As you probably know, the topic of technology is quite common in IELTS. I have covered it in depth here, but this was about all parts of the IELTS exam. Today, we are going to be more specific. I would like to look at the IELTS speaking topic of computers.
In this lesson, we will explore some useful vocabulary about computers and look at some common IELTS speaking questions.
IELTS Computer Vocabulary
We have previously discussed vocabulary related to technology, but let’s look more specifically at computers today.
Parts of Computers
Here are two images showing the most common parts of computers.
Note that these are computers in the more traditional sense: laptops and desktops. I have not included phones and tablets. Although these are clearly a type of computer, they have been extensively covered under the previous lesson on technology.
Computer Functions and Issues
Of course, it is not enough to know the different parts of a computer. This would not help you much in your test, except for very specific questions. Instead, we should look at some vocabulary that deals with computer functions, uses, and problems.
Here are some useful words to know:
Those words should be really helpful for you. They are all pretty widely applicable and I could see them easily being used in daily life or for IELTS speaking.
More Advanced Vocabulary
You don’t need to be an expert in anything to do IELTS, but knowing a lot about a subject can give you a small advantage. For example, I have known several computer programmers and engineers who sat IELTS. Whenever a question arose about computers, they were really happy! They could talk at length about the technical aspects. They knew all the verbs and nouns – perhaps even as many as the examiner!
However, it is a little difficult to put this sort of language naturally into an IELTS speaking test. It is not impossible, but you might struggle. Still, if you want to do it, I have the perfect solution. Go to a website like Amazon.com or PCworld.com and then look at some of the computers they sell.
After a little while on the website, you will have learned many things about computer vocabulary. For example, you might learn about processors, RAM, motherboards, and screen resolution. Here is an example:
There’s a lot of information here and not all of it is useful, but you can definitely learn some vocabulary. Just keep in mind that many computer websites will present “specs” (that means “specifications”) without any sort of grammar. As such, you can learn words but don’t try to repeat these as sentences.
How to Learn More Vocabulary
There are many, many ways to learn IELTS vocabulary about computers. The best way is to learn from context, so that would mean going to a website that has information about computers, then picking out words you didn’t previously know.
You can try the BBC News technology section for daily articles that will contain computer-related vocabulary.
There is also TED.com, which has thousands of amazing videos on all sorts of topics. You can try the computer section for a start. There, you will find various videos about computers. Here’s one you might like:
When you watch these videos, you can soak up new vocabulary and also learn great ideas to include in your own answers. Also… they’re often quite fun! I really like a YouTube channel called Kurzgesagt (it’s not an English word; don’t ask me to pronounce it 😅). They have videos about the future, including some on computers.
Finally, here’s a video I made about technology vocabulary for IELTS students:
IELTS Speaking Questions about Computers
You could be asked about computers for any part of the test, but I feel that part one is the most likely sections. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it might be a bit too difficult to ask candidates to describe computers or computer programmes for part two, and part three might also require very advanced vocabulary.
First of all, please be careful when looking up IELTS questions online. Many of them are fake, which is often fine, except that 99% of IELTS tutors and website owners actually cannot speak English or do not understand IELTS! It’s amazing but true. To find out about the quality of other IELTS websites, see my reviews section.
Here are some possible questions and sample answers.
Q: How often do you use a computer?
A: Well that depends what you mean by a computer. I use my laptop for several hours per day, but I use my phone more and that is also a computer by some definitions.
Q: When did you first use a computer?
A: Wow, that was so long ago that I can’t really remember. I recall using one in primary school. I must have been about seven or eight years old. My family got our first desktop computer in about 1994, I think, so that was the first time I really used one properly.
Q: What do you normally use a computer for?
A: Oh, just about everything. I do most of my work on my laptop, as well as my banking and some of my shopping. I e-mail friends and family, check up on community events, and pretty much find out everything. I’m not a big phone person, so computers are really important.
**The phrase “I’m not a big ___ person” is a British colloquialism that means “I don’t really like ___.”
I am not familiar with any questions for part two of the IELTS speaking test that directly ask you to describe a computer, but I found this one about computer games, which is clearly related:
Describe a computer game you have played.
You should say:
- what it was
- when you played it
- what the game was about
and explain how much you enjoyed playing this game.
Here is my sample answer:
Although I no longer have any time for computer games, when I was younger I used to play a game called Football Manager. I was obsessed with this game, which I think I first played at about age twelve. Back then, it had another name: Championship Manager. However, it changed about fifteen or twenty years ago.
The aim of Football Manager is to successfully manage a football team. It sounds quite boring and for most people it probably is. You don’t even get to control the teams when they play like in FIFA and other console games. Instead, you deal with signing and selling players, training them, formulating tactics, and giving motivational speeches. It’s quite strange!
This game is really addictive and has actually been cited in numerous divorce proceedings. I personally found it quite hard to stop playing, and sometimes I would play all the way through the night. However, as an adult I lost interest and stopped having enough free time for it. I tried playing a few years ago but did not really enjoy it like I used to.
I will look back fondly on my days playing Football Manager because I really liked it. It’s still hard to explain, but maybe it’s a matter of strategy and control, just like you have in war games. Maybe this speaks to a deeper part of human nature.
Finally, we come to the most difficult questions. In this section, you are often asked about the main topic and an issue such as gender, age, or ethics. The questions have no right or wrong answers, but at the same time you cannot just give a personal response like, “Yes, I think this is a good idea.” Part of the challenge here is providing developed answers. I like to approach this in three steps:
- Give an immediate and direct answer.
- Explain your answer.
- Give an example and/or summary.
This is usually sufficient. Just try to avoid answers that are too short or too repetitive.
Here’s a sample part three question about computers. You can see that it is not straightforward and would be difficult to answer quickly:
Q: Does technology help workers or make their lives more difficult?
A: Well I suppose that depends on the exact situation, so it’s a hard question to answer. I think that in most cases it does make people’s lives easier because it automates difficult, dangerous, or repetitive tasks, allowing workers to focus on other things. However, we should not overlook the fact that they are making people obsolete, and in a manner of speaking, this is making workers’ lives more difficult because their employment is suddenly precarious. Recent history is littered with job titles that no longer exist because of computers and automation.
The topic of computers is really interesting and quite important for IELTS, so I highly recommend you prepare for it in advance. This is not such a bad thing because it will help you beyond IELTS. Computers are a normal part of modern life and they will probably become more common in future. Try to learn vocabulary from context through regularly reading and watching English-language materials.