What 'Lexical Resource' Means on The IELTS Speaking Test

When you take the IELTS Speaking test, the examiner grades you on four skills: 

  1. Fluency and coherence
  2. Lexical resource
  3. Grammatical accuracy and range
  4. Pronunciation

Your score for each skill accounts for 25% of your total score, so working on each of these skills is key to getting a good IELTS Speaking score. However, it's not always clear what these skills mean, and IELTS' scoring guide can be confusing even for English teachers.

So let's go over what "lexical resource" means as well as some tips for scoring well.

What “lexical resource” means

"Lexical" means "related to vocabulary" and "resource" means "a supply (of something) that you can use." So "lexical resource" basically means "the supply of English vocabulary you are able to use."

In simple terms, lexical resource refers to your vocabulary skills. This includes:

  1. How much vocabulary you know.
  2. How well you use this vocabulary to express your ideas.

How much vocabulary you know

You may be wondering how much vocabulary is enough. Here's what the IELTS looks for:

  1. Whether you have enough vocabulary to talk about familiar and unfamiliar topics.
  2. Whether you have enough vocabulary to talk about different topics in detail.

More specifically, here's what the different band scores look for.

BandWhat IELTS saysWhat IELTS means
2"only produces isolated words or memorized utterances"You can only say:
- a few words at a time.
- sentences that you have memorized.
4"is able to talk about familiar topics but can only convey basic meaning on unfamiliar topics"You:
- can talk about topics you already know about.
- can only talk a little about topics you don't know much about.
6"has a wide enough vocabulary to discuss topics at length"You can talk about a lot of topics in detail.
8"uses a wide vocabulary resource readily and flexibly to convey precise meaning"You:
- have a large vocabulary.
- you are able to use your vocabulary to say exactly what you mean.

Notice that the IELTS is not asking you to memorize a lot of fancy words. Knowing some advanced vocabulary does help with the higher band scores, but most of the points above focus on communication — i.e. how many topics you can talk about and whether you can talk about them in detail.

How well you use your vocabulary

The other thing that the examiner looks for is how well you use your vocabulary to express yourself. This includes:

  • Proper usage of vocabulary: Do you use vocabulary correctly and naturally?
  • Flexible usage of vocabulary: Are you able to use different words to express yourself or do you only know fixed expressions that you memorized?

More specifically, here is what different band scores look for.

BandWhat IELTS saysWhat IELTS means
4"rarely attempts paraphrase"

"makes frequent errors in word choice"
When you don't know the right words, you probably just give up on expressing a thought.

You often choose the wrong words to express an idea.
6"generally paraphrases successfully"

"makes meaning clear in spite of inappropriacies"
When you don't know the right words, you are usually able to express the same thought in different words.

You can express yourself clearly despite sometimes choosing the wrong words.
8"uses paraphrase effectively as required"

"uses less common and idiomatic vocabulary skilfully, with occasional inaccuracies"
You rarely need to paraphrase, but you are able to do it quickly and accurately when necessary.

You do not always use less common words and expressions correctly but you use them very well.

Again, the point here is not to show the examiner that you know a lot of vocabulary, but that you are able to properly and flexibly use the vocabulary that you do know.

How to get a good score

Now, let's go over some tips for raising your lexical resource score.

Tip #1: Pay attention to word forms

"Word forms" are different forms of a word. For example, "bored" and "boring" are different forms of the same word. However, they mean different things and your examiner will not be impressed if you confuse them on the exam.

Some other common mistakes include:

  • Mary is a succeeded lawyer. ["Successful" should be used here instead.]
  • There were many persons at the party. ["People" should be used instead.]
  • Japan is a safety country. ["Safe" should be used here.]

Tip #2: Pay attention to collocations

Collocations are words that are usually used together.

For example, in English, we usually use "homework" with the verb "do." So we say "They are doing homework" and not "They are writing homework" or "They are making homework."

Using English collocations will make it easier for native English speakers, like the examiner, to understand you.

Tip #3: Pay attention to connotations

You should also pay attention to connotations. A "connotation" is an idea that is suggested by a word. For example, the word "different" has a neutral connotation, "unique" has a positive connotation and "odd" has a negative connotation.

So you might be misunderstood if you don't know a word's connotation.

Tip #4: Learn to use some less common words and phrases

A good place to start is with adjectives. For example:

  • When you want to say "very happy," you can use "overjoyed" instead.
  • When you want to say "very angry," you can say "furious."

So whenever you want to use "very" with a common adjective, try to think of a less common adjective.

Another thing you can try is to say "I think" in different ways. Since the IELTS examiner will ask you for your opinion of different things, it's good to know a few different ways to say "I think." For example, here are:

Tip #5: Learn how to paraphrase

The first step to paraphrasing is to learn the different ways to paraphrase in English. Then, try to paraphrase things that you read.

For example, after you read a paragraph of a news article, try to put it in your own words. We recommend Engoo Daily News as a good source of news articles to practice with.

Bonus tip: Take an IELTS Speaking course designed by an IELTS examiner

As a bonus tip, we recommend you take a course that was made by someone who is actually an IELTS examiner.

At Engoo, our own IELTS Speaking course was made by an examiner with over 15 years of experience teaching IELTS. To learn more, read this introduction to the course or check it out yourself!

Make sure to take this course with a professional English tutor. Many Engoo tutors have experience teaching or taking the IELTS themselves. You can find them by typing "IELTS" in the search bar. Good luck!