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

Hyperbole can be difficult to use in a second language! 

In my 19 years teaching ESL, I’ve taught this concept to thousands of students. 

Hyperbole is making an exaggerated statement that is not meant to be taken literally.

It’s SO exaggerated that it’s clear to the person listening that you aren’t serious.

Today’s question

Kate, one of our 3 Keys students, posted a question a few days ago asking about using the word ‘catastrophically’ instead of very. 

She gave the example:

“I have to wake up at 5 a.m. and it is catastrophically early.”

She was wondering if catastrophically can only be used to describe disasters. 

This is an excellent question, and she was able to get an answer right away. 

This is one of the many benefits to our 3 Keys study system.

You are immediately given access to our exclusive Facebook group, where you can post questions and get quick answers from IELTS experts. 

It’s an extremely supportive group so sign up today at

Watch the video now!

What is hyperbole?

There are some very common expressions that use hyperbole that you have probably heard before.

  • This suitcase weighs a ton!
  • This is the worst day of my life.
  • He is as tall as a house!

These phrases can all be used on Speaking Parts 1 and 2.

Expressions like these will definitely impress the Examiner.

They will get you that 7 or higher because they make you sound more native.

When do natives use hyperbole?

We use extreme exaggeration and hyperbole all the time to make a story more colorful and interesting. 

The adverb catastrophically does come from the noun catastrophe, and it means in a way that causes problems or suffering. 

However, it is not limited to describing tragic events. 

It can be used hyperbolically, as Kate did in this sentence. 

It’s not literally catastrophic to have to wake up early, but we can say that it is when we are exaggerating.

You can use this word to describe anything that happened in a way that was terrible or awful.

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#1: Use “catastrophically” on IELTS Speaking

If you are asked on Speaking Part 1 if you like to cook, you could say:

“The last time I cooked it was catastrophically awful – I left a cake in the oven and nearly burned down the house!” 

There’s a lot of hyperbole here!

It’s clear you didn’t really burn down the house, but natives exaggerate like this all the time and it definitely makes a story more entertaining.

On Speaking Part 2 if you’re asked to describe a day that didn’t go as you planned, you could say:

“The day started catastrophically when I slept in and missed the bus!”

You can then go on to describe anything else that went wrong that day. 

#2: Use “catastrophically” on IELTS Writing

This adverb is also ideal for IELTS Writing if you’re discussing negative aspects of politics, the economy or markets failing. 

For example, if a Task 2 topic asks you how a government can protect its nation’s economy, you could say:

“In the past, markets have crashed catastrophically, plunging economies into deep depressions.” 

It will also come in handy on Academic Task 1 essays as a parallel for drastically.

It can be used to describe any negative changes or downward trends.


Hyperbole is used often by natives, and is great for both IELTS Speaking and Writing.

Today’s examples are perfect ways to use “catastrophically” on the exam.

The only way to get a 7 or higher on IELTS is to sound more native and natural.

Extreme exaggeration is a great way to do that!

If you have IELTS questions for us, email us at

For the quickest answers, post them in our Facebook group once you sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

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What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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