Notes about some Questions of IELTS Speaking - 5


Notes about some Questions of IELTS Speaking - 5



  • If a note below is about an IELTS Speaking Part 2 topic, the note assumes that the wording of the IELTS Speaking Part 2 topics, especially the verb tense, is as shown in the list of topics on this website. Possibly the real wording is different to that shown on this website. BE CAREFUL!


Caution! 小心!

If some of the notes on this page are possible as a complete answer to the IELTS question, be very careful about speaking those exact same words in the IELTS test. If many people speak the same sentences in the test, the IELTS examiners will eventually know that these sentences are not your original words. This will seriously damage your score! Some IELTS examiners might even read this website. IELTS Examiners don't like answers that candidates learn, word for word, from a book or from the blackboard in a class because such answers are not real, natural communication. The best idea is to adapt the ideas below (if you want to) by making your own sentences and speaking naturally in the IELTS test. (Memorized answers are usually not spoken in a very natural way.) Try to avoid letting the IELTS examiner know that you have read this website!



  • For many IELTS Speaking Part 2 topics, IELTS students can get some additional ideas by reading the IELTS Speaking Part 3 questions that follow that IELTS topic.


IELTS Speaking Topic 234 Note 1

In order to make something, what qualities (and skills) does a person need to have?

  • To make something (anything), you often need to know how to use certain tools. (Give examples)
  • Sometimes you need to be creative, for example if you also design the thing you are making. To design something, you need the ability to visualize the final product.
  • To make handicrafts, you need the above two skills as well as skill of using the hands (dexterity) and a certain amount of artistic skill or artistic sense.

Make sure you expand your answer with examples.


IELTS Speaking Topic 234 Note 2

What are some differences between hand-made things and things made by machine?

  • This is quite a difficult IELTS question!
  • If the wording is the same as above, the words "made by machine" really means "made in factories".
  • Hand made things are unique while factory-made things are all the same.
  • In addition to that, (and related to that) a major difference is the different usages of these two different types of products, i.e., the different reasons why these products were made. That is: the difference between the types of things that are hand-made and the types of things that are factory-made. Here, IELTS students need to think of some classifications of different products, such as everyday products that many people use, works of art, cultural artifacts sold to tourists etc. (I will not give you a more detailed answer than this because, if IELTS examiners recognize a detailed answer from this web site, it will hurt your IELTS score more than help your IELTS score.)


IELTS Speaking  Topic 240, Part 3

Are there any problems that could result from keeping (old) things from the past?

  • One possible problem is the question of which family member gets to keep an old thing that is passed down in the family. For example, when Grandma dies, which of her children is entitled to keep some of her important possessions?
  • Another possible problem is choosing what to keep. For example, if Grandma dies and she has many items of furniture that are worth keeping, how do you decide what to keep if you live in a small apartment?


IELTS Speaking Topic 242 A Journey With Your Friends

  • This topic was added to the list on December 20, 2009 although a few people had previously mentioned it in internet postings before Dec. 20. But these people never wrote any details and they often included the Part 3 question about differences between traveling on business and traveling for pleasure. Since this same question is a high frequency question for Topic 206, I thought those people had made a mistake and were talking about Topic 206. But now I believe there are two different topics about a trip. It looks like the test makers are trying to confuse us with similar but different Part 2 topics in the test at the same time.
  • Pay special attention to whether the word "trip" or the word, "journey" is used. If "journey" is used, the trip should be quite long. If "trip" is used, it might be possible just to say, "I'd like to go on a shopping trip with my best friend" (shopping in your hometown). But it's probably best not to use such a short trip as your example.


IELTS Speaking Part 3 Topic 242

What benefits do people of different ages get from travelling (overseas)?

In answer to this question or similar questions, many candidates in China just say something like, "Traveling broadens people's horizon(s)" (or "extends people's horizon(s)"). This expression is perfectly good English and it is not easy to think of another expression that expresses this meaning so succinctly ("succinct" = 简明). The problem is, this expression is overused in China and I'm sure many examiners are getting sick of hearing it. It's usually a sign of a candidate who is at the Band 4.5 to 5.5 (or maybe 6.0) level and is usually used as a substitute for making your own sentences. If you want to get 6.0 or more for speaking, you should at least follow that expression with some examples of how people's horizons are broadened.

I think some candidates (in China) are afraid to use more "everyday language" to express the idea of "broaden one's horizon" because they think they will get more points for vocabulary by showing knowledge of this expression. Yes, in general you do get points for vocabulary by showing knowledge of expressions (词语) but in this particular case, you won't get as many points as you might think (in China) simply because of the fact that it is overused here. (Possibly this expression is taught in all high school English textbooks in China, as part of a "standard list of English vocabulary". Certainly, it is overused in IELTS "model answers" textbooks.)

I think many candidates (in China) at Band 7 level and above would avoid this expression and go straight to giving the examples, such as: "It introduces people to facts and ideas that they would not normally learn in their home countries"; "It opens people's minds to the great variety that exists in humanity"; "It gives people first-hand knowledge of what life is like in other places"; "It exposes people to different cultures, different ideas and different ways of doing things"; "It allows people to experience different cultures, food and lifestyles"; "It gives people more understanding of the world"; and, "It creates more tolerance in people towards others who are different."

Don't misunderstand me – you can still get a high score (6.5 or above) for speaking (and writing) by using this expression. The most important thing is to give examples and not use the expression as a substitute for making your own sentences that explain the meaning of this expression.


IELTS Speaking Part 3 Topic 243 A Modern Building

What are some of the main differences between modern buildings and buildings from the past (or, "of the past" or, "in the past").

