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  • Writer's pictureSte Sharpe

IELTS Speaking test criteria: Lexical Resource

Updated: Sep 27, 2023


Books in a library
Books in library to help with Lexical Resource

This is the second of 4 blog posts dedicated to exploring the IELTS Speaking test criteria in simple terms.


My last post in this series gave information about Fluency and Coherence.


This post will look at ‘Lexical Resource’.


As an IELTS Speaking test candidate, it’s really important that you understand how the examiner will assess your level of spoken English during the exam, so that you can understand what is expected of you at each band score.


Want to know all about Lexical Resource… start reading below.


What is ‘Lexical Resource’?

Simply put, this is all about vocabulary. When you’re talking to someone, you use a range of vocabulary related to different topics and to express what you’re thinking and feeling. The wider your range and more accurate it is, the higher the band score will be.


In the IELTS Speaking test, your Lexical Resource is assessed on the following points:


Range of words = your ability to use different types of words:


Collocations: (words which are frequently used together) such as ‘make an effort’ ‘pay attention’ ‘influential figure’


Idiomatic expressions: (informal language whose literal meaning is different from the phrase) such as ‘think outside the box’ ‘feel under the weather’ ‘I’m on the fence’


Register: (using formal and informal language) such as ‘I don’t agree’ ‘I couldn’t care less’


Precision of words = your ability to use words accurately (e.g., ‘I’m over the moon’ not ‘I’m over a moon’)


Paraphrase = your ability to use other words to express something differently (e.g., Many citizens are unhealthy = many people in the city have poor health)



What is the difference between a band 6 and band 7 for Lexical Resource?

If you look at the IELTS Speaking test band descriptors (publicly available here), you’ll see the main difference between a band 6 score and a band 7 score. To help you understand this better, I’ve summarised these difference in the table below:


Lexical Resource: Band 6

Lexical Resource: Band 7

Has enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length.

Has flexible use of vocabulary to discuss a variety of topics.

Some errors with use of words, but the meaning is clear.

Is aware of and can use less common and idiomatic expressions, style and collocations, with some errors.

Can generally paraphrase.

Can effectively paraphrase.


For me, the two main difference between a band 6 and a band 7 for Lexical Resource is:


-the candidate’s ability to use more advanced language, such as idiomatic expressions and collocations

-the candidate’s ability to paraphrase


How can I improve my Lexical Resource?

The simple answer is…exposure!


Exposure means surrounding yourself with English; in this case, you can do this by reading newspapers, magazines, blogs and books, watching TV shows and movies, listening to Podcasts and music. All of these are free to access and are rich in advanced vocabulary related to specific topics.


Below are some tips to help you increase your range of vocabulary:


-When reading something, write down 5 new words you’ve learnt. Then, write them in a sentence that relates to you (e.g., I’ve decided to give up chocolate to help me lose weight.)


-When listening to your favourite singer, read the lyrics at the same time. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from this and at the same time, you’re developing your listening skills.


-Try to learn words in ‘chunks’. For example: ‘While I was travelling, I ran out of money.’ ‘The average household income is lower than 10 years ago.’ Noticing how language is chunked helps you to remember longer stretches of words and shows your awareness of correct collocations- a key feature of the band 7 descriptor!


As I mentioned in my previous blog, IELTS is an evaluation of your current level of English. If you want to get a band 7, your overall English skills already need to be at that level, so it’s crucial that you practise your general English skills to help you increase your range of vocabulary.


So, what do I do now?

If you want to improve your lexical resource for the IELTS Speaking Test, check out my online IELTS Speaking Course where you’ll not only learn all about the IELTS Speaking test format, but you’ll also have chance to increase your range of vocabulary and practise it so that you can show off your vocabulary skills to the examiner on the test day.


You can also join my Telegram Channel (see the link at the bottom of the web page) where you’ll receive free resources to develop your language skills.


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