In the IELTS test, it is common to be asked questions about big issues that affect society, such as age and employment. This is particularly true in part 3 of the speaking test and task 2 of the writing test. Here, you would often encounter questions about age, such as whether or not there should be a set retirement limit for everyone, and issues pertaining to work, such as whether men and women should be able to do the same jobs.

Today, I’m going to teach you some language about age and work, then look at some sample questions and answers for both the speaking and writing tests.

Age Vocabulary for IELTS

When it comes to age, there are actually a lot of problems that IELTS candidates face. Chief among them is how to refer to people who are old or young. Believe it or not, most IELTS candidates get this staggeringly wrong.

Common problems involve confusion over the words “elder” and “elderly.” The former is a noun and adjective but it is uncommon in both cases. The latter is a common adjective and a common collective noun. It is important to note that we talk about “the elderly” referring to all old people but we do not say “an elderly” because it cannot refer to a single old person.

With young people, mistakes tend to revolve around the confusion over the word “generation.” This means a whole group of people united by their age and does not refer to individuals. (This is explained in the video below.) There are also issues about formality. We need to be careful not to use overly informal words. Accuracy is always important too, meaning that you should not say “teenagers” if you mean people in their early twenties. The word “youngsters” also sounds strange when applied to people in their early twenties and it is almost always weird to hear young people saying this.

Other Age Vocabulary

Here is some more useful IELTS vocabulary about age:

Ageism(noun) prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s ageSome societies are taking a stand against ageism and recognising the value of the elderly.
Care home(noun) am institution providing accommodation and care for people who are unable to look after themselvesSome old people need to live in care homes in order to ensure their health and well-being.
Frail(adj.) (of a person) weak and delicateYes, old people tend to be rather frail but they can still be sharp of mind.
Geriatric(adj.) relating to old people, especially with regard to their healthcareI stand against ageism in the workplace, but can you imagine a geriatric firefighter?
Pension(noun) a regular payment made by the state to people of or above the official retirement ageOne sign of a developed country is that it pays its citizens a decent pension.
Retire(verb) leave one’s job and cease to work, typically on reaching the normal age for leaving serviceMost people look forward to retiring, but many regret it once they have retired.
Youth(noun) the qualities of vigour, freshness, or immaturity as associated with being youngHis youth had begun to fade, but his enthusiasm remained in tact.
Youth(noun) young people considered as a groupWe need to stop demonising the youth as they are not all young hooligans.

If you want to learn more vocabulary, try reading articles or checking Wikipedia. Here is an article about retirement, which is filled with great vocabulary and ideas that you could incorporate into your IELTS answers.

Age Questions: IELTS Speaking

You might be asked about age in the IELTS speaking test. Technically, this could come up in any of the three parts, but for part 1 it is a bit unlikely and the questions would be rather simple. As for part 2, you could be asked to describe a young person or an old one. However, let’s look at some questions about age for part 3. I will add a sample answer for each one:

  1. At what age should people retire from work?

I don’t think that there should necessarily be a set retirement age. Instead, perhaps this could be judged on a case-by-case basis or there could be different limits for different types of job. For example, in professions like teaching age can really be an advantage because it tends to bring wisdom and patience. However, for jobs that require manual labour, it might be a problem to have elderly people working. It might be good then for the government to set some sort of retirement age but allow some people to work longer and others to retire earlier based on their individual needs.

2. What problems can people face after their retirement?

There are numerous problems that people face after retirement, including boredom, isolation, and mental decline. Whilst most people look forward to retiring, I think that many of them find it to be quite tedious and all that spare time can become a burden. There are also studies that show when people retire they tend to enter a period of mental decline that sees their brain power deteriorate because they are no longer being challenged on a daily basis.

3. Why do some companies encourage early retirement?

There are various reasons for this and it would totally depend on the industry and the company. I suppose one reason is that younger workers can often be hired cheaply due to their lack of experience, while older ones often expect remuneration that is in line with their years of work. Couple that with the fact that younger people often have more energy and are likely to follow orders without complaint and you can imagine why some companies might want to bring in new blood and push their experienced staff to retire.

If you want to know more about answering questions for part 3, then check out this video:

Age Questions and IELTS Writing

The topic of age in the IELTS writing test is quite common. Sometimes you are asked to write about issues facing young people and sometimes about those facing elderly people. Obviously, this would require different ideas and vocabulary. If you want to know about the IELTS topic of childhood, then click here.

Let’s look now at a question that relates to both discrimination against people who are considered too young or too old:

In some countries it is illegal to reject people applying for jobs because of their age.

Is it a positive or a negative development, in your opinion?

Sample Band 9 Answer

Although in many places it is acceptable to refuse employment to a person due to their age, in other places it is in fact illegal. This essay will argue that it is sometimes right to restrict employment due to age, while in other cases it is wrong, and so there is no definitive answer.

To begin with, there are certain instances where it is patently correct to deny employment due to age. If a person is clearly too young or too old for a position, it is outrageous to suggest that this is a form of ageism. A clear example of this is in the emergency services. It would be absurd to have geriatric firefighters attempt to enter a burning building and rescue the people inside. Likewise, it is important for laws to stipulate minimum ages for employment, or else society may once again return to child labour, which was long ago deemed unethical. Therefore, no business should be allowed to hire children aged sixteen or under.

However, while the above arguments show that it is clearly important to set certain limits, the case must also be made against ageism in the workplace. Oftentimes, employers seek motivated young people to fill vacant positions, but this is discriminatory, as it rules out people who are middle-aged and above. It is common to see unemployed forty- or fifty-year-olds who simply cannot find work because there are younger people competing for the same jobs. Yet age comes with experience, and it is important to keep in mind the value older people can bring to the workplace.

In conclusion, rejecting someone from applying for a job is not always wrong. Governments should set some legal limits to avoid particularly extreme situations, such as child labour or elderly people working jobs for which they are not physically suited, but in most cases age should not be an issue.