Today, we are going to explore an IELTS speaking topic and examine some useful vocabulary and ideas. This should help you to give a better answer for this sort of question. We will start by exploring different possible cue cards about describing shops, then look at appropriate vocabulary, before I then provide you with some sample answers to cue cards that ask you to describe a shop.

describe a shop

IELTS Topic: Shops

Because shops are so common around the world, it is possible that you could be asked about it for your next IELTS test. This could be a question like, “Do you like shopping?” but today we are not going to focus on shopping as an activity. Instead, we will mostly look at shops as places where you can buy things.

[If you want to read about the IELTS topic of shopping then click here.]

Obviously, there are many ways that you could be asked about this sort of topic. I see it quite frequently in the IELTS writing test… but today we are just going to look at speaking questions.

In part one of the question test, you might hear the examiner ask something like, “Are there many shops near your home?” or “Where do you buy your groceries?” In a question like this, you would then have to talk about the shops around your home.

However, this article is primarily about IELTS speaking part 2 and so we will look at some cue cards that you ask you to describe a shop.

describe a shop for IELTS speaking

Cue Card: Describe a Shop

There are essentially two main versions of this question, but of course it could also be asked in other ways. The most common ones are “describe your favourite shop” and “describe a shop you often go to.” The cue cards would look like this:

Describe your favourite shop. You should say:

  • where it is
  • how often you go there
  • what it sells

and explain why you think it is a good shop.

Or:

Describe a shop or a store you often go to.

You should say:

  • where it is
  • what type of people go there
  • what types of goods are sold there

and explain why you go there and like/dislike most about it.

**Note: IELTS is a British test and so it uses British English in the questions. In American English, this would be “Describe your favorite shop.” The meaning is the same, however.

Another version is similar to the second one, but note the specification of “near where you live” and the change from “often” to “sometimes”:

Describe a shop near where you live that you sometimes use. You should say:

  • what sorts of products or services it sells
  • what the shop looks like
  • where it is located

and explain why you use this shop.

Vocabulary for Describing Shops

When it comes to shops, there are some pretty specific vocabulary points that you may not learn in a general English course. I’ll try to cover those in this vocabulary PPT.

(Note: If you prefer, this is also available as a free, downloadable PDF. This is especially useful for teachers who want IELTS vocabulary to use in their classrooms.)

Shop Vocabulary Quiz

Once you have look at the vocabulary PPT, you can try to do this quiz. If you can get all the questions right, then you have a good chance of describing a shop quite well. 😃

Join these sentence halves in the most logical way:

In the UK, a convenience store is often called adepartment store
If you are feeling peckish and want a pastry, you should go to theflorist
When I’m doing my weekly shopping, I completely fill theaisle
I can’t find my size. Could you please check thedisplay(s).
People who can’t find what they’re looking for might walk up and down anstock room?
You can buy all sorts of things in the different sections of acorner shop
I admit I was probably attracted by their impressivetill/counter
On Mother’s Day, many people look for a present at their localbakery
You need to pay for that up at theshopping cart/trolley

You can find the answers at the bottom of this page.

Shop Vocabulary: British vs American English

We also need to consider the fact that there are some differences between British English and American English when it comes to shops. You hopefully noticed that I included both in my PPT and PDF vocabulary files.

british vs american words for shops
Made with Canva.

Sample Answers

Let’s now look at some sample answers to these questions. I will provide you with one for the “favourite shop” question and another for the “near where you live” version of it.

Sample Answer #1 – Describe your favourite shop

describe your favourite shop

My favourite shop is called Sakura, and as you can probably tell from the name it is Japanese. Actually, I live in Cambodia, but across Southeast Asia you can find these shops. People in Japan give away old things that they don’t need anymore and they are shipped to this part of the world, where they are sold quite cheaply.

I go to this shop about once a week and mostly I just look around, but maybe once each month I will buy something. It’s really interesting to me because there are so many kinds of things and they all come from a fascinating culture. Even items like plates and cutlery are so unusual when they come from a faraway country, and of course Japan has really amazing workmanship, so many of the things they sell are intricate and high quality.

The shop itself is laid out in a very haphazard way, with lots of strange things lying around. I like this kind of place because it seems quite mysterious and you never know what you will stumble upon. The people who work there are quiet but friendly, and they will not disturb you while you browse.

Notes

I mostly talked about the goods that the shop sells, and to be honest that will be a large factor in your answer, too, because every shop is different. It is a great idea to pick a bizarre shop like this because it can be quite easy to talk at length about the strange things they sell. In comparison, a very common shop like 7-Eleven might be hard to describe because nothing really stands out as unique.

In terms of vocabulary, ten, I had quite a wide variety but nothing specifically related to shops except some terms like “sold quite cheaply” and “browse.” I did, however, mention the layout of the shop and also the staff, which both were relevant to the question.

Sample Answer #2 – Describe a Shop you Often go to

There is a small shop where I live that is located on the front porch of my neighbour’s house. She has a few tables outside with some common items on them like snacks, drinks, and toiletries. It is a very small place and you would not go there to buy much, but it is useful for everyday items. I mostly go there to buy water because she sells large, re-useable water bottles that I can exchange whenever I need. This helps to cut-down my plastic use and save the environment.

Most of the people in my neighbourhood go there at some point. Usually, they go to buy drinks or snacks. These people are primarily elderly Cambodians and they live in the traditional-style houses that are common in this area.

I quite like this shop because it is so simple yet convenient. The woman who owns it is quite friendly although we do not share a common language. Whenever I go there, I say hello to her and her young daughter, who will usually take my money and give me my change. Although I go into town to buy most of my groceries at the market, this small shop is very handy and so I go there more often than anywhere else.

Notes

Here, you can see that I have once again offered a simple description of a shop. This was harder because the things the cue card suggests are quite basic, so you could talk about them in less than 20 seconds. However, I have expanded this a little to mention some other aspects. Still, everything I talked about was quite closely related to the task. I almost went off-topic when I spoke about the environment, but it was just one short sentence and it was directly related to the products in the shop. At the end, I mentioned “groceries,” which is a word that refers to commonly purchased items. This is more common in British than American English.

Conclusion

It sometimes seems a little daunting to be asked to describe a shop. I’m sure that there are many aspects of it that seem hard to talk about, but there are also many that should be easy for you. This is a wide subject and I would strongly suggest that you pick a type of shop that you know well so that you can talk easily. For example, if you love music then maybe you could talk about a music shop so that you can bring in some of that vocabulary. Don’t stray too far from the main topic… but you can definitely throw in some good vocabulary relating to the items found in that place.

Answers

Here are the answers to the vocabulary quiz above.

In the UK, a convenience store is often called acorner shop
If you are feeling peckish and want a pastry, you should go to thebakery
When I’m doing my weekly shopping, I completely fill theshopping cart/trolley
I can’t find my size. Could you please check thestock room?
People who can’t find what they’re looking for might walk up and down anaisle
You can buy all sorts of things in the different sections of adepartment store
I admit I was probably attracted by their impressivedisplay(s)
On Mother’s Day, many people look for a present at their localflorist
You need to pay for that up at thetill/counter