Useful Idioms for IELTS Exams That Will Boost Your Score

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Idioms for IELTS

Do you remember your grandma using local idioms while telling you an interesting story? Those idioms in our local languages are poles apart from English idioms that play a key part in cracking the lexical vocabulary section for the IELTS test. In the IELTS speaking test, idioms have a distinctive role because they can assist you in exhibiting your grasp of English. If you are thinking of finding the right mantra to nail the use of idioms for IELTS, this blog is the ideal one, to begin with. Here we will be taking a look at significant idioms for IELTS along with the tips and tricks to utilize them during the test.

What is an Idiom?

An idiom is a phrase or expression with a non-literal meaning that cannot be grasped by reading each word individually. Idioms are used so naturally by native speakers that they often go unnoticed; we are unaware that we are using them because we have grown up hearing these phrases and idioms.

What is a Phrasal Verb?

A phrasal verb is a compound verb that combines a verb with an adverb or a preposition. When these phrasal verbs are formed, they frequently contain idiomatic meaning, which cannot be understood simply by reading what each word implies. For example, the verb pick plus the preposition up – pick up – signifies hoist. We can use this phrasal verb to request that someone pick up something we have fallen on the ground, or we can use it to request a ride in a car – “I need a ride, can you please pick me up on the way to school?” As you can see, we use idiomatic language all the time to describe ourselves more vividly, whereas the words we use have idiomatic meanings.

Meaning and Significance of Idioms for IELTS

Idioms can be defined as phrases that have acquired meaning with common and continuous usage and this meaning is not literal. If someone tells you they have “found their feet”, they don’t mean it literally. Finding one’s feet means they have found themselves comfortable doing something. As a basic explanation, an idiom uses one or more metaphors to describe a situation or an expression. That’s why you should not believe an idiom right away. Try unravelling it by putting it in different sentences.

In every idiom, there will be a metaphor(s) to turn its literal meaning into something absurd or in a different context. For instance, if your friend tells you that “writing a literature essay is a piece of cake for him”, you don’t have to go literally into the phrase. Understand it in terms of its common use through which you will know that “a piece of cake” means that it’s an easy thing to do.

When it comes to the IELTS speaking test, idioms are a chief aspect because having an idiomatic vocabulary will show an advanced speaking proficiency in English. Using idioms in a speaking test provides you with the chance to get a good speaking score and since they are mostly spoken as informal expressions and phrases, adding them to the IELTS writing test is not a good idea. Further, as listed in band descriptors for the IELTS speaking test, using idioms can lead you to a band 7 candidate in the test and with a skilful grasp, you can move further to a rare 8 and 9 which requires an even stronger grasp of idiomatic English.

Difference Between Verb Phrase and Phrasal Verb

A verb phrase is made up of a primary verb and an assisting verb. These verbs, when combined, can help words accentuate a person’s attitude and tone. In this scenario, an adverb, preposition, or auxiliary can be paired with the verb to change the meaning of the statement.

A phrasal verb, on the other hand, is a combination of a verb and another element. The second component could be an adverb or a preposition. The whole meaning of the verb changes with the inclusion of the constituent.

Phrases to Help You Through Your IELTS Speaking Exam

Although they are incredibly beneficial, overuse may result in an unnatural, rehearsed, and memorised tone. Keep in mind that you want to sound as natural and fluent as native English speakers. Make sure you pay close attention to the question and go the extra mile.

  • If I remember correctly it was
  • If my memory serves me well
  • I can’t remember exactly but I think it was
  • Well to be honest I haven’t thought about it before
  • I guess you could say that
  • Well nowadays I think it’s difficult because

List of Idioms for the IELTS Speaking Exam

  1. A drop in the ocean: constituting a smaller portion of something large

In a sentence: Donating only ten rupees might seem like a drop in the ocean, but even a small amount of charity goes a long way.

  1. It’s a small world: unexpectedly getting to meet someone you know or realizing common connections between people

In a sentence: We bumped into each other at the airport, what a small world isn’t it?

  1. Blessing in disguise: When you realize that something bad is good but not until later.

In a sentence: Getting rejected was a blessing in disguise as it taught me the role of failure in being successful.

  1.  A hot potato: a topic with a controversial reputation

In a sentence: Her broken marriage has become a hot potato at every family occasion.

  1. Sit on a fence: unsure about something

In a sentence: I’m sitting on a fence thinking about whether I should apply for this course or not.

  1. To pick holes in something: To find weak points in something

In a sentence: As soon as I completed my project, she started to pick holes in it. 

