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Describing Places

A good description of a 'place' helps to explain what makes it so different from other 'places' and
can give a good guide as to where it is located. A description can be divided into two parts: the
Physical features and the Human features.

Physical features are those things that occur naturally, such as mountains, rivers, soil, wildlife,
climate etc..

Human features are those that involve people, such as roads, houses, farm land, jobs or
occupations and industry. Note that much of the countryside of Britain has been changed by
people, ever since the Romans began cutting down the forests to farm the land about 2,000 years
ago.

When describing places, such as in the image below, it is not enough to simply say 'there are
houses'. Appropriate vocabulary should be used to give an indication of how many houses there
are, what the houses are built of, and whether many people live there, or just a few.

Some of this 'appropriate' vocabulary can be summarised as follows:

Physical Features Human Features


Feature Meaning Feature Meaning
The most common
Shape of the land e.g. settlement sizes are
Settlement and
Relief mountainous, flat, (from small to large):
population
steep, sloping hamlet, village, town,
city
Their density,
e.g. mountain, valley, building material, and
Landforms cliff, beach, bay, Houses if they are detached,
plain, river meander semi-detached or
terraced
e.g. urban or rural,
e.g. rivers , streams or residential or
Drainage Land Use
ditches industrial, farm land
or forest
How people make
Soil e.g. fertile or infertile Occupations
their living
e.g. warm, wet, Transport and
Climate Roads, railways, port
tropical, polar communication
describe a place

In part 2 of the speaking test, you might have to describe a place. There are several possible
questions about places. For example:

1. Describe a place you have visited.


2. Describe a historic place.
3. Describe a holiday.
4. Describe a place you would like to visit.
5. Describe somewhere you have lived or would like to live.

My advice is to prepare a description of one place that you could use to answer all of these
questions. Then search the Internet for some good vocabulary.

For example, here are some ideas I found to describe London:

 Adjectives: it's exciting, busy, hectic, cosmopolitan, multicultural, unique. It's historic
but modern at the same time, it's a thriving, prosperous city, it's fashionable, lively, fun...
 Activities: London is famous for it's history, culture, art, museums. Tourists go there to
see Big Ben, The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square etc. You can
get a fantastic view of the city from the 'London Eye'. It's also famous for its theatres and
shows in the West End, its shops, restaurants and nightlife. There are endless things to
see and do.
 Negatives: London is expensive, crowded, stressful, polluted. The underground system is
dirty, travel is overpriced and unpleasant. The cost of living is high (shopping, house
prices etc.), the locals are always in a hurry and can be unfriendly, there are social
problems (like you can find in most big cities).

Some Desert Adjectives

Desert: harsh, dry, arid, sparse, severe, hot


Rock: sharp, rough, jagged, angular
Grasses: windblown, bent, dry, pale green, brown
Sand: coarse, fine, glittering, shifting, rippling, sifting, white, golden
Sky: pale, intense, cloudless, azure, purple, crimson
Cactus: tall, short, squatty, spiny, prickly, thorny
Date palm: tall, bent, leather (leaves), frayed (leaves)

Some City Adjectives

City: active, bustling, noisy, busy, clean, dirty, windy


Traffic: loud, congested, snarled
Buildings: old, shabby, rundown, crumbling, modern, futuristic, sleek, towering, squat
Buildings (walls): brick, stone, marble, glass, steel, graffiti-covered
Monuments, statues: stone, copper, carved, ancient, moss-covered, faded, green, bronze
Sidewalk: concrete, cement, slick, cracked, tidy, littered, swept
Paint: fresh, weathered, peeling
Signs: neon, weathered, worn, bright, welcoming, flashing
Buses, cars, taxis: belching, crawling, speeding, honking, waiting, screeching
People: hurried, bundled, smiling, frowning, eager, rushed

TAKE OFF

Glossary

hols – holiday (informal)

annual leave – the amount of days in a year that you’re entitled to take off work

holiday request – a written document asking your employer to go on annual leave

sign off – your boss approving your holiday request

jet off - fly

sabbatical – a long period of time off, such as 6 months

off sick – time off due to illness

pulling a sickie – taking time off work but not really being sick

absence – a period of being away from a place

maternity leave – time off for women during and after pregnancy

paternity leave – time off for men after the birth of a child

public/bank holidays – weekdays when most people in the country are entitled to take the day
off

jury service – attending a court of law to help decide if someone is guilty or not guilty

retire - finish working forever

You need to give a vivid portrayal of whatever you are describing.

