strong possibility that the climate will get warmer over the next two decades.
Adverb Adjective collocations
a) I was utterly shocked by his bad behaviour.
b) She is totally satisfied with her Band 8 score in IELTS
c) It is incredibly stupid to drink and drive.
d) The weather is rather cold for this time of year.
e) The new laws about internet privacy are pretty worrying.
f) I’m extremely interested in getting a Band 9 in IELTS.
Noun Noun collocations
a) There was a ceasefire agreement by the rebel groups.
b) I bought a loaf of bread and a can of coke.
c) He bought a round of drinks for his friends
d) He got a round of applause after his performance
e) They work in the service industry.
f) You need a building permit to build a house.
Collocations with ‘Have’ or ‘Take’
In British English the word ‘have’ is quite popular, for example: have a bath, have a look, have a break. In American English, the word ‘take’ is often used such as : take a bath, take a vacation, take a look.
- Have a bath – Take a bath
- Have a drink
- Have a look – Take a look
- Have lunch
- Have fun
- Have a rest – Take a rest
- Have a holiday – Take a vacation
- Have a seat – Take a seat
- Have a haircut
- Have a wash
- Have a shave
- Have a nice day
- Have something to eat
- Have a laugh
- Have a tough time
So you need to now take action (take action – verb noun collocation !) and start your IELTS collocations notebook, remember to make sentences and use them in speaking.
What collocations fit into the sentences below?. Try it first then check your answers.
1. Mr Smith was __________ welcomed when he arrived at the conference.
2. There was _______ rain all night, so the streets were flooded.
3. Many people ________ questions about the governments new immigration policy.
4. Most developed countries are ________ priority to the implementation of renewable energy.
5. We _______ a reservation for a room in the hotel.
6. She _________ profusely for arriving late for the meeting.
7. I needed to _______ a haircut so I went to the barbers.
8. Hello Mr Smith, please ______ a seat.
9. I was given ___________ advice about preparing for IELTS writing task 2.
10. Driving while using a smartphone is an __________ silly thing to do.
Any questions? Leave a comment below.