Idioms You Can Use In The IELTS Speaking Test


Do you want to impress the IELTS Speaking Assessment examiner with your English vocabulary? Here are common idioms you can use in the IELTS speaking test.

If you want to pass the IELTS Speaking test with flying colours, you need to demonstrate that you have a broad range of vocabulary and communicative skills. One thing that can help you nail your goal is to show the speaking examiner that you are comfortable and knowledgeable in using idiomatic language. 

Read through this article and find out many common idioms you can use when answering IELTS questions.

Top Idioms You Can Use in the IELTS Speaking Test: Enhance Your Vocabulary

idioms you can use in the IELTS Speaking Test

The IELTS Speaking Test requires you to get a band seven score or higher to be classified as a “good user” of English. This speaking assessment aims to find out your skills within the following criteria:

  • Flexible use of vocabulary resources in discussing various topics
  • Awareness and use of less common idiomatic vocabulary, with appropriate collocation and style
  • Effective usage of paraphrasing

This post focuses on the second item in the list –the use of idioms. But with over 25,000 known English idioms, it can be pretty challenging and time-consuming to learn all of them. And  in all likelihood, you will only use a few of them when answering IELTS questions.

Most students think that memorizing commonly-known idioms and using them in the IELTS speaking test will help them get a high score. However, using idiomatic language when you answer questions can be pretty tricky, especially if you simply memorize their meanings from a textbook. Also, IETLS examiners are skilled, and they can easily spot examinees who are overstuffing their answers with idioms, and your result may become even worse if the usage is inappropriate in context.

How to Use Idioms Effectively

Often, ESL students may think that merely memorizing the meanings of common idioms will do. However, according to studies, this method is one of the most crucial mistakes made by examinees in the IELTS Speaking Test.

It is recommended not to use idiomatic language if you aren’t sure how it is used appropriately in context. If you haven’t heard how idiomatic expressions are correctly used, search for more examples. Then, practice using them when conversing with other people, possibly with native speakers or other people with advanced English skills. It might sound harsh, but if you aren’t sure, do not persist in using these tricky phrases as you speak; it will only sound unnatural. Worse, instead of getting the score you’re aiming for, you might end up losing marks.

Here is a list of idioms that you can likely use in answering questions:

  1. A piece of cake –  something that you can do easily; a simple taskA Piece of Cake

If you prepare well enough for your IELTS Speaking Test, it will be a piece of cake to get a passing score.

  1. Over the moon – for someone to be extremely happy or pleased; to be elated

James was over the moon when he got his IELTS certification. It was an excellent score!

  1. Once in a blue moon – something that rarely happens; a rare occurrence

Getting the highest s

core on IELTS Writing Test occurs once in a blue moon.

  1. Actions speak louder than words – this idioms means it is always better to work on something than to simply keep on talking about it; it is better to do than talk

You always talk about our plans to move abroad. However, it’s been years since we first spoke about it and nothing’s changed. Come on, buy the plane tickets. Actions speak louder than words!

Once in a blue moon

  1. Put all your eggs in one basket – to put all of your effort, time, or money into one thing; to risk everything on a single possibility

I know you want to be a part of that big company, but they’ve been making you wait for months now. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There are several excellent companies around that you should also apply for.

  1. A drop in the ocean – a small part of something bigger

You should know that learning idiomatic expressions is just a drop in the ocean when preparing for your IELTS Speaking Test.

  1. Back to the drawing board –  to try something but fail, so to remake your plan; to start from the beginning again

I got only band 4 on the speaking test. I thought my study routine was working, but I guess it’s back to the drawing board.


Sample IELTS Questions, and Answers with Commonly-used English Idioms


To have a whale of a time – to have immense fun

IELTS Question: Tell me about your country. 

Sample Answer: “Well, I’m from Japan, famous for its rich history and vibrant culture. My family lives in the capital, Tokyo! There is no shortage of fun and meaningful activities to do all year round, and I guarantee that everyone will have a whale of a time if they choose to visit my hometown. “


To be on cloud nine –  in a state of extreme happinessI'm on a cloud nine

IELTS question – Do you love your job?

“I work for a company that allows me to use all my skills. I also have co-workers whom I treat as my second family. Even if sometimes my job requires a lot of my time, I can say that I am content with what I do. It pays well, and everyone around me is supportive. Some days at work, I’m on cloud nine!” 


To be on top of the world – to feel successful and extremely happy

IELTS Question: How do you feel about art?

Well, art is very important to me. There are plenty of art galleries and museums in my hometown, and I used to spend a lot of time there as a child. In fact, once a piece of art I made was exhibited in the local art gallery. I was on top of the world!”


To be over the moon – to feel extreme happiness

IELTS Question: How did you celebrate your last birthday?

I usually travel with my family during my birthday. However, due to the pandemic, we chose to stay at home. My parents cooked a homemade meal, and I invited some of my closest friends over. It was a simple celebration, but I can say I was over the moon to be able to celebrate and feel the genuine love of the people around me. “


The Top Three Things to Keep in Mind When Using Idioms in the IELTS Speaking Test

1. When you are preparing for the IELTS Speaking Test, let your friends or colleagues know that you are trying to expand your vocabulary. Experiment with idioms, ask them to give you their feedback if they can’t understand you clearly, or tell you if you are using an idiomatic expression the wrong way.

2. Do not overuse idioms. Let’s say you’re a hundred percent sure of using some commonly-used idioms in the English language. Though it is strategic to use them when answering IELTS questions, try not to be repetitive. Don’t over-rely on what you already know, as your speech might look scripted or boring.

3. Even if you have successfully passed the assessment by mastering the common idioms you can use in the IELTS Speaking Test, do not stop learning idioms. There are thousands of them in the English language alone, and the more you know, the better will you be able to articulate brilliant ideas in speaking and writing.


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