ielts speaking phrases

Top Phrases for IELTS Speaking Test

Updated on 21 December, 2022
Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

The IELTS Speaking test is one of the vital sections of the examination. Test takers should use phrases and idioms to improve their scores on the IELTS speaking test. Usage of correct words and vocabulary are crucial parameters for determining a candidate’s final score. IELTS speaking section requires a candidate to speak in a conversational tone which should be grammatically and linguistically correct. Here are some important phrases for the IELTS speaking test that should be used to enhance vocabulary, which will help a candidate score well in IELTS.

Phrases for IELTS Speaking that you should know 

There are many phrases for IELTS speaking that a candidate should practice beforehand. If you aim for band 9, you should know these phrases. Some of the common phrases for the IELTS speaking test are mentioned below: 

  • That’s an interesting question– This is one of the most common phrases that can be used, which will help you take more time to work out the answer. Please do not say it out too fast and take your time to highlight the word interesting. This will give you an additional 5 seconds to think carefully about your answer! 
  • Well, that depends on a few things– One of the useful phrases for IELTS Speaking Part 1 is used when there is a complex question. You may feel that several aspects may influence the final answer. This may make the question tougher to answer. While you think of these things that you should include in the response, you can kill a little time by slowly starting this phrase. Take your time when you are stating well, and you can add 2-3 seconds more for thinking about the answer. Take your time while you say things or depend.
  • I haven’t really thought much about it, but I would say– Another handy phrase that you can use, this means that you have not spent much time pondering over the answer and need some more time before answering. It is a long phrase where you can take your time. Stress on ‘much and really’ and give yourself 5-8 seconds before answering.
  • Funny you should ask that– This is one phrase you should use carefully. It is only suitable if you get a question on a topic or sub-topic that you have just been thinking about. It is one of the top IELTS Speaking phrases for band 9 that you can use. Funny here means an interesting coincidence.
  • Looking back, I would say– Yet another gem of a phrase, and it is suitable when you get a past-linked question. It is like reflecting on the past or thinking about any past incident or period. A question-answer example is necessary for this context. Suppose you get a question- Did you enjoy your horse-riding lessons? The answer will be looking back. I would say yes; they were truly enjoyable and fulfilling
  • Find my feet– It means steadily gaining comfort and familiarity in doing any task or activity. For example- I took some time to find my feet in this new city where the cultures were completely different
  • And then some– This means more than a figure or count that is being described. For example, 10,000 people and then some were packed into the concert hall
  • Before Long– A phrase indicating a smaller duration. Example- He will be gone before long, but I hope you will always remember him
  • Read your/my/his/her mind– Another phrase that indicates its inherent meaning. I was amazed to see how he talked about everything, almost like he read my mind
  • Set in their ways– People or institutions who do not wish to change at all. For example- My bosses are conservative about technology and set in their ways
  • Cost an arm and a leg– Hugely expensive, i.e. The watch looks stylish but it cost her an arm and a leg
  • Burn the midnight oil– It means working late into the night and staying up to accomplish any task. For instance- You will have to burn the midnight oil and complete the assignment by tomorrow
  • The bottom line– Refers to the most crucial information or figure of all. My bottom line to execute this project is total autonomy in operational decisions. Another example will be help- Do not give me so much information about his bid; simply tell me about his bottom line
  • Over the moon– A phrase that means being pleased. An example- He was over the moon when she accepted his proposal
  • Call it a day– End something for the night or day. An example- While I love the dining experience here, I think it is time for me to call it a day
  • Change my/your/one’s mind– The phrase is easy to understand. An example- Nothing that you said motivated me to change my mind
  • Catch my/his/your eye– An example will help you understand- That watch caught my eye. Another sentence could be Do any of these vehicles truly catch your eye? 
  • Right off the top of my head– The phrase means stating something without thinking too much or going deep into it. An example- Right off the top of my head, I can state that the company has tasted success in edible oils
  • Cutting edge– Modern and updated equipment, products, services, and processes. An example is- He makes use of cutting-edge blending processes for crafting his specialty teas
  • Down in the dumps– Unhappy. For example- She is a bit down in the dumps since she failed her computer test
  • Chill out -Calming down, or relax. An example- Despite numerous hurdles, Bob told his employees to chill out and get the job done by tomorrow
  • Put/Putting all your eggs in one basket– It means putting all your efforts, money, and aspirations into a single avenue/place/thing. For example- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, make sure you apply to all the companies looking for engineers
  • Fed up with– It indicates being disgusted, exasperated, irritated, or tired with someone/somethingAn example- The shopkeeper is fed up with us today, do not needle him too much.
  • Once in a blue moon– Something taking place rarely. An instance- An employee scores 10/10 in the appraisals once in a blue moon
  • Miss the boat or bus– Missing any opportunity. For example- I think I missed the boat since my application arrived after the deadline. Another example will help you- Don’t miss the bus, apply early and reach the venue on time
  • White Elephant– Costly or unprofitable acquisition or investment, big and too expensive to regularly maintain. For example, the new car is turning out to be a white elephant, especially if you consider fuel costs
  • A drop in the ocean– Something which is a small component of a larger cause/thing. For example, you can say My charity work is only a drop in the ocean when relieving senior citizens
  • Bump into– Meeting somebody suddenly or by chance. An example- I did not expect to bump into my childhood crush at the mall
  • The in-thing– A fashionable thing. An example- The new Rolex timekeeper is the in thing currently
  • Work flat out, Work hard. An example would be The employees who have worked flat out for completing the presentation before time
  • Run of the mill– It means ordinary or average. An example will be- Samsung smartphones are run of the mill these days
  • Make a fuss over Caring excessively for someone or something. Father makes a fuss over all of us whenever he returns from his business trips 
  • FarFetched– It means any concept, idea, plan, strategy, or decision impractical or unrealistic. An example would be The company’s choice for its new manager seemed far-fetched to the workers’ union
  • A hot potato– A controversial topic. For example- Justice for undertrials is a hot potato in the city now
  • Ace/Acing– Doing well. I aced my physics paper could be an example. You can also go with an example like- He is an ace footballer
  • Bent out of shape– Being upset or down in the mouth. For example- Don’t get bent out of shape about their speech and manners

