In part two of the IELTS speaking exam, you may be asked to describe a famous person. You will of course be given a minute to think about your answer and make some notes. Then you have two minutes to talk. But what things should you say? How should go attempt to describe a famous person?

All of this will be discussed in this article.

Table of Contents

Cue Card: Describe a Famous Person

You will be given a cue card with information that you must address in your speech. Before attempting to answer, you must make sure you fully understand the question and all the things you have to talk about. Don’t rush in and start speaking about any famous person. (Check out our lesson on describing a sportsperson.)

Here are some of the variations on the topic of describing famous people:

  • Describe a famous person in your country.
  • ……………………………………. you’d like to meet.
  • ……………………………………. you admire.
  • ……………………………………. you are interested in.

There are plenty of other options. Make sure you pay attention to the second part and make reference to it, and of course talk about all the points you are required to mention. To do this successfully, you must make appropriate notes.

How to Make Notes

In the IELTS speaking test part 2, you don’t have much time to make notes, so you must do it efficiently. Don’t attempt to write any full sentences. Just note down ideas and vocabulary. These should help you to structure your talk and remember any important words. Don’t write down anything unnecessary or it will just cost you valuable time.

Note-taking is quite a personal process and you should do whatever works best for you. This might mean doing a mind-map, or perhaps writing an ordered list. Maybe you like to sketch ideas or associate words. Whatever helps you remember is fine. Just be sure to write quickly as you only have one minute.

Once your notes are written, you should be ready to talk. Work through your notes slowly and calmly, elaborating on each point slightly. You only have to talk for 1-2 minutes, so don’t worry. The biggest mistake students make at this point is talking too fast and finishing in less than a minute. Practice speaking from notes at home to counteract this stress.

Vocabulary for Describing Famous People

In IELTS, it’s important to use precise vocabulary and that means your language will depend on the person you choose to talk about. Describing Lady Gaga, for example, would require very different language from describing Joe Biden!

However, here are some useful words and phrases that might help you talk about famous people:

X is famous/known for…This can be used to say why someone is famous.Cyndi Lauper is famous for her pop song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
controversialIf someone is controversial, they are known at least partly for getting in trouble.Nowadays, J.K. Rowling is a controversial figure due to comments she has made on Twitter.
iconWhen someone is extremely famous in a particular field, they are an icon.Mick Jagger is a musical icon.
influentialA person who is influential has had an influence on many people.Coco Chanel was one of the most influential designers of the 20th century.
starred inFor actors, we can use this phrase to introduce some of their work.Johnny Depp has starred in dozens of films, including Edward Scissorhands.
internationally renownedIf you want to avoid the word “famous,” this is a useful expression.Haruki Murakami is an internationally renowned author.
brought joy to millionsThis expression highlights the positive aspects of someone’s work.Taylor Swift’s songs have brought joy to millions.

You can find some useful adjectives for describing people here. You might also want to read some articles or Wikipedia pages about famous people and make notes on useful language that you find. This is a great way to get ideas as well.

Answering the Question

By now you should have chosen a person you wish to describe, analysed the question to decide what you need to say, and written some appropriate notes. Therefore, it is now time to start speaking. Here’s an example question and answer to help you:


Tell us about a famous person you would like to meet.

You should say:

  • who is he/ she
  • why do you want to meet him/ her
  • why he/she is famous

and explain what would you do if you meet him/ her.

Sample Band 9 Answer

A famous person I’d like to meet is Bryan Cranston. He’s an American actor who is best-known for his role as Walter White in the famous TV show, Breaking Bad. Actually, Bryan Cranston has appeared in many TV shows and movies, including a really funny show that he did before Breaking Bad called Malcolm in the Middle. However, I think for most people he’s always going to be identified with the character of Walter White, the chemistry teacher who turned into a drug dealer. His performance in that show was so iconic that he will forever be remembered not just by fans but anyone who knows anything about American TV.

I want to meet him not just because he’s a great actor but also because I’ve heard him give so many interviews and he seems like a really great guy. He has amazingly funny stories to tell and he always gives so much of his time and energy to his fans. I don’t really know what I’d do if I met Bryan Cranston because I’ve never actually met a famous person before. However, I’d probably shake his hand and tell him I really admire his work on screen and on stage. If he was willing to talk, I’d ask him about making Breaking Bad and I’m sure he’d have some wonderful stories to tell me.


Here is a video of me giving the above sample answer. You can try to copy my style of speech. It might help you with pronunciation issues and fluency.



In the above speech, I’ve addressed all the points from the cue card, although not necessarily in order. I first said who Bryan Cranston is and then explained why he is famous, before moving on to why I want to meet him and what I would do in that situation. This seemed to me a more natural structure and easier to talk about. If you talk randomly on different points without connecting it in your head, you will find it harder to talk for a long time.

You can find out how to start a part-2 answer here. There is more guidance on structuring your answer here.


I’ve highlighted some useful language in bold, which I will explain below:

  • “who is best known for” – this is a great way to explain the greatest accomplishment of a famous person
    • eg “who is best known for her hit song, ‘Shake it Off'”
    • eg “who is best known for his masterpiece, ‘Animal Farm'”
  • “iconic” – essentially, this just means very famous – ie a person who has become an icon
  • “not just because…. but also” – this structure is a good way to introduce multiple reasons for something
    • eg “I like him not just because he’s a good guy but because he seems really interesting.”


It’s really important in the IELTS speaking test part 2 that you prepare your answer. You should make some useful notes to help you talk, and then speak slowly and calmly, elaborating upon your notes as you speak. When describing famous people for IELTS, remember to include some appropriate adjectives and adverbs for descriptive purposes, and always give reasons and examples to justify your statements. This will boost your IELTS speaking score significantly.