Top Tips for IELTS

Talk about a house

One suggestion to prepare for the long turn speaking is to use a picture in your head to help you with ideas and vocabulary. This sounds an unusual idea and so in this lesson I want to show you how it can in practice. I believe it is one of those “tricks” that can make a real difference.

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.

An example

The task

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

The pictures

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.

talk about a house


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:

Brief introduction

“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

More IELTS speaking 

How to like it, share it and save it


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25 Responses to Talk about a house

  1. mary August 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Dear Dominic, thanks as always. Great

    • a'j October 21, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

      Thank you soo much domnic.. I was really flustered and worried about what I might do in the ielts.. I’ve got my exam date on this Nov 1.. I didn’t have enuf confidence to confront my examiner.. because since I’ve stopped communicating in English my thought process got jammed.. but now as I went thru ur sample speaking model I began to gain confidence and I believe I will do well.. no matter come what may.. again thanking you.. wishes ..a’j

      • kristy July 9, 2015 at 5:44 am #

        Dear Dominic
        I have a problem wth my confidence level.i tend to nervous when a question is asked an I can’t come wth an answer instantly. Plz help me how to cope up wth this isse.i need 7 in spking

        • Dominic Cole September 11, 2015 at 3:16 pm #


          Would it help to say that you don’t need to give a good answer?! There really aren’t any marks for being right or anything like that. It’s a language test and that’s all. In practice this means you must use enough language in your answer – even if it’s to say I don’t know.

  2. Lasam Ola August 26, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    You are peculiar person. This is a great help for me.Thank you.

  3. Lasam Ola August 26, 2011 at 2:27 am #

    A great assistance for your time spent researches.Thank you very much.

  4. Lasam Ola August 26, 2011 at 2:34 am #

    Hi dear Dominic, you have made me to sit up for my practice. It’s quite a challenge.

    No doubt you’re blessed.

  5. Lasam Ola August 26, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    Dominic dear, I am greatful of your sacrificial help.

  6. mamun September 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    Dear sir,
    Thanks for your nice post.

  7. aida November 28, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    again tnx

  8. josh May 20, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    thanks dominic, you’re realy a blessing to me.

    • Anonymous October 28, 2012 at 4:36 am #

      really useful for me

  9. sunny May 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    man its really helpful… nice work … thanks a lot :))

  10. patience October 27, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    thanks Dominic, I have gained my confidence back

  11. aj January 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Thank you soo much Sir.. The more iam gettin in, the more its building me confident 🙂

  12. fadel February 9, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    thank you very much

  13. Anonymous March 20, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    thanks a lotttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt

  14. LuckyAli March 28, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    You made my day,i’m on my way to practice and practice and practice nothing else…..Thanks!

  15. jatinder March 13, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    It is a gud way to practice and to learn better…. It helps me a lot…. Thnx… Sir

  16. Angel Roche March 27, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    Dominic, you are easily becoming my character for the “Person you Admire” topic

  17. Srikanth July 6, 2015 at 6:06 am #

    An example is worth a thousand words. Thank you for the beautiful material. Helps us to open our minds for more ideas.

  18. Wahab October 13, 2015 at 7:23 am #

    Hi dominic, thank you so much for ur valuable tips. I hope i will do best in test my test is just after few hours.

  19. dev May 5, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    hello sir,
    in the beginning of answer can we use yes,”ofcourse”? many of my friends and teachers told me its not acceptable ,please give me a reply

    • Dominic Cole September 10, 2016 at 9:32 am #

      It rather depends on what follows!

      When we speak we can “break some rules” if you like. Fluency and coherence are quite as important as some more old-fashioned views of grammatical correctness.


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