If you are describing a person:

1. Tell HOW The person looks. List the person’s physical features and describe them.
2. Describe the person’s actions.
3. Provide dialogues. Let the person speak for herself.
4. Give an anecdote or incidents that helps illustrate that person’s character.
5. Give a hint of what the narrator feels about the person.

VOCABULARY
Stereotype = Oversimplified generalization about a group of
people. When people say that all members of a specific
nationality, religion, race or gender are "cheap,” "lazy,” " criminal"
or " dumb,” they are expressing stereotypes. All groups have both
cheap and generous individuals who commit crimes. To label an
entire group based on the actions of some is to engage in
stereotyping. Even when a stereotype is positive, such as when
people in one racial group are thought to be superior athletes, the
consequences of stereotypes are negative.
Prejudice = Attitudes or opinions about a person or group simply
because the person belongs to a specific religion, race, nationality,
or other group. Prejudice is prejudging a person. A person who
thinks "I don't want (blank) living in my neighborhood" is
expressing a prejudice.
Discrimination = When people act on the basis of their
prejudice or stereotypes they are discriminating. Discrimination
may mean putting other people down, not allowing them to
participate in activities, restricting their access to work or to live in
certain neighborhoods, or denying them something they are
entitled to be right and law.

Definitions provided by WWW.ADL.ORG (Anti-Defamation


Adjectives

 punctual
 tolerant
 romantic
 respectful
 hard-working
 emotional

 outgoing
 nationalistic
 well-dressed
 humorous
 lazy
 sophisticated

 hospitable
 talkative
 sociable
 serious
 quiet
 formal

 aggressive
 polite
 rude
 arrogant
 ignorant
 casual

alking about likes in IELTS speaking

Some basic variations

Here are some basic variations for you to consider:


notes

1. You should note the different prepositions that follow “keen”, interested”, “fascinated”
and ‘dream”
2. Be careful with “I like” and “I’d like to”. I like is to talk about a habit, whereas I’d like is
to talk about a future wish

Sample IELTS Speaking Topics

Part 1 of the IELTS Speaking Module consists of personal questions about you, your family,
your work, your education or other familiar topics. A categorized list of such topics and
questions is given below. You can use these sample questions to rehearse for this part of the oral
interview. Make sure you can speak correctly, clearly, and with ease and confidence in response
to each question. Remember to make your answer interesting by providing more than the most
basic information. Some of these sample questions are highly likely to appear on your exam,
so review them well.

YOU

Describe yourself.
FAMILY

o Describe your family?


o Do you have a large or small family?
o How much time do you spend with your family?
o What do you like to do together as a family?
o Do you get along well with your family?
o Are people in your country generally close to their families?

WORK

o What do you do?


o What are your responsibilities?
o How many hours do you work each day?
o Do you enjoy your work?
o Is there some other kind of work you would rather do?
o If you could change your job or profession, what would you do?
o Describe the process of getting a job in your country.
o Describe the company or organization you work for.
o What is your position?
o What do you like about your job?
o What do you dislike about your job?

EDUCATION

o Describe your education.


o What kind of school did you go to as a child?
o Did you go to a co-educational school?
o What was your favourite subject as a child?
o Who was your favourite teacher?
o What is the education system like in your country?
o Do you think your country has an effective education system?

STUDIES

 What are you studying now?


 What is your area of specialization?

HOMETOWN

o Describe your hometown.


o What’s special about it?
o Where is your hometown located?
o Is it easy to travel around your hometown?
o What is it known for?
o What do people in your town do?
o What are the main industries in your hometown?
o What problems face your hometown?
o What languages are spoken in your hometown?
o What are the advantages of living in your hometown?
o What are some problems faced by your hometown?
o Compare your hometown with another city.
o What are some environmental problems faced by your hometown?

WEATHER

o What’s the weather like in your country?


o Does the weather affect your mood?
o How do rainy days make you feel?
o What’s your favourite season of the year?
o What do you like to do when it’s hot?
o What do you usually do in the winter?
o How many seasons does your country have?

HOME

o Describe your home.


o What kind of building do you live in?
o How long have you lived there?

WEDDING

o Have you ever been to a wedding?


o Whose wedding was it?
o Where was it held?
o What clothes do people wear?
o Describe the wedding ceremony.
o What sort if gifts do people buy for the bridal couple?
o What kind of clothes did the bride and groom wear?

