IELTS Vocabulary - Problems

In IELTS essays you are almost always going to need to write about a problem. To do this
well, you need to be able to use a variety of words to describe problems. Here are a few
basic variations.
You should note that you will need not just synonyms for “problem” but also variations of
adjectives and verbs.
For more detail on this and an interactive exercise see my Problem Vocabulary page
If you do not understand any of these words, I suggest you use the Macmillan Online
Dictionary
Synonyms and antonyms
Nouns Usage
problem
difficulty a fairly close synonym to “problem”:
question this is slightly different to problem: it is something people have
different opinions about
issue this is something people argue about/ similar to “question”
solution you normally “find” or “come up with” a solution
Adjectives
One key here is to avoid words such as “big” and “little” and to choose accurate word
combinations. Here are some adjective-noun combinations
Adjectives Examples
significant A significant problem many countries face is falling birth rates
fundamental This is not a minor issue, rather it is a fundamental problem
real A very real difficulty in many households is rising fuel bills
minor In my view, global warming is only a minor problem
pressing This is a pressing problem that needs to be dealt with urgently
Dominic Cole’s IELTS Blog
www.dcielts.com
Adjectives Examples
serious Of course, global warming is a serious issue that needs to be
addressed
complex This is a complex issue and there are no easy solutions to it.
Verbs
Verbs Examples Usage
address The government needs to
address the problem of
unemployment
similar to “deal with” and “tackle”
face How to combine work with
having children is a problem
facing many women
an alternative here would be the more
academic “confronting”
deal with We need to deal with the
pressing issue of global
warming
a close synonym of “tackle”: it
includes the idea that the problem is
difficult
tackle It will not be easy to tackle
global warming
a close synonym of “deal with”
experience Many families are experiencing
difficulties in paying their rising
fuel bills
a more academic way of saying
“have”
pose Rising fuel bills pose a problem
for many families
a good collocation to use with
problem meaning “make”
resolve The best way of resolving the
problem of global warming
would be to raise taxes
you can “solve” a problem or you can
“resolve” a problem
Dominic Cole’s IELTS Blog
www.dcielts.com

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