If you get a question like this, most likely the words, "from the past" are used. This means, buildings we still have today that were built any any time before about 1980, even buildings built a thousand years ago.

But if the words used are "of the past" or "in the past", you can interpret this as meaning "buildings that were built in the past, even 5,000 years ago, which may or may not still be in existence today." Your answer for this interpretation is based on your theoretical and general knowledge, things that you know from reading about history or archaeology.

In this group of similar questions, you might get one of the questions but not two or more of them - they are all varieties of the same basic question.

Which do you prefer, traditional architecture or modern architecture?

If the question is worded like this, it is not necessarily asking you if you prefer everything about old buildings or new buildings. This question can be interpreted as asking you which style of building design you prefer. Although most buildings that are built today are designed in modern styles, a few new buildings have been designed in traditional styles. For example, certain buildings for tourists are sometimes built in traditional styles.

The word, "architecture" refers to the design or style of a building. In the question above, "architecture" is mostly referring to what we can see, although, in theory, it can also refer to the inner structure of a building.

To answer this question, you should prepare yourself with some language to describe the style of traditional Chinese buildings, as well as some general descriptions of modern buildings, and your feelings about them.

Note that the word, "architecture" is non-count. You cannot say, "many different architectures". The words, "design" and "style" are countable and you can say, "many different designs" and "many different styles".

Similarly, the word, "construction" is non-count. "Construction" is an activity. You can say, "There's a lot of new construction going on in my city" but not, "many constructions". The word, "structure" is countable. A structure is something that is built, such as a building, a bridge, a wall, a windmill etc.


IELTS Speaking  Part 3, Topic 243

Old and Modern Buildings

For questions under this topic, listen carefully to the words of the examiner – the words, "old buildings", "historic (or historical) buildings" and "traditional buildings" all have slightly different meanings. For example, just because a building is "old" (how old?) does not always mean that it is worth preserving. But a "historic building" is worth preserving because the meaning of "historic building" is "a building that has historic value." For example, maybe a building is "historic" because a famous person once lived there but that building itself might not be outstanding in terms of it's beauty or design.


Notes on Urbanization

  • There's some good reading on the topic of urbanization here.
  • The term "megacity" is explained here and there's some useful reading on that page. Although the term, "megacity" means "very large city", the best examples of megacities are where two or more big cities have grown and merged into each other, to produce one gigantic city. Tokyo merging with Yokahama is a good example of this. In China, it's probably best just to refer to Shanghai and Beijing as "megacities" and call the other big cities "very large cities".

IELTS Speaking Part 3 Topic 244 A Wild Animal

How would you feel if you had a talking monkey that could teach you English?

Someone reported they got this question on May 9, 2010. Almost certainly it is not in the examiners' question book but was a question created by the examiner. Besides adding a bit of humour to the test, the examiner was testing to see if the candidate would use "will" in his or her answer. If a candidate uses "will", the examiner knows that this candidate is most probably not worth a 6 for the grammar sub-score. If the candidate uses "would" or "could", the examiner knows that the candidate very possibly is worth a 6 (or more) for grammar but this one answer is not the only basis on which a 6 would be given.

As well as that, this question allows the candidate to give any variety of imaginative answer, all with a smile on his or her face.


IELTS Speaking Part 2 Topic 245 A Famous Foreign Person

  • I suggest you speak about someone who is alive now, not a historical figure or someone who has died. This is because the wording on the card might not suit someone who is no longer alive.
  • You should have no trouble thinking of an example. There are: foreign sportspeople; foreign film stars and pop stars; foreign national leaders (kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers); and other famous foreigners.
  • I don't think it's a good idea to talk about a Chinese person, such as a singer, who now lives overseas or any overseas Chinese person. There might be a few exceptions such as the former Governor of the U.S. State of Washington, Gary Locke, who is a third generation Chinese American. And, of course, don't use an example from Hong Kong or Taiwan, both of which are not considered in China to be "foreign".
  • Some people in China are choosing to talk about a famous Japanese person. Although, strictly speaking, this is acceptable, I don't think it's the best choice. Remember, the IELTS Speaking test is testing your ability to communicate and the IELTS examiners probably have never heard of this person. So, if you choose a Japanese person, you will need to clearly communicate who this person is. Not only that, most people in China speak the Chinese name for this Japanese person, which adds further to the confusion in the examiner's mind. From this example, I suggest the following two guidelines: a) Think of the words "famous foreign person" as meaning "a foreign person who is well known to most people internationally", especially to English-speaking people, not just someone who is famous in Japan and China; and b) Use the person's real, full name, not the Chinese form of or the Chinese pronunciation of the famous person's name. For example, one student in my class used the example of  the American investor Warren Buffet but the student used the Chinese name, which sounds vaguely like, but not exactly the same as "Buffet". In English, Warren Buffet is known as "Warren Buffet", not simply "Buffet". Similarly with Michael Jordan, who is known by his full name, not simply "Jordan" and certainly not by the Chinese pronunciation of "Jordan". In other words, make sure you say the full name of the person and use the English pronunciation of the name.

(In English, for the pronunciation of people's names from non-English speaking countries, we usually use the pronunciation that is used in the country of origin. For example, Japanese people's names are more or less pronounced the same as in Japan.)

  • If it is a TV star, say the person's real name (!), not the person's stage name in a TV show!
  • If you choose to describe a famous film or TV actor, make sure you describe the real person, not the character this actor plays on the TV or film screen!
  • Of course, you need to include what country the person is from. Make sure you can say the country correctly. For example, for Roger Federer, don't say he's from "Swiss" (he is Swiss so he's from Switzerland).
  • For the part that says, "and explain why you would like to meet this person", I suggest you include what you would like to say to this person or what you what like to ask this person. Just saying that you respect this person or that you would like to meet them because they are so wonderful is not wrong, but you can say more than that. After all, if you met this person, what would you do, just sit there and smile? You can even impress the examiner by using this kind of language: "If I met him (her), I'd say (ask) ..."., or, "If I had the opportunity to meet him (her), I'd say (ask) ..."

