Learn IELTS Vocabulary: Pollution

Feb 27, 2022 | IELTS Test

How good is your pollution vocabulary?

Many parts of the world suffer from pollution, and it is a topic that crops up regularly on test days. 

Read the following speaking-style questions, paying close attention to words you don’t 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: Are there many parks or public gardens where you live? 

Candidate: I live in London, and although it’s heavily urbanised, there’s actually much more green space than you might expect. In fact, it’s the world’s first national park city! You can find some sanctuary in every neighbourhood, since 47% of the whole capital is made up of green spaces. 

Examiner: How often do you visit a park?

Candidate: I like to keep fit, so I’m in the park most days. In Hyde Park, in Central London, you’ll often see lots of people cold water swimming in the Serpentine, a large body of water in the middle of the park. But I prefer canoeing! 

Examiner: What do you do if you see litter in the park?

Candidate: I’m always disappointed to see people tarnishing our public parks with detritus from fast food or barbeques. I do try to pick it up when I can, but there can be so much that it would be overwhelming to collect it all myself. That’s why the Council does such an important public service in clearing waste. 

Part 2

Describe a place that you have been to that was polluted. 

             You should say:

– when and where you went

– why you went there

– what the pollution was like

and explain how you felt about this pollution. 

IELTS Speaking Model Answer - A polluted Place © Andrew Turner @EnglishWithAnExpert.com

The most polluted place I’ve ever been is Beijing. I was there on business a few years ago. It was long before the pandemic, but everybody was wearing face masks; it’s obviously just in the national psyche in China. 

After all, pollution has been a problem there for years now. The pollution didn’t detract from the overall travel experience – the food and the culture more than made up for it! But I didn’t enjoy breathing the particles of hazardous substances which are emitted from cars, factories and other sources of pollution. I think change is long overdue in many parts of the world. Governments need to prioritise air quality over their economies. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often, although environmental awareness is increasing, and more people are thinking about sustainability.  

Part 3-style questions

Examiner: What do you think is the most serious environmental problem in your country? [Evaluate]

Candidate: The most serious environmental problem here in the UK is the same one as in China, the air quality. In London, where there’s more traffic congestion than anywhere else in the country, people are at high risk of developing health conditions because they’re breathing polluted air. 

Examiner: Who should be responsible for tackling the problem – business, the government or individuals? [Propose]

Candidate: We all need to collaborate on fixing the problem together. Businesses, the government and individuals all have a shared responsibility to enact change. The best place to start, though, would be government policy, like tightening up regulations on the most prolific polluters.

Examiner: Do you think this problem will be solved in the future? [Predict]

Candidate: Yes, because there’s no other choice. Humans are increasingly awakening to the fact that we need to take better care of our planet. That means reducing our carbon emissions by making changes to our lifestyle. There’s no other way to guarantee a sustainable future! 

Definitions for IELTS Achievement Vocabulary

Part 1

Urbanisedmade into a town or city 

Green spaceparks, forests, fields 

Sanctuarya calm, quiet place 

Neighbourhooda part of a city 

Keep fit stay healthy 

Cold water swimmingswimming in lakes, rivers or the sea 

Body of waterusually a lake, can mean river or stream

Jogginggentle running 


Detritusrubbish, litter 

Barbequeoutdoor grill for meat 

(local) Councilthe organisation that manages a town or city

Public servicedoing something that helps everyone

Part 2

(to go/be…) On businesstravelling for work, not a holiday

National psycheWhere a whole country believes or feels something 

(to) Detract to take away from 

Particlesvery small pieces, often in the air 

Hazardousunhealthy, dangerous 

Emittedgiven from 


(to) Prioritiseto decide something is more important than other things 

Environmental awarenessthinking about the world around us 

SustainabilitySomething being able to continue as it is now 

Part 3

Traffic congestion too many cars on the road 

Health conditionsillness

Collaboratework together 

(to) Enactto make something happen 

Government policythe Government’s plans 


Prolificdoing something a lot

Practice Your IELTS Achievement/Goal Vocabulary 

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