How to get higher scores in TOEFL?

The experts found that many promising Chinese students who perform well at choosing the word and writing cannot get the ideal scores in TOEFL writing. There are two reasons for that: one is the expression is not accord with English thinking; second is they know little about western culture, which leads them have nothing to say. it is little to western culture, lead to say nothing. So, what is the secret of getting high marks in TOEFL writing? We know that if we are the examiner, we would like to see the one with idioms properly used instead of the writing with no high light. Chinese call "western idiom" the "English idioms” which had been considered one of the representatives of western culture. With its conciseness, shortness, humorousness, wit and philosophical features, it is widely accepted by the people of United States and Britain and widely used in People's Daily life communication, newspapers, magazines and television broadcast media. As a basic tool of inheritance and recording culture and language, it plays an important role in people’s daily life in Britain the United States. Using idioms properly in English writing can not only avoid waking expression, but also can become the important factors of getting more scores. Then, as a Chinese student, how to improve English writing by learning idioms?

For instance the famous British media Guardian had published a paper ,there is a sentence in it: " The US ambassador to Baghdad conceded yesterday that the Iraq invasion had opened a Pandora’s box of sectarian conflicts which could lead to a regional war.” Many students may misunderstand the meaning of it by thinking US ambassador open some kind of box. Apparently it is wrong. Actually, Pandora 's box is a traditional English idioms.Pandora is the first woman who comes from heavenly palace in Greek myths. Pandora' s box seems like a precious thing but indeed it is disaster. The meaning of it is "the root of all evil", "the tremendous chaos". So the meaning of the sentence can be understood as that U.S. ambassador who station in Baghdad admit that war in Iraq caused a local regional war. Therefore it is a good habit to read some original newspaper everyday and look up dictionary when you meet idioms which you do not know and then write in your notebook. It will be helpful when you are writing, which can enrich your articles.( topic of TOEFL writing in October 2006 is : “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? In twenty years there will be fewer cars in use than there in today.” It is a good choice for students who support this sentence to write “Car is the Pandora’s box of pollution” instead of “Car is the cause of pollution”.(

Introduction of Idioms
Idioms really play an important role in cultural transmission .Idioms is the essence of language. The metaphoric meaning of idioms really broad, generally refers to those used in together, have specific forms of phrases. The metaphoric meaning of idioms often cannot be speculated from single words and phrases. Idioms usually include proverbs, motto, two-part allegorical sayings, proverbs, slang, and jargon. Following part is some characteristics and several sources of idioms.

Idioms often contain national characteristics and distinct cultural connotation. There is a part of definition of idioms in Wikipedia: “In linguistics, idioms are usually presumed to be figures of speech contradicting the principle of compositionality; yet the matter remains debated. The words develop a specialized meaning as an entity, as an idiom. Moreover, an idiom is an expression, word, or phrase whose sense means something different from what the words literally imply. When a speaker uses an idiom, the listener might mistake its actual meaning, if he or she has not heard this figure of speech before. Idioms usually do not translate well; in some cases, when an idiom is translated into another language, either its meaning is changed or it is meaningless.”(Wikipedia) Idioms are not considered part of the language, but part of the culture. As culture typically is defined, idioms often are useless beyond its local context; nevertheless, some idioms can be more universal than others, can be easily translated, and the metaphoric meaning can be inferred.

English idioms usually have three obvious semantic characteristics: a linguistic unit, structural institutionalization and irreplaceability. Taking “kick the bucket” for example, it made of three morphemes and it is not allowed to be deleted or add anything. It cannot be changed into “Kick the small bucket”, “kick bucket” or “kick the barrel” But language is changing. People sometimes change the idioms to add more emotion into language to meet the demands of needs of context. In fact, the usage of English idioms belongs to the domain of rhetoric. We can create new meanings of idioms by expansion, compression, ellipsis, substitution, reversing order and other means.

