Idioms and contractions are two points in the English language that confuse IELTS students whether these are to be used or not. Idiomatic expressions or idioms are group of words that have a figurative meaning. Most of the time, idioms are used in sentences to emphasize or exaggerate the content. Furthermore, contractions are the short forms of words such as cannot = can’t. Since idioms make better sounding sentences and contractions sound natural, IELTS students are questioning whether the use of such idioms and contractions are acceptable in the examination. What would IELTS review training think of this?
An IELTS review center in Makati responded that the use of idioms and contractions are both acceptable in the test. However, there are a few reminders students have to take note of when using these.
As a review, idioms do not have a literal definition of the words used in the expression. For instance, the idiom raining cats and dogs does not mean that these animals are falling from the sky. It means that heavy rain is pouring. Now, the question is SHOULD IT BE USED IN THE TEST?
Idioms are NOT TO BE USED in the writing section of the test. Idioms are informal, and the writing test is set in a formal tone. Using these will make the essay informal, resulting in a deduction in one’s score. In IELTS review training, idioms are taught to be part of speaking responses. Yes, idioms may be used in the Speaking test. However, here are some reminders:
• Use idioms that are appropriate in context. Memorizing hundreds of idioms and using them in your speaking responses without considering the context can confuse the facilitator.
• Make use of common idioms. They are safe to use since the facilitator is sure to be familiar with these.
Over the moon – be very happy
A piece of cake – something is very easy
Back to the drawing board – repeating something you failed for the first time
Hot potato – controversial topic
Cost an arm and a leg – something is very expensive
• Avoid using idioms when unsure of its meaning. It is better to express the idea directly than risk mentioning the idiom that can cause losing marks in the test.
The same idea goes with the use of contractions in the examination. In an IELTS review center in Makati, students are reminded to NEVER use contractions in writing. Again, the IELTS writing is in the formal tone; thus, the use of contractions make the essay informal.
Candidates are allowed to use contractions in the speaking test. The Speaking test is more of a conversation between the candidate and the interviewer. It is not set in a formal tone, so contractions may be used. However, if the candidate does not want to use contractions, then it is also acceptable. The Speaking test is not very strict when it comes to the appropriate use of contractions since it focuses more on the content of the response.
Both contractions and idioms can be used in the SPEAKING test; however, they are not accepted in the WRITING test. Candidates have to bear in mind that their usage depends on the context; thus, it is important to know and practice well on both idioms and contractions.