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

There’s a good chance you’ll use the adjective ‘scary’ on IELTS Speaking and Writing.

You need higher-scoring ways to say ‘scary’ or ‘frightening.’

Today you’ll learn 4 band 9 ways to say this.

Practice using today’s vocabulary to boost your IELTS scores!

#1: ‘Scary’ as slang

In English, we use ‘scary’ as an adverb to mean ‘really’ or ‘very.’

  • scary good
  • scary great
  • scary amazing

This means the same as ‘extremely’ or ‘surprisingly.

You need to use informal language and slang for the ‘variety’ of vocabulary required by IELTS.

#2: Blood-curdling

This adjective means extremely frightening.

We use it to exaggerate.

If you are asked about your reading habits or your favorite book.

I always get books from the library but a friend was telling me she thinks libraries are going to close down now that people use audio books so much.

That’s a blood-curdling thought because I love going to the library!

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#3: Spine-chilling

This is interchangeably with the adjective ‘blood-curdling.’

Imagine something that would send a chill up your spine.

Because we also use this phrase to exaggerate, it is useful for many answers.

For example, you may be asked about children using technology.

I imagine a future with zombie hordes who only play video games and never learned to interact with others.

That’s a pretty spine-chilling thought for the future!

#4: Hair-raising

This generates fun imagery, as often animation will depict a frightened character with its hair standing straight up.

Use it to mean ‘extremely frightening.’

I had a hair-raising experience at a theme park last year.

I was on a ferris wheel, and apparently something broke, because it stopped and we were trapped at the top for 3 hours.

#5: The stuff of nightmares

Anything extremely frightening can be called ‘the stuff of nightmares.’

I lost my son in a crowd at Disneyland.

It was the stuff of nightmares!

For something positive, we will say, ‘The stuff of dreams.’


Expressing that something is scary is often needed on IELTS.

Today’s phrases are much less common than ‘scary’ or ‘frightening.’

Common words like those are used often by students.

Instead, use today’s phrases to boost IELTS vocabulary scores.

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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