IELTS Speaking  Part 3 Topic 245

How do people become famous?

There are two different ways to interpret this question:

a) What things do people do that make them famous?

b) What methods are used to publicize these people, so that they become famous (i.e., so that they become well-known to others)?

Of course, your answer could (or, should) include both of these points.


If you get this question, it is very suitable for you to introduce the fact that the answer to both a and b (above), can be different today, compared to many years ago, especially compared to hundreds of years ago. After you introduce this fact, you should also give details of these differences, such as the fact that many people become famous through the internet today but this was not possible more than ten years ago. Basically, your answer about how certain people are publicized should involve a detailed explanation of the different forms of mass media at different periods of recent history. Hundreds of years ago, people became famous through other means because the "mass media", as we know them today, did not exist. Probably the main way people became famous hundreds of years ago was "by word of mouth" (by people talking to each other). In ancient times, some people also probably became famous because their names were used in poems and songs.


If the wording is "Why do people become famous?", the word, "why" is asking you either or both of the following:

a) Why does the general public remember a certain person's name and deeds?

Of course, the answer is because this person is unique or different to most people in some way and people are interested in this uniqueness or difference.

b) What is the reason (or, the motivation) for someone deciding to publicize another person's existence or another person's actions (deeds)?

In China, think about who promoted Lei Feng (雷锋), and why. (Hint: a positive role model).

This interpretation is also focusing on the idea that some people are promoted for commercial reasons. For example, certain people are promoted as personalities in the entertainment and professional sports industries in order to create a marketable "product".


The word, "famous" is mostly used to describe people who are "celebrated", which means people who did something that is worthy of praise. Therefore, it is not suitable to say that some people became famous because they did something bad. Yes, some people become very "well-known" when they do something bad, but not, "famous". Those people who are very well-known for doing very bad things (especially, "evil" things) are described as "infamous".


Caution! 小心!

If some of the notes on this page are possible as a complete answer to the question, be very careful about speaking those exact same words in the IELTS test. If many people speak the same sentences in the test, the IELTS examiners will eventually know that these sentences are not your original words. This will seriously damage your score! Some IELTS examiners might even read this website. IELTS Examiners don't like answers that candidates learn, word for word, from a book or from the blackboard in a class because such answers are not real, natural communication. The best idea is to adapt the ideas below (if you want to) by making your own sentences and speaking naturally in the IELTS test. (Memorized answers are usually not spoken in a very natural way.) Try to avoid letting the IELTS examiner know that you have read this website!


 IELTS Speaking Topic 249


Some people seem to have very little knowledge about this topic. Examiners (Westerners) believe you should at least have a basic understanding of recycling if you call yourself "an educated person". This is an important topic in modern society, especially in countries such as China.

To "recycle" means to "reuse" (= "to use again"). But there are two ways to use the word, "recycle": one way means to "reuse the thing" and the other way means to "reuse the material that the thing is made of". An example of reusing a thing is this: In China and other parts of the world, beer bottles are recycled, meaning that the same bottles are reused several times. Customers pay a deposit (definition 2) when they buy a bottle of beer and later, they can return the empty bottle to the shop and receive a small payment from the shopkeeper in exchange for the bottle, which is actually "a return of the deposit".

On the other hand, we see people collecting empty plastic drink bottles. People collect them because they can sell them at a recycling centre (stress on the first word). These bottles themselves are not reused – it is the plastic that is reused. So, if you say "plastic drink bottles are recycled", (which is a correct thing to say), your meaning is that "the plastic is recycled". The plastic is recycled for two reasons: i) Plastic is produced as one of the many products from oil (petroleum) but this not only requires buying oil, the production process also uses a lot of energy. It is cheaper to melt old plastic bottles to get plastic for making new bottles than to produce new plastic from oil; ii) Garbage disposal is a big problem all over the world, especially for big cities, which produce millions of tonnes of garbage every year. This garbage is usually used as "landfill" but big cities are having trouble finding enough landfill sites. If the amount of garbage can be reduced by recycling, there will be less need to find landfill sites. Not only that, garbage disposal itself involves a cost, mainly the cost of transporting the garbage to the landfill sites, which might be a long way from the city. In the case of plastic bottles and stryofoam, this problem is made even worse by the fact that the plastic takes many years to decompose, unlike other garbage such as kitchen waste and paper. If plastic bottles and styrofoam are not disposed of properly, for example, if they are simply dumped into a river or into the ocean, they continue to pollute the river or ocean for many years because they take so long to decompose.

In addition to plastic, other materials that are also recycled are paper, wood, glass, metal (including tin cans) and styrofoam (保丽龙). (Article about recycling styrofoam)

Some people erroneously say that batteries are recycled. This is incorrect because neither the batteries themselves nor the materials are reused. Batteries and certain electronic parts are collected separately to other garbage and not used in landfill because they contain toxic chemicals. If these items are used in landfill, the toxic chemicals both pollute the soil and seep into the ground water, which eventually flows into rivers and other sources of drinking water.

"garbage" = "rubbish" = "trash"

See this video (both English and Chinese used).


IELTS Speaking  Part 3 Topic 250

Some people say that those who play music on the street are tacky (很俗气). What do you think?

