How to improve your vocabulary around animals
TopTips
How to improve your vocabulary around animals

There's a myriad of animals in the world, and the topic happens to be a very popular one in the IELTS test. Especially in IELTS Reading, where an extraordinary number of texts and sections seem to be about obscure beetles in South America that nobody has ever heard of. It can be really difficult to decide what vocabulary around animals you should study in preparation for the exam.  Here's a little surprise when it comes to preparing for the reading and listening part: you should probably not focus on animals at all. Instead, focus on the things animals do, the way they look, and the groups they belong to.  That is because when you get a text or a section about a specific animal, the animal is usually introduced with a short explanation. So, there is no need to study the word ‘pangolin’, if the text tells you that “the ‘pangolin’ is a mammal, covered in scales which serves as protection from predators and that when a predator approaches, the pangolin curls up and uses its sharp tail to protect itself.” In this sentence, for example, the words ‘mammal’, ‘scales’, ‘predators’, ‘curls up’ and ‘tail’, are much more important than the word pangolin itself.  Here is my example of what your animal vocabulary study sheet could look like: (Click to enlarge) It is easy to see that this list is by no means complete and that you will have to keep adding to it through the course of your studies.  If you simply follow a table like the one above, it might become difficult at some point and you might prefer to re-organise the vocabulary items into a mind map. Here’s an example of what that might look like (just keep adding more words and definitions in English and/or translations into your language to the map):  (Click to enlarge) The important thing with mind maps is that the way you organise the information has to make sense to you. Nobody else. So, if you think it’s logical to compare similar ideas across animals – for example baby animals: puppies, kittens, cubs, chicks – then you should arrange information that way on your mind map. If it makes sense to you to categorise the animal kingdom into separate groups first – e.g. birds, mammals, fish – then that is how you should divide your mind map. For some people, mind maps don’t work at all and they are confusing rather than helpful. If you are among them, ignore this method, and move on to something that works for you.  A lot of people really like having pictures of animals around and you could incorporate that in your vocabulary studies by copying and pasting images of the relevant vocabulary into a word document and annotating them. Annotating here means to add your own text to the pictures. (Click to enlarge) Another great way to prepare for the exam is to read texts about animals or watch television programmes about exploration and conservation. You could do this in English and make a note of key vocabulary that is used frequently. Alternatively, you could engage with the topic in your own language, identify key vocabulary and research the words in English. This technique is useful for the Reading and Listening test, but even more so for Writing Part 2 as you might be asked about the importance of protecting nature or a similar issue.  In the Speaking test, you are likely to use animal vocabulary that you can personally relate to. This might be to answer questions about your pets or your favourite animals, animals you are afraid of or about animals that your country might be famous for. So, make a mental note of the way animals play a part in your everyday life. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, check out more advice on learning vocabulary here, or for more practice I recommend Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS. Sophie  

Sophie Hodgson

11 May, 2021

How to improve your vocabulary around animals

How to improve your vocabulary around animals

There's a myriad of animals in the world, and the topic happens to be a very popular one in the IELTS test. Especially in IELTS Reading, where an extraordinary number of texts and sections seem to be about obscure beetles in South America that nobody has ever heard of. It can be really difficult to decide what vocabulary around animals you should study in preparation for the exam.

Here's a little surprise when it comes to preparing for the reading and listening part: you should probably not focus on animals at all. Instead, focus on the things animals do, the way they look, and the groups they belong to.

That is because when you get a text or a section about a specific animal, the animal is usually introduced with a short explanation. So, there is no need to study the word ‘pangolin’, if the text tells you that “the ‘pangolin’ is a mammal, covered in scales which serves as protection from predators and that when a predator approaches, the pangolin curls up and uses its sharp tail to protect itself.” In this sentence, for example, the words ‘mammal’, ‘scales’, ‘predators’, ‘curls up’ and ‘tail’, are much more important than the word pangolin itself.

Here is my example of what your animal vocabulary study sheet could look like:

Vocabulary Study Sheet for IELTS

(Click to enlarge)

It is easy to see that this list is by no means complete and that you will have to keep adding to it through the course of your studies.

If you simply follow a table like the one above, it might become difficult at some point and you might prefer to re-organise the vocabulary items into a mind map.

Here’s an example of what that might look like (just keep adding more words and definitions in English and/or translations into your language to the map):

IELTS Vocabulary Mind Map Example

(Click to enlarge)

The important thing with mind maps is that the way you organise the information has to make sense to you. Nobody else. So, if you think it’s logical to compare similar ideas across animals – for example baby animals: puppies, kittens, cubs, chicks – then you should arrange information that way on your mind map. If it makes sense to you to categorise the animal kingdom into separate groups first – e.g. birds, mammals, fish – then that is how you should divide your mind map. For some people, mind maps don’t work at all and they are confusing rather than helpful. If you are among them, ignore this method, and move on to something that works for you.

A lot of people really like having pictures of animals around and you could incorporate that in your vocabulary studies by copying and pasting images of the relevant vocabulary into a word document and annotating them. Annotating here means to add your own text to the pictures.

Annotated image to support vocabulary studies

(Click to enlarge)

Another great way to prepare for the exam is to read texts about animals or watch television programmes about exploration and conservation. You could do this in English and make a note of key vocabulary that is used frequently. Alternatively, you could engage with the topic in your own language, identify key vocabulary and research the words in English. This technique is useful for the Reading and Listening test, but even more so for Writing Part 2 as you might be asked about the importance of protecting nature or a similar issue.

In the Speaking test, you are likely to use animal vocabulary that you can personally relate to. This might be to answer questions about your pets or your favourite animals, animals you are afraid of or about animals that your country might be famous for. So, make a mental note of the way animals play a part in your everyday life.

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, check out more advice on learning vocabulary here, or for more practice I recommend Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS.

Sophie

Bonus IELTS Speaking Language Activity

 

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

filter tags

Recommended For You

recommended book image
IELTS Vocabulary up to Band 6

Learn all the vocabulary you need to achieve up to band 6 in IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It includes useful tips on how to learn vocabulary and covers tricky areas such as the language needed to describe data and processes. This book also includes practice exercises for each skill, regular progress checks and tips on how to avoid typical errors. Previous title Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS Also available for Bands 6.5 and above *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Skill bar

Stay up-to-date