It is impossible to predict what questions you will be asked in the IELTS speaking test, but one thing is certain: studying for common IELTS topics is a really great way to prepare.
There are various topics that appear in the IELTS speaking test regularly, and so you can be confident that if you study vocabulary for these, your time will be well spent. Those common topics include:
- Family and friends
- and many more.
One of the topics that frequently arises is that of hometown. Yes, it can appear in part one of the speaking test, but it could also appear in part two, requiring you to describe your hometown in some detail.
Today, I am going to show you how to answer this question. I will give you some useful vocabulary and grammatical structures to help you talk about the place you come from.
The Cue Card – Describe your Hometown
In part one of the IELTS speaking test, you may be asked a simple question like, “where is your hometown?” or “do you like your hometown?” There may also be slightly more challenging questions, such as “how has your hometown changed since you were a child?”
However, for part two you will be given a cue card. This card will have instructions on it that tell you roughly what you should say. It will begin with “Describe…” and in this case it will say “Describe your hometown…”
It may look like this:
Describe your hometown.
You should say:
– where it is located
– what people do there
– what the climate is like
and explain how you feel about your hometown.
Please note that there are many possible cue cards relating to the topic of hometown and this is just one possibility. You may also be asked to describe related things or ideas like:
- Describe a village near your hometown
- Describe a product from your hometown
- and so on.
In any case, it is important that you pay attention to the exact instructions on the cue card so that you don’t just talk generally about the topic of hometown.
Analysing the Cue Card
Every cue card is different. Some are subtly different, while others contain more obvious differences. It is important that you read them carefully before giving your answer or else you may make a big mistake.
The cue card that I gave above is pretty simple. Let’s look at it again:
There is nothing here that is misleading and I think that everyone should be able to answer this question because we all have a hometown. There are some difficult ones like “Describe a Prize” that may not apply to all people, but this seems straightforward.
Anyway, it is worth thinking about what you must do:
- State the name of your hometown
- Say where it is
- Talk about the people
- Mention the climate
- Say how you feel about it
Certainly, you can add more to that list, but you don’t really have to. You should try to go through the points on the cue card and talk about them in order because this will give you a good framework for speaking.
Prepare your Answer
When you are given the cue card, you will then have just 1 minute to think about it, before you are expected to talk for 1-2 minutes. This is where an easy question turns into a difficult one… Even describing your hometown can be challenging under such high-pressure circumstances.
So what should you do?
First of all, it’s a good idea to make notes. I’ve known people who don’t do this because they are confident in their abilities, but I still recommend everyone to write down a few words during their 1 minute of preparation time. This can really help them to remember what to say later.
Remember that you shouldn’t write too much. No matter how quickly you think you can write, in just 1 minute you won’t succeed in writing many words. As such, it’s better to use that time to note down some vocabulary or ideas that you want to remember for later. You can then refer to the cue card and your notepaper during your 1-2 minutes of talking time.
For the above question, I would write the following notes:
- Northeast Fife
- Various occupations (give examples)
- Mild but rainy
As you can see, I have not written much. I did not, for example, waste time writing the name of my hometown… I’m not likely to forget that. 😂 I wrote down its rough location and a few other key ideas that I would like to mention in my speech. There are no full sentences or even long phrases here as it would not help me to write them down.
Describing your hometown is not the most difficult IELTS topic. In fact, when most candidates encounter this question, they feel a great sense of relief! They have probably practiced it many times in preparation for their speaking test, so it feels familiar to them.
Most IELTS candidates would be comfortable talking about their hometown at a basic level and I think many of them could easily get a band 6 on just this topic… But what about if you want to score band 7 or 8?
If you have followed my articles, e-mails, and videos in recent years, you will know that I really do not recommend learning long lists of vocabulary to dazzle the examiners. It just doesn’t work. Yes, I know that many lazy IELTS teachers tell you to use fancy language… but they are idiots and the examiners are smart. I read a sample answer to this question from an Indian IELTS teacher who used the phrase “variegated plethora of tourist attractions.” 🤣 Nobody really talks like that! It sounds utterly ridiculous.
