Idioms for IELTS Exam: How And When to Use It?


Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on May 18, 2023 01:04 PM IST

Wondering which idioms for IELTS speaking section will help you achieve an IELTS score of band 7 and above? Or, should you use idioms for IELTS in your essay? Well, before you read the article to know all your answers, keep this in mind: there are no magic words to crack the IELTS exam.

Idioms for IELTS Exam: How And When to Use It?

Every culture has a unique set of expressions that have localised meanings. Every language has a unique manner of expressing concepts, thoughts, or emotions. We usually combine words with meanings that are not necessarily obvious to someone learning the language. Similarly, idioms for IELTS and phrasal verbs are tools we employ in English to express ourselves to the examiner in a more excellent manner. 

The appropriate use of idioms is one of the factors that sets most IELTS applicants apart from native English speakers. Idioms are often used inadvertently by native English speakers because they seem natural to them. Having grown up hearing those words and idioms, they are not even conscious that they are using them. 

However, this case is contrasting for non-native English speakers, therefore, they must learn how to correctly integrate idioms for IELTS in order for their answers to sound conversational. When utilised correctly, idioms for IELTS might increase your overall IELTS score. They can, nevertheless, severely affect your score if you do not use them correctly.

The IELTS Speaking assessment criteria place a strong emphasis on your competency to use idiomatic language commencing at band 7 or higher. You will notice the following statement for the lexical resource at band 7:

‘The candidate exhibits some understanding of style and collocation while using some unique and idiomatic words and making some inappropriate decisions’.

Sooner or later, while preparing for the IELTS exam, you may run into some strange expressions that make no sense in your own tongue. Consider your response if your friend advised you to ‘break your leg’ the day before your IELTS exam. You might assume that this person is merely acting like your friend to get your favour. Examining while wearing a plaster for a broken leg is indeed not funny.

However, we refer to these collections of words as ‘idioms’ since they contain hidden meanings in the English language. Usually, reading the phrase literally obscures such implications. Good news: When someone wants you to ‘break your leg’, they are simply wishing you luck in English, so there is no need of envying. You now understand how perplexing idioms may be! They can actually mean the exact opposite of what you think they do.

Idioms are not typically taught in educational materials, but using them in conversation can indicate your level of command over the English language. Idioms for IELTS are just a part of the English language; they are not some magical set of words that can guarantee you a band score of 7. In this article, we will discuss the top 10 idioms for IELTS speaking with examples as well as the relation between idioms for IELTS and IELTS band score. Let us first understand what this rudimentary term ‘idiom’ means. 

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What is an Idiom?

A language term known as an idiom can have a nonliteral meaning or may not be connected to a specific phrase. Or, you could say that an idiom is a collection of words that have been put together to produce a certain sentence whose individual meanings may vary. Idioms are, to put it simply, a cluster of words which have a hidden meaning of an expression. There are many of these expressions that applicants need to be familiar with to prepare for the IELTS speaking section.

What is a Phrasal Verb?

The phrasal verb is yet another aspect of idioms that you should be aware of. A phrasal verb is a combination of verbs and other words. A preposition or an adverb may be used as the second derivative to completely change the meaning of the verb. Phrasal verbs typically have idiomatic meanings, in which you must comprehend the entire sentence rather than just the meaning of each individual word.

What is a Verb Phrase?

Idioms are useful for the IELTS speaking section, but there are several things you should know about them. The verb phrase is one of them. In an idiom, the main verb and the supporting verb make up a verb phrase. When combined, it enables words to convey a person's attitude, tone, etc. Here, the verb is coupled with prepositions, adverbs, and auxiliaries to change the meaning of the sentence.

Is There Any Relation Between Idioms for IELTS and Band Score?

Yes, there is a direct relation between idioms for IELTS and overall IELTS band score. That is, the more skillfully you use idioms for IELTS, the higher will be your overall IELTS score. However, it is also equally important to understand that the inverse could also be true. That is, the more inappropriately you use idioms for IELTS, the lower will be your overall IELTS score. 

Hence, the interconnectedness we are talking about here is that you should only use idioms for IELTS if you know how to use them constructively. When it comes to expanding your vocabulary for IELTS, this is one of the best strategies to score 7+ bands on the IELTS exam.

Consider using uncommon idioms for IELTS. Due to the rarity of certain idioms, this idiomatic vocabulary can impress the IELTS examiner. As a result, the examiner will be persuaded to award you extra marks after noticing your competence in the IELTS Writing section

Top 10 Idioms For IELTS Speaking With Examples

Idiomatic expressions alone do not make writing interesting; rather, effective idiomatic expression in a given context does. You must learn how to use idioms for IELTS properly in the content. You can learn about and practise the top 10 idioms for IELTS speaking from the following list, which includes examples. Consider how you can describe yourself using these idioms for IELTS and what questions they might be able to answer.

