How to expand your passive vocabulary

Expanding your passive vocabulary – words that you understand but can’t easily produce in writing and speaking, is a good way to help you make sense of the reading passages in IELTS. The wider your passive vocabulary resource is, the easier you’ll find it to deal with the words and phrases in these texts.


How can you build up your passive vocabulary? Well, really, there’s no substitute for reading, reading and more reading! The more input you get, the more exposed you’ll be to new vocabulary items. You learn vocabulary by encountering it in context, so read as much as you can on a wide range of topics.


A good place to start is a reputable source such as the BBC’s website. It has a range of articles similar to the passages found in IELTS Reading – click on its Business, Tech, Science and Health tabs to access a huge database of relevant articles that can help you expand your vocabulary knowledge.


To help you remember some of the common academic words and phrases from the articles, Nottingham University has developed some special software that highlights academic words in any text. You simply paste the text into the highlighter, click submit and it produces a highlighted list of academic words in the text.


It also has a programme that allows you to make your own gap-fill exercises. You simply add some text from an article, choose the level of difficulty (1-10, with 10 as the hardest), click submit and the site makes a gap-fill exercise for you.





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