Can you use quotes or idioms in your IELTS essay?

Will I get a higher score using idioms or quotes in my IELTS essay?

The answer is clear – no. Idioms, such as “it cost an arm and a leg” are informal which means they are not suitable for IELTS writing task 2 academic or general training essays. However, idioms are only one type of idiomatic language. There are other forms more suitable to IELTS writing, for example “the key to this issue” means the solution not a key you can buy in a shop or use in a door. That is an acceptable type of idiomatic language for a high score in IELTS.

Regarding quotes, the examiner will give you a score based on your own level of English language, not the words you remember from another person. While quotes are suitable for academic essays at university, they will not help your band score for IELTS. Instead, use the idea from the quote and write it in your own words.

What about proverbs in writing?

I would also recommend avoiding proverbs as well. Most proverbs are not appropriate for academic writing. Here’s an example of an inappropriate proverb in writing “all that glitters is not gold”. While the meaning might be perfect for your essay, it would be better to write “people should not be deceived by appearances because they can be deceptive” The latter sentence has a much better variety of appropriate vocabulary for a high score.

Can I use quotes, idioms or proverbs in my IELTS speaking test?

Proverbs and quotes are not usually academic and for that reason are better suited to speaking. However, don’t lose your fluency score because you are trying to remember an idiom. You get a high score when you use appropriate, natural language in the right context. So, don’t try to fill your answers with idioms or proverbs. Using quotes is not really suitable for IELTS because they are not your own words.

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Comments

  1. Tejpreet says:

    Hello Liz I have taking IELTS class regular , but I m not prepaid in writing task , can u pls help me to improve my essay writing .

  2. Oladipupo says:

    Good afternoon Madam.
    I appreciate that you spelt out the required number of words in essay writing. Is very instructive to know that words beyond 300 have no value in ielts. But does it lowers one’s score if number of words exceed 300?

    • There is no penalty for over 300 words and there is no upper word limit. However, a long essay might contain more errors which will lower your score and might contain unnecessary information which could also lower your score.

  3. Dear Liz
    I want to assess my essay writing.Is there any option?

  4. Hello Liz,

    I have got below score:
    Reading-8.5
    Listening-8
    Speaking-6.5
    Writing 6.5

    I want to write the exam again but before that i want to know how can i increase my band from 6.5 to 7.

    Please check below my plan and suggest if it works.

    Writing:
    Write with a pencil and replace the mostly used words with its synonyms while proof reading the essay
    write neatly by giving enough space and to increase the font as i found my writing is bit small and not reader friendly
    improve vocabulary and use some list of common idioms that are allowed to use in IELTS essay

    Speaking:
    Sound confident
    use idioms
    give examples and reasons for my answers in speaking part 2 and 3
    in speaking part3 try to use as high vocabulary as i can

  5. Hi Liz, do you have a list of formal idioms to use in the writing part? My friend said that she was able to ise a number of idioms in her writing yask 2 and she got 8.5 in her score. Thanks

    • Use rather.

    • It is not recommended. You can use idiomatic language but idioms are not advisable – mainly because most students can’t distinguish which are suitable and also use them incorrectly. Your friend obviously has excellent understanding of English but anyone with a lower level shouldn’t try.

  6. Kulwinder Kaur says:

    hi liz
    I need 6.5 in writing please give suggestions to achieve bands.

  7. Hi Liz,

    I have become an admirer of your lessons lately. I am alright with Listening,reading and speaking. However, I lack something in my writing (I am not sure, what’s that) in which I am not able to score more than band 6.5.Do you provide correctional service?

  8. Prabhjot kaur says:

    Hey Liz..
    I have taken IELTS general exam and got following band scores:
    L-9
    R-7
    w-6
    S-7

    I need 7 in writing. What should I do? Please provide me some useful tips.

  9. Hello liz my exam is on 19th of may. I Can’t concentrate on reading. I need 7 band. Help me please.

  10. i am very week in reading so give me tips of reading

  11. Winston says:

    Dear Liz,
    I have recently received several lessons from an IELTS tutor that use to be an IELTS examiner as well. He gave me advice to use proverb in the first paragraph of my IELTS general writing task 2.
    I am confuse now as I saw that some people said it’s not an appropriate style for IELTS writing. What do you think about it?

    Regards,

    Winston

  12. anjana sharma says:

    Hello Liz,

    Thanks for sharing such an important information.
    i am going to take my ielts exam on 30th of this month and that’s too for the very first time. I am not even attending any coaching classes. I am just following your tips. My requirement for band score is 8 in each module. But i am worried about writing, especially task 2. Will you please upload a vedio describing each and every type of essay from introduction to conclusion. It will be a great help for me.
    Thnks

  13. Hi Liz,

    I am new to your blog .I tell you what ? I love it ,It is very helpful.
    I have got question for you,can I use phrasal verbs in writing task 2?

    Thanks
    Fatma

    • Many phrasal verbs are informal so be careful using them. For example, put out a cigarette should be written as extinguish.
      Liz

  14. Good evening mam I want to know about some important vocabulary which I use easily in essay plz mam help me actually my exam will be on 7th nov last time I gave exam on 1aug I get only 4.5 in writing or 5.5 overall

  15. Dear Liz,

    I would like to ask you a general doubt. Is this true that some people to write only 250-270 words in essay to minimise the grammar error whereas others ask to write 350 words to explore our varieties, to add richness, to name but a few in the essay to score band 7+. To what extent it is true?

    • No IELTS essay should be over 300 words. You should aim for between 270 and 290 words. This advice is for all students, even band score 9 students. Writing more does not give you a higher score. Rich language is only one aspect of the marking. See the band score information on the writing task 2 page to learn more.
      Liz

  16. Dear teacher,

    Could I use phrasal verbs in Writing Tasks? To tell the truth, I can’t make a distinction whether phrasal verbs are formal or informal language. Thanks!

    • Most phrasal verbs are informal, for example put out a cigarette = to extinguish a cigarette. But some phrasal verbs can be used, such as the government should bring back… This is part of your language test to see how well you can distinguish between formal and informal language.
      All the best
      Liz

  17. Thank you for your post, I have a question: Should I use a famous saying in IELTS writing? thank you again .

  18. Adel Tenbellaa says:

    Hello Liz,
    Thank you for this valuable information. I will never forget it and will keep it in my mind when writing or speaking.

  19. Dear Madam Liz,
    Good Morning, and how are today? I hope your are doing well.
    I want your help to improve my English skills language, that I can
    get 6.5. However, I had taken exam since 5 month ago and
    I my outcome only 4.5 overall.. Can You please help me?

    Always Appreciated your kind and free lessons assist us..
    Regards,

    • Sorry, this site focuses on exam skills for IELTS. There is only one section on vocabulary. You will need to go to English language websites which you can find through google.
      All the best
      Liz

  20. Mohamed Sadek says:

    Hi Liz
    for the introduction of discussion essay, is it better to give an initial opinion or i can write ” in this essay I am going to examine the both points of view and then I will give my perspective”
    Thanks

    • It is not a good idea to write the instructions. The examiner knows you will discuss both sides and give your opinion because the examiner also has the instructions. If the instructions ask for your opinion, write your opinion in the introduction.
      Liz

  21. Thank you

  22. Paramjeet Singh Dhunna says:

    Hii Liz

    I ll also follow your instruction regarding idioms,proverbs,and quotes.

    Really Thanks Liz..God bless you..

  23. Mohammad Saleem Akhtar says:

    Thanks, this is really a very good help as I always use some quotes in my essay. Now I would avoid them.

    • Bakry Mohamed says:

      Hi, Liz
      I enjoy all your lessons,actually
      last week I, found alot of tips ,describing ,
      bar chart and writing task2, It really helpful
      I did Ielts five times last year speaking test
      sometimes band 6 lisening always 5 reading and writing
      4 or 4,5 overall 4.5 now I,am going to continue
      I,f you receive this email please tell me which way I have to follow the.

      ThankS

      which way I have to follow .

      • You either need to develop your English language or your IELTS skills and understanding. If your English is not at band 6 level, you won’t get band 6 overall. This is an English language test and the better your English, the better your results. You also need to make sure you understand how to use vocabulary, not just the meaning of words. You need to learn how paraphrases are used and how collocations are used. For writing, I suggest you learn more about the band score requirements to make sure you are going in the right direction.
        Liz

  24. What about idioms??
    Thx

  25. Hello Liz,

    Thank you for this information.
    I thought it would be great to use a proverb or a quote in an essay.
    I will keep in mind what you recommended in this post.

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