Describing a Tourist Attraction

In the IELTS Speaking Part 2, you may be asked to describe a place. In fact, this is a very common thing to see on the cue card. One of the common topics is being asked to describe a tourist attraction. It may be someplace you wish to visit, or someplace you have already visited. But how can you describe a tourist attraction?

The Cue Card

For this part of the test, you will be given a cue card. On the cue card there will be things for you to talk about. You must talk about each of these items, with the total speech lasting 1-2 minutes. You have one minute to prepare. Your IELTS Speaking Part 2 cue card may look like this:

Describe a tourist attraction that you have visited. You should say

What the attraction was

When you visited it

Why you went there

And say whether you enjoyed the visit or not

It may be different, so pay attention to the exact words used. You need to talk about all parts, so don’t forget anything. It is helpful to make notes about each section if you have time – maybe just a word of vocabulary you want to remember.

Choosing a Subject to Talk About

One of the hardest things for an IELTS student is quickly choosing a subject to talk about in the IELTS Speaking Part 2. Honestly, even a native speaker might find this difficult! If someone asked me a really obscure question, it might take me a long time to plan out a good response! However, the key to success in this part of the exam is making a quick choice and then planning a talk accordingly.

For topics like travel and places, you should have no difficulty choosing. Think of some famous locations around the world:

  • the Eiffel Tower
  • London Bridge
  • the Acropolis
  • the Pyramids
  • the Great Wall of China

and so on…

Just pick one that you can think of and then plan your talk. Don’t waste time choosing a place.

Vocabulary for Tourist Attractions

If you have chosen a building to discuss, then you should take a look at my guide to vocabulary for buildings and structures as it should be very helpful. Make sure that you are able to describe the basic features of a building adequately. Think about its physical features as well as its location. What about colours? How about some adjectives to describe the impression it left on you or you think it would leave:

  • magnificent
  • overwhelming
  • stunning
  • exotic
  • fascinating

Of course, don’t just describe what the building was like (or is like). Remember that you need to devote your time to the exact instructions on the cue card. If it is asking you just for your experiences, then perhaps you may not need to do much description of the actual place. Also, remember that a tourist attraction may not be a building! It could describe a waterfall, a beach, or a river.

Examine the Question

In all parts of the IELTS Speaking Exam it is really important that you pay attention to the question and answer appropriately. Don’t think, “It’s about a tourist attraction!” and then freely talk about tourism. You need to answer the question exactly as it was intended.

Let’s look at the question again, and highlight key features:

Describe a tourist attraction that you have visited. You should say

What the attraction was

When you visited it

Why you went there

And say whether you enjoyed the visit or not

Ok, so what are we being asked to do? We need to talk about a tourist attraction (ie a famous building, a museum or gallery, or a place of natural beauty). We need to firstly explain it – and this is where you can give some details. Then you should talk about the actual visit – when and why. Finally, explain whether you enjoyed it or not.

Sample Answer

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit Victoria Falls. This is a giant natural waterfall in Africa, considered one of the greatest sights in the world. It’s located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, so you can view it from either side. I travelled through Zimbabwe by train in order to reach it. The journey took a long time but it was worthwhile. I had heard about Victoria Falls during my childhood and always wanted to visit because it seemed so magnificent to me. You often see it in books and movies, and it appears like this magical place that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. When you are about fifty miles away you can already see and hear it because it is so loud and the water vapor goes so high into the atmosphere. Nearby, it is just stunning to be close to this phenomenal spectacle. I really enjoyed my time there, but actually it was very expensive. That didn’t ruin my experience, but it would have been nicer to enjoy it without worry about the cost so much.

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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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