In the IELTS speaking test, you might be asked to describe something that you have recently purchased. This question would of course appear in part 2 of the test and you would need to read the cue card carefully to know what you must do.

In today’s lesson, I am going to show you what the cue card might look like and then run through some guidelines about how you could answer it. Hopefully, this will help you to describe all sorts of products and issues relating to shopping.

[If you to learn about the IELTS topic of shopping, then go here for a complete lesson.]

The Cue Card: Describe Something You Bought Recently

First of all, it is important to realise that every IELTS cue card is slightly different and so you cannot prepare perfectly for them all. You need to read the cue card carefully in order to know what you must say as a response.

For example, in this general area, we could have some of the following possibilities:

  1. Describe a product that you bought recently
  2. Describe an item of clothing that you bought recently
  3. Describe something that you bought long ago
  4. Describe a product you bought because of an advertisement
  5. Describe something you have purchased that has been very useful
  6. Describe something you bought in a sale
  7. Describe something that you bought for someone else
  8. Describe an expensive product you would like to buy

As you can see, there are various possibilities. Indeed, if we check Google then we can see the sort of variations on this cue card that people have heard about:

describe something you bought

The list could go on indefinitely.

Today, however, we are going to look at this cue card:

Describe something you have recently bought and felt happy about.

You should say:

– what you bought

– why you bought it

– how much it cost you

and explain why you felt happy about it.

Analysing the Cue Card

describing something you bought that makes you happy

Sometimes it is quite difficult to figure out the precise meaning of a cue card, especially because you have to read it and plan your answer within just one minute.

However, I think that this one is pretty simple. The three key facts are:

  1. You must have bought it (ie in the past, not in the future)
  2. This was recent (ie not long ago)
  3. It made you feel happy

Aside from that, you should aim to talk about the ideas in the bullet points. To be honest, you don’t really have to talk about these, but it’s definitely a good idea.

My general approach with this sort of thing is to just structure my own answer according to the main idea of the question and then refer back to the bullet points for extra information in case I run out of things to talk about.

Planning your Answer

I am not a big shopper and I really don’t buy many things except food, household items, and other necessities. (Pro tip: “necessities” is a great IELTS word. 😁) As such, it is not easy for me to think of an answer.

This leaves me with two choices:

  1. Think of something that I can exaggerate to pretend it made me happy.
  2. Imagine something that would have made me happy that I didn’t really buy.

A few weeks ago, I saw a motorcycle for sale on a local Facebook group and so I thought about buying it. This is the first thing that popped into my head, so I would be inclined to talk about this. Of course, I would pretend that I had bought it and speak about it as though it were a real situation.

Making Notes on the Answer

You have just one minute to prepare for giving your answer, so don’t waste too much time. I always stress that you shouldn’t write any full sentences or long phrases because you simply don’t have time. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile writing down some ideas about what you want to say. This can help to alleviate your nerves or remind you of useful vocabulary you could use to give a great answer.

My notes would probably look like this:

  • Facebook newsfeed/groups
  • Impulse purchase
  • My favourite possession

Language Advice for Describing Something You Bought Recently

First of all, let me say that describing “something” is obviously going to require totally different vocabulary depending on what that something is! 😅 My imaginary motorcycle, for example, would involve different words than your gadget, item of clothing, piece of jewellery, or souvenir.

The important thing to think about is the verb tenses that you use. For example:

  • I have bought a motorcycle last week.
  • I bought a motorcycle last week.

The first sentence is completely wrong because it uses an incorrect verb tense. This was the present perfect, but it talks about something that happened in the past and is now finished. As such, we should have used the past simple.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough the fact that verb tenses are important to understanding precise meaning in English. If you are aiming to score band 6 then you can certainly make some mistakes here, but if you want to score band 7 or above, you really need to get your verb tenses in order. Keep those mistakes to a minimum. [Try my IELTS grammar book if you struggle with this.]

When it comes to vocabulary, as I said, it will depend on your chosen item or product, but don’t try to dazzle the examiner with amazing words. These might help you if you manage to use them perfectly, but they will make it more likely that you make a mistake, and this will just hurt your score.

Instead, aim to give precise and correct information. Use words accurately and you will be on track for a great band score. There is some advice about that in this video:

Sample Band 9 Answer

Here is my answer to the above cue card:

Two weeks ago, I bought a new motorcycle. I had not been planning to buy one but it popped up on my Facebook newsfeed because someone in a local group had listed it for sale. The bike was incredibly beautiful and also surprisingly cheap, so I bought it as a sort of impulse purchase.

Where I live, people often sell things on Facebook because there is an active community of people from around the world who have come to live here. You frequently see people selling their second-hand goods on various Facebook groups, and so I have subscribed to them and buy various things there from time to time.

Clearly, Facebook’s algorithm recognised that I paid attention to motorbikes that were for sale, and so it pushed me to take a look at this one. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one for me. The thing that really convinced me was the fact that it looks exactly like a motorbike I owned ten years ago. That bike was my favourite possession and I was really sad when I had to suddenly sell it just six months after buying it. I had promised myself that if I ever saw it again, I was buy it no matter what.

This new bike is not exactly the same but it is very similar, and that was good enough for me. In fact, according to bike experts, this one is even better than my first bike. I was a bit worried because there is a lot of crime in this area and I did not want anyone to steal it from me, but I decided that I would have to take the risk.

After buying the bike, I drove it around the local area on a beautiful sunny day and it really made me feel happy. I have planned many trips with this bike and, once the rainy season ends, I will take it on several long journeys around the country.

Notes on my Answer

Here are some words and phrases that I used, which may be of interest to you:

  • list(ed) for sale
  • impulse purchase
  • second-hand goods
  • from time to time
  • favourite possession

In terms of language, note my use of verb tenses. When something happened and finished in the past, I used past simple. However, there were some other tenses employed:

  • I had not been planning to buy one…

This is the past perfect continuous tense. It shows what happened prior to an event in the past. In this case, I was talking about my feelings before buying the bike. Using this sort of verb tense shows a finest mastery over the language, and could definitely help you get a better score for the grammar section of the marking rubric.

Final Thoughts

Ok, folks, that’s all for this lesson. Let me know what you would describe in the comments below. You might also like this video about describing a shop: