Secrets to IELTS writing success – Synonyms

A lot of people get stuck writing, not because they can’t express themselves properly but because they run of interesting ways to express their ideas.  Many writers, including native English speakers, become lazy and reuse the same expressions over and over again.  That can make your writing sound boring.  Very boring!

An excellent way to build your English vocabulary is to learn synonyms – words or phrases that have similar meanings.  If you learn synonyms your work will sound more interesting, engaging and expressive (see how those three words also make my writing sound more professional).

Writing about the future

Here is an example from a sample IELTS essay I found online.  The question is this:

Some people prefer to spend their lives doing the same things and avoiding change. Others, however, think that change is always a good thing. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

This essay requires you to write about the future, so words that express change (the rate of change, developments, inventions, innovations, etc.) will be useful.  Here’s how a first draft looks:

Over the past fifty years human life has changed a lot. Technology has changed the way we view the everyday world. This means that change is not always personal, but a certain fact of life, and we need to always change ourselves to keep up with it.

It’s not bad, but count how many times the word ‘change’ was used.  It’s a bit too repetitive.  Now compare it with this paragraph:

Over the last half century the pace of change in the life of human beings has increased beyond our wildest expectations. This has been driven by technological and scientific breakthroughs that are changing the way we view the world on an almost daily basis. This means that change is not always a personal option, but an inescapable fact of life, and we need to constantly adapt to keep pace with it.

Rather than repeat the word change, it sounds much better to use different expressions – ‘has changed a lot’ has been replaced by ‘the pace of change … has increased’.  Other more ordinary expressions, such as ‘certain’ (‘inescapable’) and ‘change to keep up’ (‘adapt’) can also be replaced.

First essay Second essay
over the past fifty years over the last half century
has changed a lot the pace of change … has increased beyond our wildest expectations
technology has changed the way we view the world this has been driven by technological and scientific breakthroughs that are changing the way we view the world
certain inescapable
we always need to change to keep up we need to constantly adapt to keep pace with it

Expressions about the future


Here’s a whole list of other words that might relate to this topic:

Words that express change:

  • Transition from / towards
  • Innovation / innovative
  • Evolve / evolved
  • Revolution / revolve
  • Advanced
  • Developed

Words that express a movement towards the future:

  • Eventual
  • Approaching
  • Unfolding
  • Prospective
  • Forthcoming
  • Subsequent
  • Impending

Study tips

When using synonyms – whether they are individual words or phrases – try to group them together.  Then when you try to remember them, you’re not only remembering one word or phrase but you’re remembering a whole group of them at the same time.

This will help you become a better writer, and a much more fluent English speaker!

The End of the World

A Short Listening Exercise

News reports are excellent resources for sharpening your listening skills, especially when they cover strange or very local events.  Watch the following news report about the predicted end of the world, and see if you can answer the questions below.

Useful phrases / words:

  • Much vaunted – talked about by lots of people, in anticipation of something big
  • Materialise – appear or occur
  • Flocking – people or animals (especially birds) gathering together
  • Winter solstice – the longest day of the year in Europe
  • Druids – ancient people from the UK
  • Anti-climax – disappointing
  • Whisk to safety – take someone away to protect them
  • New age – people who believe in new forms of spirituality
  • Sacred site – a place of sacred significance


  1. How many people turned up last year?
  2. Which two groups of people believe in cycles of time?
  3. What did the Druid in the interview wish for in the new age?
  4. Where did the two ceremonies take place?
  5. At the very end of the report, what does the presenter mean by the phrase ‘we’ve had some pretty apocalyptic rain’?

Extra writing challenge. 

In 100 words or less in the comments section, explain why you think some people believe in the end of the world?