In part two of the IELTS speaking test, you could be asked to describe almost anything – a person, a place, a memory, a part of history, a website, and so on. Of course, you could also be asked to describe an object, and that is what we will look at today.
In this lesson, I will show you how to describe your favourite possession or describe something you own that is important to you.
Cue Card: Describe your favourite possession
As there are countless possibilities in terms of cue cards, it is not worth memorising them and trying to create answers that you could produce in the exam. Instead, you should be familiar with the style and topics that often arise and be ready to answer whatever cue card you are given.
With the idea of a favourite possession, there are various ways the cue card could appear. If could say:
- Describe your favourite possession.
- Describe a possession that is important to you.
It might not even use the word “possession” and instead use something more generic, like “thing” or “object.” In fact, according to the sample questions on the official IELTS website, the phrase “something you own” has been used:
Describe something you own which is very important to you.
You should say:
– where you got it from
– how long you have had it
– what you use it for; and
explain why it is important to you.
This might seem a little confusing, but remember that “thing you own” and “possession” have the same meaning, so the topic is basically the same.
Special note: Most cue cards that you see online are not real and the people who run those websites do not understand IELTS. For example, this is from a terrible website called IELTSband7. It posts rubbish cue cards that will mislead you, alongside really bad sample answers.
Note that a real cue card does not have questions! This shows how terrible these “teachers” are and why you should ignore them. There’s a review of good and bad IELTS websites here.
Analysing the Cue Card and Planning an Answer
When you get the cue card, you have just one minute to plan an answer, so don’t waste any time. Read what you are meant to do and pick the first thing that comes to mind. In this case, you need to pick an object about which the following is true:
- You own it
- It is important to you
Think of something quickly. For me, it would be a camera that I got many years ago. Is this the best thing to talk about? Probably not, but it is the first thing that jumps into my mind, so I would not waste time thinking of anything else.
Pay attention to the bullet points, but don’t worry too much about covering all of them. You can use these as guidelines. Watch out for those question words:
- How long
These should guide you but remember that you are not answering questions. They just introduce ideas that you should talk about.
You also do not need to talk about these things in order. For example, you might find that it is easier to begin with “how long” you have had the thing because this would naturally allow you to say “Seven years ago, I bought this…” Don’t worry about the order of ideas as long as they are natural and logical.
You can see my ideas on structuring part two speaking answers here:
Vocabulary About Favourite Possessions
In terms of vocabulary that you need to know for this sort of cue card, it totally depends on what you choose to talk about. As I am discussing cameras, I would need to know photography vocabulary, but if you chose a smartphone then you would need technology vocabulary.
However, there are some words that would help you answer those parts of the cue card that guide the content of your answer:
|where you got it from||bought, found, given, received, inherited, saved up for, came across, looked for|
|how long you have had it||had, owned, been in possession of, for X years, since I was X years old, since before I can remember|
|what you use it for||helps me to, allows me to, assists me in, relax, work, gives me an advantage, cheers me up|
|explain why it is important to you||means the world to me, reminds me of (someone), wouldn’t trade it for anything, would be lost without it|
Here’s a very short example that answers all parts of the question and uses some of the vocabulary above. Note that it is not a full answer because it does not last for more than one minute:
- I saved up for this computer for six months and then eventually bought it. I suppose now I’ve had it for three years and honestly I would be lost without it. It helps me to do so many important things, particularly in terms of work.
Now, let’s see my proper sample answer, about the camera that I mentioned previously.
Sample Band 9 Answer
About seven years ago, I went home to visit my parents for the first time in a few years. My mum told me that it had been so long since I had been home for my birthday that she wanted to buy me a present and so I told her that I had been thinking about buying a camera. Before then, I had owned a few digital cameras that weren’t very good, but I had started to enjoy the process of taking photos and was looking to get into it as a hobby.
We went to a nearby city and found a technology shop and looked through the cameras they had on offer. One of them had a really long optical zoom, which I felt would be a huge advantage, and so I picked that one. In the months and years that followed, I took my camera on safari around parts of Africa and Asia, shooting hundreds of animals. Photography became my favourite pastime and that camera became my favourite possession.
I still have the camera, even though it more or less stopped working a few years ago. I keep trying to fix it and sometimes it does work, but it is a little unreliable now and I have a much more expensive camera that I use for most shots. I cannot bring myself to throw the old one away because it was a present from my mum and it has accompanied me on so many important trips. I think that even when it can no longer take another photo, I’ll put it on a shelf alongside some framed photos as a reminder of where they came from.
Notes on the Answer
You may notice that I have re-used a familiar structure, which is to start with a personal anecdote. This means I can avoid starting with a boring and awkward cliché like “Today, I want to talk about…” or “My favourite thing is…” This allows me to give an answer that does not seem like a dull response to a cue card, but is rather an engaging story that would be interesting for the examiner. It makes it easier for me to think of ideas and incorporate vocabulary that I know.
Speaking of vocabulary, I did use a lot that relates to photography, but obviously that would not be helpful for most of you. I have also used verb tenses carefully to frame my response. It begins in the past, leads up to the present, and even talks briefly about the future! By having topic-specific vocabulary and an array of appropriate verb tenses, I have satisfied all the requirements for a good grammar and vocab score.
I also answered all parts of the cue card, but as I mentioned before, I inverted the order of the first two because I wanted to start with the idea of getting it in the past, which put the time slightly before the place. That’s not really important except that you should always order your ideas logically and in a way that will help you give a good answer.