More academic idioms

Here are some more academic idioms for you to use in IELTS speaking!

Guess the meaning of the idioms (highlighted in bold type), then click the card to see the meaning on the reverse.

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    • This activity includes 21 cards.

OK I understand

A student will get a 9 in the IELTS writing test once in a blue moon

happens very rarely

I haven’t made my mind up about that issue, I’ll have to sit on the fence.

to be undecided, often because you don’t want to offend anybody

Off the top of my head, I’d say it’s about 2 hours to Ubud.

saying something without carefully considering it first

You won’t have to explain it to him twice.  He’s as sharp as a tack.

able to think quickly and learn very fast

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You should apply to lots of different universities.

put all your money or effort into one thing (at a risk)

LGBT is a hot potato in my country at the moment.

a controversial topic

I sent my application in late, so I think I missed the boat

miss an opportunity

Getting a band 6 in the speaking test will be a piece of cake.

something very easy

I decided to go the extra mile and move to England to really perfect my English.

do much more than is required

I was over the moon when I passed my speaking test.

extremely pleased or happy

I don’t think her new handbag is the real McCoy.

genuine (not fake)

Those shoes must have cost an arm and a leg.

really expensive

I was really down in the dumps after my dog died.

feeling sad

Just learning idioms is a drop in the ocean when it comes to preparing for the speaking test.

a very small part of something much bigger

Moving to a new city was difficult as first, but I soon found my feet.

to become comfortable doing something

My parents are quite traditional and set in their ways.

not wanting to change

I got 4.5 in reading! Oh well, back to the drawing board.

when you attempted to do something but failed and have to try again

My husband is not just my lover, he’s my soul mate.

someone you trust very deeply (usually someone of the opposite sex)

Lots of people have great business ideas but do nothing about them. Actions speak louder than words, just do it.

it’s better to actually do something than just talk about it

Apple phones are very run of the mill these days.

average, ordinary

The new iPhone is really the in-thing at the moment.

The in-thing – something fashionable.

Awareness of ‘towards’

This approach represents their awareness towards the environment.

I think this another example of the clash of the collocation civilisations!

Indonesian flag Indonesians are probably thinking ‘kesadaran terhadap..’, and translating terhadap as towards. I’m afraid that’s not English collocation. Here’s what you need: Continue reading

Lack of ‘lack’

A new song focusing on the word ‘lack’, which can often be mistaken with ‘lack of’. The rule for deciding which to use is in the chorus of the song, so listen carefully and choose the correct item – ‘lack’, or ‘lack of’! (Scroll down for lyrics and gapfill!)

Song performed by an amazing group of AAS scholarship awardees: Andi, Velo, Rapta, Roy, Ade, Novi, Septia, Susan, Vita!

Continue reading

When present simple is too simple

Bali’s unique culture and traditions lead to an enormous increase in tourism. As a result, the number of job opportunities grows significantly.

This is grammatically correct, but the choice of present simple tense has – I think – resulted in meanings quite different from those intended by the writer. Continue reading

Time around now

Now I am planning to take my masters degree in public health. I prepare for all requirements especially IELTS. I am studying English so that I can improve my skills and can be accepted by an Australia university.

Occasionally it’s difficult to decide between present simple and present continuous tense, even when using a straightforward time expression like now. There are several possibilities: Continue reading


The first paragraph is mostly argument but it also contains some descriptions.

Yet another word that has slightly different meanings in its countable and uncountable forms. I can’t remember ever seeing it causing grammar problems, but as in the above example, the wrong form may be inappropriate in certain situations. Let’s first of all examine correct usage. Continue reading