Friendship is a common IELTS topic and so it is essential that you can talk about your friends to succeed in the speaking exam. In fact, people and relationships are really important. You should learn how to speak about personality, appearance, and how we interact with one another. This could prove useful in any part of the speaking exam, but today we are going to look at a part two question, which asks us to describe a close friend.

describe a friend - ielts speaking part 2

Note that if you want to view this lesson as a video then you can scroll to the bottom of this page and watch the recorded version instead.

Describing People

Being able to describe people can prove really useful for the IELTS speaking part two because often you do have to describe someone. Of course, there are many people you could be asked to describe: a relative, a sportsperson, a pop star, a world leader, a teacher, a family member, and so on. You can’t predict the exact question, but you can be prepared to give a good description of a person by learning some useful language. Think about some personality adjectives:

  • ambitious
  • open-minded
  • outgoing
  • introverted
  • hard-working
  • motivated
  • trustworthy
  • driven
  • judgemental

You should also be able to talk about how you know each other, in the case of friends, family, and other acquaintances. Pay attention not just to getting the correct word, but using the right tense.

  • We grow up together -> We grew up together
  • I know him since we are children. -> I’ve known him since we were children.
  • We are close when we are schoolmates, but now we grow apart. -> We were close when we were schoolmates, but now we’ve grown apart.

Relationship Vocabulary

I posted this about five months ago, but it’s useful so here it is again. This PPT contains important language for describing friends or family:

Describe a Close Friend

As with any IELTS speaking part 2 question, you need to look at the cue card and quickly analyse it – what exactly does it ask you to do? What are the important things to say?

Here’s how it might look:

Describe a close friend.

You should say:

  • how long you have known this person
  • how you met
  • what kind of person he/she is

and explain why you like him/her.

So clearly you must talk about the beginning of your friendship, as the first two points relate to this. Then you should describe their personality, and also what it is that you like about them. This is a great question, but it should be quite easy to answer. But first, let’s think about making notes.

I would personally look to make brief notes about meeting my friend and about his personality. I would be sure to jot down any good vocabulary that I might later forget, as well as a structure of the story of how we met. This can help me to keep my tenses in order. It might look like this:

IELTS speaking notes for the question "describe a close friend"

Remember that you only have one minute to make notes, so keep them short. Don’t attempt to write any sentences in this time, as you won’t have time to finish.

Describe a Friend [General Topic]

It is important you read the cue card very carefully because there are often subtle ideas that can really impact how you give your answer. For example, we are talking about describing a friend but in this cue card it says “a close friend.” What if it was slightly different? Maybe you could talk about the same person… but it might not be possible. Here are some others:

  • Describe the person who was your best friend as a child.
  • Describe a friend that you rarely speak to now.

There are so many possibilities, including “describe an old friend” or “describe a friend you made in school.” You should make sure that you fully understand the cue card before you begin to plan your answer or else you might talk about something different. This could cause you to panic later.

Hints and Tips for Part 2
Speak Slowly and Clearly

The most important thing you need to remember is that you shouldn’t speak for less than 1 minute. In order to speak 1-2 minutes confidently, you must practice at home regularly. Use the timer on your phone, or a watch, to make sure you know how it feels to speak for that length of time. Pace yourself. Talk slowly and don’t panic. Nervous people tend to talk very quickly and you could easily find yourself running out of things to say in just 30 seconds! If that happens, you will repeat yourself and hesitate, and your score will be very low.

Sample Answer – Describe a Friend

So here is my sample answer, in which I describe a close friend. There is a video below, in which I also answer this question, but I will do it off the top of my head, so the answer will be different to this:

My best friend is a guy called Rich. We met in 2003 on our first day of university, during Freshers’ Week. I can hardly believe that it was fifteen years ago! We were both seventeen at the time and we met in the halls of residence, which is where we stayed during that first year. He was an art student and I was studying literature. We got along well from the very first moment. I remember him wearing a Guns n Roses t-shirt, and they were my favourite band at the time. We lived together for two years and have stayed best friends ever since. Rich is a very generous and creative person. He plays in a band and he loves to paint and do other artistic things. A few years ago he got married and now he has a child. He’s changed a lot since we were students, but in many ways he has stayed the same. I liked him back then because he was such a nice guy, and the same is true now. Everyone who knows him thinks he is patient and open-minded, so he’s very easy to get along with.

Reading this took me about 01:20 minutes, which is perfect. However, if I’d been nervous and read too quickly, it would have gone under 1 minute, so please be careful of this.

Notes on Language

In this answer, I described my friend in simple terms. There is no advanced jargon to be used here. Instead, you should focus on using simple, everyday English like I have done.

I have used some adjectives to describe him:

  • open-minded
  • patient
  • generous
  • creative

However, you should not just list adjectives when you are asked to describe a friend. Instead, you can tell stories or give information about their past or present. Look at these simple but effective sentences that I used:

  • He plays in a band and he loves to paint and do other artistic things.
  • A few years ago he got married and now he has a child.
  • He’s changed a lot since we were students, but in many ways he has stayed the same.

These tell the reader a lot about my friend, so they are very useful. Remember that you don’t need to use very advanced vocabulary. Just make sure that the words you do use are accurate and relevant.


Here’s a video of me explaining the topic and giving my sample answer. It’s a little different from above because I did it spontaneously. Please subscribe to my channel and give the video a like. It means a lot to me!

So who is your close friend? Who would you choose to talk about if you were asked this question? Put it in the comment section below and I will answer you back. 🙂