Today, I want to help you answer an IELTS speaking question about food. This one requires you to describe the best meal you have ever had.

In this article, I will give you some advice about reading the cue card, picking an idea, choosing vocabulary, and giving your answer.

The Cue Card: Describe a Meal

First of all, let’s analyse the cue card.

It’s important to realise that IELTS cue cards vary a lot. That means a cue card that says “describe a meal” might require different answers depending on what other words are included. For example, here are some possible variants:

  • Describe a meal you had in a restaurant
  • Describe a meal you ate with friends
  • Describe a meal you often eat

Here are some more possibilities:

ielts cue cards about describing meals

Obviously, each of these could require a totally different answer from the others. If you were given the first one and did not pay attention to “restaurant,” your answer would not be appropriate. Thus, you should always read the cue card carefully.

Here is our cue card for today:

Describe the best meal you have ever had.

You should say:

  • where and when you had this meal
  • what food and drinks were served
  • who you were with during this meal

and why you feel it was the best meal.

Note: This question was shared by the official IELTS Instagram account, so you can trust it to be authentic.

So what should we do here?

Can we talk about just any meal? No. It should be the best one you ever had.

Is this a dish that you frequently enjoy? No. It is a single meal – i.e. an event rather than a type of food.

You must give details about it:

  • where
  • when
  • what
  • who
  • why

These sorts of question words are common in IELTS cue cards. It is helpful to recognise this, as it can allow you to build more coherent and developed responses.

Picking an Idea

Like most cue cards, this is a hard one to answer because you have to think quickly. Few people could easily recall the single best meal of their life. Therefore, I would recommend this:

  • think for a few seconds and then pick the first good idea that pops into your mind, then spend the rest of your preparation time planning an answer for that

Doing this will prevent you from wasting too much time thinking of a perfect meal. Instead of going back and forth between two or three options, just go with one and then describe it as best you can.

Personally, I struggle to think of a single meal that stands out more than all others. As such, I would just latch onto the first one that comes to mind and describe it. You could even make one up if it’s difficult! The examiner will not be able to tell as long as you give a realistic description.

You can read about how to deal with difficult IELTS cue cards here.


Obviously, your answer will require specific vocabulary according to the meal that you choose. This will be dependent upon:

  • the type of food consumed
  • the place it was served (a home or restaurant)
  • the people who attended
  • the event (if there was one)

As such, you should not necessarily think of “meal vocabulary,” but rather think of vocabulary specific to that particular meal. Remember that the examiner does not have a list of words they are waiting to hear.

There are some words that might be useful regardless of your specific choice of meal, though. For example:

appetiserusually the first course of a meal (sometimes called a “starter”)I’m going to skip the appetiser and have the main course.
coursea particular part of an overall mealThere were three courses – an appetiser, a main course, and a dessert.
desserta sweet course usually at the end of a mealThis restaurant is famous for its desserts.
entréethe main part of a meal (often just called “main course”)The entrées here are fine but the appetisers and desserts are just fabulous.
flavourhow something tastesThis place serves Middle Eastern foods and I just love the combination of flavours.
menuthe list of dishes served in a restaurantTheir menu is small but everything on it is fantastic.
serveto provide foodAs soon as we finished our starters, the main course was served.
vegetariansomeone who does not eat meat or a dish that has no meatThis is a vegetarian restaurant and they have a wide selection of meat-free options.
waiter (male)/waitress (female)the person who serves you in a restaurantThe waitress took our order half an hour ago but we haven’t gotten our food yet.

You can learn some food vocabulary here and I also have an article about how to avoid overusing the word “delicious.” You might also find this video about restaurants helpful:

Sample Band 9 Answer

Several years ago, I went back home to my parents’ house in Scotland for Christmas. My family has always celebrated Christmas as the most important day of the year, but because I work abroad, I had not been back for more than a decade. I always missed those Christmas dinners and so I was indescribably excited to return and have one after so many years.

In our family, my mum does most of the cooking but everyone helps with certain parts of the dinner, such as chopping the vegetables or making desserts. That’s because there are so many different parts to it that it’s almost impossible for one person to prepare.

We don’t really do appetisers, so most of the meal is one huge main course. The centrepiece is a roasted turkey, which is traditional, but there are also roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, bread sauce, chipolatas, and much more. We usually eat this over more than an hour, talking and telling jokes. There are drinks as well. With the main course, it is usually champagne or red wine, although some people prefer soft drinks. For dessert, there is a Christmas pudding, a trifle, a pavlova, and usually some other things.

We had all of that several years ago when I was back home with my family. My parents and brothers were there, as well as my brothers’ girlfriends. My grandparents were also in attendance. We had a wonderful time together and the food was incredible, just as I remembered it being.

This was the best meal for me not only because of the food but because it had been so long since I’d had the chance to enjoy a proper Christmas dinner. I had spent so much time away from my family that this one was more special than any other. I hope to be present for more of them in the future.

Notes on the Answer

You can see that I answered each part of the cue card, although I did not spend equal time on every bit and I did throw in some extra information. The reason was just to give an interesting and natural response.

I started with “Several years ago, I went back home to my parents’ house…” There was a reason for this. Basically, structuring your response as a story and starting with a natural beginning helps you to talk fluently, building your answer as you go. When you have vocabulary and grammar and content to think about, it can be hard, so this approach is useful.

As for language, I just aimed to be accurate. This was easy for me as a native speaker, but it can be easy for you if you know the words related to the food served during your favourite meal. That’s why it’s important to have a wide vocabulary but also to know words that are specific to you and your interests and preferences. Thinking this way will help you to succeed at Lexical Resource.

I was also careful about grammar because I needed to be consistent to show the past and also to give general statements. Problems with this could badly impact your Grammatical Range and Accuracy score.