Get a kick out of– This means deriving enjoyment or pleasure from something. An example could be I get a kick out of seeing pitchers hurl deliveries with full force.

Here are few more Samples Reading Answers for IELTS
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Moles Happy As Homes Go UndergroundFlawed Beauty The Problem With Toughened GlassThe Need To Belong Reading Answers
New Agriculture In Oregon US Reading AnswersA Song On The Brain Reading AnswersWhy Some Women Cross The Finish Line Ahead Of Men
How To Spot A Liar Reading AnswersGifted Children and Learning Reading AnswersWhat Do Whales Feel Reading Answers

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Some additional phrases for IELTS speaking part 1 and part 2 that you can also use- 

  • Lend/give a hand– Helping someone. For example- Can you lend me a hand with this jar? 
  • A piece of cake– Something that is easy and hassle-free. An example- Salsa dancing seems like a piece of cake to me after the first lesson
  • Sit on the fence– Indecisive about something, for example, I am still sitting on the fence about that issue
  • Soul mate– Someone you love and trust the most. For example, She is not just a simple crush but my soul mate
  • Hit/hitting the books– Studying, usually with full concentration. For example- I will hit the books tomorrow for my Chemistry examination
  • Broke– Financially down in the dumps, insolvent, having no money, and so on. For example- I am broke and cannot afford to replace my aging watch now
  • Go/going back to the drawing board– This means starting to plan something all over again due to the failure of the first strategy. For example- Go back to the drawing board and work out the mechanics afresh
  • On the go/move– Busy or on the way. Pick up smiles and blessings on the go, since life is too short! 
  • Walking/going the extra mile– It means doing more than the norm and putting in a lot more effort. I will walk the extra mile to make her happy could be an example. Another could be Going the extra mile for someone makes him/her truly feel special
  • Crash Course– A short and engaging lesson on something. For example- I took a crash course in marketing before applying for a job
  • Cram– Trying to mug up something or accomplish a lot of things swiftly or put things tightly into a place. For example- The job applicants are all cramming for their entrances. Another example could be- Don’t try to cram everything into a single basket
  • Upmarket– This means posh, premium, and costly. An example is- He lived in Notting Hill, one of the up-market residential localities of London
  • In high spirits– Elated and happy. An example- They were in high spirits after a couple of hot beverages
  • Get the ball rolling– Start something or a venture. For example- I decided to get the ball rolling on my new project
  • Keep/Keeping one’s/your chin up– Staying resilient and brave despite difficult circumstances. For example- Don’t go to bed with that frown on your face, keep your chin up
  • Fill in for– Covering for somebody or substitute for somebody. For example- Please fill in for Ankita while she is away on leave
  • For Ages– It means for a sustained or lengthy duration. For example- She waited for ages, but he never called back
  • Antsy– Turning restless. An example is – The menfolk are getting antsy, let us get away before they turn violent
  • Under the weather– feeling sick or not doing too good. I am a little under the weather today and won’t be able to talk much
  • Have a chin-wag– A long chat between buddies. An instance could be We had a great chin-wag over some good Darjeeling brews
  • Fingers-crossed– Wishing for something and ardently waiting before it happens. Fingers crossed for your upcoming examination
  • The wee hours– It means the period after midnight. For example- She stayed up till the wee hours, hand-writing all her Christmas cards

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Do’s and Don’ts of Using Phrases in IELTS Speaking Tests

Using phrases can be tricky. You need to sound spontaneous and natural while using them, just like native speakers. Do not use just slide them in conversation just for using them.




