Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Today we talk about metaphors, and how to use them to raise your IELTS score to a 9.

A metaphor is a phrase that compares two things– something real that you want to describe and something else that is completely different. This way of describing is extremely high-level and would greatly impress the examiner.

Strong metaphors bring to mind images that emphasize a description.

Example IELTS Speaking Part 2 question:

Describe a teacher who influenced you.

You could say:

  • This teacher taught me so much, was so good at conveying information, it seemed like she could pour the knowledge into my mind.

This example compares the teacher’s ability to a pail pouring water.


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Example IELTS Speaking Part 3 question:

What personal characteristics does a good teacher have?

You could say:

  • A good teacher knows when you’re drowning, and can throw you a life raft.

This is another water metaphor. We use drowning to describe any situation in which you are in over your head, or in which you have no control over. The life raft is the life-saving boat, or, in this case, the help given by the teacher.

Example IELTS Speaking Part 3 question:

What do some people not make good teachers?

You could say:

  • They exist behind a brick wall. They exist in their own world.

In this case, the brick wall is a metaphor for the complete lack of connection or understanding between the teacher and the student. Then, to exist in your own world would be to exist in a space by yourself, where you only think of yourself and do not connect with others.

For a non-native speaker, creating metaphors is difficult and risky, because it’s easy to get wrong.

The best way to use metaphors on the exam is to notice metaphors used in high-level writing, and recording these phrases in your vocabulary notebook.

A good place to start is our last episode about how to use The New York Times to learn new high-scoring vocabulary.

What do you think about today’s advice?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below!


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