TRAVEL

o Do you like to travel?


o What kind of places have you visited in your life?
o Which place would you really like to visit? Why?
o What’s the best place you’ve ever visited?

COMPUTERS

o Do you think computers help society?


o Do you think computers are bad for health?
o How do you think computers have changed the world?

INTERNET
o Do you use the Internet much during the day?
o What do you usually do on the Internet?
o What are some advantages of the Internet?
o What are some disadvantages?
o Do people in your country use the Internet a lot?
o Do you do any shopping on the Internet?

EMAIL

o Do you send and receive email regularly?


o Who do you usually communicate with?
o How often do you check your email?
o Do you think writing email has strengthened or weakened people’s writing skills?
o What are some disadvantages of email?

FRIEND

o Describe a friend.
o How long have you known each other?
o What do usually do together?
o What do you like the most about him / her?
o How often do you see each other?

PLACE

o Describe a place you like to go.


o Why is this place special to you?
o When did you first visit this place?
o Where is this place located?
o What language is spoken here? Do you speak this language?

SMOKING

o What do you feel about smoking in public places?


o Do you think smoking should be banned in people’s homes?

MARRIAGE

o What is the attitude toward marriage in your country?


o Do most young people plan on getting married in your country?
o What are some of the advantages of marriage?
o What are some of the disadvantages?
o Is the divorce rate high in your country?
o Do you think people should be allowed to get divorced?

HOBBIES
o Do you have any hobbies?
o What are some of your hobbies?
o When did you first develop tis hobby?
o What are some of the advantages of having a hobby?
o How much time do you spend on your hobby?

FILMS

o Do you enjoy watching movies?


o What’s your favourite film?
o Who are your favourite actors?
o How often do you watch films?

SHOPPING

o Do you enjoy shopping?


o How do you feel about shopping?
o Do you like shopping on the Internet?
o Do you have any favourite stores?
o What don’t you like about shopping?
o Which is the most popular place to shop in your hometown?

SPORTS

o Do you like sports?


o Do you enjoy watching sports?
o Do you enjoy participating in any sports?
o Which sports are most popular in your country?
o What’s your favourite sport/
o When did you first become interested in sports?
o How often do you participate in sports?
o What equipment do you need for your favourite sport?

FOOD

o What are some of your favourite foods?


o What foods are popular in your country?
o What are some of the famous dishes of your country?
o Do you enjoy cooking?

FESTIVAL

o What’s the most important festival in your country?


o How do people celebrate this festival?
o What special food is associated with this festival?
o What special activities are associated with this festival?
o What do you enjoy most about this festival?
o Do you think festivals are important for a society?

TELEVISION

o Do you watch television a lot?


o What do you usually watch on television?
o How many hours of television do you usually watch?
o What are the most popular shows in your country?
o What kind of shows do you like to watch?
o What are some advantages of television?
o What are someof the disadvantages of television?
o What did you last watch on television?
o Why do you think certain TV shows are so popular?

TOURISM

o Which places would you recommend to a visitor to your country?


o Do a lot of tourists visit your country?
o What do they usually do there?
o How has tourism changed your country?
o Is your country expensive for most tourists?
o What are some famous landmarks in your country?

DAILY ROUTINE

o Describe your daily routine.


o What do you usually do?
o What do you do on the weekend?
o What is you typical weekday like?
o Does your life change much from week to week?
o Do you have any free time during the week?

YOUR COUNTRY

o Which country are you from?


o Where is this country located?
o Which part of the country do most people live in?
o What are the main industries in your country?
o Is it easy to travel around your country?

CLOTHES

o What type of clothes do you like to wear?


o What kind of clothes do people in your country usually wear?
o How important is fashion to you?
o What kind of clothes do you dislike?
o Do you think people behave differently in different kinds of clothes?
o What kind of clothes do people wear to work in your country?
o Are clothes expensive in your country?

GOING OUT

o Do you like going out or staying at home?


o What do you like to do when you go out?
o How often do you go out?
o Do people in your country go our a lot?
o How and where do people in your country usually socialize?
o What kind of entertainment is popular in your country?

GAMES

o Do you enjoy playing any games?


o What kind of games do you play?
o Do you think adults should play games?
o What do children learn from games?
o What kind of games did you play when you were a child?
o What games are popular in your country today?
o What kind of games were popular when you were young?
o Do you think mental games like chess are good for you?

