In the past, I have offered many sample answers to IELTS speaking cue cards on topics like people, places, objects, animals, and memories. Today, we are going to look at something a little different. This time, I want to talk about describing games. More specifically, we are about to look at how to describe an indoor game.

In this lesson, I will discuss some of the different cue cards you might see, give you some advice about analysing the cue card, picking the right language, and the give you my own sample answer, which is at the bottom of this page.

If you have any questions about it, please leave them in the comment section below or get in touch on Facebook.

Describe an Indoor Game – Possible Cue Cards

It is impossible to predict questions for IELTS and any teacher or training school that claims they can is dishonest. However, we can prepare for IELTS by learning appropriate topics that often appear. By doing this, we can learn the right language to use for many different questions.

This is also true for cue cards. There are so many small changes that you could make to a cue card to require a different answer. For describing an indoor game, you might encounter some of the following:

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Playing ‘Trivial Pursuit’ with my family.

Describe an indoor game that you enjoyed as a child. 

Describe an indoor game that you liked to play when you were a child.

Note: These questions have different words, but the meaning is exactly the same.

Describe an indoor game that you would like to play.

Describe an indoor game you have enjoyed playing.

Note: These look the same, but require very different answers.

Finally:

Describe an experience when you played an indoor game with others.

As you can see, there are many different possible cue cards, even for this simple topic. As such, you should not memorise any answers because you cannot guarantee which card you would receive. If you memorised and answer for “an indoor game that you would like to play,” but you were asked about “an indoor gave you have enjoyed playing,” then your answer would be wrong.

Analysing the Cue Card

In part two of the IELTS speaking test, you will be given a cue card. This cue card will contain instructions for what you must talk about. You will have to speak for between one and two minutes and you will have one minute to prepare. It is very important that you read the cue card carefully before you start, or else you might talk about the wrong thing.

Here is our cue card for today:

Describe an indoor game that you have played with friends or family.

You should say:

– what the game was
– where you played it
– who played this game with you
– and why you liked it

This question is quite straightforward, so there is not much to think about. There is nothing here that is misleading, but you do need to be careful that you actually answer this cue card rather than thinking about other, similar ones.

Just remember to think about the key words in the question:

Describe an indoor game that you have played with friends or family.

Can this be an outdoor game? No.

Is it a game that you want to play? No.

Could it be a game that you played alone? No.

As you can see, there are several key issues that need to be included. Imagine that I read the phrase “indoor game” and thought, “Computer games!” Then I think of a great answer about computer games… Well, this might be a problem if I talk about a computer game that I play alone. As such, you should read carefully and choose your answer accordingly.

Planning your Answer

Once you have figured out the question, you can start to plan an answer for it. It is important to choose something quickly because you only have one minute. If you have already taken ten seconds to read the cue card, that leaves you just fifty seconds to think about what you are going to say.

When you fully understand the cue card, I would recommend just quickly choosing an answer and then spending some time thinking about what to say. Don’t change your mind later! There is no time for that.

When I see the phrase “indoor game,” I think of a few games that I played with my family last Christmas. Mainly, there are two that I would consider describing: Bananagrams and Sushi Go.

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What should you do when you have two ideas in your head? Well, you should just pick one quickly! However, if you prefer, you can quickly think of the benefits and drawbacks of choosing either. Here is an example with my two answers:

BananagramsSushi Go
Easy to describeHard to describe
Perhaps too simplePerhaps too complex
I have played many timesI have played just a few times

When I think about these two games, I realise that it is easier for me to talk about Bananagrams than Sushi Go. There are various reasons for this, but essentially Sushi Go is quite complicated and difficult to describe. On the other hand, Bananagrams is very easy.

I think that if I had limited time to prepare, it would be more sensible to choose Bananagrams because I could talk quite freely about it. I have had many experiences with this game and it is quite easy to play.

Making Notes

It is a good idea to make a few notes before you begin speaking in part two of the IELTS speaking test. The reason is simply that these notes might help you to speak freely once your time has begun and also they might make you feel a little more confident in yourself.

