There are certain topics in the IELTS exam which can be considered quite common. They are not guaranteed to appear in your next exam, but they are common enough that you really should spend some time studying them. One of these super common IELTS topics is weather.
I’m sure that when you first began learning English, you learned to talk about the weather. In my first teaching job, I taught this topic to kindergarten students. Even those cute little 3-year-olds could say, “It’s a sunny day!” or “It is raining.” Of course, for IELTS you need to be able to produce more advanced language than that!
Today, I want to tell you all about weather as a topic for your IELTS test. I’ll explain a little about how it might appear in the exam, and also give you some useful language for describing it.
IELTS Speaking Questions about Weather
The IELTS speaking test is by far the most likely part of the exam to contain questions about weather. This topic could appear in any of the three parts of the speaking test, but it is most likely to occur in part one as the topic is rather shallow. In part one, you aren’t expected to say very much, and so this is the best place for simple questions about things like weather. Here are ten example questions about weather from IELTS speaking part 1:
- What’s the weather like where you live?
- Does the weather affect your mood?
- Do you like sunny days?
- What type of weather do you like best?
- Does the weather ever affect what you do?
- Does it bother you much when it rains?
- What do you like to do on sunny days?
- Does it rain a lot in your hometown?
- Which months have the best weather in your country?
- Does rain ever affect transportation in your hometown?
All of those questions are quite simple, factual matters. There is no real complexity to them because they would be asked in part one and you will only be expected to give a basic answer. For example, let’s look at two of the questions from above:
- What’s the weather like where you live?
- It rains a lot in my hometown, even in the summer. Sometimes it’s sunny but it’s never really very warm.
- What type of weather do you like best?
- I really like warm, sunny days the best. When the weather is like that, you can go out and do interesting things rather than being stuck indoors.
You can see that in those answers, I have given only two sentences as a reply. You might think that this is not enough, but actually it is perfectly fine. Notice that I also didn’t use any complex vocabulary. This is also acceptable because for part one the questions really will be simple. You might have a chance to show off more in part three, but don’t worry about it. Sometimes it’s best to use simple language with a high degree of accuracy.
Part two is a little harder to predict, and it’s less likely that you will get a weather question here, but it could still happen. Two cue cards that you might possibly encounter will ask you to do the following:
- Describe your favourite kind of weather.
- Describe a time when you experienced extreme weather conditions.
In each case, you would need to follow the cue card and give an appropriate response. Here is a video about describing a season, which has some overlap with the topic of weather.
Part three might have questions about weather as well, but remember that here they will be more complex and abstract. In this section, questions often get into morality, gender, age, and other difficult issues. There isn’t really too much that could be said about weather here, but you might find something like the following:
- Do you think that weather affects people’s behaviour?
Notice that this is similar to a question from part one, but now we are talking about people in general, rather than your personal opinion. This is much harder to do, and of course here you are expected to speak for longer. You might give an answer like this:
- I think that weather definitely affects people’s behaviour. You just have to go outside on a sunny day to see how friendly people are compared to when it’s raining. Also, when the weather is really bad you see people looking depressed and often acting with impatience towards others. People do things like fight over taxis or push rudely past each other when it’s rainy and cold. So, yeah, it definitely has an impact.
This answer is much longer than my first ones, and you can see how each sentence sort of adds a little more to the idea. There is also a basic introduction and conclusion as I tell my listener what I think and then summarize what I said. But is there much difficult weather vocabulary? Not really. There isn’t too much that you can really say in a question like this, as it relates more to a person’s mood than actual weather.
Weather for IELTS Writing
It is less common that you will encounter the topic of weather for IELTS writing, but it could still happen. For one example, you may see weather appear in task 1 as you have to describe patterns of rainfall or hours of sunshine. However, this really wouldn’t require much knowledge of the weather, as you are just expected to describe what you see.
For task 2, there is definitely more scope but the topic of weather is a bit limited. Instead, you would probably see it arise within the greater topic of environment. For example, look at the following question and sample answer. I will highlight some useful vocabulary that may be helpful for you in giving more complex descriptions of weather and the related issue of global warming.
IELTS Writing Task 2 Question: Weather
Global warming is one of the biggest threats to our environment.
What causes global warming?
What solutions are there to this problem?
