Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Today you’ll learn 5 phrases that buy you time.

You can’t be quiet on the Speaking exam!

These help you avoid pauses and hesitation.

Filler phrases and linking phrases have meaning.

You have to use them in the correct context.

We’ll share the context and example sentences today for each one.

Four of these contain phrasal verbs and one is an idiom, so they all have that idiomatic language you need!

This Vocabulary can help you get the 7+ you need on IELTS!

All Ears English app is now on Android!

Those of you with iOS have been the only lucky ones with the app for some time!

That has changed with the launch of our app for Android!

You can now carry English lessons with you everywhere you go!

Click this link to download the app!

Use linking phrases in the correct context

Do not start Speaking Part 1 answers with linking phrases such as:

  • To be honest
  • Frankly
  • Honestly

These don’t make sense when responding to personal questions that require no thought.

If the question is, “Did you grow up in the city or a small town?” it would be strange to say, “To be honest…”

These should be reserved for a notable opinion.

You could say “I grew up in a small town and, to be honest, I was so excited to leave!”

How do phrasal verbs help your IELTS score?

The Vocabulary score requires idiomatic language for 7+.

Phrasal verbs are one way to use idiomatic language.

Unfortunately, they’re quite difficult to use!

They must be collocated with the correct preposition!

Today we’ll teach you 4 with the correct collocation.

Each of these can also be used as a filler, which also helps your Fluency score.

#1: Come up with

This is a perfect filler phrase when you’re having a hard time remembering a specific word.

It means that you don’t have the exact idea, word or reason right now.

Use this phrasal verb and then describe it.

I can’t quite come up with the word for this, but it’s the thing the dentist uses to clean your teeth.

Wow, I’m having a hard time coming up with an answer for that one. I haven’t thought about that before!

To help you remember this, imagine a word coming from the bottom of your brain to the top of your brain where you can access it.

It’s hard to come up with a good reason, but if I had to say, I guess…

If you’re asked your favorite for something.

I don’t know if I can come up with a favorite, but I really like…

#2: Think up

This is a parallel for “come up with.”

I’m trying to think up the name of this band I love. I can’t come up with it!

This is an extremely native phrasal verb.

We use it all the time!

It looks easy and simple and not that advanced.

However, students don’t use it often!

The Examiner doesn’t hear it often.

This sets you apart from other students.

Strategies Created by a Former IELTS Examiner

3 Keys IELTS Online Course logo

100% Score Increase Guarantee with our Insider Method

Are you ready to move past IELTS and move forward with your life vision?

Find out why our strategies are the most powerful in the IELTS world.

When you use our Insider Method you avoid the BIGGEST MISTAKES that most students make on IELTS.

Click here to get a score increase on IELTS. It’s 100% guaranteed.

#3: Call to mind

This means “to remember.”

I can’t quite call to mind the name of the journalist, but I see her on TV all the time.

We almost always use it in the negative.

“I can’t quite call to mind…”

My friend and I went to an amazing restaurant. I can’t call to mind the name of it.

If you are about to say, “I can’t remember…” stop yourself and say you can’t call it to mind!

“Call to mind” to begin Speaking Part 2

You can use this phrase to “set the scene” for a story.

Call to mind, if you will, a quiet cafe by the seaside. I’m going to set the stage for this majestic trip I took.

This is a very high level, uncommon way to begin your Speaking Part 2 answer.

Examiners hear students say, “I’m going to talk about…” all day long.

You will stand out if you start Speaking Part 2 in an interesting, unique way!

#4: On the tip of my tongue

This also means you can’t quite think of it.

The adjective I want is on the tip of my tongue. It means really, really big.

One benefit to this filler phrase is it’s longer.

This gives you more time to think of what you want to say!

Be very careful to use the right collocation.

You can’t use different prepositions like “Beside the tip of my tongue.”

This will lower your score!

Practice using them in context with the correct prepositions.

#5: Bear in mind

This phrasal verb is more specific in meaning.

It is quite formal, so it’s perfect for Speaking Part 3.

Use this to provide information you want someone to consider or keep in mind.

Bear in mind, I was only 18 years old at the time, so…

As a filler, you can share why you’re having trouble coming up with an answer.

Bear in mind, this isn’t something I would discuss with friends over a coffee!

This graphic can help you keep the meanings of these phrasal verbs and idioms straight!

A strategy for learning phrasal verbs

Aubrey and Lindsay recently did a series of All Ears English podcasts on this topic.

They shared a strategy that helps with learning phrasal verbs.

You can choose a situation and learn phrasal verbs that might be used in that situation.

Then, when you’re in the scenario, you’ll be able to use the related phrasal verbs.

Be sure to pay attention to collocations!

Note which prepositions are used for each one, and be sure to use them correctly.


Fillers that contain phrasal verbs are extremely beneficial to your IELTS scores!

First, they help you avoid pauses and hesitations, increasing your Fluency score.

Second, they provide the idiomatic language you need to score 7+ on Vocabulary.

Practice using today’s fillers, and be sure to use the phrasal verbs with the correct collocations.

To find out what you’d get if you took IELTS today, go to

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X
  • App-Store-Button
  • google-play-badge
  • Badges (1)
  • Badges-1 (1)
  • Badges-2 (1)
  • US_ListenOn_AmazonMusic_button_black_RGB_5X