This question is probably referring to, a) beggars who play music for money and, b) people who play music in public because they like to practice playing in front of others and who usually also hope people will give them a little money. In Beijing, you sometimes see this second type of person in the underpasses that go under a street. These underpasses are like "echo chambers", enhancing the sound. Quite often they are young men who are aspiring to be rock musicians. (And some of them are quite talented!) This second type of person is not really a beggar, like the blind man playing the erhu on the street.

The word "tacky" is a translation of what someone originally wrote in Chinese on a bulletin board. It's a good word, not formal, not a rare word and very suitable for the meaning of this question. However, if the examiner asks this question but does not use the word, "tacky" in the question, I suggest you do not use it in your answer (unless you are Band 8 or above). The reason is that some examiners might find out that I have used the word "tacky" here on this website and if you use it, it might alert the examiner that you have read this website. I don't think it is a good idea to let the examiner know you have read this website! The examiner might be alerted this way because, even though the word is not rare (i.e., most native English speakers know it), it is also not frequently used. On the other hand, if the examiner first uses the word "tacky", then, of course, it is ok for you to use it in your answer.

A more educated way to say, "tacky" is, "in poor taste", or, "not very stylish". You could use the words, "low class" instead of "tacky" but the meaning is not exactly the same. If you get this question, just use the same word or words the examiner used in the question and speak about what you think and why you feel that way.


IELTS Speaking  Part 2 Topic 251

Someone You Have Lived With

  • See note about the number of points on the card.
  • So far, the wording is not clear. It looks similar to Topic70, but in the past tense. It is also possible (but not certain) that the wording is, "Describe someone who you have lived with (or still live with)."
  • It seems that the wording of this topic is asking you to describe someone who you lived with in the past. This means someone who you don't live with now. It would be ok to describe someone you lived with for just a short time, such as a roommate at a camp who you lived with for just a week.
  • If you have never lived with someone besides your family members and if you are still living with your parents now, it is probably ok to describe one of your parents but you should change the verb tense to the present perfect tense (现在完成进行时), for example, "I've been living with my mum for all my life, 19 years." This tense is used to describe something that happened in the past over a period of time and is still happening now. If possible, try to choose someone who you have lived with (and no longer live with), not someone who you have been living with.

IELTS Speaking  Part 3, Topic 251

Living alone

Don't confuse the two words, "alone" and "lonely". "Loneliness" is a feeling that nobody enjoys feeling and nobody chooses to be lonely. You can even feel lonely when you are in a crowd of people.

"Alone" means there is no-one else there but you. People sometimes choose to be alone, for different reasons, such as needing a quite environment for study or wanting to have some privacy.


Notes for Part 2 Topic 252 A Childhood School

  • The first line might not use the word "attended". Instead, the wording might be something such as: "Describe a school you studied in when you were a child." Or it might simply say, "Describe a school you went to when you were a child."
  • A "child" is under 13 years old. Therefore, your example should be a primary school, an after-hours school (补习班)or a kindergarten.
  • The after-hours school could be a school for learning something that is non-academic such as learning to play the piano at a music school, learning to do ballet dancing at a dancing school or learning to play tennis at a tennis school (on Saturdays, for example).
  • If the word "studied" is used in the first line, it would be unsuitable to talk about a kindergarten because kindergarten kids don't "study" – they "learn", but we don't usually use the word "study" for such young kids. For learning ballet dancing or playing tennis, the word "study" is also not suitable. See Note about the differences between the words "learn" and "study".


What influence do famous people have on the lives of ordinary people?

Of course, the question is mostly referring to people who are famous in popular culture, such as pop singers, movie stars and sports stars. To some extent, these people act as role models for young people and children. Some young people and children learn what is "fashionable" in lifestyle, dress and manner of speech from these role models.

Also, think about this: If a famous movie star, pop singer or sportsperson expresses an opinion about politics or other social issues, a) many people hear this opinion and, b) many people might decide to agree with this opinion. But these famous people are not experts about politics or social issues! So, think about why their words carry weight.


IELTS Speaking  Part 2 Topic 254

A TV Program You Didn't Like

  • This is asking you to describe a particular episode of a particular program that you watched once. It is in the past tense, not the present (habit) tense (一般现在时). That means it was one episode that you watched at one particular time in the past. (It is possible that I am mistaken and this is a present tense topic, but I don't think so.) In other words, you should describe the contents of that particular episode of that program and why you didn't like it. For example, maybe there's a program called, "African Wild Animals" that you usually like to watch. But a couple of months ago you watched one episode of this program which showed a lion killing a baby monkey and the baby monkey was making noises as it died that really upset you. In this case, you describe how you didn't like this program (= you didn't like this particular episode), even though you usually like the program called, "African Wild Animals".

Of course, you can also watch an episode of a program that you have never seen before, not like it because of some basic characteristics of  the program (characteristics that don't change), and never watch it again.

  • If it is a past tense topic, (as I believe it is),  you will lose points if you say something like, "I don't like the CCTV News program which is broadcast every evening at 7 o'clock. It's boring to me because I'm not interested in politics." Don't speak in general about a program that you don't like. If you use the present tense to answer this, it will damage your chances of getting a score of 6 (or above) for your grammar sub-score. Although this is just one mistake in the whole test, for many candidates, this mistake would cause the examiner to decide that you are probably Band 5 for grammar, not Band 6 or above.

However, you can (and should) use the present tense to describe why you didn't like the program. For example, "It contained too much violence, which I don't like". Or, "It showed people singing but they sang quite badly and I don't find it interesting to watch untalented people performing."

  • When I use this topic in mock tests, almost every student describes a program that they watched several times in the past, but didn't like. They show this by saying, "I watched it every Friday night", by using words such as "always", "often", "usually", "whenever I saw it" etc. or by speaking in general by using the present tense such as, "Each woman has to choose one of the men". If you describe one particular episode of a program, it is more suitable to say, "Each woman had to choose one of the men".