It is clear that the earth’s climate is changing due to human activity. The weather is growing increasingly erratic, and temperatures are soaring in many places. This essay will explore the reasons for this, as well as some possible solutions.
Our modern style of living is causing huge damage to the planet in a number of ways. For one thing, people want constant comfort in their homes, and this means huge amounts of energy must be generated to provide them with electricity, not to mention the production of goods that make them feel happy. As such, power stations and factories around the world churn out huge volumes of emissions that go straight into the atmosphere and cause terrible damage. This is compounded by emissions from cars and airplanes, which are also continually rising as the population grows and people become more mobile. Altogether, these cause global warming by changing the earth’s atmosphere and trapping heat.
The problem needs to be dealt with immediately or else there will be no chance of saving the planet later. Governments around the world need to work together to stamp out toxic emissions from factories, power stations, and transportation. Once lowered, these should also be offset by planting more trees to replace carbon dioxide with oxygen. Doing all this will take a massive effort, but it is important that the world is in agreement. Primarily, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of governments, who will need to impose regulations to stop corporations and individuals from perpetrating more destruction upon the environment.
In conclusion, the earth is dying because of human actions, and the whole world will need to act immediately to reverse the damage.
IELTS Reading and Listening Topic: Weather
I don’t really recommend preparing for IELTS reading and listening in terms of topic because actually the topics here are much wider, particularly for reading. In the reading test, you could be given a passage about almost anything, and for listening the final lecture is pretty much the same. Theoretically, any of those could well relate to weather, but you wouldn’t really be expected to know that much about it. Instead, you’d just be expected to have the basic English skills required to pick apart the grammar and main ideas.
Of course, knowing about the weather is useful and you should definitely study it. Reading and listening to English sources like news articles is always helpful and if these are about weather, it may give you a slightly better chance at IELTS listening and reading. (Pro tip: Try watching the weather forecast in English.)
Important Language for Discussing the Weather
As we have seen, most of the questions that are likely to arise in IELTS relating to the topic of weather are actually quite simple, and you wouldn’t need to know complex terminology for the topic. It would be enough to know words like hot, cold, rain, sun, etc. Of course, you also need to know the noun and adjective forms:
Most that is pretty simple, but if you want to impress the examiner a little more, you can try using slightly more specific language. By this, I mean that you don’t just have to say “rain” or “rainy.” It rains a lot in the UK, so we have many words for this type of weather. 😄
We can use other nouns to describe particular kinds of rain:
We can also use an adjective to modify the word “rain”:
- Driving rain
- Pouring rain
- Light rain
- Heavy rain
- Torrential rain
- Freezing rain
We could also use some verbs to talk about how it was raining:
- The rain battered down around us.
- It was pouring rain all night.
- The rain seemed to go right through us.
- It just sprinkled down for an hour and then stopped.
You see, it is possible to extend your vocabulary a little from “rain” to using a wider range of language. None of those words or phrases is particularly “advanced” but they all offer a chance to go beyond the most basic and obvious term.
When talking about weather, there are different types of word that we can use. I showed you above that we can vary how we talk about rain by using verbs, adjectives, and nouns. Well, that is possible for some types of weather.
We can say “it is + adjective”:
- It is sunny.
- It is rainy.
Or “it is a(n) adjective + day”:
- It is a sunny day.
- It is a rainy day.
We can also say “it is verb+ing”:
- It is raining.
- It is snowing.
Or we can even use “there +noun”:
- There is snow outside.
- There will be thunder later.
Some words can be adapted to all forms:
- It’s raining! (verb)
- It’s rainy! (adjective)
- There’s been a lot of rain recently. (noun)
However, others can’t:
- It’s sunny!
- There’s been a lot of sunshine recently.
Here is a PPT I made for my former students. It contains some interesting language about weather. I recommend that you download it and play it on your computer so that you can challenge yourself without seeing the answers first.
I would like to mention here that I have missed out some apparently obvious questions from above. The questions I might have also included were things like, “What’s your favourite season?” Actually, I feel that there is a slight distinction between seasons and weather, and so I will keep this particular article devoted to the latter. If you want to learn how to talk about seasons for IELTS, you can check this link.
It could also be argued that there is some crossover into the topic of climate change and environment because obviously the current phenomenon of global warming is related to the weather. However, I will also leave this aside for now and just focus on more basic weather questions.