by IDP IELTS — August 19th, 2020

COVID-19 is not only changing how we study, work and communicate, it is also changing the language we use everyday. Learn more about the language we use related to COVID-19 and how we can use it in IELTS.

We are all experiencing life in a COVID-19 world and are all well aware of how this pandemic is impacting our lives. One positive outcome is that we are adding dozens of new words to our vocabulary, in other words, we’ve learned how to communicate using ‘pandemic’ language.

When we prepare for the IELTS test, we learn vocabulary related to our everyday life, so we can describe what we do or what we like as well as discussing other general topics. Being able to understand and use pandemic language will mean that you can communicate your ideas and feelings correctly as well as understanding what you hear and read in the news and on social media..

This blog will look at some of the language that we hear and see regularly so that you can use it confidently and accurately.

COVID communication

The way we communicate has changed in the last few months as we avoid face-to-face communication and need to rely on digital communication instead. We have all become experts in using a range of video conferencing tools relying on social media platforms and the internet to communicate for business and personal purposes.

The following table will list the terms we use now and an example of how we use them.

Word (part of speech) Definition Example
Zoom (v/n) Web conference platform ‘I’ll see you on Zoom later.’
ping(v) Call/message/contact ‘I’ll ping you later on.’
Skype (v/n) Message/video platform ‘I tried to Skype you.’
lag (v/n) a delay ‘The lag meant I couldn’t hear you.’
drop out (ph v) lost connection ‘What..? You dropped out.’
speed test (n) Test to show internet speed ‘The speed test showed my upload was only 1Mb.’
WFH (abbr.) Work from home ‘My WFH days might change.’
screen share (v) Allowing someone else to view your computer screen “Can you screen share?’
chat (v/n) To write a message “I can’t see my chat box.’

In recent months you may have heard the term ‘unprecedented times’. This adjective is used to describe a situation or event that we have never experienced before. This pandemic is a situation that we have never lived through before, so it is referred to as unprecedented.

When we talk about our life before COVID-19 and speculate about what we might do in the future, we can use the following words and phrases as specific time markers to describe our life before, during and hopefully after the pandemic.

Word (part of speech) Definition Example
unprecedented times (adj) Something we have never experienced ‘We must pull together in these unprecedented times.’
pre-COVID (adv) Before COVID-19 ‘Well, pre-COVID, my plan was to go to Australia.’
post-COVID (adv) After COVID-19 ‘I can’t wait till post-COVID to travel.’
lockdown (n) Staying within your home/prison cell ‘We can’t go out, we are still in lockdown.’
quarantine (n/v) A period of time in isolation ‘I had to quarantine when I returned from overseas.’
‘iso’ isolation (n) To be on your own ‘I’m in isolation for the next 2 weeks!’
self-isolate (v) Self imposed isolation ‘I will self-isolate so I don’t infect anyone.’

When we listen to the news, we hear some new terms that we have not heard before and they are rapidly becoming a part of our everyday language.

Word (part of speech) Definition Example
elbow-bump (v) Greeting by bumping your elbows ‘The politicians elbow bumped before starting the meeting.’
PPE (abbr.) Personal Protective Equipment ‘In some countries there is a shortage of PPE.’
Social distancing (v/n) To stand a certain distance from a person ‘They are not social distancing.’
hand sanitiser (n) Chemical hand cleaner ‘There was no hand sanitiser in the office.’
hoard (v) Buying a lot of one item ‘People are hoarding toilet paper.’
panic shopping (n) Buying extra items when not needed ‘Everyone is panic shopping.’
moratorium (n) Banks put bills on hold ‘Our bank has a moratorium so we don’t have to pay our mortgage payments.’
pivot (v/n) A rapid change in direction or focus ‘We have all learned to pivot in our jobs.’
recession (n) A period of economic decline ‘COVID-19 will force countries into a recession.’
bankrupt (adj/v/n) A person or business that cannot pay debts ‘So many small businesses are becoming bankrupt.
cluster (n/v) A group of COVID positive cases that occur together ‘There are a number of clusters near where I live.’

We are also aware of the health-related language that is used every day to describe the pandemic in our countries. It is important that we understand these terms to make sure we adhere to the guidelines that health officials give us to ensure we limit the spread of the virus. So, for some of us, it is a matter of life and death that we understand this language, particularly if we live in an English-speaking country.

Word (part of speech) Definiton Example
outbreak (n) A sudden occurrence ‘The COVID-19 outbreak took us all by surprise.’
spread (v/n) To cover a large area ‘We have to deal with the spread of infection quickly.’
confirm (v) A positive COVID test ‘It’s confirmed, I have COVID!’
symptom (n) A sign that you are sick ‘The symptoms were quite noticeable. she was coughing and had a fever.’
case (n) An instance of COVID infection ‘There were 60 more cases today.’
community transfer (n) Infection from people in the community ‘Most cases are from community transfer.’
asymptomatic (adj) A person who is COVID positive who has no symptoms ‘He was asymptomatic, so we didn’t know he had it.’


When we chat with other people, we talk about what is happening in the world around us, so COVID-19 and the global impact it is having, is the forefront in our minds.

In the IELTS Speaking test, you may be asked about something you like to do in your leisure time, this may be something you loved doing pre-COVID, or maybe it’s something you learned to do when you were in quarantine. You might have to discuss the topic of tourism and when doing so, you will probably mention that because borders are closed because of social distancing, this is having a negative impact on the tourism industry. You may even mention when discussing the environment that our world is probably a cleaner place, because we are not driving or traveling as much, so our pollution levels are decreasing. If you have to discuss health and well being you will be able to comment on how important communication and education are to schools and communities in understanding disease and preventing infection. You might also be asked to speculate about the future in Part 3 of the Speaking test, so again, you could mention the negative impacts that COVID-19 will have on the global economy.

Precautions against the coronavirus in IELTS tests 

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