There are many possible cue cards for IELTS speaking part 2 and you may be asked to describe a place, an object, a memory, a photo, a building, or just about anything else. However, one of the most common tasks is to describe a person. In this lesson, we will find out how to talk about a person who has had an influence on your life.

Cue card: Describe someone who influenced you

First of all, it is important to note that all cue cards are unique and as such you cannot just memorise an answer to a card that you anticipate. Whenever you are given a cue card, you should analyse it carefully.

The idea of a “influential person” could be introduced in many possible ways. It could be “describe an influential person” or “describe someone who has influenced you.” It may not even say “influence,” but just hint at it: “describe someone who has guided you in your life.”

Here is the cue card that we will look at today:

Describe someone who has had an important influence on your life.

You should say:

– who the person is

– how long you have known him/her

– what qualities this person has

and explain why they have had such an influence on you.

I would call this pretty straightforward. There is nothing tricky or misleading here. You simply need to think of someone who has influenced you, then talk about them and what it was they did to affect your life in some way.

Planning your answer

Don’t spend too long analysing the cue card because you only have one minute to prepare your answer. You should pretty much go with the first good idea that comes to mind, then do your best to offer a good description.

I outline the process of giving great part 2 answers in this video:

Once you have chosen a person to talk about, you should think of what you want to say about them and how. That means:

  1. What do you want to say first, second, and last?
  2. What words will you use to talk about them?

In terms of structure, I explained in the above video that I like to start with a personal anecdote – ie a memory. That helps me to talk easily and introduce the next idea, which will logically lead to the next and the next, making it easy to reach the one minute minimum. I also like to bring my answers to a good conclusion. That can be a summary or just a simple sentence that uses intonation to finalise my ideas.

As for vocabulary, as always it depends on who you choose. If you choose a family member, you might need slightly different words from if it was a teacher or a friend. If you want a good score for Lexical Resource, you need to be specific and use words that are accurate and appropriate. Don’t try to show off with random words you found in the dictionary.

Be careful with synonyms of important words because these are not always going to be appropriate. If we look up synonyms of “influence” in the dictionary, we see a lot of useless terms:

Of course, you don’t want to repeat “influence” over and over, so it is worth trying to find words or phrases that have similar meanings. We could, for example, say:

  • Mr Stevens had a great impact on my life.
  • My teacher’s lessons affected me so much that they changed the course of my life.
  • What he said to me that day had a big effect on me.
  • She was a significant force in my life.
  • For several years, he guided me and helped me to become a better person.

The highlighted words are not perfect synonyms of “influence” but do have loosely similar meanings and can be used to diversify your language a little.

Remember of course that “influence” is both a verb and a noun:

  • My professor influenced me greatly.
  • She was a major influence in my life.

It is also an adjective:

  • I cannot overstate how influential she was on my career.

Sample Band 9 Answer

Here is how I would respond to the above cue card:

When I was in my final year of secondary school, I was invited to a university open day. At this point in my life, I did not plan on going to university, but for some reason I went along. A man called Mr Peters gave a speech that day that really changed my life. In fact, it wasn’t the speech but the man who gave it. He was so enthusiastic about education and, in particular, this university, that by the end of the day I had already decided I would apply to study there.

On that first day, I listened to his speech and then followed him around the campus as he gave a guided tour of the facilities. Finally, I got a chance to have a conversation with him and he was just as charming in person as he had been when speaking in front of a crowd. There was something magnetic about this person. The way he talked was just inspiring.

The following year, I got to study at that university and I met him several times. In my second year, I actually got to take some of his classes and again he was tremendously influential on me. He taught me so many valuable lessons. I don’t mean that I just remembered the interesting things he taught, but rather he taught me how to learn. He preached the importance of questioning sources and asking why something was written. All these years later, I still try to follow his advice.

I can hardly overstate the importance of Mr Peters on my life, even though I have not spoken to him for a very long time. He was the reason that I went to university and therefore he is partly responsible for everything that came after that. I would simply not be the person I am today without him.

Notes on the answer

As I suggested in my video, I have started with a personal memory. This does not introduce the person I will talk about, but rather it sets the scene. It makes it easier for me to talk at length and also makes the answer more interesting for the reader.

I then went on to describe this person. Instead of using boring and repetitive language like “He was influential… He impacted my life…” I have given concrete examples of how he influenced me. I talked about his first speech, about our meeting, and about his classes. Again, this makes it easier to talk about and also makes it more interesting for the reader.

In terms of language, I used some of the above ideas as well as words like “inspiring” and “magnetic.” The latter can be a bit corny, so I hesitated to use it, but in the end I decided it was an apt description for this particular person and I think my description made that clear.

Finally, I have brought it to a natural and fitting conclusion. Again, in the video above I tried to emphasise the importance of this. It helps signal to the examiner that you have finished and is better for your Fluency and Coherence score than simply stumbling over words as you run out of things to say.