The students who make this mistake don't know that, in English, the words "a program" can mean either a program known by its name or a particular episode of a program. If the Part 2 question wording is similar to what I have on this website, talking about a program that you watched several times in the past is possibly acceptable (!), but only barely acceptable. However, if you think about it, it's rather illogical to repeatedly watch a program that you didn't like after you saw it the first time and giving that kind of answer will show that you don't know about the second usage of the word, "program". If the program is always more or less the same and you don't like it, you will impress the examiner much more if you speak about watching this program once in the past, and describe that particular episode. Not only that, if you talk about a program you watched a few times in the past but always didn't like, you are really answering the topic: "Describe a TV program you used to watch but didn't like". The words, "used to" are used to talk about a past habit. But the words, "used to" are not written on this Part 2 card!

  • A "program you didn't like" does not necessarily mean, "a program you (strongly) disliked". For example, it could have been a program that was very boring – when something is boring, the emotion of "disliking" may not be strong and therefore it would not be suitable to use the word, "dislike" but certainly there is an absence of "liking" it. Similarly, a program that you didn't understand because the topic or the language was too complex for you might not have caused you to really "dislike" it but it would have resulted in an absence of liking it. But it is not necessary (and not a good idea) to try to explain your feelings by saying something like, "I didn't dislike it but I didn't like it, either." Just say something like, "I didn't like it very much because it was boring".
  • Don't describe a movie you watched on TV. That's a movie, not really a "TV program".
  • It seems that some teachers in China are suggesting their students talk about a certain "matching" program (a program in which men and women select a boyfriend or girlfriend) that is currently on Chinese TV. A more suitable word is "matchmaking", not "matching".
  • It is not clear whether the word, "recently" is used in the wording of the topic. If it is used, it doesn't have to be a program you watched this week – within the past 12 months or even two years would be ok. Just don't make it a program you watched many years ago, when you were a kid.


IELTS Speaking  Part 3 Topic 254 Note 1

There are different varieties of "TV stars".

  • A "TV celebrity" is similar to, but different to a "TV star". The word "celebrity" is used to emphasize that this person is well-known for being himself or herself on TV, not appearing as an actor or actress. For example, the hosts or hostesses of talk shows and other programs such as games shows and, to a much lesser extent, TV news readers and announcers. However, film stars and TV stars often become "celebrities" when they become very well-known to the general public after we focus on them and get to know something about them as real people, not focus on a role that they have played.

There are even some TV celebrities who seem to be "famous" simply because they are so frequently used as guests on talk shows. In the case of these guests, most viewers have no idea why this person was first chosen to be a guest, i.e., what is so special about this person. This kind of person, best described as a  "TV personality" then becomes a "fixture" in the lives of frequent viewers of the program.

The word, "celebrity" is usually used to describe a person who is famous in the fields of entertainment, sports and the arts and who we know about as a real person. We don't usually refer to famous scientists, business people, politicians or other serious leaders in society as "celebrities", even when we know about their real lives. However, if someone such as Bill Gates gives many interviews in which he talks about himself, appears on several talk-shows and has magazine articles written about him as a person, not just as a business leader, we could then describe him as a "celebrity" because we get to see the real personality of Bill Gates. Another example of this is Henry Kissinger, who was (is) a very serious politician in the U.S. in the 1970's and 80's. He was shown in magazines several times going out with and attending parties with beautiful actresses. When we focus on this side of him, we can call him a "celebrity" but when we focus on his political life, we would not describe him as a "celebrity".

As well as that, when talking about a celebrity who has died, we don't say, "He is a celebrity". Instead, we say, "He was a celebrity". On the other hand, it is possible to say that a person "is famous" after he or she has died. That more or less means that his or her name or story is very well-known today. For example, "Kangxi is famous in China" (or, in Chinese history). To say, "He was famous" means he was very well-known when he was alive.

  • "A TV personality" has a similar meaning to a "TV celebrity". Famous talk show hosts are especially labeled as "personalities" because we, the public, get to see the different sides of their real personality.
  • "A TV actor" or actress plays roles in TV programs. The word, "TV star" is suitable as an alternate description of the top TV actors and actresses. Actors and actresses are "artists" (the art of acting) but we don't usually refer to them as "TV artists". Actors and actresses can become "celebrities" when the general public gets to know more about the private lives of these people, i.e., when the general public gets to know them as real people, not just as the roles they play in TV programs.


IELTS Speaking  Part 3 Topic 254 Note 2

In your opinion, how does watching TV influence people?

[and, What impact (or, influence) do films have on the people who watch them?]

  • This question is referring to influencing people's attitudes, values and beliefs about what is true or false. It also refers to influencing people's actions that may result from their attitudes, values & beliefs.

People's emotions can also be influenced, for example, a tendency to be easily scared can be instilled in people by frequent exposure to horror, terror etc. Those who are easily scared then become more easily manipulated and controlled. A tendency towards optimism or pessimism can also be instilled by the nature of what is shown on television, and the nature of the information we receive via the television.

  • In general, films and television programs are simply media through which cultural or social norms are expressed, the same cultural and social norms that we learn as children from our parents. But some people try to use these media to cause change in people's attitudes, values and beliefs, or to reinforce people's attitudes, values and beliefs.
  • "Influence" means "cause change". In the case of children and teenagers, this question is referring to influencing the formation of attitudes, values and beliefs.

