Teaching IELTS: Vocabulary for the Listening Module

Sam McCarter's seminar looks at ways to effectively learn vocabulary for the listening module in the IELTS examination.

Sam McCarter's seminar looks at ways to effectively learn vocabulary for the listening module in the IELTS examination. The talk will appeal to all English language teachers who teach IELTS preparation courses. 

Did you know students are quite good at answering questions on a text they have never seen? That seems impossible, doesn’t it? Watch the video to find out how.


Watch all the videos as a playlist in order or see the individual videos from the seminar below.

Individual videos

Downloadable resources and further reading

Session summary and objectives

The talk raises your awareness of different aspects of the grammar of vocabulary and what needs to be considered when teaching lexis, particularly for the IELTS exam. The talk covers themes such as collocations and colligations, chunking, word families, schemata and lexical cohesion, amongst other things.


How much do you know about teaching vocabulary? Make a list of things you expect Sam McCarter to talk about in this seminar and then check your answers after watching.

Real life

Questions first Before giving the students a reading text, give them only the questions. From the questions, ask them to predict and create the text themselves. You may be surprised at how close to the actual text their predicted versions are. The reason for this is that the questions in an exam focus on a chronological summary of the text content. In an examination like IELTS the questions are there in order to help you focus on the main points that are being made in the text.

Tips and suggestions

  1. Teach the grammar of vocabulary, not just new words. It is helpful for students to learn new vocabulary along with the words that typically go together, e.g. fish and chips, get on with ... a task, etc.
  2. Pay attention to word depth – not only presenting ing the meaning of the word to students, but also the spelling, pronunciation, register, word association, collocations, and examples of the word in use.
  3. To practise language, encourage the learners to create stories, through which they will integrate new vocabulary alongside learned vocabulary in interesting, personalised ways.
  4. When teaching lexical cohesion, draw students’ attention to linking words and expressions that refer backwards as well as forwards when putting extended text together.
  5. Where appropriate, check students can utilise word forms – i.e. turn verbs into their related nouns; adjective and adverbial forms, e.g. photograph (verb), photograph (noun), photographic (adjective). Make sure students practice pronunciation of new words as well.

Join the discussion!

What motivational strategies do you use in your IELTS course to keep students enthusiastic, focused and improving? Share your ideas with other teachers. Make a list of new ideas for yourself to try out in your lessons.

About the speaker

Sam McCarter is a full time ELT writer and teacher. Eleven of his nineteen published books are on IELTS. Watch Sam McCarter’s other seminars recorded for the British Council Seminar Series:

Research and insight

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