Common Idioms That Candidates May Come Across In The GMAT

Useful Idioms and Phrases to Include in your GMAT Essay

What are Idioms?

Idioms are words, phrases, or expressions that are grammatically unusual. For example, “It’s raining cats and dogs”. The commonly used types of idioms are of two types: idioms that have a close relationship between the literal and figurative meaning, and idioms that have an obscure relationship between the literal and figurative meaning. For example, “back to square one” meaning “starting from the beginning” has a close relationship, whereas “not my cup of tea” is not easily understood.

Why should you use Idioms?

These are a favorite in the Verbal section. Common idiomatic expressions appear frequently in the Verbal section, especially for sentence correction. Idioms and phrases are useful in your essays for the following benefits:

  1. Using idioms and phrases demonstrates to the reader that you have a strong command over the language.
  2. Using phrases helps the reader follow the flow of your discussion.
  3. It helps you to present your views subtly on a controversial topic.
  4. It is important that you have a grasp of American English, both grammar and style. This will help you in the sentence correction section too.

Idioms You Need to be Careful Of

You need to be careful when using phrases. Ensure that you identify the idiom correctly based on the situation. Common idioms containing words such as “like” and “as” must be interpreted and used correctly based on the context of your essay or in the sentence correction section. Idioms are especially challenging because they are closely connected and can be interpreted in more than one way. For example, “agree to” and “agree with”. Both have different connotations depending on their usage. However, the best part about idioms is that they are based on rules. Most of the time, expressions are tested to evaluate your understanding of the usage of prepositions, adverbs, and conjunctions. Therefore, it is important that you develop your grammar skills, especially if you are a non-native speaker of English.

How should you use Idioms?

Using phrases adds an interesting element to your essays. However, use it sparsely.

  1. Do not load your essay unnecessarily with phrases; it will put a detrimental impact on the reviewer.
  2. Avoid highly colloquial idioms with difficult vocabulary.

Such jargons are difficult for a non-native speaker of English and require more study than a native speaker requires. Try to acquaint yourself with and use American English in your essays because GMAT is primarily a test to get through US colleges. It is not possible to memorize all the phrases or popular parlance. However, the best you can do is to practice writing essays regularly and try to incorporate them in your essays. In addition, initially you might want to look at them on a daily basis so that you are familiar with them and understand their usage. Thus, it is helpful to have a list of idioms with their usage or examples to guide you through the meaning. Try to use friendly phrases or idioms that are simple, colloquial, and easy to understand. Most resources (books, software, or Internet) include a list of the popular idioms that have appeared or are favourites in the test. These idioms are helpful when you need to solve sentence correction questions or when writing essays.

Comprehensive lists of popular idioms used in the test are available at the following sites: