Use of idioms is one of the major differences between native English speakers and those who learn English as a second language. Idioms can really help to improve your score in the IELTS speaking test but can also result in lowering the score if not used correctly.

Before discussing further, let’s have a little talk about the meaning of idioms

An idiom is a group of words or phrases that has a meaning which is not clear through the words used.

For instance, ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ means that it is raining heavily, but if we go by the literal meaning of the text it means that cats and dogs are falling from the sky.

Let’s have a look at another example.

For someone who is ‘High as a Kite’ doesn’t mean that he/she is flying, rather it means that he/she is on drugs.

To clearly understand what idioms mean, we have to understand these 2 words: Literal and Metaphorical.

Literal means the actual meaning of a word.

Metaphorical describes words being used as a symbol for something else.

So, in ‘High as a Kite’, High means located above the earth’s surface but metaphorically it states that someone is under the influence of drugs.

Thus, to understand the meaning of an idiom, it is important to understand the actual meaning of a metaphor.

Should Idioms be used in Writing or Speaking Test?

Idioms are generally used in an informal conversation and therefore, their use in the writing should be avoided.

Since spoken English is less formal than academic written English, it is acceptable and advisable to use idioms in the speaking test.

Should Idioms be Memorized?

Well, the answer to this question is a big NO. The most common mistake in IELTS speaking test is that candidates learn a lot of idioms and use them in the test to score high.

It is important to know that the examiners are trained to spot candidates using crammed/inappropriate idioms.

How To Use Idioms Effectively?

Use an idiom only when you know the proper context in which they are to be used and when you are 100% sure of using them in the correct way.

Common Idioms:

  1. Once in a blue moon –  happens rarely
  2. Over the moon to be extremely happy
  3. A drop in the ocean a small chunk/part of something big
  4. A piece of cake very easy
  5. Back to the drawing board when you fail to do something and have to re-plan things
  6. The in thingsomething trendy/fashionable
  7. Run of the mill very common/ordinary