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10 useful idioms for ielts speaking

Best 10 Useful Idioms for the IELTS Speaking Test

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In the IELTS speaking test idioms can really help boost your IELTS Speaking score, if you can use them properly.

Let’s take a look at the below picture showing a part of band descriptors for speaking. 

idioms

The 3 bands of above are 7, 8 and 9. As you can see, using idioms, even with some inappropriate choices, is typical of a band 7 candidate. By using them skillfully, with only occasional inaccuracies you are likely to get an 8 in this category. Rarely students use them perfectly and this is typical of someone who reaches a 9.

ielts recent actual test 2020

So let’s examine the meanings and usage of 10 popular idioms to hike up your IELTS score and expand your grasp of the English language.

Make a beeline for

Meaning

Go rapidly and directly towards.

Origin

The bee was supposed to fly in a such a way when returning to its hive.

In a sentence

The hungry tourists made a beeline for the buffet that featured delicious food from all over the world.

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Jump (or climb) on the bandwagon

Meaning

Join others in doing or supporting something fashionable or likely to be successful.

Origin

Bandwagon was originally the US term for a large wagon able to carry a band in a procession.

In a sentence

When your TV show does extremely well, advertisers will be competing to be the first to jump on the bandwagon.

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Off (or way off) beam

Meaning

On the wrong track; mistaken.

Origin

Originally, referring to the radio beam or signal used to guide aircraft. The opposite is on the beam.

In a sentence

I lost the bet as my prediction was way off beam.

At someone’s beck and call

Meaning

Always having to be ready to obey someone’s orders immediately.

Origin

Beck in the sense of “significant gesture of command” comes from the verb beck, which is shortened form of beckon and is now found mainly in this phrase.

In a sentence

She is going to be confined to a wheelchair for the next three weeks but she’s not complaining as she will have a nurse at her beck and call.

Pass (or hand) (on) the baton

Meaning

Hand over a particular duty or responsibility.

Origin

A metaphor from athletics: the baton is the short stick or rod passed from one runner to the next in a relay race. Thus, to take up (or pick up) the baton is to accept a duty or responsibility.

In a sentence

Susan has passed the baton after 40 years at the helm of the biggest technology company in the region.

Work like a beaver

Meaning

Work steadily and industriously.

Origin

The beaver is proverbial for the industriousness with which it constructs the dams necessary for its aquatic dwellings.

In a sentence

She worked like a beaver to empty the house as the new tenant will be moving in tomorrow.

Bed of nails

Meaning

A problematic or uncomfortable situation.

Origin

Originally a board with nails pointing out of it, as used by Eastern fakirs and ascetics.

In a sentence

My parents are very judgemental and living with them can be a bed of nails.

Beat a (hasty) retreat

Meaning

Withdraw, typically to avoid something unpleasant.

Origin

Formerly in a military context, a drumbeat could be used to keep soldiers in step while retreating.

In a sentence

David beat a retreat when he saw his ex-girlfriend walk into the wedding party with another man.

Beggar on horseback

Meaning

A formerly poor person made arrogant or corrupt through achieving wealth and luxury.

Origin

The proverbial saying set a beggar on horseback and he’ll ride to the devil.

In a sentence

It’s not surprising that he lost everything and is being investigated by the authorities as he was a beggar on a horseback.

A whole new ball game

Meaning

A completely new set of circumstances.

Origin

Ball game in North America refers to a game of baseball.

In a sentence

After Sarah joined the Marketing team as General Manager, it was a whole new ball game.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of Idioms

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Written By

Nafia Zuhana is an experienced content writer and IELTS Trainer. Currently, she is guiding students who are appearing for IELTS General and Academic exams through ieltsmaterial.com. With an 8.5 score herself, she trains and provides test takers with strategies, tips, and nuances on how to crack the IELTS Exam. She holds a degree in Master of Arts – Creative Writing, Oxford Brookes University, UK. She has worked with The Hindu for over a year as an English language trainer.

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