To Be On Cloud Nine

Meaning: Very happy and joyful  

IELTS Sample Question: Do you like your job?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: I have to admit that I adore my job and everyone who works there. Every morning I enjoy going to work there, I feel positive and optimistic and oftentimes I am on cloud nine.

To Be Over the Moon 

Meaning: Extremely happy as well as pleased  

IELTS Sample Question: How did you spend your most recent birthday?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: I travelled to Paris with my partner for my most recent birthday. The city was amazing, and the food was delicious! The vacation was a surprise, so when my partner revealed it to me, I was over the moon. 

It Makes My Blood Boil

Meaning: To make you very angry 

IELTS Sample Question: Do you get along with your family?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: Yes, I get along with the majority of my family rather well. However, my sister is a terrible person. She is incredibly conceited and egotistical. Just hearing her voice irrelevant jokes at unexpected times makes my blood boil.

I Hit the Ceiling 

Meaning: To get very upset and angry 

IELTS Sample Question: Which hobby did you have when you were a child?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: My childhood passion was cycling. I used to travel anywhere I could on my bicycle. However, my sister once took my cycle and wrecked it. I hit the ceiling when I came to know this, but fortunately, there was not much damage. 

To Get On Your Nerves 

Meaning: Someone annoys you a lot 

IELTS Sample Question: What can be done to make our environment better?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: The awareness about the importance of recycling gets on my nerves. I strongly believe that we should do more to make our environment better.

To Have a Whale of a Time

Meaning: To have a very exciting and fun time

IELTS Sample Question: Can you please tell me something about your hometown?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: Yes, I come from London, which is well-known throughout the world for its history and culture. Whoever is bored with London is supposedly bored with life! You are sure to have a whale of a time if you visit because there is so much to do here. 

To Be On Top of the World 

Meaning: Ecstatic, wonderful, amazing feeling 

IELTS Sample Question: Is art popular in your country?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: I would agree that art is exceptionally popular in my country. Art has the capacity to bring people together and convey emotions that language cannot. My all-time favourite work of art, ‘starry night’ by Vincent Van Gogh, inspires me and makes me feel on top of the world. It reveals genuine beauty to me, and I think that is why art is so beloved.

To Be Like a Dog With Two Tails

Meaning: Dogs wag their tails when they are happy. A dog with two tails must thus be extremely happy!

IELTS Sample Question: Who is your best friend?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: Billie is the name of my best buddy. Since we were young children, we have known each other. Every time I see her, I am like a dog with two tails.

It Drives Me Up the Wall

Meaning: It annoys you a lot 

IELTS Sample Question: What is your favourite food dish?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: Mashed potatoes would have to rank as my favourite food dish. However, when folks do not properly mash them and the potatoes have horrible lumps, it drives me up the wall.  

He/It Winds Me Up

Meaning: Something or someone who really annoys you

IELTS Sample Question: Can you please tell me about your first day at work?

Sample Answer Using Idiom: I had an awful first day of work! My manager kept yelling at me and it wound me up.  

Golden Tip: Be careful with your pronunciations and the idioms for IELTS that use irregular verbs. For example, 'read’ is spelt the same but is pronounced differently in the past tense; it is pronounced ‘red’. Since "-ed" or "-d" cannot be added, the verb ‘read’ has an irregular past tense form. Therefore, you will have to conjugate the verb when using it in another tense. Here are some examples:

  • Wind wound wound 

  • Drive drove driven

  • Have had had

  • Get got gotten

  • Hit hit hit 

  • Make made made

  • Grow grew grown

  • Go went gone

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Commonly Used Idioms for IELTS

Every day, we express ourselves using thousands of idioms and phrasal verbs. Below are some of the most commonly used idioms for IELTS segregated as per different subjects along with their meanings and examples:

Student Idioms




Pass with flying colours

To earn a high score on an exam

I really hope I pass this semester with flying colours.

Learn by heart

To memorise

I learned all my idioms for IELTS by heart.

Drop out

To go away without completing

She dropped out of the programme because it was too challenging.

Day and night

Never stopping, working nonstop

I was studying day and night to make my IELTS preparation worthwhile.


One who is an avid reader

When I was a child, I was a bookworm.

COVID Idioms




As sick as a dog

Feeling very ill

I was as sick as a dog in the morning.

Kick the bucket

To die

My mother was so sick I thought he might kick the bucket

On the mend

Recovering, improving

My father was very sick but now she is on the mend.

To show promise

To indicate a chance of success

The newly discovered vaccine is showing promise.

Under the weather

Ill feeling

I am feeling a bit under the weather. I hope I do not test positive for Covid.

