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IELTS Environment Vocabulary

You may be asked questions about the environment or environmental problems in your country. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: Are there any environmental problems in your country?
Kelly: Yes … we have a serious issue with pollution levels in some of our big cities …  exhaust fumes from cars and lorries are definitely one reason for the problem but we also have a lot of heavy industry in some areas and this also results in poor air quality  …

Examiner: Do you take an interest in nature?
Jenny: Well … I’m a city person through and through and don’t get back to nature very often I’m afraid … but like everyone else I’m fascinated by the natural world and I like watching documentaries showing wild animals in their natural habitat …

Examiner: Do you or your family take steps to help the environment?
Mira: My parents have always tried to make us aware of our impact on the environment…  they’re really into energy conservation … and always try to buy environmentally friendly products if they have the chance …

Part 2-style task

Describe an environmental problem that has been in the news.  You should say

  • when this was
  • where the event happened
  • what actually took place

and say how you felt about this problem.

Martin:  Well … this is an interesting question … there are so many issues I could think of … natural disasters like earthquakes and floods seem to be in the news almost every year … but there was one story recently about some animals that were under threat … it wasn’t focused on one place in particular … it was looking at various animals that could actually become extinct in different African countries … if we don’t take steps to protect them … these were really iconic animals like gorillas … leopards … rhinos … and apparently they’re now listed as endangered species …  what made it really depressing was they were in danger thanks to us … in some cases it was due to a loss of habitat either because people need more agricultural production … or even worse I think … because of hunting and poaching … I hate to think of future generations being robbed of the chance to see creatures like these in their natural environment … it’s lucky we have lots of organisations that focus on wildlife conservation … hopefully with their help we can put pressure on those in power to do something to stop creatures like these dying out …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  What do you think is the main danger the world faces in terms of the environment?
Spencer: Well … climate change is a real issue … in my country we have flash floods and heatwaves on a yearly basis … so yes … I think global warming is the biggest issue.

Examiner: What examples are there of how we damage the natural world?
Stella: There are so many examples … there are factories that empty toxic waste into rivers and oceans … oil spills that damage the coastline …  the way we destroy vast areas of land and rain forests in search of fossil fuels or to increase agricultural production …

Examiner: In which ways do we respond well to environmental problems?
Mathius: Well … on the one hand there are various worldwide agencies that are always the first on the scene with humanitarian aid  after  natural  and man-made disasters … and on the other hand we have environmental pressure groups that are constantly raising awareness of issues and trying to stop disasters happening …


  • air quality: the cleanliness of the air we breathe
  • to become extinct: to no longer exist
  • to be under threat: to be in danger of becoming extinct
  • climate change: the change in worldwide weather patterns
  • to die out: see ‘to become extinct’
  • endangered species: categories of animals or plants that are in danger of becoming extinct
  • energy conservation: the careful management of energy resources to ensure they last as long as possible
  • environmentally friendly: behaviour and products that do not harm the environment
  • exhaust fumes: the toxic gases given off by vehicles powered by petrol
  • flash floods: floods that happen quickly
  • fossil fuels: energy resources like gas and oil that are produced deep below the ground over millions of years
  • future generations: the people who live after us
  • to get back to nature: to live a life that is closer to nature
  • global warming: the increasing temperature of the world brought about by gases such as carbon dioxide
  • heavy industry: the manufacture of heavy articles and materials in large numbers
  • humanitarian aid: the act of showing support to people struggling to survive
  • impact on: the effect on
  • loss of habitat: the decline in areas of land where animals and plants would normally exist
  • man-made disaster: widespread damage or loss of life brought about by the action of humans
  • natural disaster: an event such as an earthquake,  flood or hurricane which causes widespread damage or loss of life
  • natural environment: the place where animals and plants would normally be found in nature
  • the natural world: the world of nature
  • oil spillwaste usually deposited in the seas and oceans after an accident at sea
  • poaching: to hunt and kill wild animals illegally
  • pollution levels: the amount of toxic waste
  • pressure group: a group of people who try to raise awareness of issues and try to affect the views and actions of people and organisations
  • toxic waste: poisonous, unwanted rubbish often produced by industrial processes
  • wildlife conservation: to protect animals and plants and their habitats
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IELTS Shopping Vocabulary

It’s possible the examiner may ask you questions about your shopping habits in the IELTS Speaking exam. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: Do you often go shopping for personal items?
Maxine: When I can afford it yes … my college is in the city centre and I do a lot of window shopping … but being a student I’m on a tight budget so I have to be careful with money …

Examiner: Are there many shops where you live?
Jenny: We’ve got a few local shops nearby and a few independent stores but none of the big high street names … I have to go into town for them  …

Examiner: Do you enjoy shopping?
Marco: It depends … I hate it when the sales are on … crowds of people all trying to snap up a bargain … I find it all a bit stressful … I also get annoyed when shop assistants try to give me the hard sell when all I want to do is look around …

Part 2-style task

Describe a time when you bought something for someone. You should say

  • when this was
  • what is was you bought
  • who you bought it for

and say how you felt about buying it for them.

