Using a picture – how it works
This is, I suspect, a new idea to many people so I will try and explain how you can make it work for you.
- you need a picture in your head that is personal to you. You are trying to use your visual memory to help you speak
- do close your eyes. You will see the picture better
- look at the details. What do you see exactly? Look at the background of the picture too, that can be important. These details will give you precise vocabulary
- try and “feel” the picture. What else does it make you think of? Sometimes a picture can help you remember things and in IELTS that means you have more ideas.
Look at this sample cue card. You are being asked to talk about a house or apartment you would like to live in.
A house or apartment
Talk about a house or an apartment you would like to live in.
You should say
- what it would look like
- how big it would be
- where it would be located
And explain why you would like to live there
This is the sort of task where you can use a picture in your head to help you. Look at this picture of my mother’s house – this is what I see when I close my eyes and think. If I look at it, I get lots of ideas about things I can say and from there I get useful vocab I may not have thought of without seeing a picture. The idea is to talk about a real place you know as that way you will have more things to say.
Here is some the words I get to use by thinking of a picture/place I really know:
- cottage (I remember from looking at it that it used to be two cottages)
- chimneys (I see that it’s got 4 chimneys)
- angles (the house is an odd shape)
- lawns, flowerbeds, shrubs (the picture shows the garden – which is really part of the house)
- bedroom window ( I can see my bedroom window and I think of what I can see out from it)
Listen to me speak. I make some mistakes, that’s fine. I repeat some words too, that’s also fine – this is not a writing exam. I do well because I am fluent and coherent and I use enough precise vocabulary.
My sample answer
I have put in bold the topic vocabulary that works. This is the form of vocabulary you need in part 2. You don’t need long/complex academic words.
I have put in red linking type words and phrases. These are small things but they help make me fluent and coherent.
See also how I follow the cue card to help me organise what I say:
“Where would want I like to live? Well, I suppose first of all I’d like or I’d prefer to live in a house rather than an apartment and in many ways my ideal house would be the house where my mother lives.
How big it would be and what it would look like
It’s quite a large house, it’s a 4 bedroom house but in another sense it’s actually quite a small house in that all the rooms inside are quite small and quite intimate and in fact it’s two cottages which have been converted into one larger house. So when you look at it, it looks quite strange, you see 4 chimneys from the outside and lots of very strange angles. Another part about that house which I love is that it’s in the countryside and it’s got a great garden with lawns and flowerbeds and shrubs. Everything. My mother’s a professional gardener in fact and it looks like a picture postcard because of her efforts.
Where it would be
It would be ideal for me to live there because it’s in the countryside but not in the middle of nowhere. So when I’m there I like to get up in the morning, look out of the window, see the horses in the field and feel that I’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of the city . But as I say I wouldn’t want my dream home to be in the middle of nowhere because I’d like to commute to the city because I enjoy being around people and it’s just easier or more convenient to work in a city. So I’d need to be living somewhere which was close enough to a city that I could commute.
Why I’d like to live there
and as I say that’s the reason why I would choose to live in my mother’s house if I could.
You can’t use my pictures: you need to see what’s in your head. Describing a picture in your head also takes a bit of practice. So why not start with a real picture? Here’s my suggestion
- take a picture of your house/apartment on your phone
- look at the picture
- close your eyes
- what do you see?
- what memories do you have?
- try and think of 3/4 details in the picture
- look at the picture again and try describing when you are looking at it