Top Tips for IELTS

Talking about your home town – photos help add detail and interest

Here is some really practical advice for talking about your home town in part 1 speaking. Go outside today and just wander around with your camera phone and take some pictures. It could really help your speaking. Why? It’ll allow you to say more interesting things. What you’ll find in this lesson are:

  • a quick explanation of why being interesting helps
  • a quick explanation of why detail is good
  • examples of how to add detail
  • a link to my new Flickr account where you can see what I did with my camera phone in Cambridge yesterday

 

It’s nice to say interesting things

IELTS is a language test and not a test of how smart or interesting you are. But. Well, examiners like interesting answers and they tend to hate hearing “learned answers”. That won’t impress them at all. If possible, you do want to sound interesting. The question is how can you do that. Here is where I think pictures can help – they get you to look at detail and details are interesting – and good for your language.

Detail is interesting

One way part one can go wrong is that you just repeat an answer that you have “learned” – you may sound bored. Perhaps because you find talking about your home town boring. The examiner may also be bored because everyone that day has given the same answer. Very often an examiner will listen to 13/4 candidates say the same thing because they all come from the same place.

You don’t want to strain yourself in part one – you should aim to be relaxing. But you can interest the examiner by adding detail into your answer. This will also be good for your language because speaking about detail makes you use more interesting words – words that you may otherwise forget about.

See my examples

What I show you below is the standard answer and a better answer with more detail. I’d emphasise that this is my answer because I live in Cambridge and I took some photos. To do it like this, you need to take photos of your home town.

I’d also add that my answer was better because I did take photos.  I remembered about a game of cricket, bicycles chained to railings and daffodils in spring. Otherwise I may not have used this language.

 

Let’s talk about your home town

Where are you from?

I live Cambridge and I’ve been living there for around 9 months now. 

See an answer with detail

I live Cambridge and I’ve been living there for around 9 months now. I’ve just moved back form China where I was living and working for a couple of years. I came back to Cambridge because I’d lived here before – around 7/8 years ago.

 Notes

I don’t use any pictures for this one. I simply ask myself the questions “How long have I been here?” “Where did I live before?” “Why did I come to Cambridge?”. The speaking test is different from writing because you do not have to stick strictly to the question. You can expand your answer naturally, just as you would in real life.

What do you like most about living in Cambridge?

Well, I suppose I like living there because it’s such a cosmopolitan place. It just feels lively and there are loads of great pubs. There are also parks and green spaces where you can go and relax. That’s not to mention the university – it’s world famous of course and some of the colleges are beautiful. 

See an answer with detail

Well, I suppose I like living there because it’s such a cosmopolitan place. It just feels lively and there are loads of great pubs. My favourite is The Flying Pig which is just opposite where I work – it’s got an old-style feel to it and has a bar where it’s easy to stand around and meet people. There are also parks and green spaces where you can go and relax and just see things happening like watch a game of cricket . That’s not to mention the university – it’s world famous of course and some of the colleges are beautiful – the Backs are sensational  especially in Spring with the daffodils.

Notes

This is a long answer – perhaps too long. You don’t need all this detail but some of it would be excellent.  You should see that the detail I have added comes from the pictures below. It allows me to use some great vocabulary – not complex words, just precise words that describe things. That’s the best sort of language in IELTS speaking.

The Flying Pig

Cricket on Parkers Piece

The Backs

Daffodils

What is public transport like in your home town?

It’s quite good, there are plenty of buses and it is easy to get around. The most popular form of transport though is the bicycle.

See an answer with detail

It’s quite good, there are plenty of buses and it is easy to get around. I do sometimes take the number 2 into work – it’s a very regular service and stops right outside my house. But like most people in Cambridge I tend to cycle. It’s a very bicycle friendly city with lots of cycle routes. The only problem is finding somewhere to park your bike

Notes

A slightly shorter answer this time – it’s good to vary the length of your answers. It’s more natural that way and typically you will have more to say about some questions than others. Again, you should see that this time I have also added more detail which allows me to use accurate descriptive language – ideas that my photos reminded me about.

It really doesn’t matter that the bicycle isn’t a form of public transport – it’s a perfectly natural way of extending the answer.

Number 2 bus

Bicycles in Cambridge

How to do it yourself

  • arm yourself with a camera
  • go outside
  • just take pictures – look for things that are typical of your town
  • look at small things not just big things – details are normally small things
  • go home and decide how you could talk about the pictures
  • you may find that you see things in pictures you didn’t realise
  • find someone to practise with

See my full tour of Cambridge

See Cambridge

Share this idea with someone else

   

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3 Responses to Talking about your home town – photos help add detail and interest

  1. KSATYA March 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    PLZ GIVE ME CLEAR INFORMATION ON A PARTICULAR TOPICS

    • Dominic Cole March 22, 2014 at 9:40 am #

      I’m afraid that you may be missing the point. YOU need to talk about YOUR home town. I can’t do that for you. The idea is that YOU look at where YOU live and think about the words YOU need.

  2. Janis April 10, 2014 at 3:19 am #

    Your photos are wonderful!How clean the street is!Dose everywhere like this in London?

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