Learn IELTS Vocabulary: Changes

Feb 27, 2023 | IELTS Test

IELTS Speaking Test Sample:  

Talking about change in some way is a topic which sometimes occurs in the Speaking interview. 

Read the following speaking-style questions, paying close attention to words you dont know and the words in bold. There are definitions for the words in bold at the end of the page.

Before you read the conversation, you might like to download this free PDF quiz and have a go at completing the blanks.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: Let’s talk about changes. Do you sometimes change your way of doing things? 

Candidate: Well…. not often, but sometimes, yes. Let me think of an example…………Ok, I recently changed the time I go to the gym for exercise. I used to regularly go fairly early in the morning, 8 or 8.30. But about three weeks back I started going at 5 p.m. 

Examiner: [follow up question] Why? 

Candidate: I just found that I wasn’t quite “with it” at the earlier time. I’d been exercising at that time for about six months before changing, but my brain wasn’t fully awake in some way, and so I wasn’t concentrating on the form of exercise I would be doing, such as lifting weights, or jogging on the machine. So, my breathing wasn’t really smooth, and my muscles often felt weak after just a short time. 

Now, going in the late afternoon, I’m fully alert and I find it’s more relaxing working out… and I’m more able to release any stress from the day’s classes.   

Examiner: Do you think you have changed much since you were a child? 

Candidate: Oh, I’m sure I have. I mean, like most of us when we grow up, right? Not in everything, of course – I still won’t eat broad beans or bitter melon! And I have to say, I still like to sometimes watch the Disney cartoons on TV that I loved when I was a kid. But in other things like leisure activities, for example. Instead of playing computer games so much, I prefer to go for a run in the park or play badminton in the gym with a friend. 

Examiner: Have there been many changes in the town or city where you live?  

Candidate: Quite a few, in fact. Particularly over the last year or so. I’ve been studying in Paris for four years now, and there have been noticeable changes in things like road layouts and new buildings. As you know, the city will be hosting the 2024 Olympics, and the area where I live is quite close to the main Games stadium. There’s a lot of construction of new sports facilities and housing to accommodate the influx of visitors, both athletes and tourists who are expected then. 

Examiner: Is there anything you are planning to change over the next year? 

Candidate: Hmm…let me think…Yes, I’m going to change one of my minor subjects. My major is Economics, and one of my minor classes is Sociology. Next semester, I’m going to take a class in European Economic History instead.

Examiner: [follow up question] Why?

Candidate: Well, Sociology is interesting to some extent, and it certainly complements Economics in a number of ways. But I feel that two years of these classes is sufficient. The class in Economic History, I feel should give me a broader perspective towards Economics as a whole. I’ll gain a better understanding of the global situation today. And I won’t be just absorbed with all the often rather dry technical skills in the discipline that I’ll need for work after I finish my post-graduate study.  

Part 2

Describe a positive change that you have made in your life.

You should say:

  • what it is
  • when you made it
  • whether anyone suggested the change

and explain why you decided to make the change.

Candidate: A change that I’ve made is how much time I spend interfacing with technology every day. So about two months ago I decided I was going to switch off my mobile phone and my laptop computer for two hours every afternoon, usually from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 8 at night. 

It was my mother who really triggered the change. When I was last at home in the summer holidays, she noticed how much time I was spending online or on my phone and suggested I might like to consider just literally “switching off” for a bit. We discussed it and she felt I wasn’t engaging more with others, even my own family members, as often as I could, because I was facing a screen for so much of my time. So now, I turn off my devices, or place them in Sleep mode for those hours I mentioned, between my afternoon classes and that hour in the early evening. 

It took a bit of getting used to, I might as well admit! I found at first I was restless, worrying about whether I was missing some important message from someone, or not getting the latest news as quickly as everyone else. But then I started to see the real benefits. 

Taking just those three hours out has given me new freedom to, for instance, simply think and reflect on things, to read a book or a printed newspaper, to go for a walk, knock on my older neighbour’s door to see whether she wanted to come with me. She quite often does. She enjoys the physical activity and the chance to chat. I’ve gotten to know her better and, actually…the stories she tells about the places all over the world she’s been to and the experiences she’s had are genuinely more interesting to me than what I would otherwise read at that time on the latest gossip or opinions of someone on Twitter, Facebook or WeChat. 

It’s hardly a big deal to take some time out, is it? I mean, look, it’s not like….. how on Earth did people survive for hundreds or thousands of years before we had all these wonderful new devices? 

Overall, it’s been a really positive change, which I could recommend to others, too. It’s an effective way for me to feel I’m more in control of my life, and not just some kind of slave, as it were, to technology and machines all the time.  

Part 3-style questions

Examiner: Is it good for us to constantly think about changes we could make in our life? [Evaluate]

Candidate: I think it is. It’s a good thing for all of us to at least occasionally stop and think about how we could change something for the better – even if it’s just a small thing, like taking time away from electronic devices for a while, as I talked about before.  It could be that that small thing turns into something bigger which has real benefits for us.

