Synonyms for IELTS – What You Don’t Know

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How can I improve my synonyms for IELTS?” this lesson is just for you.

I’ll explain why that question indicates a misunderstanding about what IELTS synonyms are and how to improve them.

You’ll also learn useful synonyms for IELTS Writing Task 2, common mistakes made by IELTS candidates and how to avoid making similar mistakes.

There's a common misconception that IELTS synonyms are some special list of words.


Prefer to watch the video version?

Misconception about Synonyms for IELTS

The most common issue that I encounter is that students want to improve their knowledge of IELTS synonyms.

The reason that this is problematic is that there is no such thing as IELTS synonyms.

There are just synonyms you know and synonyms you don’t know.

To increase synonym IELTS knowledge, you really need to study vocabulary.

To illustrate, let’s look at what the word synonym actually means in this image from Cambridge Dictionary.

When approaching synonyms for IELTS Writing Task 2, you need to first understand that synonyms are just normal words.

This shows us that a synonym is just an ordinary word and is only referred to as a synonym when compared to another word with a similar meaning.

So if you need to improve your synonyms for IELTS, what that really indicates is that you need to improve your vocabulary.

By improving your vocabulary, you be aware of more synonyms and will better navigate the various tasks requiring synonyms for IELTS Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

To effectively improve your vocabulary, you can follow my Vocabulary Improvement Strategy.

Synonyms for IELTS Writing Task 2

Here, you will learn some appropriate synonyms, but the main objective here is to point out common inaccurate uses of synonyms for IELTS Writing Task 2.


The word ‘nowadays’ indicates that things were different in the past. So, to paraphrase this, you can say presently or these days.

Common mistakes with Nowadays

There are some inaccurate synonyms that appear over and over again in IELTS Writing.

Common ways that candidates incorrectly paraphrase nowadays is with the terms; today, in this day and age and at the moment.

Even though these synonyms have a similar meaning, they do not have the exact same meaning so are not suitable.


This word indicates that it’s not a small group of people.

Suitable words to paraphrase this are many people, some people, there are many who, and there are some who.

Keep in mind, though, if the question says some people, this cannot be paraphrased as many people because some people means not everyone.

Common mistakes with Many

The following terms are not suitable but commonly used; most, most people, several, numerous, a myriad of people, and several people.


This word indicates that it’s an opinion, not a fact and can be paraphrased with the synonyms; think, hold, feel, and maintain.

Common mistakes with Believe

You can learn these appropriate synonyms for IELTS but also make sure to avoid the inappropriate ones.

The words imagine, presume, assume, guess, accept and know are often used but are not direct synonyms of believe in this context.

The word reckon is also inappropriate because, even though it is a direct synonym, it is informal, making it another of the unsuitable synonyms for IELTS.


This is one of the most common mistakes that I see.

This can be paraphrased as teens or people in their teens.

Of course, the pronoun they will also be necessary once the context has been established.

Common mistakes with Teenager

This is often paraphrased with the word children, but teenagers are between 13 and 19, whereas children refers to people aged 0 to 18.

Other inaccurate synonyms are; youngster, adolescent, young adult and minor.


This word comes up a lot in IELTS Writing, but you’ll need to reuse it throughout your essay as many times as is necessary.

The only suitable synonym is individuals.

People is a word that is constantly paraphrased inaccurately by IELTS candidates all over the world.

Common mistakes with People

There are several direct synonyms of people, but none are suitable to be used as IELTS synonyms. These include; humans, human beings, persons and humankind.


This word catches out a lot of IELTS candidates because they know so many inappropriate synonyms already.

One appropriate way to paraphrase children is by using the phrase; the youth.

Common mistakes with Children

Words that are not suitable synonyms for your IELTS Writing are; youngsters, adolescents, teenagers, juveniles or kids.

Also, if the word children is used in a context like this, ‘Parents should be responsible for their children’s behaviour’, the word offspring isn’t a suitable synonym for IELTS.

Make sure to remember these common mistakes with IELTS synonyms.


The only real issue here is that IELTS candidates often write the informal version till. Informal vocabulary like this is fine for your IELTS Speaking Test but not suitable for formal writing.

Using Synonyms for IELTS Writing and Speaking

The main thing to understand here is that you won’t improve your IELTS scores by attempting to use synonyms.