Just remember that you should not write more than a few words. Even if you tried to write one sentence, you would soon find that you had wasted your time. It is not easy to write much in one minute.

You should aim to write down ideas and vocabulary that you might otherwise forget. These can help you, but don’t write down anything that is too obvious, such as the name of the game. You would surely not forget that.

My notes would probably look like this:

Christmas

Split

Tiles

Dining room

Picking the Right Language

The right language for your answer will depend upon the question, of course. If you are describing a game you would like to play, it would require totally different tenses from a game that you have played or a game that you often play. As such, you must read the question carefully for that sort of information.

For IELTS, you never need to have any specialist knowledge. Sure, sometimes you get a question that is going to be difficult for you personally, but you still do not need to be an expert on anything to do well in the test.

For this sort of cue card, I think that having a good grasp of basic grammar, including verb tenses, is going to be the most important thing. You should be able to talk about experiences with accuracy, such as saying, “We used to play Monopoly every year, but recently we have begun playing different sorts of games.” Here, you can see the careful use of tense to accurately reflect the time when these actions occurred.

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My mum and I playing ‘Upwards’.

As for games, here are some common ones:

  • Chess
  • Monopoly
  • Scrabble
  • Snakes and Ladders
  • Clue/Cluedo (US/UK)
  • Battleships
  • Upwards

Of course, there are many more and those ones are just games that I have played in the UK. It is fine to choose anything that you are familiar with. If you choose a local game, try to translate its name into English, or explain to the examiner that your game has no English name but then give an accurate description.

Language for Playing

You probably know that we use the verb “play” for most games, although some sports require “do” or “go” before them.

When we use “play,” we typically put it before the noun form of the game:

  • I like to play cards with my friends.
  • Can we play Dungeons and Dragons next weekend?

However, remember that when we add another person, we must use “with”:

  • You can play poker with your friends on Saturday.
  • Let’s play Monopoly with the girls next door.

Remember that the verb here is “play” and so it should change form according to the subject (subject-verb agreement) and also it should be in the correct tense.

Sample Answer – Describe an Indoor Game

Ok, folks. Now, I am going to give you my sample answer for the cue card, “Describe an indoor game that you have played with friends or family.”

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Last Christmas, I went home to visit my family for a few weeks and we played many games together. The one that really stands out in my mind, though, is Bananagrams. This is a timed word game that is really fun. It is called “Bananagrams” because the tiles come in a yellow pouch that looks like a banana. You also have to say some words that are related to bananas during the game, like “split.” This makes the game really silly and fun.

There are various rules and you can change these if you like, but basically you need to make words with tiles that have letters on them. Each word must intersect with at least another one word. At the end, you get points for the words you have made and the winner is the person with no tiles left to use. Everyone can then check whether or not you spelled all the words correctly.

Over the Christmas holidays, I often played this game with my family in our dining room. We would gather around a big table and everyone would play. Some games have limits, but for Bananagrams you can play with anywhere from two to ten players. It is very flexible. The rules change a little according to the number of players.

I really like playing Bananagrams because it is a challenge but it’s also lots of fun. You genuinely need to think hard in order to do well at it but, at the same time, everybody can laugh because the game is really silly.

Notes on my Sample Answer

I’d like to make a few last notes about my answer to explain some things better.

There a few words that I have used that are useful for the topic of games, such as “timed” and “tiles.” The former is an adjective meaning that there is a time limit. For example, “A timed exam” is one that you must finish within a certain time. As for “tiles,” these are the pieces that you use in certain games.

You can see that I have varied my tenses quite a lot. At some points, I was referring directly to experiences in the past but then towards the end I changed to present simple in order to talk about the game in more general terms. Remember that we use present simple for general truths, so it’s really useful for that sort of thing.

The only “difficult” word that I used here was “intersect.” This word means when two things cross each other. I could have used simpler vocabulary but as I knew the meaning of this word, I felt it was better.