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What’s the Deal with Lexical Resource on the IELTS Writing Exam?

Lexical Resource is one of the four areas used to rate your writing, and it makes up 25% of your final writing score. If you are preparing for either the academic or general training exam and want to score 7 or above, understanding what Lexical Resource refers to in the context of this exam is important. This blog is meant to help you focus on what matters.

Some of you might say Lexical Resource is about vocabulary, and that’s not wrong, but it’s better to take a more holistic view and see that scoring high is not simply about using a long list of fancy words. You also need to know how to use those words accurately. This includes using the correct form of the word and spelling, but it’s even more than that.

If you are trying to showcase a higher level of English fluency, you need to demonstrate that you can express yourself clearly and somewhat like a native speaker. This means that you should be able to write with a sense of style (essay, report, letter) and somewhat naturally.

Three things that fluent writers do with words that you need to notice

1. They use Idioms and language that is less common to basic English users.

Take the idiom in this blog title” What’s the deal with Lexical Resource” as an example. I could have written “What is Lexical Resource about?” and that would be fine, but by using the idiom, I show I can express myself with some style and lexical knowhow. This idiom is informal and perfectly suits this style of blog writing.

The ability to use idioms in the right situation comes with practice.

2. Skillfully combine words so they “sound correct” in English.

Words partner or group together in English, and if you put the wrong words together, not only do they “sound” incorrect, sometimes their meaning is changed completely.

Let’s use the word “deal”, for instance. There are so many idioms and word pairings using the word deal. Here are a few variations with “big deal” that will show how much the meaning can change if not used correctly:

A big deal – something that is very important

arms up happy woman
Getting a 7 on IELTS was a big deal to Carla.
Big deal – without the article “a”, this can mean “Who cares?” 

no big deal woman
You got a 7 on IELTS? Big deal, I got an 8.
No big deal – not a big problem 

no problem

If you took the wrong bus, it’s no big deal; just get off at the next stop and go back.

Knowing how to put words together happens with lots of exposure to the language and making plenty of mistakes before you get it right. The more you read, listen to, speak, and write in English, the more knowledgeable and skilled you become.

3. Possess a huge bank of words to write about a wide range of topics.

This is where most people focus their prep, and it is an excellent idea to learn new words that relate to common IELTS exam topics like education, the environment, family, and children, but that’s not the end of it. Fluent people know which words to use in which contexts to express their ideas concisely.

If you are achieving 6 or 6.5 in your writing and you want to raise that score, make sure that you don’t simply throw in subject-specific words here and there in your writing or overuse lots of fancy words memorized from your thesaurus. You are trying to get your ideas across as clearly as possible. Flooding your writing or speaking, for that matter, with related but misused vocabulary doesn’t sound natural, and it can be confusing and result in a lower score than you deserve.

What can you do to raise your Lexical Resource score?

There really are no quick tricks to improving your Lexical Resource. Generally, I tell people to know their common spelling or word form errors and check for them on the exam. The reality is that it takes time to become accustomed to how words are used in a different language.

Ultimately, you will be trying your best on the exam to make your ideas understood, and you should think about doing that with the words you know. Remember that using words or phrases that you don’t understand could be keeping your score down, not raising it. Don’t be afraid to paraphrase or explain something in another way if you don’t know the exact word.

Make English a part of your everyday life. The more you are exposed to the language, the more words you will learn. Correspond and speak with fluent people, read books and articles, listen to podcasts, and watch videos about a variety of subjects that interest you.

Experts say, and I agree, that learning a new language requires more than simply reading and listening though. You have to do something with the language, produce something with it if you are actually going to add it to your lexical resource. Make sure that you record any new words and expressions and include word forms and associations in that list, so you have some idea of how to use them correctly.

Then, when you learn a new idiom or word pairing that you actually think you could use, test it out. Note that it would be a huge task to memorize all of the word groupings and meanings around the word “deal”, but if there are some that you think you could use, start using them. For example, take “what’s the deal with” and use it in an English environment. At the grocery store, you could ask, “What’s the deal with your points card?” and a clerk should explain how the points card works.

I hope you see what a big deal Lexical Resource is, but also know that with careful preparation and practice, it will be no big deal to improve your score. Good luck and have fun with it.

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