Instead, you need to find words and phrases that are appropriate. This will, of course, depend on your actual hometown and its location. If I just teach you about mine, it might not be very helpful for you.
But I can give you one really good suggestion:
Using Wikipedia for IELTS Vocabulary
Ok, this maybe sounds strange but take a look at the screenshot below. It is for my hometown of St. Andrews, in Scotland.
Using Wikipedia (in English) is great for finding words and ideas, but it’s especially useful because you can see how the words are actually used.
If we look at the section on “weather and climate,” we can see some even more useful language. It can be difficult to talk about this beyond “it’s cold” and so learning some more specific phrases is really helpful.
Here, we can see two sections that provide us with some good phrases:
- St Andrews has a temperate maritime climate, which is relatively mild despite its northerly latitude…However, the town is subject to strong winds. Night-time frosts are common; however, snowfall is rarer.
- Sunshine, averaging in excess of 1,500 hours a year is amongst the highest for Scotland, and comparable to inland parts of Southern England.
Obviously, when doing an IELTS speaking test you are not expected to know statistics about climate; however, some of the language here is quite useful. Words like “temperate,” “mild,” and “northerly” are ones that move beyond the basic IELTS vocabulary required for a band 6.
Those phrases, “___ is subject to ___” and “____ are common” are also very helpful. When describing something interesting you may want to say “___ is amongst the highest/lowest” and when comparing to another place, you may say “ ___ is comparable to ___.”
More Advice About IELTS Speaking Part 2
Before I give you my sample answer, I have a few more pieces of advice.
First of all, you need to make sure to speak for more than one minute. This may sound very obvious, but it’s hard to tell when you are in an exam. You should practice this at home so that you know what one minute feels like.
Don’t speak too quickly or you will finish saying everything within one minute. Instead, pace yourself by breathing slowly and staying calm. Nervousness is one of the biggest problems and it will make you speak too quickly.
Remember that you are having a conversation with the examiner. Even though at this point he/she will be just listening to you, it is not a formal speech. Avoid clichés such as, “Today I’m going to talk about…” These don’t sound very natural or normal.
Finally, don’t worry too much about the mistakes you make. If you say something that you know is wrong, you may correct it, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of repeatedly correcting yourself. This is not good. Small mistakes may even be ignored by the examiner, so just keep talking. If you pause to correct every little error, you will lose points for fluency.
Here is my sample answer for the above cue card, “describe your hometown”:
My hometown is a place called St. Andrews. It’s located in the northeast of Fife, a county in Scotland. St. Andrews is a very old place, with some buildings that date back hundreds of years, including a castle and a cathedral. Nowadays, it is mostly famous for its golf courses and an excellent university.
These days, people in St. Andrews engage in various occupations, but as it’s a university town, there are lots of students there. Some people may work in shops or other businesses, and some commute to nearby cities like Dundee. However, there is no major industry in St. Andrews and no factories there. There are a lot of tourists, so I suppose at least some people must work within the tourist industry.
In terms of climate, St. Andrews is mild but rainy. Like most of Scotland, there are not many sunny days and often it is grey, overcast, and there is a light rain. However, it seldom gets below freezing and there is rarely any snow.
I have not lived in my hometown for many years because I moved away after university, but I still have a certain fondness for it. I go back once every year or two and I enjoy walking around the streets, or strolling along the beach. It is a very pleasant place for walking and being among the old buildings brings back fond memories.
You will see that I have used any “fancy” vocabulary in this answer. As I have said before, I don’t think that it’s really worthwhile. Moreover, I have not tried to write this like a description in a novel! Many lazy IELTS teachers produce stupid descriptions for their websites that use overly formal language or bizarre words. These are not realistic. This is a test of your speaking ability and you should go into it open-minded with the intention of just giving an honest description of whatever is on the cue card. You don’t need to say anything particularly special – just avoid mistakes with grammar and vocabulary.
I hope that this has been helpful for you. Next time you are asked to describe your hometown, I think that you should be able to provide a much better answer.