Improve your IELTS Writing: Use a thesaurus

Ditch the dictionary. Use a thesaurus.

Thesau-what? A thesaurus is a dictionary of synonyms.

One of the most important tips for IELTS Writing is ‘don’t repeat the same words, use synonyms instead’. But even native speakers find it hard to come up with just the right synonyms to use while writing. Enter the thesaurus.

I am a literature major, and I love writing. And so do most of my friends. And we love the thesaurus. To be a good writer, and not just for the IELTS, it’s important to be able to describe things using different words so that your writing doesn’t sound boring. Consider the following Task 2 question and the first paragraph of a sample answer:

 

In the last 20 years there have been significant developments in the field of information technology (IT), for example the World Wide Web and communication by email. However, future developments in IT are likely to have more negative effects than positive.

To what extent do you agree or disagree. Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own experience or knowledge. You should write at least 250 words.

Sample Answer (1st para only): The last twenty years have seen significant developments in the way people’s lives are affected by IT, with many developments in this field. However, while these developments in IT have had many positive effects in the world, it can be argued that future IT developments will produce more negative effects than positive ones.

As you can see, the highlighted words and phrases have been taken directly from the question. Using words and phrases from the question is a big NO-NO. You should use synonyms to paraphrase the question instead – using similar language to introduce and start your essay.

So how can you do that? The key here is to improve your vocabulary and practise writing several introductions by paraphrasing the questions.

A thesaurus can help you here by showing you synonyms you can use in your writing. I used this great visual thesaurus to find synonyms for some of the words above:

Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 20.25.03 Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 20.29.10

Can you rewrite the introduction using appropriate synonmys? Write your answers in the comments below.

What else can you do to improve your vocabulary for the IELTS exams? I wrote a popular post a few months ago that gives you simple, targeted advice on improving vocabulary. You can read it here.

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