Today, I am going to teach you how to talk about families for IELTS. Specifically, I will show you how to describe a family for part two of the speaking test. If you are looking for more general vocabulary related to families, you can go here but today’s lesson will be focused on answering IELTS cue cards.

As always, we will approach this systematically, looking at several areas so that you can give a great answer if you need to this sort of cue card in your next test. We will:

  • Analyse the cue card
  • Plan an answer
  • Find the right vocabulary
  • Listen to my sample answer
describe a family

Analyse the Cue Card

In part two of the IELTS speaking test, you will be given a cue card that contains some information that you must talk about. There will be two basic parts:

  1. The overall task
  2. Some specific details

You have one minute to think about the card and plan your answer, and then you should talk for between one and two minutes.

It is important to read the cue card carefully or else you might not give the correct answer. For example, the card will not just say “describe a family.” It will give you some particular information that might exclude the family you wanted to talk about originally. Perhaps it could be any family… but more likely it will be a certain type of family.

Here are some possible topics:

  • Describe a family that you know well
  • Describe a family that you like

(Note that these could both be the same family.)

  • Describe your family.
  • Describe a family business.

(This last one is not actually about the family but rather the business.)

There also various cue cards that ask you to describe a family member. I have actually written about this before in this article.

Describe a Family you Like

Ok, let’s pick this cue card to explore further:

Describe a family (not your own family) that you like.

You should say:

– where this family lives

– who the members of the family are

– how you know them

and explain why you like this family.

What must we do to adequately answer this question? Well, we must first think of a family that we know and like. It must not be our own family (but it would be reasonable to choose another family that is related to us).

We must then remember to address each of those bullet points:

  • Where do they live?
  • Who are they?
  • How do we know them?

We should also state why we like the family.

Planning the Answer

Next, we must plan our answer so that we can give an impressive, coherent response to the cue card. For this part, I would suggest making a couple of notes but not too many. You cannot write much in one minute, so it is better just to make a couple of notes.

My notes would look like this:

  • Organic farm
  • Age difference
  • Occupations
  • Extended family

Try to just note down important words or ideas that you may forget. Do not attempt to write full sentences or else you will just waste your time.

Sample Answer

Here is my sample answer to this question:

ielts cue cards - describe a family that you like

When I was younger, I travelled to America and stayed on a farm in California. This was my first time living and working abroad and I was lucky to stay with a really nice family during my time there. They owned the small, organic farm on which I lived and so I got to know them really well. The father was a really friendly man called Jim, who was probably in his early sixties at that time. He was the one who took care of most of the farm and he had hired me to work there, so I got to know him best and we spent many days together working in the fields.

Jim had a wife called Sarah, who was a little younger than him and quite different in personality. She was a tall, blonde woman who loved horses and she spent all of every day working in the barn and riding horses through the mountains nearby. She was a tough woman and not as friendly as Jim, but she was caring and decent in her own way. Although I did not get very close to her, she always looked out for me and I appreciated that.

Jim and Sarah had children from their previous marriages and so they had a lot of kids, but they mostly did not live at the farm with us. Jim’s daughters were grown up and lived in other parts of the country and Sarah’s boys were away at boarding school most of the time. Instead, there was a sort of extended family of farm workers and friends who lived around the property and helped out.

I really liked this family because they were very kind and generous, as well as interesting. I had never met anyone before that was quite like them. They were hard-working people and dedicated their lives to making the world a little better.

Notes on Sample Answer

You will see that my answer is pretty straightforward. There are not many difficult elements to it and I have used no specialist vocabulary. You will also see that there isn’t much about the relationship between people in the family because that is fairly simple – mother, father, sons. However, I have used the phrase “extended family.” This means that it goes beyond just the basic family unit and can take into consideration other family members. We also sometimes use this phrase when family friends are included into the family unit – like an “aunt” or “uncle” who is not really your mum or dad’s sibling.