Describe an Animal

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Hello! I’m proud to give you my first YouTube video for TED-IELTS. It tackles the topic of describing animals for IELTS Speaking Task 2. Most students find this pretty difficult. After all, we’re not all biologists! But there are so many things we can say, and it’s all about using your time carefully. I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll type a rough transcript below in case you have a problem hearing some of the things I say.

 

Transcript

Ok, today we’re going to be looking at a difficult IELTS speaking question, of which there are many. This one comes from Speaking Task 2 which of course is a pretty challenging part of the speaking exam, as you have to speak for between 1 and 2 minutes.

You are, however, given time to prepare, and that means you should be making notes of ideas and vocabulary. Never waste time writing any sort of sentences down… just think of the vocabulary you might need and a couple of ideas. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to speak for more than a minute once you have those ideas in front of you.

Remember, before we begin, a golden rule of IELTS Speaking is speak slowly! Don’t panic and speak too fast. You’ll burn through all your ideas in 30 seconds and have nothing left to say. Just be calm and confident.

Alright, so the question we’re looking at is “Describe your favourite animal” or “Describe an animal”. There are obviously variations on this, and the cue card may include some different points to include – ie why you like the animal, what it looks like, what it eats, and so on.

Animals are a topic that a lot of students don’t really like to talk about… why? Well, when we’re young we’re all fascinated by animals. I know I was – in fact, I still am. But what happens is we get older and start focusing on learning grammar and academic vocabulary, and we’re no longer thinking about farm animals or wild animals. So when you’re in the IELTS exam and you get asked, “What’s your favourite animal?” a lot of candidates just freeze. “I’m not a biologist!” They don’t know what to say.

But don’t worry about it. I’m about to give you a helping hand.

So when are given the cue card, we have time to make notes. This is key to doing well on part two of the speaking exam. Get ideas down on paper so that you don’t have to think of new ones as you talk. Make sure you answer the question – remember that task achievement is 25% of your grade in IELTS – so center your notes around the specific requirements. If it asks why you like this animal, don’t forget to say why. If it asks when you first saw this animal, tell the examiner when you first saw it.

Here’s a mind map I draw for my favourite animal, the rhino (or rhinoceros, to give it its full name). This is a pretty vague map covering a number of areas to show you how someone might generally talk about an animal. Your notes should only cover what you need to talk about. Don’t waste time covering every aspect of an animal or its ecosystem.

See how I chose an area of discussion and then noted down a few general words about it. I’ve noted down some important vocabulary, but also ideas that might be important to discuss, depending on the cue card. It’s amazing how easy it is to talk from notes like this. If I want to describe the way a rhino looks, I can look at this mind map and say:

“The rhino can grow to a length of about 4 meters. Its skin is a grey colour, and it is famous for a large horn on its face, although sometimes they might have two horns. They have tiny eyes and large ears, and their snout is different from species to species – that’s how scientists can tell them apart.”

Alright, so I went off topic with the eyes and ears but that’s pretty basic stuff. Just looking at the notes can inspire you to give more detail.

So like I said before, there are lots of variations on this question. They might ask for an animal from your country, in which case I can’t talk about rhinos! They might ask you about domestic animals. They might ask for wild animals.

Here’s a cue card I’ll use for my example answer:

Describe your favourite animal. You should say

what it is

where it lives

what it eats

And explain why you like it

My favourite animal is without a doubt the rhinoceros, or rhino, as it is more commonly known. It’s found in many countries around the world, although unfortunately it is an endangered species and so its numbers are generally decreasing. You can find rhinos across Africa, including South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as throughout Asia, in places like Northeast India and Nepal. Typically they live in grasslands because they subsist on a diet of grasses and leaves. I like rhinos a lot because they are quite gentle and trusting animals, and I feel a great deal of sympathy for them. They have lived on this planet for millions of years but humans are now hunting them to extinction. Their gentle, peaceful way of life should be an inspiration for us; not something we take advantage of in order to kill them.

I went slightly off topic at the end there but kept within the scope of the question by keeping this information related to why I like rhinos.

Remember, make the most of your notes before speaking so you can talk freely and confidently. If there’s any vocabulary you need, note it down in advance so you’re not pausing and stuttering while you think of the word mid-speech. Speak slowly and precisely to make yourself understood, and you’ll finish between the one and two minute marks no problem.

Alright, thanks for watching. For more IELTS help, hit the subscribe button below and don’t forget to check out www.ted-ielts.com for weekly IELTS lessons based on the TED talk series, as well as other hints and tips from me, David S. Wills. See you next time.

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Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel.

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