Examples of what is influenced: Political and ideological opinions; Belief in what is scientific fact; Belief in what is historical fact; Belief in what is fashionable in lifestyle, dress, spoken language etc. (especially influential on teenagers); Belief in what constitutes "success" in society and is therefore a valid aim to have in life (e.g., great wealth, power); How one behaves when one is in love; Gender roles (gender stereotypes) – how a "real man" or a "real woman" behaves and how an ideal parent behaves; The formation of other stereotypes (= view of other groups of people) – racial, cultural, national and religious stereotypes; The value (importance) of spectator sport; The value (importance) of intelligence, education, study and reading; The value (importance) of  popular entertainment figures (especially influential on teenagers); The degree to which one accepts violence (including war) as a "normal" part of life; The degree to which one accepts cheating and dishonesty as a means to reaching "success"; What is good advice concerning such issues as good health, parenting, interpersonal-relationships etc.  ....

The "how" part of this question can be answered by thinking about: a)  The belief that what the media (including the entertainment media) tells us has authority and validity, especially when the person in the television program is widely accepted as a "model" or a respected person to be followed or listened to; b) the brain-washing or hypnotic aspect of watching television, especially the use of repetition; c) Peer pressure (i.e., the belief that what is shown on television is what most other people accept as normal).

  • If the word "influence" is used, not "affect", this question is referring to the contents of television programs, not the physical act of watching TV itself. If the word "affect" is used, it could include "influence" and such effects as becoming less sociable because the TV watcher is not interacting with others while watching TV, not doing so well at school because the TV watcher is not studying, becoming overweight because the TV watcher is not exercising, or eye strain.
  • Of course, advertisements influence people – that is their purpose – but the question is referring more to the contents of television programs, although advertisements could be included in an answer to this question.


Caution! 小心!

If some of the notes on this page are possible as a complete answer to the IELTS question, be very careful about speaking those exact same words in the IELTS test. If many people speak the same sentences in the test, the IELTS examiners will eventually know that these sentences are not your original words. This will seriously damage your score! Some IELTS examiners might even read this website. IELTS Examiners don't like answers that candidates learn, word for word, from a book or from the blackboard in a class because such answers are not real, natural communication. The best idea is to adapt the ideas below (if you want to) by making your own sentences and speaking naturally in the IELTS test. (Memorized answers are usually not spoken in a very natural way.) Try to avoid letting the IELTS examiner know that you have read this website!


IELTS Speaking  Part 2 Topic 255 A Well-known Story from your Country.

  • Some people have written that the wording is "Describe a traditional story that everybody knows in your country". However, I doubt that the word "traditional" is used in the wording for Part 2 – that word is used in some of the Part 3 questions. But, of course, many stories that are well-known are traditional stories in your culture.  The story of Lei Fang is well known in China and is is probably a suitable example but that is not really a "traditional" story. (Traditional" means that it has been in your culture for a longer time than the story of Lei Feng.)

          And, of course, it is impossible for "everybody" to know a story.

  • The question is asking you to describe a story from your culture (or, from your country), not a story from the West, such as Cinderella, The Three Little Pigs or one of Aesop's Fables, even though some of these foreign stories are quite well-known in China.
  • One person has reported the topic as "Describe a well-known traditional children's story from your country that you heard when you were a child". Although most stories that fit the description of "well known" are, in fact, stories that we first hear when we are children and although many of them are traditional stories, I don't think the words, "heard when you were a child" are actually specified on the card.
  • Today, most people hear traditional stories when they are children but those stories might not have originally been "children's" stories but rather, folk tales, for everyone (pronounced with stress on the first word).
  • Notice that the question seems to stress that you listened to the story, not read it. However, this might be inaccurate - possibly a story you read is acceptable, for example, in primary school.
  • Make sure your answer sounds like you are describing a story not a book.
  • Even though the topic says, "describe a story", your task here is both to describe the story and describe your experience of hearing this story. This is not so easy to do well, because you have less than two minutes to do it! You need to describe the story clearly enough so that the listener, the examiner, has some understanding of what the story was (or, is) but you don't have enough time to actually retell the complete story, even in a shortened form. You need to skillfully summarize the story so that the examiner knows what happened in the story and also leave enough time to describe the circumstances of hearing it told to you, and enough time to describe how you felt about the story. Practice doing it a few times.
  • When you retell a story, you can either use the past tense or the 'dramatic' present tense. The dramatic present tense is possible here but it is most suitable when retelling a story in some detail, or step by step, which is not what you should do, because of limited time. As mentioned above, try to do less "retelling" of the story and more summarizing. Use language such as, "It's (a story) about a boy who ...".
  • If you do use the present tense, don't forget to add "s" when using the 3rd person singular form, such as, "he runs", not "he run". But, to repeat, the dramatic present tense is not suitable because of time constraints.


Note on the topic of "global warming"

The notes on the topic of "global warming" have been moved to a separate page:     


IELTS Speaking  Part 3 Topic 256

Do you think there is too much information in our lives today?

"Too much" means "an excessive amount" ("too" here = 过度.) You need to talk about any problems caused by an excessive amount of information.


How do you think recent changes in communication technology have changed people's communication?

One point (there are others): Compared to before, there is less communication between family members at home as people spend more time on the internet


IELTS Speaking  Part 2 Topic 264.  A Place Where You Learned about the Past (Jan. 30, 2010)

Describe a place you visited where you learned something about the past.

You should say:

where you went

why you went there

what you saw (and did) there *

and explain what you learned from (visiting) this place.