Colourful Idioms




Out of the blue

Something that came as a surprise

In the morning, out of the blue, he asked me to marry him!

In the red

Owing money and lacking money

Sorry, I cannot afford that bike, I am in the red.

Green with envy

To be envious or jealous

She was green with envy when she saw my new dress.

Give someone the green light

To grant consent

My boss gave me the green light to start this new project

A white lie

To blatantly lie without much repercussion

I do not agree that you should get in jeopardy for telling a white lie.

Childhood Idioms




To run in the family

Comparable traits shared by family relations

We are all good at English, it runs in the family.

To follow in someone's footsteps

To accomplish the same goals as someone else

She followed in her mother's footsteps and became a doctor.

Like a kid in a candy store

Very excited towards something

When I arrived in London, I was like a kid in a candy store, there was so much to explore.

Child's play

Easy to accomplish

Learning how to play the guitar has never been a child's play for me.

Brought up


I was born and brought up in India.

IELTS Idioms




Better late than never

It is preferable to try something late than not at all.

I did not know how to drive till I was 40, but better late than never.

Blind as a bat

Cannot see, a poor vision

I am as blind as a bat, I actually need my reading glasses.

Break a leg

To wish someone success or good luck

I hope you do really well in the exam, break a leg!

Driving me up the wall

Something that annoys you or makes you angry

Waiting to get my IELTS best books delivered is driving me up the wall.

Practice makes perfect

To consistently improve by practising

My professor said that practice makes perfect, so I will start practising more.

Will I Get a Higher IELTS Score If I Use Quotes or Idioms in IELTS Exam?

There are so many idioms associated with everyday life that we have only just begun to scratch the surface of them (looked at them very briefly). You should pay attention to how native English speakers interact and the idioms they routinely use. Since you might not fully comprehend what they are saying, you will notice how periodically they use them. 

Also, the common idioms for IELTS are used regularly by native speakers, so take care not to overuse them and to make sure that the one you choose is appropriate for the subject at hand. Be careful not to overuse any phrases that look forced and hackneyed. 

Although numerous idioms can be found online with only a brief search, the finest approach is to converse with native English speakers to pick their brains about vocabulary and grammar points. Alternatively, you can watch English-language movies or web series and copy the phrases that are used. To know which prepositions go with particular verbs, you need also to become familiar with your phrasal verbs.

Idioms give our conversations colour and enable us to interpret hidden messages (understand the hidden meaning). Increasing your vocabulary and lexical resources by learning supplementary idioms for IELTS and phrasal verbs. Surely, the result will be an increase in your overall band score and success on test day. Break a leg!

Still unsure of how to make use of idioms for IELTS skillfully? To ask any doubts related to the IELTS exam, reach out to us at and we will answer as soon as possible!

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Should I memorise a lot of idioms for IELTS?

No, you should not memories a lot of idioms for IELTS. One of the most prevalent errors in the IELTS speaking test is this one. Many students believe that obtaining a high band on the test will come from merely memorising a lot of idioms and using them. In actuality, the reverse is true. Examiners are trained to identify attempts at incorrect idiom usage.

How do I use idioms for IELTS effectively?

Idioms should only be used if you have heard them used in context and are certain that you are using them correctly. Although it may seem harsh, losing points is preferable to this. Try to uncover more examples of their usage if you have not heard any of them before, and then practise incorporating them into your English speaking. Additionally, knowing their origins can help with memory retention.

Should I use idioms for IELTS in the Writing or Speaking section of the exam?

You should use idioms for IELTS in the Speaking section of the exam and less in the Writing section. It is advisable that idioms for IELTS should not be used in the Writing section because they are typically used informally. However, you can use them in the speaking test because spoken English is typically considered much less formal than academic written English.

What are the useful idioms for IELTS Speaking section?

The following are the useful idioms for IELTS Speaking section:

  • A white lie

  • As sick as a dog

  • Better late than never

  • Blind as a bat

  • Bookworm

  • Break a leg

  • Day and night

  • Driving me up the wall

  • Drop out

  • Give someone the green light

  • Green with envy

  • In the red

  • Kick the bucket

  • Learn by heart

  • On the mend

  • Out of the blue

  • Pass with flying colours

  • Practice makes perfect, etc.


Should I use proverbs and quotes in the IELTS Speaking section?

Yes, you should use proverbs and quotes in the IELTS Speaking section only if you know how to use them naturally. Proverbs and quotes are typically not regarded as academic, making them better suitable for speaking. Here is an example of a proverb that should not be used in writing: ‘All that glitters is not gold’. Even though the concept may be ideal for your essay, it would be preferable to write 'people should not be misled by appearances since they can be deceitful'.

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