Idioms are frequently used by people and accumulate abundance of cultural information. We can learn from a study which reported by British linguists L.P. Smith. He list more than thirty languages source of about two thousand idioms. Here I list several types of the idioms sources:
1) Clothing, food, shelter, transportation
idioms involve clothing, food, shelter, transportation, which were concerning about our daily life, such as have other fish to fry, out of the frying pan into the fire, not right in the upper storey, throw the house out of the windows, get up on the wrong side of the bed, give a curtain lecture, burn the candle at both ends.
2) Military life
Many idioms were made in Wars, such as run the gauntlet, stand one’s ground, poison the wells, a false alarm, a spark in the powder magazine.
3) Marine life
British seafaring is developed, many sailing terms are used in the daily life to describe the similar things, such as show one s colors, keep one’s head above water, pour oil on troubled waters, all at sea, when one s ship comes home.
4) Literature and art domain
idioms involve music ,dancing ,painting, drama and other literature and art domain ,like blow one’s own trumpet, change one s tune, dance attendance, open the ball, put the finishing touches to something, the dark side of the picture, pull the strings, in the limelight.
5) Sport, amusement
Idioms relate to sport and amusement. There are many ancient sports and game such as cricket, archery, boxing and casino, which provide abundant idioms in English. There are some idioms related to casino: play one’s last card, follow suit, put one s cards on the table, the game is up.
6) Medicine, law, business, education and other vocations
idioms relate to medicine ,law ,business ,education and other vocations: a dose of one’s own medicine, make out one’ s case, lay down the law, make the best of a bad bargain, turn the scales, play truant.
7) Religion
Idioms which are derived from religion. The Christian Holy Bible which was translated from Hebrew and Greek provide plentiful resources of idioms ,such as the forbidden fruit, the salt of the earth, an eye for an eye, kill the fatted calf, turn the other cheek, cast pearls before swine, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.
8) Shakespeare’s Plays
Shakespeare’s plays are the most abundant literature source which carries on after Holy Bible. It records a lot of ancient idioms, which is popular previously .It also contains the idioms created by himself, such as speak daggers , eat out of house and home, eat the leek, give the devil his due ,a fool’s paradise, the pound of flesh, the beginning of the end, more sinned against than sinning.
9) Foreign
English borrow a large number of idioms from French, Greek and Latin. Greek ancient civilizations does much for all humanity by sharing spiritual wealth, such as the famous Greek epic, myths and fable etc and many unique expressions has become English idiom. For example, Pandora’s Box, the Gordian knot, the swords of Damocles are derived from greek mythology. On the knees of the gods, Penelope s web, on the razor’s edge are derived from Homer Epic. “cry wolf (shows to give false alarms; to warn of danger where there is none), kill the goose that lays the golden egg, blow hot and cold , the lion’ s share, a dog in the manger( indicate a person who prevents others from enjoying something that is useless to himself), bell the cat( indicates to do something dangerous in order to save others; to step forward bravely to face the danger; to take a risk for the good of others), fish in troubled water( signifies to try to win advantages for oneself from a disturbed state of affairs; to make use of someone’s misfortune to serve one’s own ends) ,cat’s paw (compare to a person used as a tool by another; one who is used merely for the convenience of a cleverer or stronger person) , pull the chestnuts out of the fire(express to do something. dangerous for others)” ( are all from the Aesop’s Fable.
The several characteristics of expressions of idioms are syllable is beautiful, melody is coordinate, full of implicit humor, concise, vivid and full of humor and wit, which can make people feel that appreciating idioms are really a pleasure thing and we can make good use of it to enrich our writing.


1.BakerMona. In Other Words: a coursebook on translation . London & New York: Routledge1992.Print.
2.SmithL.P. Words and Idioms London: Constable & Company Ltd.1957.Print
3. Web.23.May.2011
4.“Idiom” . Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.4 Nov.2010.Web.23 May.2011.
5.“Idioms from English fable”