Be natural while using the phrases. Let the examiner know that you can communicate with the native English speaker in real-life situations. Don't use more than one phrase in one sentence. Doing this will hamper the coherence and the meaning of your sentences. 
You should be familiar with the phrases and their usage. Using them vaguely will affect the message you are trying to get across.Don't worry about using the same phrases over and over again.
Use phrases in variations not limiting to just a few phrases.Don't boast of grammar and vocabulary unnecessarily.
Use phrases in your daily conversations. This will help you be at ease on your D-day.Avoid formal phrases for simple generic questions about you and your life.


Useful Phrases for IELTS Speaking Part 1




A penny for your thoughtsAsking someone about their thoughtsAfter the review meeting, the manager turned to John and said, ‘a penny for your thoughts, John.’
Lend an earTo listen to someone If you are facing a problem at work, go to the HR manager as she lends a sympathetic ear.
On cloud nineTo be in a merry stateAfter the UPSC results were announced, Triveni found herself on cloud nine as she secured 400th rank.
Hit the hayGo to bedNeha is very particular about her daily routine. She hits the hay by 10 PM.
Full of beansUsed for a person full of life and healthyEveryone enjoys Ram’s company at work as he is full of beans.


Useful Phrases for IELTS Speaking Part 2



Usage in a sentence

BushedTiredShe got bushed after the late-night party and decided to rest the next day.
Be earsReady to listen to someoneMeera is all ears when it comes to solving someone’s problems.
In the nick of timeAt the exact momentShe arrived at the station in the nick of time.
In deep waterTo be in a difficult stateHe is in deep waters as he did not submit his report on time.
To bite the bulletTo do a difficult taskIf he wants a promotion, he will have to bite the bullet and complete the project before the deadline..


Useful Phrases for IELTS Speaking Part 3



Usage in a sentence

Next to nothingInexpensive; cost nothingSheena bought a beautiful dress next to nothing and cost her 4 dollars only. 
Explore all avenuesTo explore every means to get to the solution of a particular problemShe does not give in to any problem and explores all the avenues to come out of it.
On the ballActive and awareOur team leader is on the ball with the progress of the project.
Throw in the towelTo SurrenderAfter failing the engineering entrance exam; he threw in the towel on his dreams of becoming an engineer.
By the skin of one’s teethbarelyI was saved by the skin of my teeth in an accident.


Know More:

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the tips for using idioms and phrases in IELTS Speaking?

Using idiom in your conversation embellishes the content and lures the examiner. Here are some of the tips to use idioms and phrases in IELTS speaking:

  1. Keep a diary and note down all the idioms that use irregular verbs. You will need to conjugate verbs if another tense is used
  2. Use cultural idioms and phrases frequently in your responses. This will help you sound more like a native English speaker
  3. You should sound confident while giving your responses for IELTS speaking test, so ensure that you frame the answers in a way you are most comfortable with
  4. Make sure you are acquainted with the use of collocations when including the idioms in your responses
  5. Ensure that you are familiar with each category of idioms. There are 7 types of idioms, namely; euphemisms, pure idioms, partial idioms, prepositional idioms, binomial idioms, clichés, and proverbs
  6. Be reasonable with the usage of idiomatic expressions. Don’t overdo it.

Q. How do phrases help in IELTS Speaking?

Idioms and phrases are a part of the vocabulary. The examiner assesses you based on a wider range of vocabulary and correct grammatical structure in the IELTS speaking test. Using idioms and phrases in your response will make it more refined and unique, increasing your chances of getting a good score.

Q. How to practice phrases for IELTS?

Vocabulary comprises 25% of your score in IELTS, so you must pay attention to this part to score well in your examination. You can easily practice idioms and phrases by incorporating them into your daily routine.

Some tips to practice phrases are provided below:

  1. Practice pronunciation of various idioms and phrases by listening to podcasts, interviews, audiobooks, etc
  2. Make a list of idioms and phrases used in various settings like work, home, and school. You can also categorize the idioms based on animals, vegetables, fruits, etc, and learn them
  3. Use them in your daily conversations. Make this a habit as this will help you respond at ease on your D-day.

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