Examiner: Do you agree that some people find it difficult, if not impossible to make personal changes? [Agree/disagree]

Candidate: Hmm. I would say that’s true not just for some, but many people, perhaps even most people. As human beings we have a kind of ingrained tendency to resist changes. Even if we suspect that a change in some way might in fact do us some good, we are habitual beings who like to keep things the way they are. Change can involve work – mental work in thinking about what change could be needed, and then effort to bring it about or put it into practice. For most of us, it’s more comfortable… it’s easier to just leave things the way they are.  

And as a general rule, the older we get, the more difficult it is for most of us to engage with changes. 

Examiner: Do you agree that it can be useful to consult others to get advice on making personal changes? [Agree/disagree]

Candidate:  Well…let me think about that………To some degree I think I would go along with that. Other people can have perspectives on us that we ourselves don’t. Talking to friends…that can sometimes result in a suggestion that’s really worth looking at. 

Then of course, there’s a bit of a trendy business nowadays with the Life Coach thing, isn’t there? People, often with a background in psychology or business success, who claim to have the ability to motivate us towards fruitful change, for example in changing our career path. 

Personally, it’s not for me and I’m a bit skeptical of it, but I do know of people who reckon it’s been a real boon for them. So, I wouldn’t knock it if say a friend asked me whether they should engage a professional like that. 

Examiner: Let’s talk about changes in the wider world. What do you see as the changes that are, or are going to be, most significant for all of us in the future? [Speculate]

Candidate: We live in an increasingly uncertain world, with many trends that look problematic. Covid has brought home to us just how vulnerable we are to new pathogens...and the next pandemic could be even more devastating than that one has been. But surely above all else, we can now see clearly that climate change is the thing that will have most impact on us. I mean, it’s already happening, isn’t it? And with really frightening rapidity the way it all seems to have accelerated so quickly in the last few years. Dangerous heat waves in Europe, flash floods, raging forest fires in places like California and Australia. It’s alarming – who would have thought temperatures of 34 degrees could ever be experienced in the Arctic Circle? But that’s what places in the north of Russia have had. And then in the latter part of 2022, those devastating floods in Pakistan, more than a third of the country under water at one stage. Events like that have profound implications for the sustainability of agriculture, the food supply, and the possibility of widespread social unrest. 

Examiner: [follow up question] Do you think we can still take actions to offset the worst effects of global warming? [Speculate]

Candidate: Unfortunately, no. It’s this that personally worries me most, as I think it’s too late to mitigate it to any significant extent. I mean… even if the major countries agreed immediately to make even more drastic changes in regard to fossil fuels and greenhouse emissions…  it won’t make that much difference now. We should have taken these measures, at the latest, 20 years ago.  

Definitions for IELTS Achievement Vocabulary

image of a page of the Oxford English Dictionary

Part 1

“with it”: In this context, it is a very informal way of a speaker saying they are not alert or responsive to the situation they are in. They are not fully aware of what’s happening in the way they need to be. Another example is “I’m not with it in the office in the morning unless I’ve had at least two cups of coffee when I arrive there.”    

quite a few: This expression can be quite confusing to English learners, as a few normally means only a small number of something.  To say quite a few, however, means a substantial number. In other words, it is rather similar to a speaker saying “a lot” or “many.” 

 influx: A higher-level noun meaning the entry of a large number of people or things. 

complements: To complement something is to be relevant and useful to it in some way; to complete it and perhaps even make it perfect.  

dry: The adjective in this context has nothing to do with temperature or lack of moisture but means that a piece of writing or information (which may be necessary to the reader or listener) is presented in a somewhat dull, uninteresting way.    

discipline: Another way of referring to a subject or branch of knowledge, at a higher level of learning, e.g Economics, Sociology History, and Physics.  


Part 2

interfacing: To interface (it is also a noun) is to interact, to have reciprocal contact with someone or something, e.g a computer. 

triggered: To trigger is to set something in motion, to be responsible for something beginning.   


Part 3

ingrained: The adjective refers to something such as a habit which is firmly set and fixed. It is difficult to change.   

go along with: In this context, to go along with something/someone is an informal way of saying you agree with an opinion or view which is expressed. It can also mean to consent or give approval to some plan of action which is proposed.   

skeptical: To be doubtful, unconvinced about something.  

boon: Something which is beneficial or helpful.   

knock it: To knock something in this context is an informal way of saying to criticise or denigrate it; to say it has no worth. 

pathogens:   harmful micro-organisms such as bacteria or viruses.   

mitigate: To mitigate (formal verb; the noun is mitigation) is to take action which reduces or minimises the adverse/harmful consequences/effects of something. It will not prevent or eliminate it completely.   


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