Difficult Vocabulary in Reading Passages


Difficult Vocabulary

  • You may not understand every word in the reading passages.
  • You may not need to understand the exact meaning of an unknown word, unless there is a question directly related to it.
  • If you don’t know the meaning of the word, then try to guess the meaning of the word from the context.
  • The IELTS Academic Module being a formal academic test contains a number of words used when studying at tertiary level.

Positive/Negative Meaning

  • Sometimes knowing whether the word has a positive or negative meaning, helps to guess the meaning and in answering a question.

Break the Word Down into Syllables

  • Sometimes knowledge of common roots, affixes and possible similarity of words in your own language can help you to identify the meaning.

Look For Connective Words

  • They are often near the unknown words.
  • They help to identify the general direction of the argument.
  • This can help to give some understanding of the unknown word.


  • Occasionally a reading passage comes with a glossary of words in the passage that may be technical or not easily understood.

Long complicated words

  • You might get a text with masses and masses of long, complicated words.
  • Very often these words are key to the meaning of a sentence and therefore key to answering a question.
  • However, equally often these words are unnecessary – they are adjectives or adverbs that provide greater description rather than play a part in meaning.
  • If you start focusing on words you don’t understand, you will run out of time.
  • If the some words are too difficult, ignore them.

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