There are many different ways to prepare for the IELTS exam, but in the end it is a test of your English skills. It is not about memorizing phrases or formulas. It helps to have a good vocabulary, and so you need to study appropriate words; however, you shouldn’t be memorizing phrases for the IELTS exam. Ultimately, the examiner wants to read your own words, and not someone else’s.

Examiners have to read many IELTS essays and it drives them crazy when you use clichéd IELTS phrases. Sometimes it’s the repetition of it that is annoying, but sometimes they’re just plain wrong.

IELTS Cliches

Let’s look at some of the worst offenders:

“With the development of modern technology…”

This is absolutely the worst phrase used by IELTS students, and it drives examiners crazy. It seems that every student uses it, and most of the time they’re using it incorrectly. It may be the right phrase to use for a question about developing technology, but if you’re talking about anything else, it’s probably wrong. This phrase is so overused that I’d advice all students to avoid it. That also includes all variants: “With the development of society…” etc.

“As we all know…”

Is there anything we all really know? No. People are always in disagreement. There is probably nothing you could say to follow this statement that would be true. What’s more, this is commonly used by too many students and has grown annoying for examiners to hear.

“Every coin has two sides…”

This is an English idiom, but it is also an IELTS cliché, and the same is true of a phrase with a similar meaning: “A double-edged sword.” The latter is often misspoken by English learners as “Every knife has two edges.” In any case, these are not suitable in an academic essay, and are simply too clichéd. “There are two sides to every story” is a little better, but still a cliché.

“Last but not least…”


“In a nutshell…”

These two phrases are used to conclude essays, but they are far too informal for academic purposes. “Last but not least” is usually used to refer to the last person mentioned in a group of people – not to summarize points in an essay. “In a nutshell” is a very casual phrase that has no place in an essay. Yet they are both mentioned often by IELTS students who want to sound natural.

“It cannot be denied…”

The problem with this phrase is that often it is used to give opinions. Students often use it like this: “It cannot be denied that students have too much homework these days.” Ask yourself if that really cannot be denied. Nothing is 100% certain in this world, and there is always scope for debate. The examiner will know what you mean, but you’re not using the correct words for your idea.

“…broaden my horizons…”

There are many ways to express the value of learning something new and gaining deeper insight into the world. This phrase makes IELTS examiners want to tear their hair out. So many students use it that it gets really annoying to read it.

“Since the beginning of time…”

This is a clear example of a student who has read a phrase and copied it, as it is almost never used in the correct circumstance. Do you know when time began, and does your next statement apply to the entire gap between then and now? Probably not! Phrases like this tell the examiner that you don’t really understand what you are saying.

“…more and more…”

Sometimes you will see this used in an IELTS question, but you shouldn’t copy from the question. Likewise, students use this too often and too inaccurately in their essays.

“…colorful life…”

This is a “Chinglish” (Chinese-English) phrase. It is an example of direct language translation from Chinese into English. There are many other phrases like it, which don’t really make much sense in English, yet are frequently used by learners from China or other countries.


Remember, in IELTS you are being marked for your own work. Memorizing phrases will not help you pass the exam. Be original. Put your ideas into your own words – not some else’s words. When you memorize phrases, sentences, or any longer piece of work, you are not providing a direct and correct answer to the question. There is no shortcut to success.