 COLOURS
o Do you have a favourite colour?
o What are your country’s colours?
o Do you think colours affect our moods?
o Can you learn anything about a person from the colours he / she likes?
o Do you like the same colours now as you did when you were a child?

MUSIC

o Do you like music?


o What kind of music do you like?
o When do you usually listen to music?
o What kind of music did you like when you were younger?
o What kind of music is popular in your country?
o Do you play any musical instruments?
o Do you wish you could play any musical instruments?
o Which is your favourite instrument?
IELTS Speaking : Hobby
1. I've joined a club where I can play chess.
(become a member of a club)

2. I'm a philatelist. I collect all sorts of stamps.


(a person who collects stamps for pleasure)

3. I often go camping in the summer.


(to live in a camp or outdoors)

4. I do a bit of / a lot of climbing.


(go mountain climbing)

5. I make my own clothes.


(I make clothes for myself. I don't buy them.)

6. I like photography.
(the skill or process of taking photographs)

7. I'm mad about DIY. I think this is a very good hobby for people who have a house but don't have
much money.
(do it yourself; the activity of making and repairing things yourself around your home)

8. I took up golf when I was at school.


(to start a hobby for the first time)

9. I gave up photography.
(to stop doing a hobby)

10. I collect antiques. I really enjoy going round the shops looking for a bargain.
(you collect stamps, coins, antiques)

11. I try to practise playing the guitar everyday.


(to make music with a musical instrument)

12. I usually go jogging two or three times a week.


(run slow y, especially as a form of exercise)

13. I took up hiking because I wanted to get more exercise.


(a long walk in the country)
14. I don't really do anything in my spare time.
(time when you are not working)

15. In winter, I do quite a lot of skiing.


(in English you normally do a lot of / a bit of sport)

16. In summer, I play tennis and cricket.


(in English you normally play a game)

Holiday making

17. My aunt is a great traveller: she's been to every country in Europe.


(a person who is travelling or who often travels)

18. We toured / went / were on a tour round the United States last summer.
(to make a journey for pleasure during which you visit many places)

19. I will be going overseas in my new job.


(to travel to another country across the sea)

20. The island's economy is heavily dependent on tourism.


(the business of providing Holidays for people)

21. We went on an excursion to the mountains.


(an organized trip with a group of people)

22. I'm not taking any holiday / vacation


(time when you do not go to work for a special reason)

23. I'm taking a short break and going to my sister's for a few days.
(a short period of time when you do not work)

24. You look exhausted. You should take a few days off and relax.
(not present at work)

25. I can't come I'm afraid. I'm on holiday / off that week.
(to leave your home and go somewhere else for a holiday)

26. We're only going away or a few days.


(to live the place where you leave at least one night)

27. We've booked two weeks in Australia in July.


(to reserve and pay for a holiday before you go)

28. They run a small resort hotel in Vermont.


(a place where a lot of people go on holiday)

29. I brought a model of the Eiffel Tower as a souvenir of Paris.


(something that you buy on holiday [for your friend] as a reminder of that place)

30. We travelled overland to Delhi and then flew on to Singapore.


(by road or rail)
31. The voyage from England to India used to take six months.
(a long journey by sea)

32. We decided to go cruising in the Mediterranean.


(to travel by sea, visiting a number of places as a holiday)

33. We take / get / catch the train / bus, to Leeds and then got a bus to where she lives.
(to travel to a place by train, bus, plane)

34. We headed for / made for (infml) the town centre.


(to travel towards somewhere)

35. We stopped off in Paris en route to Nice.


(on the way to somewhere)

36. The travel agent suggested some changes to my itinerary.


(a plan of a journey, route, etc.)

37. One of the most famous landmarks in London is Nelson's Column.


(an object especially a building, that can be seen from a distance)

38. We had been on the move for twenty four hours and were absolutely exhausted.
(to be travelling)

39. We made a stopover at Frankfurt on the way to Tokyo.


(a short stop on a journey)

40. I'm learning Spanish, just for fun.


(you do something for enjoyment and pleasure)

41. I think I get more pleasure out of doing my garden than anything else.
(the feeling of being happy)

42. Let your hair down (infml) for once!


(to allow yourself to enjoy something freely, without worrying about what other people think)

43. We had the time of our lives.


(to enjoy something very much)

44. There isn't much entertainment for young people in this town.
(things to do that interest and amuse people)

45. I had a great time last night.


(to get pleasure from doing something)

46. I have to amuse myself for a few hours while I waited for her to arrive.
(to keep yourself entertained)