Idioms for Speaking and Informal Writing 1: Free-Time Activities



Speaking Part 1 – FCE, CAE, IELTS. Most common topics – Free-Time Activities (sports, hobbies, friendship, music, films, parties), Home Life, Family, Travel and Holidays, Ambitions and Future Plans (school, job, business, future career), Health (food and diet, exercise), Likes and Dislikes,  Fashion, Clothes and Appearance…these are the most common topics and there’s a wide variety of questions related to them that you could be asked in any of these exams.

Idioms do make the difference between natives and non-natives and it’s sometimes not that easy to use them naturally when your mother tongue is not English. Still, using them a lot in your speaking preparation sessions before the exam (and in a quite controlled way, you’ll see what I mean) would actually help you reactivate them on the exam day and use them…naturally.

All you have to do is have your lists of idioms in front of you when you answer different questions on the same topic and try to include them in your speech, even if that means adapting the answer so that you could use as many idioms as possible (this is the controlled way and it may seem awkward to you, at least for a while.But, keep in mind-you won’t have these idioms in front of your eyes on the big day so, obviously, you won’t be using as many as on those practice days, just those that you will activate naturally as part of your response to the question).

So, if the topic is Travel, there could be questions related to your past, future and ideal trips, journeys and holidays, the way you like to travel, accommodation, places you go to, means of transport…Since there’s a list for that, feel free to use it.

Now, talking about writing, all the topics I’ve mentioned above could be met in an informal letter (FCE, CAE), an article (FCE) or a Review (FCE, CAE). Again, idioms will improve the quality of your informal language.

You can improve your English with more items of idiomatic language, so download, print and use this list of Idioms for Speaking and Informal Writing – Free-Time Activities

 Well, this just another resource  designed to boost your confidence so that you could say Yes To Exams! 



Academic Vocabulary 3



If you’ve already used and got used to the words on the previously published lists, then it’s time for  some more academic vocabulary. Students usually look for ‘ items of vocabulary to impress teachers’ and, although these words may seem alien to them at first, they start to like some of them and ask for more. For example, some students told me that ubiquitous sounds really nice to them and so does quintessential

My advice for you is to find as many contexts as possible for these academic words, to see how you can make meaningful sentences that sound natural.

So, here’s the new list:

Academic Vocabulary 3




One of my main concerns is teaching students how to write a good quality essay. Maybe because I’ve always been a big fan of writing. The hardest part about being the teacher in the process is accepting the fact that not all students find writing easy. This time it’s not about the layout or the vocabulary or some smart structures that can be learnt by heart and practised until they become familiar and easy to use. This time it’s about writing a high quality essay that means a lot more than shallow good looks. So, what is it all about?

Creating content that would make the reader say ‘oh, finally, something worth reading…’-how difficult a task can that be? Well, believe it or not, for most teenagers and very young adults it is very difficult… at least here, in Romania, where students rarely get the chance to practise essays at school, written in their mother tongue, dealing with a variety of topics that would require general knowledge about the world.

The question is: Which essay would get a higher mark? A dull one, still correct, coated with  beautiful academic vocabulary, precious complex structures and containing all the other ingredients used by connoisseurs or one written in rather simple words, but giving the reader the feeling they were taken on a journey they’d so much enjoy …My answer to this is- I don’t know. What do you think? But what if that essay had both? Would that be too much to ask from a student who usually has so many other things on their mind and in their weekly schedule? Hmmm…let’s give it a try, shall we?

I think there are two types of problems students may be facing when dealing with IELTS Essay writing. The first one is related to difficult topics, that require specific knowledge. I’d mention some examples, such as space research, alternative medicine, green energy, globalization or social welfare. Opinion is not enough in these cases. General knowledge and real examples, combined with the ability to prove a mature approach and some originality would be appreciated. So, let us read and learn some information about these topics… What about the second problem? Well, that is rather a trap. When dealing with easy, familiar topics, students might feel too relaxed and write a lot about nothing, really…I’ve seen that many times and the authors were students who had great knowledge about science, geography, politics, economics, literature, psychology…So, a familiar topic could make one fall into the trap of dealing with it in a very unsophisticated manner. Like long-married couples wearing the same old threadbare clothes at home and picking their nose when watching TV together because why bother? And the adjective in both cases (essay reader and partner) is, probably, bored. Is a bored essay assessor exactly what you need?

Exploration is essential. Be it space exploration or  some specific essay topic research, acquiring information, filtering and processing it is a must for evolution.

Let’s first see some past space exploration IELTS exam essay examples:

  1. Many people think that the government should spend money to explore the outer space, while others believe that it’s a waste of public money. Discuss both views and include your own opinion.
  2. It has been more than 30 years since man first landed on the moon. Some people think that space research is a waste of money. Discuss your opinion.

Before writing about this topic students should first read articles and watch videos about some benefits and drawbacks of space exploration and they may find out about:


1.Spinoffs –technologies used on Earth that were first pioneered in space exploration:

-Memory Foam (first used for airline crash protection)

-Magnetic Resonance Imaging

-Smoke Detection

-Infrared Ear Thermometers

-Artificial Limbs

-Firefighter Gear

-Portable Cordless Vacuums

-Harnessing Solar Energy

-Water Purification

2.Education and Job Creation

-encouraging students to pursue STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)


-fuel costs

-expensive failed missions

-endangering the lives of astronauts

– pollution in space –  debris that space missions leave behind, such as satellites or rocket launch boosters

More information related to the topic:

Top 5 countries spending on space exploration: USA, China, Russia, Japan, France

Historic moments in  space exploration:

And last, but not least,

 Why We Need the Explorers

a brilliant Ted Talk by Physicist Brian Cox.

We’ll now focus on this first step of writing high quality essays on difficult topics that require opinion based on specific knowledge. Students will move on from ‘I don’t really care’ to ‘I actually like this’ and ‘I’d like to know more’. That’s the point. And this is the PDF with the same suggested information and links:

IELTS Essay Topics – Space Exploration


Idioms and slang-Parties and People

In FCE and CAE exams students may have to write an informal letter about a party they went to. Some idioms mastered with a sense of humour will surely help catch the reader’s attention. (Let’s not forget, however, important ingredients such as  informal connectors, questions, exclamations, and, obviously, the suitable layout.)

Slang can also be used, to some extent, just for adding extra flavour…

Here’s a suggested list of spices:


In the IELTS exam students can also use some of these idioms if they are given a task card on this topic in Speaking part 2.


Descriptive vocabulary-places


A list of vocabulary and idioms that can be used by FCE, CAE, CPE or IELTS students in the following exam papers and tasks:

•FCE: Speaking, Writing – Article, Review, Informal Letter

•CAE: Speaking, Writing – Review, Informal Letter

•CPE: Speaking, Writing – Article, Review, Informal Letter

•IELTS: Speaking