You’ll only improve your scores by using synonyms accurately.

That means that if you know a synonym, you should use it, but if you’re unsure, just repeat whatever word will accurately communicate your ideas.

It's really important that you don't take any risks with the synonyms you use in your IELTS Writing and Speaking tests.

If this results in using the same word many times, that’s much better than the examiner not understanding what you’ve said or written.

Synonyms for IELTS Paraphrasing

The paraphrase is the first sentence you’ll write for every IELTS Writing Task, and it’s where you rewrite the question statement.

You can see highlighted examples of question statements in the images below.

IELTS Writing Task 2 Question Statement

You'll need to know synonyms for IELTS Writing Task 2, but it's not essential to avoid using the words in the question statement.

Academic IELTS Writing Task 1 Question Statement

This is the question statement in an Academic IELTS Task 1 question.

General IELTS Writing Task 1 Question Statement

As with any Task, to increase synonyms IELTS knowledge, the focus needs to be on improving your general knowledge of English vocabulary.

A common misconception is that you cannot use any words from the question statement in your paraphrase, but this is not true.

If you know synonyms that are definitely correct, you can use them, but the main objective is writing a paraphrase that has the exact same meaning as the question statement.

That means that it’s acceptable and often necessary to copy some of the vocabulary from the question.

Also, it’s acceptable just to change the word form when paraphrasing.

For example, we can paraphrase extreme violence in movies as movies that are extremely violent.

Finally, keep in mind that the paraphrase is the least important part of your answer, so if you save time by copying some words from the question, that’s a good decision.

Useful Synonyms for IELTS Academic Task 1 Paraphrasing

Normally, you need to write about a graph, so the question will say something like ‘The chart below shows‘, and you can paraphrase this as ‘The graph illustrates‘.

These phrases can be used interchangeably in most Academic IELTS Task 1 essays.

You can also check out my Complete List of Academic Task 1 Vocabulary which includes enough synonyms for any graph or chart question.

Why Candidates Incorrectly Use Synonyms for IELTS

There are a few reasons why inaccurate synonyms are such a common occurrence in IELTS candidates’ writing.

Let’s look at each one.

Finding Synonyms with a Thesaurus

A thesaurus seems like a great resource because it’s a list of synonyms.

However, if you remember the definition earlier, synonyms can also be words with ‘nearly the same meaning‘.

Do not use a thesaurus to find synonyms for IELTS.
Not all synonyms can be used interchangeably.

This means that a thesaurus doesn’t just show you words that have the same meaning but also words that have similar meanings.

So if you find a new word in a thesaurus, it’s very likely that it isn’t a suitable synonym to use.

To illustrate this, let’s search for the word small in a thesaurus.

As you can see, finding IELTS synonyms in a thesaurus is not an effective strategy.

Then, for example, if we want to paraphrase the sentence, “I need a small improvement in my IELTS scores.

We can say;

  • a little improvement
  • a little bit of improvement
  • a tiny amount of improvement

But, none of the other suggestions in the thesaurus is suitable.

If we didn’t already know this, we wouldn’t know which synonyms to use.

In short, don’t use a thesaurus to find synonyms.

Using Partially Understood Vocabulary

Another issue is when a student finds a new word, looks up the meaning in the dictionary and then starts using it straight away.

Unfortunately, a lot more research is required before you can accurately use a word.

You need to gain a deep understanding of each word you learn before you can use it accurately.

To see the complete process of learning vocabulary, you can follow my Vocabulary Improvement Strategy.

Misunderstanding What IELTS Wants

The final most common reason is that candidates think using lots of synonyms is essential to getting a high IELTS score.

However, that is not the case.

A limited range of vocabulary will indeed hold back your score, and the solution to this is improving your vocabulary range.

If you take risks and use words you’re unsure of, the result will be a lower score than you’re capable of, so make sure that you avoid this approach.

What Now?

The key now is to determine if really need to improve your vocabulary before you can get the IELTS score you need.

If you’d like me to answer that question for you, can join my free Live Feedback Lessons with this form.

Besides learning vocabulary to improve your range of synonyms for IELTS, you should learn what to do in IELTS Speaking, IELTS Writing Task 2, and Academic Task 1 or General Task 1.