Idioms for IELTS Speaking

green fingers

Some of my students struggle to get at least 7 in  IELTS Speaking, which is not a piece of cake. One common stumbling block is lexical resource. If we have a look at IELTS Speaking band descriptors, we will see that for Band 7 a person needs to “use some less common and idiomatic vocabulary”.

Good news is that most probably you already know some idiomatic vocabulary, but you don’t know that these expressions are idioms. Now you only need to learn some more and train to use them during speaking preparation. In order to prepare well, you can also take advantage of IELTS online course.

What’s the best way to use the list of idioms I’ve compiled? (you can download the .pdf file here)

1) Learn these idioms very well
2) Create your own sentences using the pronoun I
3) Take the list of current speaking topics (you can use Yasi website)
4) Think how you could use those idioms naturally answering the questions
5) Practice again and again till you learn to use at least 5-6 idioms every Speaking session.

IELTS Speaking Idioms

in the long run
It’s better to try and buy a newer car because you will spend less on repairs in the long run.It saves money in the long run.
to have mixed feelings
I have mixed feelings about my promotion. It will be great to have the extra money but it’s going to involve a lot more work.
a piece of cake
Anybody who thinks that the IELTS exam is a piece of cake is fooling themselves.I never said that training him would be a piece of cake.
from scratch
Steve Jobs built his own computer company from scratch.to learn a foreign language from scratch David Yang who began his career from scratch and has become very successful can become a role model for other budding Russian entrepreneurs.
gut feeling
I wasn’t sure which job to take but I went with my gut feeling and chose the job in London.He had a gut feeling there was something wrong.
to be all ears
He was all ears when the teacher told him that he was going to explain the secrets of IELTS.I’m all ears, tell me about it.
zero tolerance
Our school has a zero tolerance policy on drug-taking. If you are caught, you are expelled.Mayor Giuliani's zero-tolerance policy has brought New York City's crime rate down.
every now and then
I used to see him every now and then.
to be on the threshold
We are on the threshold of exciting new developments in medicine.She was on the threshold of a dazzling career
to be behind the times
My boss doesn’t want computers in the office. He’s so behind the times.The children considered dad to be behind the times.
out of the blue
His resignation came out of the blue. We really weren’t expecting it.She phoned me out of the blue.
a bolt from (or out of) the blue
The job came like a bolt from the blue
drive someone up the wall
His constant coughing drives me up the wall.It’s driving me up the wall trying to find out who did what.Sometimes children can drive you up the wall.
to be out of your depth
I am used to teaching adults but I was out of my depth when I had to teach a class of children.I find it difficult to talk in a situation like this—I’m out of my depth.
it doesn’t hold water
His reasons for sacking his secretary don’t hold water. She has done nothing wrong.This argument just does not hold water.
pull the plug
The company pulled the plug on the development of the new product when they discovered that market research showed that it would not sell.The company pulled the plug on the deal.
it works like a charm
The new sales approach worked like a charm.When you are honest with your children and ask them to do something, it works like a charm.
it doesn’t stand the ghost of chance
If you are dishonest with your colleagues and try to push them to do something, it doesn’t stand the ghost of chance.I had a gut feeling that his decision was wrong His idea to build a house himself didn’t stand the ghost of chance.
that’s easier said than done
Government could initiate new programs to improve education system. Of course, that’s easier said than done.I believe, parents could try to be more patient and tolerant with their children. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
that’s a fact of life
Russia has many problems with education, unfortunately, that’s a fact of life.Young people no longer value customs and traditions, unfortunately, that’s a fact of life.
an uphill task
It was an uphill task to gain worldwide recognition
high and low
I searched high and low for a new teacher
to die for
Italian ice creams are to die for
to be on a  sticky wicket
I might be on a sticky wicket if I used that line
like a bear with a sore head
He’ll be like a bear with a sore head when he gets up
pass the buck
Elected political leaders cannot pass the buck for crisis decisions to any alternative source of authority
like a bull in a china shop
He was rushing about like a bull in a china shop
to travel light
She’s one of those backpackers who likes to travel light
to be at sea
He feels at sea with economics
not for all the tea in China
I wouldn’t do that girl’s job—not for all the tea in ChinaI wouldn't go to a jazz concert for all the tea in China.
reinvent the wheel
He spoke with the fervour of discovery, unaware that he was reinventing the wheel
a backseat driver
When I’m in my dad’s car, I behave like a backseat driver
in the driver's seat
All chairmen love being in the driver's seat
jump on the bandwagon
Companies sought to strengthen their share prices by jumping on the dot-com bandwagonAfter the incredible success of Cadbury's latest low-fat chocolate bar, Nestlé has jumped on the bandwagon, and released a low-fat version of Kit Kat.
middle-of-the-road
The paper reflected the views of its middle-of-the-road readersI prefer middle-of-the-road music
a long way down the road
It's a long way down the road
stand someone in good stead
I know that my large vocabulary will always stand me in good stead at college.Any experience you can get in dealing with the public will stand you in good stead no matter what line of work you go into.
miss the boat (or bus)
People who’ve been holding off selling their apartments could find they’ve missed the boat if prices drop further
run a mile
If someone proposed to me I’d probably run a mile
once in a blue moon
He comes round once in a blue moon
plain sailing
team-building was not all plain sailingDo you find learning English 'plain sailing'?
in the dark
The player is still in the dark about his future
pull the wool over someone's eyes
Don’t pull the wool over my eyes! I wasn’t born yesterday
it's a whole new ball game
I decided to climb Everest, that was a whole new ball game
on the ball
Maintaining contact with customers keeps me on the ball
every cloud has a silver lining
After the fire two years ago few could see the silver lining
green fingers
You really do have green fingers
(as) good as gold
Not all the children are as good as gold
have a heart of gold
He has a heart of gold, he is always helpful and compassionate.
be worth one's weight in gold
Someone who can understand and collate medical notes is worth their weight in gold
to catch someone red-handed
I caught him red-handed, stealing a wallet
it's like banging your head against a brick wall
I've applied to thirty jobs and haven't had an interview. It's like banging your head against a brick wall.
to twist someone's arm
He'll twist your arm to do it.
to lose face
Last year Indian Government Cabinet members informed our Government that they did not need aid from Britain, which was ignored in order not to lose face.
to have a finger in every pie
You can’t make a decision on any kind of funding without consulting him – he has a finger in every pie.
bread and butter
Teaching at the local college is his bread and butter.
the icing on the cake
I love my new job – the people, the responsibilities, the salary. The fact that they’ve given me a great car is just the icing on the cake.
not enough room to swing a cat
Do you live here? There’s not even room to swing a cat!
to grin like a Cheshire cat
Actually, I was totally engrossed in the procedure and was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
a fish out of water
Senior bankers are fish out of water when it comes to international loans.
on top of the world
Since he got a new job, he's on top of the world.
the tip of the iceberg
The problems that you see here now are just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous disasters waiting to happen.
know something like the back of one's hand
I know London like the back of my hand
follow (or tread) in someone's footsteps
My father was a lawyer and I followed in his footsteps
be worth one's weight in gold
Someone who can understand and collate medical notes is worth their weight in gold