Coleen:  I’d like to tell you about the time … about four years ago … my husband and I bought a computer for our daughter  … she was about to go to university and we’d promised her we would treat her to one … at the time there had been a big advertising campaign for the latest Apple Macbook and our daughter was very keen to have one … she kept telling us they were value for money … even though they seemed very expensive to us … anyway we tried to shop around to see if we could pick up a bargain … this was in the middle of the summer sales and wherever you went prices were being slashed on big brand names … but unfortunately not Apple products … we ended up having to pay the full price … I remember my daughter justifying the cost by pointing out how nice the Apple carrier bag was … but it was lovely to see her so excited and the customer service she’s received during the four years she’s had it has been excellent … so it was value for money after all …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  Do you think we will stop using paper money in the future?
Louisa: I think it’s almost certain … at the moment it’s still possible to pay in cash but I’m sure this will change … the problem is people are more likely to get into debt and run up a credit card bill when this happens.

Examiner: How do companies encourage the consumer to spend their money?
Peter: Well … a recent development in my country is something called ‘Black Friday’ where people are encouraged to shop until they drop and buy the latest must-have products … then there are things like loyalty cards to get the customer back in the store …

Examiner: What do you think shops need to do to create a positive shopping experience?
Tania: The main thing for me is not being pressurised to buy … I appreciate that shop assistants are probably on commission but if I’m looking for clothes for example I like to take my time … to try something on … and to ask for help if I need it …


  • advertising campaign: a series of advertisements to persuade people to buy something
  • big brand names: large well-known companies or product names
  • to be careful with money: to not over-spend
  • carrier bag: bags (usually plastic) supplied by shops
  • customer servicethe degree to which customers are treated well
  • to get into debt: to owe money
  • to give someone the hard sell: to put pressure on someone to buy something
  • high street names: well-known shops
  • independent stores: small shops independent of large companies
  • local shops: community shops
  • loyalty card: a card issued by a shop to allow customers to save money on the basis of what they spend
  • must-have product: a product that is very popular that a lot of people want to have
  • to be on a tight budget: to have a limited amount of money to spend
  • to be on commission: to pay someone in relation to the amount they sell
  • a pay in cash: to pay for something using coins or paper money
  • to pay the full price: to pay the full amount for something
  • to pick up a bargain: to buy something much cheaper than the normal price
  • to run up a credit card bill: to owe money on a credit card
  • to shop around: to try different shops to find the best deal
  • shop assistant: the person who serves customers
  • to shop until you drop: to do a lot of shopping
  • to slash prices: to reduce prices a great deal
  • to snap up a bargain: to buy something quickly that is being sold cheaply
  • summer sales: a period in the year when things are sold cheaply
  • to try something on: to see if an item of clothing fits or is suitable
  • to be value for money: to be worth the cost
  • window shopping: to visit a store to look at items without the intention of buying anything
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IELTS Music Vocabulary

In the IELTS Speaking exam you may be asked questions about the music you listen to or instruments you play. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: What kind of music do you listen to?
Katherine: I’m a big fan of classical music … it doesn’t make me very popular with my children … their taste in music is completely different … they always want to listen to their favourite rock bands 

Examiner: Do you play any instruments?
Jamie: No I don’t … I’ve always wished I’d taken up a musical instrument … I’d love to be able to play the guitar … but I think I’m a bit tone deaf so perhaps I’d find it hard …

Examiner: Have you got any hobbies or interests?
Marco: I’m really into live music … I go to a lot of music festivals … I think a live performance always sounds more exciting than a recorded version … as long as the performers can sing and play well of course …

Part 2-style task

Describe a song you like to listen to. You should say

  • what the piece of music is called
  • how long you have liked it
  • when you like to listen to it

and say why you like it so much.

Millie:  Well … I’m a little older than most students and when I was young Abba the Swedish pop group were very famous … I don’t think it was cool to like them even though they had a huge following but I think now people have realised what wonderful songs they wrote … one piece of music in particular  is called ‘Slipping through my fingers’ … it wasn’t a massive hit but I love it … it’s a song for parents and it’s all about how quickly our children grow up … it’s a slow number and like a lot of their songs it’s a very catchy tune … the two women in Abba had great voices and it’s the kind of music you can also sing along to easily … even if you don’t have a great voice … I listen to Abba when I feel like a sing-song … and I especially like to listen when I’m doing the housework … it stops me thinking about the hard work …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  Is the Internet a good or bad thing for the music industry?
Thomas: On the one hand it’s good for marketing new musical talent or particular bands but it’s so easy to share and download tracks for free I think it is costing the industry a lot of money …

Examiner: Should music be treated as seriously as subjects like maths or sciences at school?
Carla: I think it should … I don’t think it should be taught in a boring way … I mean making children read music … but I do think they should be encouraged to play instruments and to play things by ear perhaps … to keep the lessons fun …

Examiner: Where do people usually enjoy listening to music?
Sally: In lots of ways or places … as background music when they are doing something else … at concerts when a band goes on tour … or in clubs or discos …


