There many things that you could be asked to do in IELTS speaking part 2, but one of them is “Describe a piece of advice.” Like most types of IELTS question, there are different ways that this could be stated and each of them would require a slightly different answer, but we will discuss that later.

This guide is going to show you everything you need to know about answering this particular IELTS cue card. I will tell you how to analyse the question, make notes, pick the right language, and then give a good answer. I will even include my own sample answer at the end of the article.

The Cue Card: Describe a Piece of Advice

Whenever you have to describe something for IELTS speaking part 2, you need to pay close attention to the details on the cue card because there are little words and phrases that can really change the meaning. In this case, you are going to have to describe a piece of advice, but there are so many different kinds of advice. Here are two possibilities:

  • Describe a piece of advice that you got in school.
  • Describe a piece of advice that you gave someone.

Note that these are both very different. Another common one is “… that someone gave you.” This may sound similar to the last question, but of course the meaning is completely different. Also, be careful about whether a person is specified:

  • Describe a piece of advice that you got from a friend or family member.
  • Describe a piece of advice that you got from a teacher.

This sort of question is easier to figure out, but you still need to avoid the trap of reading it too quickly.

In any case, today’s question is going to be as follows:

Describe a piece of advice that you received recently.

You should say:

– when this happened

– who gave you the advice

– what the advice was

and explain how you felt about the advice.

Analysing the Cue Card

describe a piece of advice cue card

Once you have the cue card, you need to read it carefully without wasting much time as you only have 1 minute to think about your answer. You should focus primarily on the first line, as this is the most important thing. It will tell you the key details of your task. In this case, you must:

  • Describe a piece of advice that you received recently.

The latter part of the sentence is essential because it specifies what sort of advice you need to talk about. If you start talking about something that you heard 10 years ago, then you have not adequately answered the question.

You must also look at the other elements of the cue card and find out what you are expected to talk about:

  • when – talk about the time
  • who – talk about the person
  • what – describe the advice
  • how – describe your feelings

Note that you can talk about other things as well, but you should cover the items on the cue card first. You don’t need to describe them all in a certain order, but sometimes that is better. It can help you to structure your speech clearly and avoid forgetting things. However, it’s just a minor recommendation and if you are very comfortable speaking English, it’s sometimes better to change the order.

Making Notes

When you receive your cue card, you need to read it quickly and figure out what you must describe. You only have 1 minute, which is not a lot of time to prepare. In this time, you can make a few notes using a pencil and some paper. However, you do not need to do this. Some people prefer to speak from the heart.

If you choose to write notes, then you should avoid writing too many things. It is better to keep them simple and brief. If you try to write full sentences, you will certainly run out of time before you have done much planning. As such, you should stick to single words or short phrases. The sorts of things that you should write down are:

  • vocabulary
  • ideas
  • collocations
  • structural notes

To be honest, this is a pretty personal approach and everyone will be different, but the important thing is that you can write these notes quickly and that they will help remind you later on of important things you need to say. For example, maybe you suddenly thought of a great word to include in your answer. Well, note it down so that you can mention it. If you think of an idea, it’s best to quickly note it down so that you don’t forget it later.

Honestly, it can be difficult to think of an answer quickly, especially for a question like “Describe a piece of advice…” so you really need to make use of your time in this section of the test. Choose an idea quickly and get ready to talk about it. Even if you struggle, you can try to talk confidently and fluently later, and you might still get a great score.

Picking the Right Language

In IELTS, language is super important. That’s because this is a test of your English skills. Even if you give an answer that is a little weak or uninteresting, you will score highly because of your advanced language skills. I don’t mean that you should use really ridiculous words. No, you should use the appropriate vocabulary. The IELTS marking rubric for the speaking test talks about candidates needing to show “precision” in their language.

I often tell people that they should learn IELTS vocabulary in terms of topics. For example, learn vocabulary for technology, sports, family, childhood, etc. Just don’t try to cram silly buzzwords into your work or else the examiner will be unimpressed. Here is some advice about that:

It is difficult to recommend language for describing a piece of advice because it’s not exactly a topic. However, I will try to tell you a few things to guide you.

For one thing, the word “advice” is an uncountable noun but we can talk about a “piece of advice” to make it countable. In other words, you cannot say “an advice” but you can say “a piece of advice” or “some advice.”

When talking about advice, we usually say “give” and “receive” although you can also say “get.” (In fact, in spoken English, “get” is much more common than “receive,” which is a little too formal.) Therefore, the following are incorrect:

  • I told him some advice about camping.
  • He achieved some advice about his studies.

Instead, we would say:

  • I gave him some advice about camping.
  • He got/received some advice about his studies.

Apart from that, the language that you use will be highly dependent upon the ideas you generate in your planning phase. If your advice was about school, then you should think of language for school, and if it was about sports, then you should use sports language. Just remember to keep your tenses in the right order and avoid common mistakes like subject-verb disagreement and article misuse.

Sample Answer

advice about the gym

I will now give you my own sample answer to this cue card.

Several weeks ago, I was at the gym when a man approached me and told me how to improve my deadlifting technique. He pointed out that I was curving my back a little bit and that this would result in injury if I was not careful. He explained to me that the weight on my shoulders was not being transfered effectively to my legs and that I was therefore in danger of hurting my spine by taking too much weight on my lower back.

At first, I was a little annoyed about the man coming up to me as I prefer to be alone when I’m at the gym, but he was friendly and immediately gave me the advice that I mentioned before. He explained it clearly to me and even showed me how to do it by doing a deadlift himself. I could easily see that he was right, and I really appreciated that he took the time to help me. It is important that people help each other and share their expertise, particularly when they can help someone else avoid getting hurt.

I had never met the man before although I had seen him around the gym. I still don’t know his name, but I say hello to him whenever we pass each other now, and I continue to implement the advice that he gave me when I’m working out. Maybe one day I will be able to return the favour by giving him some advice, too.


I began this speech by setting the scene: “Several weeks ago, I was at the gym…” This is a great way to start your part 2 answer because it avoids those annoying clichés like “Today I want to talk about ____.” It is much more natural and impressive to simply jump into the answer by setting the scene.

You will perhaps notice that I have not followed the order of ideas on the cue card very clearly, as I felt it was more natural to do it differently. The cue card suggested doing this:

  1. when – talk about the time
  2. who – talk about the person
  3. what – describe the advice
  4. how – describe your feelings

But I instead structured my answer like this:

  1. when – talk about the time
  2. what – describe the advice
  3. how – describe your feelings
  4. who – talk about the person

I suppose I did technically mention that it was “a man” earlier in the answer, but I only really discussed who he was at the end. I felt that in this case the most important thing was the actual advice, and so I talked about it first. However, this is not really important. As long as your ideas flow naturally from one to the next, then I think your answer should be fine.

This answer was not overly long and when I read it at a natural pace, it took me about 1:40. This is a good length for an answer, and you don’t need to talk endlessly. If you do, you may find that your score for fluency actually drops a little because of hesitation and repetition.