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

You need to be prepared to discuss uncomfortable situations on IELTS Speaking!

Not every answer has to be positive.

In fact, discussing awkward or uncomfortable situations will make you stand out!

Today we teach you 4 idioms that can boost your Pronunciation and Vocabulary scores.

The Vocabulary score requires “idiomatic language.”

You must learn idioms and practice using them.

How this helps your Pronunciation score

Describing negative situations will give you a chance to show a range of intonation.

You don’t want to sound happy and positive on the entire exam.

For these, you will sound more serious and sad or frustrated.

Let your discomfort sound in the tone of your voice.

This variety of intonation boosts your Pronunciation score to a 7+.

#1: Out of sorts

This means something is a little bit off.

  • Are there any colors you would never paint the walls of your bedroom?

I would never paint my walls black.

That would make me feel really out of sorts!

You can also use this as a native, natural phrase if you make a mistake on IELTS.

Sorry, I’m a bit out of sorts. I didn’t get enough sleep last night!

#2: Taken aback

This is a native idiom to say something shocked or surprised you.

What is something surprising that happened to you lately?

I was taken aback when I found out the library was closed.

I had driven half an hour to get there!

Surprised and shocked are much more common.

Instead, use “taken aback.”

I was supposed to meet my friend for coffee yesterday and she didn’t show up.

I was really taken aback because she usually is very punctual!

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#3: Ill at ease

This phrase is more general in meaning.

This is synonymous with “uncomfortable.”

However, it’s very polite.

This makes me ill at ease.

We share a pronunciation note in the episode, as many English learners pronounced each syllable of this word.

When we say “uncomfortable” we blend the syllables together.

Use this for anything that gets under your skin.

  • gets under your skin: really bothers you

#4: Cold sweat

We use this for things that make us nervous or afraid.

I had a job interview and, right before, I broke into a cold sweat.

You can use this at the beginning of your exam.

Wow, I’m breaking into a cold sweat! I’m so nervous!

The Examiner will be impressed that you’re using idiomatic language right at the beginning.


You must be ready to share uncomfortable experiences on IELTS.

This will help improve both Pronunciation and Vocabulary scores.

It will give you a chance to show a range of intonation.

You need to sound frustrated or irritated when sharing negative details.

You also need to use idiomatic language for a 7+ Vocabulary score.

If you want to know what you’d get on IELTS today, take our free quiz!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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