In our previous article on using mind maps to build your vocabulary, we told you what mind maps were and how they can be used to increase your range of vocabulary.  

Being able to talk about a range of everyday topics is important for everyday communication. We are all aware of what is happening around us in the world and we can communicate about these topic areas easily in our own languages. However, it can be difficult to discuss topics in the same way when we have to use English. By increasing your range of English vocabulary, it is easier to think of what to say quickly and it helps to understand the topics you are listening to, reading, writing or speaking about.

General tips for improving vocabulary for IELTS

We mentioned that you can build your IELTS vocabulary resource by reading daily, watching English programmes and movies, singing in English and studying word lists. You can also build your vocabulary by using mind maps.

What is a mind map?

Mind maps are a visual representation of a topic area, including words and phrases connected to this topic. By arranging the words and phrases in a pattern, this helps us to remember the text more easily than if it was presented in lists. If you organise language and ideas in a way that makes it easier for you to remember and use on test day, this will boost your performance. It will not only help you prepare for the IELTS test, but it will also mean that you can communicate better and understand more using a wider range of English vocabulary.

What does a wider range of vocabulary mean?

In order to reach a band 7 and higher, you need to have a flexible resource that is used to discuss a variety of topics. You also need to show that you can use some less common and idiomatic vocabulary, showing an awareness of style and collocation. If you can't access the right words, you need to use paraphrasing to express what you are trying to say. Look at the following links to read descriptions of the different band scores for IELTS Speakingexternal icon and Writing

What do the terms in the band 7 lexical resource description mean? 

  • Flexible resource: Being able to access the right words and phrases to talk about a range of different topics (without pausing or using the wrong words). 

  • Less common and idiomatic language: Being able to use less common words or phrases that have idiomatic meaning

  • Awareness of style and collocation: Using words that go together correctly and that are grammatically correct. For example, 'environmental pollution', 'steep rise', 'an improvement in'. 

  • Usage of paraphrasing successfully: Being able to fill a vocabulary gap successfully by using other words and phrases (synonyms or antonyms) to communicate. For example, 'disappointed' - I felt so sad when my holiday was cancelled, I wasn't happy, I was sad about it because it happened again.

 So, being able to access a range of words and phrases about different topics will make it easier for you to reach a higher band.

What are common IELTS topics?

In our last article on building your vocabulary with mind maps, we asked you to explore some topic areas and to create mind maps from the list we gave you. Our previous article showed you two mind maps; 'the environment' and 'hobbies and interests'. We also created a third mind map for you in our article on how to perform at your best in the part 3 discussion in the IELTS Speaking test

This mind map explores vocabulary related to famous people and celebrities.

A snapshot of the

In our article today, we will share two more mind maps with you - tourism and travel, and health and diet.

  • The environment

  • Hobbies and interests

  • Famous people and celebrities

  • Tourism and travel

  • Health and diet

How do I make a mind map?

When you make a mind map, the visual representation of the topic should contain a number of areas. Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you brainstorm enough vocabulary to be able to extend appropriately when asked about it. 

  1. What are the common words connected to this topic? 

  2. Are there any idiomatic phrases used when talking about this topic? 

  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this topic area? 

  4. Are there famous names and places connected to this topic area? 

  5. Are there some good (recent/famous) examples of this topic area? 

  6. What does the government do to support this topic area? 

  7. Are there any future developments that might happen in this topic area? 

  8. What other topics might be linked to this topic area? 

 When you decide on your answers, create a mind map using squares or circles, or any shapes that might help you remember the topic more easily.

Two more mind maps

The following mind maps show a range of vocabulary and ideas related to tourism and travel, as well as health and diet.

If you want to see a larger image, right-click on the image and open it in a new tab.

For tourism and travel, we have looked at the advantages and disadvantages of the tourism industry for domestic (in your home country) and international tourism. We have also looked at some idiomatic language that might be used with this topic, as well as some terms related to government policy.

Look at the common questions that you might be asked on this topic, and then use the language in the mind map to answer them.

A snapshot of the New tourism mind map. Global

For health and diet, we have looked at a few areas:

  • Reasons why we might be unhealthy

  • Reasons why we may not be fit

  • Possible results of being unhealthy

  • Possible solutions for being healthy

  • Ways that the government can increase the health of the nation

A snapshot of the Health and diet mind map. Global

Now, it's your turn!

Now that you can see how mind maps are designed, have a look at the rest of the topic list and try and make up your own visual representation of the topic areas.

  • Learning and education

  • The internet

  • Leisure and entertainment

  • Crime and punishment

  • Transport

  • Social media

  • Sport and competition

  • Art and music

  • Modern lifestyles and societal changes

  • Traditions and customs

  • Fashion and advertising

  • Employment

How to learn new IELTS Speaking vocabulary? 

  1. Keep your own vocabulary notebook. Every time you read, listen to or watch something, write down the words you don’t know, then look them up in your dictionary and write down their meanings in your vocabulary notebook. Look over them at least once a week and try using them as much as you can. 

  2. Learn from a list of words; look at Michael West’s 2,000 most important words in English at New General Service Listexternal icon. You can also check our 50 most commonly mispronounced words

  3. Look at the different forms of the word, such as the noun and verb form. Learn how to use them correctly and practice using different forms in conversation and writing.

Increasing your vocabulary over a wide range of topics will help when you read, write, listen and speak to people. You will also be more prepared on a test day, being able to access the language and ideas you need more easily to communicate more clearly. 

If you think you are now ready to test how much English vocabulary you know, check how you are progressing with an official IELTS practice test with IELTS Progress Check.