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English Vocabulary about the environment

The environment is a hot topic at the moment and has been for some time. For this reason, it comes up as a topic in the Speaking section of the IELTS quite frequently. There are words and phrases that are quite specifically related to the environment so you’d do well to practice and understand them.

We’ve put together some of the typical
questions that get asked and paired them with answers. Enhancing your IELTS Vocabulary should help you to do well in
this section of the test. If you have any doubts about the meanings of the
phrases, words or collocations that are highlighted in the passages scroll down
to the bottom of the page and you’ll find their explanations.

Part 1 Type Questions

Examiner: Do you believe that pollution is a
big problem?

Answer: Pollution is without a doubt a
problem. In some countries, the air
is so poor that people wear face masks in areas where there is heavy industry. The waterways are
polluted and the ocean is full of plastic.

Examiner: Do you or your family do anything to
protect the environment

Answer: We are very conscious of the earth’s scarce resources. We water our garden
using grey water. We also collect
rainwater off the roof. We use energy
lights and fans and we recycle our household waste wherever it is

Have you ever taken part in an event centred around the environment?

Answer: I have. We attend a big beach clean-up once a month. We are part of a group cleaning up the natural habitat of the birds and small sea creatures that live on the beach. Some of the birds that breed on the waterline have been identified as endangered species.

Part 2 Type Question

Examiner: Describe an environmental disaster
that has made the news.

In this question, you should describe the
event, where it took place and the effect that it had on the environment

Answer: A few years ago, two commercial ships
collided outside Galveston in Texas. Between them, they lost hundreds of thousands
of litres of marine fuel into the ocean. It contaminated the seventh largest estuary in the world. The oil spill also floated out into the
open water in the Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists
at the time said that every type of marine
was under threat, as marine
fuel smothers birds, animals, and fish. It was the start of the spring migration and the animal sanctuaries along the coast
reported catching and cleaning many animals coated in oil. The shrimp and crabs
had started to spawn and the concern
was that they were at the bottom of the
food chain
and would contaminate
all of the larger species

Part 3 Type Questions

Examiner: Do you think
that your government does enough to control environmental damage?

Answer: I don’t believe that they do. I have
personally seen streams and rivers where industrial
is evident. We burn too many fossil
to generate electricity and the government still has not introduced a carbon tax in my country.

Examiner: What do you think is the biggest
environmental problem faced by the world?

Answer: I believe that the biggest
environmental problem facing the earth is rapid
. Eighty percent of the earth’s animals and birds live in
forests and the loss of habitat
could result in the mass extinction of
these animals. Deforestation also drives climate change.

Examiner: How should we teach our children to
care for the environment

Answer: Our children follow our example. They
should see us conserving water,
making use of energy efficient resources and recycling glass, paper and other recyclable materials. We should all
stop using single-use plastic products.



  • Air quality – The degree to which the air is free of pollution
  • Animal sanctuary – A place of safety for distressed animals
  • Carbon tax- A tax on fossil fuels
  • Conserving water – To use water sparingly
  • Endangered species – A species that is close to extinction
  • Energy efficient – To use as much energy as is required with no wastage
  • Environmentalists – Someone who is concerned about the environment
  • Estuary – The large tidal area of one or more river
  • Fossil fuel – Fuel such as coal or diesel, formed from organic material
  • Grey water – Fairly clean waste water from baths and showers
  • Heavy industry – An area of factories which use heavy machinery
  • Industrial effluent – Liquid waste from factories
  • Loss of habitat – Loss of natural living areas
  • Marine life – Living creatures in the sea or ocean
  • Mass extinction – The largescale total loss of species
  • Natural habitat – The natural living space of a particular species
  • Oil Spill – Oil which has escaped into a body of water
  • Rapid deforestation – The fast destruction of forests
  • Recyclable materials – Materials which can be re-used once reworked
  • Scarce resources – A limited amount of materials such as water
  • Spring migration – The movement of animals from north to south or vice versa
  • The food chain – Living organisms in a hierarchy that depend on the one below for sustenance
  • To be under threat – To be at risk
  • To contaminate – To poison or pollute
  • To spawn – The release of eggs by fish or frogs.

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