Collocations are words that often appear together in language and sound natural or correct together. These words sound right to native speakers, but other similar combinations may not. Read the sentences below. Which sentences do you think are using the correct collocations?

A: The boy made his homework and then washed his teeth.

B: The boy did his homework and then brushed his teeth. 

A: "Great morning." said the shopper as she did a look at the clothes.

B: "Good morning." said the shopper as she took a look at the clothes. 

Hopefully you were able to identify that the B sentences are correct.

Basic collocations are learned by hearing and reading them over and over again, but unfortunately many IELTS-level collocations are less common in everyday language.

For this reason, collocations are an easy way for IELTS examiners to judge the vocabulary level of an IELTS test-taker. More advanced speakers will use less-common collocations more often than lower-level speakers. This is true both for the writing and speaking tests. Put simply, collocations raise IELTS scores…so all test-takers should spend time learning them.

The best collocations for IELTS are those that are less-common but that can be used for a range of topics, such as academic collocations which are good for general use. A specific less-common collocation such as ‘festive mood’ is wonderful when writing or talking about festivals, but it does not apply to any other topic. However, a collocation such as ‘limited capacity’ can be used to talk about many different topics which increases the likelihood it can be used in the IELTS test.

IELTS examiners will notice collocations that are more academic, such as those on the Academic Collocations List, but this is a long list! To make it easier, I have selected the most useful collocations, provided example sentences for each one, and grouped them alphabetically.

Remember, it is better to learn a few of these collocations well than to learn many of them poorly. Use a learner’s dictionary such as the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary to help understand these words, check the pronunciation carefully for spoken use, and practise writing example sentences of your own (not just copied from the dictionary) and include some of them every time you practise essay writing and IELTS speaking.

GROUP A: collocations useful for the IELTS test

academic achievementSchools should focus on social skills, not just academic achievement.
academic performanceThe academic performance of girls has been higher than boys for years.
academic skillsMany students taking the IELTS test lack the academic skills required to organise an essay.
academic success For many students of social science, academic success does not lead to a high-paying job.
accept responsibilityCar companies need to accept responsibility for the pollution caused by their vehicles.
acceptablebehaviourWith the information we now have about the harmful effects, smoking in public places is unacceptable behaviour.
accurate assessmentHowever, without an accurate assessment of the damage caused by over-farming, it is difficult to find a solution.
accurate descriptionThe document provides a more accurate description of life in the 18th century.
accurate informationPolice must question whether the information provided by witnesses is always accurate.
accurate pictureTo understand the issues faced by poorer families, we must first paint an accurate picture of their daily lives. 
achieve (a)goalThese goals will only be achieved with cooperation from all countries. 
achieve (an)objectiveThe UN objective of raising literacy rates will not be achieved unless women are allowed equal educational opportunities.
acquire knowledgeChildren appear to acquire knowledge faster than young adults.
activeroleFathers need to play an active role in a child’s upbringing.
actively involvedWhen children are not actively involved in classroom activities they may lose concentration and resort to bad behaviour out of boredom.
additional costGovernments should subsidise the additional costs involved in buying electric vehicles.
additional resourcesPoorer countries cannot provide adequate healthcare without additional resources.
additional informationHomeowners need additional information before they can safely switch to renewable energy.
address (an/the)issueIf the police fail to address the issue of racism , the distrust in communities will continue.
advanced technologyCurrently we do not have the advanced technology necessary to survive on another planet.
adverseeffectThe adverse effects of a lack of exposure to the sun are well-known.
adverselyaffectHigh-sugar diets may adversely affect the behaviour of children.
affect (the)developmentDevelopment in the area has been affected by continuous wars since the 1970s.
allocate resourcesUniversities have limited financial resources and must choose where to allocate them.
almost identicalThe two studies had almost identical results.
alternative approachThe law prohibiting alcohol sales without identification has not had an effect on underage drinking. An alternative approach is needed.
alternative methodDespite the obvious advantages of this approach, an alternative method has been used by many hospitals.
alternative solutionAfter the previous tsunami easily broke the sea defences, an alternative solution was presented.
alternative strategyIf we are to avoid a global water crisis, we must find an alternative strategy.
appropriate actionTeachers must be allowed to take appropriate action when a pupil misbehaves in class. 
appropriate behaviourIn many countries, public displays of affection are considered inappropriate behaviour.
appropriate conditionsWithout the appropriate conditions, much-needed crops cannot grow.
appropriate responseThe appropriate response is to increase international aid.
appropriate skillsMany young men in poor countries lack the appropriate skills needed to change jobs.
armed conflictArmed conflict is a major hurdle to disease prevention in western Africa.
artificial intelligenceIn ten years, all cars will be equipped with artificial intelligence that allows the car to drive itself.
assess (the)impactBefore making policy decisions that affect minorities, governments must first assess the impact on these communities. 
assume responsibilityProponents of Chinese medicine must assume responsibility for the devastation caused to endangered species worldwide.
atomic energy One possible alternative to decrease air pollution is atomic energy.
available evidenceAll the available evidence suggests the global population will continue rising for the next 100 years.
available informationWithout freely sharing available scientific information on crop development, poorer countries will not be able to benefit.
available resourcesThe resources available on the moon are not sufficient to sustain life.
averagescoreThe average scores of only-children far exceeded those of children with siblings.

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