  1. Ducks and drakes: To spend lavishly

In a sentence: They spent ducks and drakes at their wedding in Los Angeles. 

  1. Read between the lines: To understand the hidden meaning

In a sentence: One should read between the lines to understand the true essence of this poem. 

  1. To be in the same boat: To be in similar situations

In a sentence: Radha and Surbhi are sailing in the same boat as they both have their acceptance letter pending from a university abroad.

  1. To Split hair–  To argue unnecessarily 

In a sentence: My father was splitting hair unnecessarily at the bank. 

  1. To get down: To something to begin to do something
  2. A wild goose chase: Futile chase
  3. A bad egg: Worthless or having no practical value 
  4. A sleeping partner: A partner who doesn’t do any work
  5. To give someone a piece of your mind: To tell somebody that you disapprove of their behaviour
  6. Between the devil and deep sea: Between two dangers that are equally harmful
  7. To fight tooth and nail: To fight in a very determined manner
  8. Swan song: The last piece of work produced by an artist
  9. To strain every nerve: To try as hard as you can
  10. To turn up one’s nose: To refuse something especially when you don’t think it is good enough
  11. Down in the dumps: Feeling unhappy or depressed
  12. Dutch courage: Courage inspired by alcohol
  13. To make one’s mouth water: To have a strong desire for
  14. At Mayor’s nest: Something illusory
  15. To beat around the bush: To approach directly or away from the subject
  16. Back to the drawing board: To start thinking about a new way of doing something after a previous plan or Idea has failed
  17. A close-fisted person: Not willing to spend or give much money
  18. To put your shoulder to the wheel: Start working without expecting help from others
  19. To bring the house down: To make everyone laugh 
  20. To bring to book: To punish

Idioms for IELTS PDF

Here is a PDF of the idiom for you-

Idioms for IELTS Writing and Speaking

Here is a list of idioms you can use for the IELTS writing and speaking section-

  • A drop in the ocean – A very small part of something much bigger 
  • Actions speak louder than words – It is better to actually do something than just talk about it 
  • The in thing – Something fashionable
  • Over the moon– To be extremely pleased or happy 
  • Once in a blue moon– Happens very rarely 
  • A piece of cake – Very easy 
  • The real McCoy – Genuine or not fake 
  • Go the extra mile – Do much more than is required 
  • A hot potato – A controversial topic 
  • Miss the boat – Miss an opportunity 
  • Off the top of my head – Saying something without thinking first 
  • Run of the mill – Average, Ordinary
  • Soulmate – Someone you trust very deeply 
  • Down in the dumps – Sad 
  • Found my feet – To become comfortable doing something 
  • Set in their ways – Not wanting to change
  • Costs an arm and a leg – Really expensive
  • Sit on the fence – To be undecided 

When to Use Idioms for IELTS?

Now that you are aware of what idioms are, the next thing is to master the use of idioms for IELTS. Discerning the context of an idiom is the foremost thing to keep in mind. Don’t use it unless you know its meaning because the examiner might catch you in this confusion and ask even more complicated questions. Adding an idiom at the right time with the correct context in a sentence is the best way to pass the section on idiomatic vocabulary. Here are a few common idioms with examples and their meanings to aid you further in inferring how idioms work.

Idioms for IELTS: Tips & Tricks

There are several tips and tricks that are useful for simplifying the meanings of various idioms. Let’s have a look at some of the tips and tricks that you can employ during the IELTS test:

  • Don’t memorize idiomatic phrases but try using them in different sentences and situations.
  • Apprehend the context of an idiom rather than cramming up its meaning.
  • Visually create a picture or story around an idiom to remember them easily.
  • Dive deeper into how a particular idiom originated. If you cannot find a story behind it, create your own to understand it better.
  • Continuous revision of idioms and their meanings with different examples will strengthen your proficiency in metaphors and contexts.

Also Read: IELTS General vs IELTS Academic


Are idioms allowed in IELTS?

Idioms like “it costs an arm and a leg” are casual, hence they are inappropriate for IELTS writing task 2 academic or general training essays.

What should I avoid in IELTS?

If you write informally, use idioms, or use memorised stock phrases, you may lose marks in vocabulary or grammar.

What are 4 types of idioms?

Idioms are classified into four types: pure idioms, binomial idioms, partial idioms, and prepositional idioms.

Using idioms for IELTS can be confusing, but with consistent practice, you start developing an understanding of the metaphors they are based on. If you still need help preparing for IELTS to get a perfect score, Leverage Edu experts can assist you in mastering the required skills for passing with flying colours.

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