  • adoring fans: people who love a particular band or singer
  • background music: music that is played while something else is happening
  • a catchy tune: a song that is easy to remember and makes you want to sing it
  • classical music: music that is regarded as part of a long, formal tradition
  • to download tracks: to obtain music from the Internet
  • to have a great voice: to sing well
  • to go on tour: to go on a planned series of performances around a region or country
  • a huge following: a large number of fans
  • live music: music that is listened to while it is performed (not recorded)
  • live performance: (see live music)
  • a massive hit: a record that sells lots of copies
  • a music festival: music performances at a venue often over several days
  • musical talent: skilled at music
  • to be/sing out of tune: to not be in harmony/to sing the wrong notes
  • a piece of music: an item of music
  • to play by ear: to play without reading the musical notes
  • a pop group: a small group of people who play or sing pop music together
  • to read music: to understand and follow written musical notes
  • a rock band: a group of musicians that play rock music
  • to sing along to: to join in singing
  • a sing-song: to sing informally, often with other people
  • a slow number: a song with a slow tempo
  • to take up a musical instrument: to begin learning a musical instrument
  • taste in music: the music someone likes
  • to be tone deaf: to be unable to distinguish the different notes in music
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IELTS Town and City Vocabulary

In the IELTS Speaking exam you may be called upon to showcase your vocabulary to describe towns and cities. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: What is it like where you live?
Christiane: I live in a residential area of a busy town in the south of Spain … we have all the facilities you need … good public transport … a good shopping center … it’s nice …

Examiner: Do you like living in the city?
Andrea: Yes I do … I like going out with my friends and there are lots of lively bars and restaurants within walking distance of my apartment … I’m a bit of a culture vulture as well so it’s great to have access to art exhibitions and that kind of thing …

Examiner: Do you get many tourists visiting your area?
Mandy: Not really no … I live in the inner-city and the area is a little run down … it’s basically a lot of high-rise flats and many of the shops are boarded up … so nothing to interest tourists really …

Part 2-style task

Describe an interesting town or city in your country that visitors might enjoy. You should say

  • what the place is called
  • where the place is
  • what the facilities are like

and say why visitors might enjoy going there.

Monique:  Anyone who comes to my country really should spend some time in Barcelona … it’s a beautiful place … it’s not what you would call a sprawling city … it’s quite compact really and you could walk across the city in a couple of hours … but there’s no need to do that as we have a fantastic public transport system so it’s easy to get around … there are various districts all with their own character … you have the upmarket shops in the center … you’ll find lots of chain stores you’ll recognise from your own country but also local brands as well … we have the narrow streets in the Gothic district with lots of fashionable boutiques and tourist attractions … there’s the Olympic area and the beaches along the coast … and dotted around the city are some lovely public spaces … parks and squares in the city center and on the outskirts of Barcelona where people relax with their friends and family … and of course pavement cafes everywhere … all that and some great historical places of interest … so a great destination for tourists …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  What are the advantages of living in a city or big town?
Carrie: I think it’s having access to local facilities really … local shops as well as access to larger shopping malls in the city center … and if you’re well-off you can afford to live in the suburbs away from the busy traffic …

Examiner: In your experience are city center usually attractive places?
Mary: Some can be yes … especially those with a historical interest … but sometimes they’re full of ugly office blocks … multi-story car parks … and residents living in poor housing … it depends on the city doesn’t it?

Examiner: What are some of the challenges facing towns and cities?
Penny: I suppose traffic congestion is a major problem … and the growth in out-of-town supermarkets and retail parks mean lots of town center shops are closing down … plus a shortage of good quality housing … I think these are the major challenges …


  • boarded up shops: shops that are no longer doing business
  • chain stores: well-known brands with shops in multiple cities
  • to close down: to stop doing business
  • fashionable boutiques: fashionable clothes shops
  • to get around: to travel around
  • high-rise flats: multi-story apartments
  • inner-city: the central part of a city where people live and where conditions are often poor
  • in the suburbs: the outer area of large towns and cities where people live
  • lively bars/restaurants: bars or restaurants with a good atmosphere
  • local facilities: local buildings or services serving the public
  • multi-story car parks: car parks on several floors
  • office block: a large building that contains offices
  • out of town shopping center/retail park: large shopping center outside of the town or city
  • pavement cafe: cafes with tables outside on the pavement
  • places of interest: buildings that have a particular interest for visitors
  • poor housing: housing that is not in good condition
  • public spaces: areas in a town or city that are open to the public
  • public transport system:  public vehicles such as buses and trains that operate at regular times on fixed routes
  • residential area: an area where people live
  • run down: old and of a poor standard
  • shopping center: an area consisting of multiple shops
  • shopping malls: large indoor shopping center
  • sprawling city: a city that has grown over time and which covers a wide area
  • tourist attraction: a place of interest to tourists
  • traffic congestion: heavy traffic making it difficult to move around a town or city

upmarket shops: expensive fashionable shops