Top 10 TOEFL Idioms

common English sayings TOEFL exam cat is out of the bag

The cat is out of the bag! Do you know what that really means?

Learning how to use proper grammar and writing skills isn’t enough to show you fully understand the English language. An important and oftentimes tricky part of English is mastering common English idioms. Used to express a figurative meaning, English idioms are so common that they can appear on the TOEFL exam to measure English comprehension.

If you’re preparing for the TOEFL or TOEIC exams, this list of common idiomatic expressions can be useful to learn before taking your test.

The bottom line: The result; the final outcome; to get to the point

Used in a sentence:

I understand it won’t be easy, but the bottom line is that we need the presentation completed by Monday morning, no excuses.

Taking the heat: Taking criticism or blame for something you didn’t do, typically to protect another person

Used in a sentence:

Thanks for taking the heat for me Rachel, and saying it was you who left the door unlocked.

The cat’s out of the bag: The secret has been made known.

Used in a sentence:

Sarah’s surprise party will just be a party now; the cat’s out of the bag on that one.

Smoke and mirrors: Deception and confusion used to mislead people instead of inform them

Used in a sentence:

I thought that housecleaning company was legitimate, but turns out it was nothing but smoke and mirrors covering up a money laundering operation.

Draw the line: To stop; to know the point where something goes from okay to not okay.

Used in a sentence:

I told you that you could decorate your office, but I draw the line at you repainting the walls. 

Silver lining: To find the good or positive side in a bad situation.

Used in a sentence:

So you got fired, look at the silver lining—now you can focus on your photography like you always wanted!

Get something off your chest: To talk about something that has been bothering you for a while, to make a confession

Used in a sentence:

I wanted to get something off my chest, and let you know that it really bothered me that I wasn’t invited to your birthday party like all of our other co-workers were.

Fish out of water: To feel out of place

Used in a sentence:

Attending a comic book convention made Ben feel like a fish out of water, as he had never read a comic book in his life.

In the nick of time: To accomplish a task right before it’s too late

Used in a sentence:

I turned in the homework for my online college class in the nick of time at 11:59 pm, when it was due by midnight.

Put your foot in your mouth: To say something you shouldn’t have

Used in a sentence:

Matt put his foot in his mouth when he asked a woman if she was pregnant when she wasn’t.

With over 25,000 English idioms, knowing which ones will be on the TOEFL exam may be hard to predict, but becoming familiar with common English idioms can make you better prepared. To gain additional help with idioms or preparation for the TOEFL exam, consider signing up for the free 7-day pronunciation course to get you started on the right foot!