18 Idioms for TOEFL and Better Communication

If you’ve been in a vicious cycle taking TOEFL again and again with minimal change in scores, how do you dig yourself out of this–how will you get out of a rut?

  1. Believe. According to Gandhi, “Man becomes what he believes himself to be. If you believe you can do it, you shall acquire the capacity to do it.”
  2. Change the routine. If you have the habit of studying idiomatic expressions once a week, change the habit and study twice weekly to have a better effect.
  3. Alter the approach. If your approach is the process of studying idioms written on index cards, adjust your study tactics from a different angle, for instance, try creating digital flashcards online for new words to have more impact. With a different learning strategy for foreign language acquisition, you’ll tackle new idioms in no time and expand your knowledge of everyday phrases. So, getting to know idioms is one way to advance your language skills.

Here are 18 idiomatic expressions to raise your level on TOEFL, in business communication, and in campus interactions.

Why are idioms important?

Idioms are an important aspect of informal written and spoken English. Using expressions correctly eases effective verbal communication, improving your soft skill. And, as you communicate better with idiomatic language, you show leadership at school, at work, and in business.

With expressions at your fingertips, you’ll draw on accessible phrases to convey points concisely. You’ll also seem savvier to come across like a native. Once you feel comfortable practicing expressions, try using idiomatic phrases to illustrate key points in team meetings, seminar presentations, or group discussions. Furthermore, in test preparation if you are preparing for TOEFL, IELTS or GMAT, broadening your grasp of idioms will be a stepping stone to up your game to the next level. Whether your benchmark is to improve soft skills in business communication or to succeed using the correct expressions on tests, your “idiom database” is an invaluable tool in the process.

How important are idioms on the test?

If you come across an expression you’re not familiar with on the test, it will be hard to understand the sentence or paragraph it’s in. As a result, if you can’t figure out what’s being discussed, it may cause you to lose points. So, yes, idioms are important on the exam.

How are idioms tested on each section of the TOEFL?

Reading & Listening

Idioms will be in the readings (but not a key part) or listening. In passages, for instance, understanding an idiom may help you get the whole meaning context of a college-level text. In a reading, an idiom will be part of a quote or opinion. As such, idioms would be in quotations to show a phrase is different than the typical meaning.

Let’s analyze one test case:

“When truck production began to soar, quality went up and factories reported they had produced less “lemons” than before.”

Here, the expression “lemons” is in quotations, and it means something defective.

Though the TOEFL question will not ask what a “lemon” is, it’s useful to know the expression’s meaning to find the right answer faster.

The next section, the listening section, has the most idioms of all the sections since you’ll listen to campus dialogues of how people speak every day. To improve, focus on becoming familiar with the idioms that have surfaced on past exams.

Speaking & Writing

On the other hand, in the speaking and writing sections, the least number of idioms are found—only in the integrated tasks (speaking questions 3-6 and writing integrated task.) Avoid using an idiom in speaking or writing, only if you have a good knowledge of the idiom. In that case, you might include just one idiom in a speaking response and one in the integrated writing response. No need to use more than one on either of these two sections’ integrated tasks.

Here are six idioms from past TOEFL tests to get to know

  1. Cost an arm and a leg
  2. Butterflies in your stomach
  3. Be on your toes
  4. Time flies
  5. Breeze through something
  6. Get some shut eye

Analyze the meanings of the six idioms in the paragraph below

Taking the TOEFL test every month costs an arm and a leg. When you arrive to take your test, you’ll have butterflies in your stomach. When the test starts, be on your toes. After four hours, time flies, and you feel like you breezed through. It was a long day, and after the test, you go home to get some shut eye.

  1. Is expensive
  2. Feel nervous
  3. Be ready/be prepared
  4. Time goes by quickly
  5. Do something quickly
  6. Sleep

Achieve a better score on the TOEFL in order to get into your dream college. Well, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Yes, it may be a challenging task or a difficult road ahead.

Recall that mastering idioms is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s only a small part of the issue.

Keep plugging ahead to applications.

 

 

 

 

Be happy knowing you’re as wise as an owl and familiar with a set of valuable idioms to effectively communicate and advance your soft skills.

So, what are you waiting for? Go practice using them. Time’s a ticking, hurry up!

Now that you’ve gained self-assurance to use some of these new idioms in your speaking, writing, or business communication practice, keep your eyes peeled watching for more useful idioms coming in an upcoming blog post.

Tips for each TOEFL section

Reading

For the reading questions, focus on the areas that the questions relate to. The questions come in the order they appear. You should be ready for the kind of questions you will be asked. Many of the readings have a main idea question and at least two vocabulary questions are in each reading in addition to some detailed questions and inference questions. Skim the reading, go through the questions, then read for detail. You won’t have time to reread the entire passage. In the speaking and writing sections, you have to show that you have a good grammar ability, so be familiar with key academic vocabulary, but in the reading section, you do not have to know every single word in a passage to get the right answer to the questions. Practice reading with no dictionary.

Listening

On the real test, you will only hear everything one time, so you will need to simulate this and train your ears to listen fully the first and only time. When you are practicing for the listening sections, only play the listening ONCE. On the exam day, the clock will not start until you start the answers. Do NOT look at a listening question after you have decided on an answer since you cannot change it. Listen for main idea at the start, compare/contrast points, key points to support the main purpose and details such as when, where, how, and why.

Speaking

You can pause for a second when you respond. Try to fill as much of the time as possible with your speaking response. If you have a few extra seconds you can make a few second summary to conclude. You will have a lower score for poor pronunciation, so AVOID advanced words that you cannot pronounce correctly. Improper vocabulary and idioms also bring a lower score so be sure you know how to use an expression properly BEFORE you use it on the exam.

Writing

The first task in the writing section, you will need to integrate ideas from the reading and lecture and show their relationship, so study former practice tests and model essays, so you can know how to relate contrasting viewpoints on the same topic from different authors or a writer and a lecturer.

Keep your writing simple and clear! There is no spell check, so type accurately to avoid many typing errors. Do not use big vocabulary and advanced punctuation that you are not sure of.

Plan your essay before you write it. Your plan will save time so you have a well-organized writing. When you practice essays, find a format that you are comfortable writing. Use the same format/structure each time. For example, your thesis might always be in the third sentence of your introduction. You might always end your conclusion with a question. Make sure to use lots of examples to support your essay. Transitional words and phrases will make your writing easier to read. Memorize a list of transitions and know how to type them with no errors. At the end, leave a little time to revise what you wrote.