  • Although this looks similar to Topic 188, this wording is more general than the wording of Topic 188. For example, (if the wording is similar to above), you could talk about a historical site, a museum or a library. Or it could be an exhibition, a performance, or a conference etc. It could even be a visit to a relative's home where you learned something about the history of your own family. If the wording of the topic is similar to that shown above, there is a wide choice of possible answers.
  • Many people are confused about the wording, "about the past". They think this means, "Describe a place you visited where you learned something in the past." This is wrong. If the meaning was that, the words, "in the past" would not be used since the verbs "visited" and "learned" already indicate that it was in the past. In English, we do not add the words, "in the past" when past tense verbs already indicate that we are talking about the past.
  • This topic is giving candidates the opportunity to show knowledge of the past perfect tense (过去完成 时), although you could probably give a reasonably good answer without using that grammatical structure. For example: "A few months ago I visited the head office of the company where my father works and, while I was there, I looked at the photographs on the walls that showed the history of the company and I learned that the company had started doing business twenty years ago."
  • It would be best if you stated specifically what you learned and this should be statement that fits the description of "something"; in other words, try to summarize what you learned as one thing. For example, (continuing the example of visiting your father's place of work), you could say, "I learned (about) the history of the company". Then you could and should expand that to include several specific facts (or at least one specific fact) that you learned about the history of the company.


IELTS Speaking  Part 3 Topic 264 History

  • As children grow older, do you think they will remember the history they have learned in their childhood?
  • Why do you think some adults can't remember some of the history they learned in school?  

The two questions above are referring to the method of teaching history by having students simply memorize certain events and the dates of these events, without having much understanding of the significance of these events. Such rote learning is easy to forget because the ideas are not associated with other knowledge.

  • Do you think that learning about past wars is an important part of learning about history?

If you have a discussion about war with the examiner, and if the examiner asks you why you think wars take place, try to say something deeper than simply, "Because some countries have bad leaders like Hitler."


IELTS Speaking  Part 2 Topic 266 Recent Changes to Your Hometown

  • It seems that you have to focus on one particular part of your hometown, not your whole hometown. But, of course, you can still make a few general statements about your whole hometown.
  • For this topic, "recent" means anytime within the past 20 years, more or less.
  • "Part of your hometown" means "what location in your hometown" such as, "alongside the river", "in the downtown area", "in the centre of the city", "in the central business district", "on the outskirts of the city", "in the eastern part of the city" etc.
  • If you use the past tense (or the past tense passive voice), you must set the time, even if you just say something as general as, "one day", "not long ago" or, "a few years ago". (Conversely, if you set a time, you must use the past tense [or the past tense passive voice].) The two, a set time and the past tense, must go together.

But if you just say "recently" or, "in the past 20 years", it is better to use the present perfect tense or the present perfect passive voice (现在完成被动). Expressions such as "recently" and "in the past twenty years" are not considered to be "set times". For example: "In the past twenty years, many freeways have been built all over the city" or, "In the past twenty years, many old apartment buildings have been demolished and many high-rise apartment buildings have taken their place."

  • Use, "used to" a few times. For example, "There used to be some factories there but they've gone now."


IELTS Speaking  Part 2 Topic 268.  A Piece of Equipment (2)  (May, 2010)

Describe a useful piece of equipment (besides the computer) that you use at home *

              You should say

                               how you got it

                               what you use it for 

                               how often you use it                                                    

               and explain why you think this thing is useful.    


  • This looks like Topic 149, returning to the test. However, the Part 3 questions might be different to Topic 149.
  • The topic might specify electrical equipment, but this is not certain and, in fact, is unlikely.
  • See here for home electrical appliances and here for non-electrical equipment in the home.
  • Although such items as a refrigerator and a television are acceptable, I think the best choice would be something that could be described as a "tool". Why? Because things such as a refrigerator and a television set are classified in English as "electrical appliances", not as examples of, "electrical equipment", even though they are really examples of equipment. To an English speaker, a choice that is not an electrical appliance would show that you have a stronger vocabulary, i.e., knowledge that some things are called "electrical appliances". In other words, something that is listed as an example of non-electrical equipment would give a better impression.
  • To describe your mobile phone would not give a very good impression since mobile phones are used everywhere, not just in the home. But if you emphasize to the examiner that you mostly use your mobile phone at home, that choice will be more acceptable to the examiner.


IELTS Speaking  Part 3 Topic 268

Are there any disadvantages from using modern equipment so much in the home?

Most modern equipment is powered by electricity. The disadvantages are:

  • the cost of buying the equipment
  • the cost of electricity
  • the cost and trouble caused when the equipment needs to be repaired
  • the fact that the equipment cannot be used when there is a blackout
  • electricity is dangerous, especially when old equipment is used, when the equipment is used around water and it presents a danger to small children and animals (for example, a dog which bites into an electrical cord)
  • these items cause the user to do less physical work and, as a result, the user becomes less fit than if they were doing things by hand
  • some electrical equipment such as vacuum cleaners create a noise which scares pet dogs and cats
  • the more advanced and complex the equipment is, the less old people are able to understand the instructions on how to use it
  • the fact that much of the electrical equipment we use creates toxic waste if it is not disposed of properly when we no longer want this equipment.

I suggest you do not talk about the fact that electricity needs to be generated in power stations, which, as they say, leaves a "carbon footprint" on the environment. I believe this idea of "global warming created by mankind's production of carbon dioxide" is fake (fraudulent) science! See here. (But this is just my personal opinion.)


IELTS Speaking  Part 3, Topic 274

Do you think a news commentator can ever use humour as an effective tool (to influence the audience)?

In the West, there are people (comedians) who host TV comedy programs that mostly make jokes about current affairs, especially political affairs and politicians. Usually, the humour has a basis in a particular political opinion and is often a criticism of a particular political policy or politician. This kind of program has the benefit of making people who don't normally pay much attention to the news think about political topics, or think about these topics in a different way.

