Today, I’m going to show you how to answer an IELTS cue card that requires you to describe a popular person.

I will tell you how to analyse the cue card, give you some useful vocabulary, and then provide my own sample band 9 answer.

Table of Contents

Here’s our cue card for today:

Describe a popular person in your country.

You should say:

  • who this person is
  • what he/she has done
  • why he/she is popular

and explain how you feel about this person.

Notice that this is quite similar to an older cue card that asks you to describe a famous person. In fact, you could give pretty similar answers to each of these, but it’s important to treat each cue card individually.

This cue card is pretty open, by which I mean it gives you a lot of scope for choosing a person. The most important things are:

  1. The person must be popular (i.e. they cannot be hated by the majority of people)
  2. They must be from your country or popular in your country

That second point is interesting. The wording of the cue card is a little vague, so it could be interpreted as either a person from your country who is popular or someone from abroad who is popular in your country.

Remember to try and talk about each of the bullet points as well. You wouldn’t be punished for missing one, but it’s better to cover each of them.

Learn more about cue cards in this lesson.

As always, the important thing about choosing vocabulary is to be accurate. That means your vocabulary should be specific to the popular person that you want to describe. Thus, there is no specific list of words to choose from. Your vocabulary would be different from another person’s vocabulary if you each picked different people from this list:

Thus, always think about the person you want to describe and choose appropriate vocabulary. This is how you will get a good score for Lexical Resource.

However, let’s look at some examples. I’ll break these into three categories:

1. Vocabulary about people’s personalities

If you want to describe a popular person, you’ll probably talk a lot about their personality. Here are some useful adjectives:

  • kind
  • thoughtful
  • generous
  • philanthropic
  • talented
  • gifted
  • intelligent
  • creative
  • compassionate
  • charming

Notice that all of those have very positive connotations. If I were using negative words, it would probably mean that I was not talking about a very popular person. (Obviously, there are exceptions, but it’s something to think about.)

There’s some more vocabulary about personalities here.

2. Vocabulary about people’s accomplishments

You will of course need to talk about why someone became popular and that would probably involve explaining some of their life and career. For this, we can use other vocabulary:

  • He has inspired millions of people…
  • Her work has lifted thousands out of poverty…
  • His work has influenced countless others…
  • She has had a profound impact on the culture…
  • His leadership has been vital for the country…
  • Her career has been impressive but it is only just beginning…
  • He is famous for…

You get the idea. All of these can be altered in various ways to fit particular people and their unique accomplishments.

3. Vocabulary about people’s appearances

I generally don’t advise talking about appearances unless it’s necessary. In Western cultures, it can be considered a bit rude. However, many IELTS candidates seem to like talking about this, so I’ll mention some words and phrases that can be used:

  • athletic
  • muscular
  • stunning
  • powerfully built
  • beautiful
  • handsome
  • stocky
  • lanky
  • broad-shouldered

Try to keep it factual and appropriate. If you are talking about a talented person, it’s not really necessary to talk about their physical appearance unless they are a sportsperson, for example, or maybe a model.

Here’s a video guide to giving vivid descriptions of people:

Other vocabulary

Here are some more words and phrases. I will use these in my answer below, so make note of them.

  • national treasure
  • beloved
  • quintessentially
  • embodies certain values
  • quick wit
  • ferociously intelligent
  • contributions to modern culture

Sample Band 9 Answer

Here’s my answer to the above cue card:

The first person who comes to mind for me is Stephen Fry. He’s what you’d call a national treasure because he is beloved by tens of millions in the United Kingdom and has been for decades.

It’s hard to say what he does because he’s so talented that he has done many things. I think he started out as an actor but he’s worked as a writer and presenter, too. He is famous for his comedy work and for hosting a TV show called QI.

Fry is quintessentially English. From his accent to his manners, he embodies certain values and even stereotypes about the United Kingdom. In fact, if you fly into the country with British Airways, you might see him giving a comic guide to British values on the in-flight entertainment system.

For decades, Fry has acted in TV shows and films and hosted various shows. He is renowned for his quick wit and his charming nature. He is generally thought of as ferociously intelligent yet also polite and funny, which is why so many people love and respect him.

Like most people in my country, I also greatly admire Stephen Fry. I think he is a wonderful human being and his contributions to entertainment and modern culture are tremendous.

Notes on the Answer

It’s good to have a natural start, which is what I did with “The first person who comes to mind…” It is a great way of naturally building an answer, which I give more detail about here. This is also practical because you probably should talk about the first person that you think of when reading the cue card.

I’ve talked specifically about Stephen Fry and so my language is all directly related to him and his accomplishments. I have not tried to incorporate any random phrases that aren’t appropriate for his life and work.

I did not mention his personal life or appearance because neither was appropriate. However, for some other people it might be worthwhile including these things. I felt that the cue card was prompting me to talk about his professional work more than anything.

I’ve made some specific references and done so in a way that would be easy for a listener to follow. You don’t need to know anything about Fry or his work to understand this.

Finally, I brought my answer to a natural conclusion. I would use intonation to show that my final sentences were leading to an end and this would really help me to get a good score.