On the other hand, such comedy programs, if skillfully done, can give the audience the false feeling that they are thinking critically and independently. This happens when the humour is based on on assumed truth which is, in fact, untrue.

Humour can also have the effect of decreasing the importance of some important issues, causing people not to think about the possibility of taking action towards real change.

See "satire".


IELTS Speaking  Topic 276 A Hobby

  • Make sure you know the difference in meaning and pronunciation between "hobby" and "habit". (Or "hobby", "habit".)
  • A "hobby" is similar in meaning to "an interest" but the emphasis for a hobby is on doing something, i.e., an activity that is done quite often and done for recreation. A "hobby" also involves a certain amount of thinking (the "interest" component) and/or skill building.

Often, but not always, a hobby involves using your hands, for example, collecting something, making something, painting pictures, taking photographs, writing short stories, flying a kite, playing chess, restoring old furniture or playing a musical instrument. But other examples could be: watching movies; reading about history; reading novels; researching your family history; touring interesting locations in your country; learning and practicing wushu or ballet dancing; browsing the internet; singing karaoke songs .... And, yes, I think playing computer games could be called a "hobby".

However, most English speakers would not describe, "walking around the park every evening", "playing basketball several times a week" or "swimming every morning" as "hobbies". [But if you emphasized that you actively study the game of basketball and work on improving your skills, it might be suitable.] These are more like "forms of exercise" or "playing a sport" and because they don't involve much thinking, most people wouldn't call them "hobbies". Even "watching TV" or "listening to music" could, in theory, be called "hobbies" but these are rather weak answers because these activities are more passive than active and don't involve much thinking or practicing any skills – you're not really doing much. In contrast, most people who frequently watch movies actively and critically think about the movies, compare them with other movies and think about the actors. So, "watching movies" could be called "a hobby" if you take an active interest in the movies.


IELTS Speaking  Part 2 Topic 277 An Interesting Job

  • Note that this topic is similar to but different to Topic 279, Your Future Work Plans (on the same page as Topic 277). In that topic, you have to talk about your real future work plans but in this Topic 277, "An Interesting Job", you don't have to talk about your real plans for the future, but you can if you want to! For example, you can say that you have read about (or heard about) the job of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, that it seems to be interesting work and, as a result of what you have read about this work, you have decided to make this your real plan for future work. On the other hand, you can say that you read about being an archaeologist and that it seems like very interesting work to you although you really plan to be an accountant.
  • What is, "interesting" varies from person to person. You must include your own personal preferences about things when answering this topic.
  • "Interesting" does not simply mean, "not boring". If something is "exciting", "fun" (= 好玩) or "satisfying", all of which are not boring, it is best to describe it as exciting, fun or satisfying rather than "interesting". (The use of "satisfying" here means "satisfying to the heart", for example, helping others.)

The word, "interesting" means that the brain is being used in some way, especially arousing or satisfying one's curiosity and, related to this idea, providing opportunities or experiences for learning new things. Any creative activity can also be called "interesting" because you use your brain when you create. In addition to that, you need to respect or value the new knowledge that you gain – if you just learn new things that you feel have little value, your curiosity will not be strong. (This is where personal preferences enter into this question.) To answer this Part 2 topic, you should think about how the job does these things.

Any job that provides challenges or problems to be solved is a job that requires you to learn new ways to overcome these challenges. But if this is the only thing you do in the job, and if the challenges or problems are very great, then the feeling of stress could overwhelm your feeling of interest.

  • Words such as "teacher", "doctor", "lawyer", "businessman", "businesswoman", "accountant" etc. are not jobs!  These are people! Instead, jobs are usually described by using a verbal noun (动名词), for example, "teaching", "being a doctor", "being a lawyer", "being a businessman", "being a businesswoman", "doing business", "managing a company", "accounting", "being an accountant" (= "accounting"), "writing software for computer games" etc.

Alternatively, you could describe a job by saying, "working as a ____"; for example, "working as a teacher", "working as a doctor", "working as a lawyer", "working as a businessman", "working as a businesswoman", "working as an accountant" etc.


IELTS Speaking  Part 3, Topic 304 Note 1

Do you think that universities should prepare students for the "real world"? 

Notes not written yet


Part 3, Topic 304 Note 2

  • How is modern technology used in education today?
  • (Similar to above) What impact does modern technology have on education today?

"Modern technology" = electronic technology such as:

  • lessons on CD ROMS used on computers ( = "programmed learning"),
  • the internet, (e.g., homework sent to the teacher by email; teachers sending materials to students in the form of email attachments ...)
  • educational videos,
  • overhead projectors showing 'PowerPoint' versions of teachers' notes or videos that the teacher has on his or her laptop computer. (Don't say "PPT" because English speakers are generally not familiar with that way of describing a PowerPoint display.)
  • microphones for teachers/lecturers in large lecture rooms
  • video transmission of the whiteboard and the teacher to several television sets in a large lecture room
  • an enlarged view, shown on a screen via video camera, of the whiteboard in a large lecture room
  • video recording of lectures or lessons for later use (for example, for students who miss the lesson)

Caution! 小心!

If some of the notes on this page are possible as a complete answer to the question, be very careful about speaking those exact same words in the IELTS test. If many people speak the same sentences in the test, the IELTS examiners will eventually know that these sentences are not your original words. This will seriously damage your score! Some IELTS examiners might even read this website. IELTS Examiners don't like answers that candidates learn, word for word, from a book or from the blackboard in a class because such answers are not real, natural communication. The best idea is to adapt the ideas below (if you want to) by making your own sentences and speaking naturally in the IELTS test. (Memorized answers are usually not spoken in a very natural way.) Try to avoid letting the IELTS examiner know that you have read this website!


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