In all parts of the IELTS exam, you will be expected to know how to talk about common life topics like education, health, technology, and so on. Speaking about media is one such area because the media enters almost everyone’s life in some way.

As such, today I am going to show you how to talk about the media by looking at some vocabulary and then offering up a few sample questions.

What is the Media and How Does it Appear in IELTS?

The best definition of “media” that I could find comes from the Cambridge Dictionary:

the internet, newspapers, magazines, television, etc., considered as a group

It is a sign of the times that “internet” comes first in that list because, for a long time, the media was thought of mostly as newspapers, TV, the radio, etc. However, of course we can now include the internet and even social media part of the general media.

Media has some other definitions, but the above one is the part we are going to focus on today as it is most relevant to IELTS. It could appear in any section of the exam and I frequently see it in the writing test, where candidates are commonly asked about the influence of the media or the media’s responsibility on various issues.

Here is a sample essay about the influence of the media. There is another here that is specifically about social media.

IELTS Speaking Questions: The Media

Because topics related to the media typically require a substantial answer, they are most likely to occur in parts 2 and 3 of the IELTS speaking test. It is definitely possible that you could encounter them in part 1, but I think it’s a bit less likely. If you did, it would probably say something like, “Where do you get your news from?” or “Do you often read magazines?” These would require a simple answer of just 1-3 sentences. For example:

I usually get my news from the BBC app but I also check Google News and Twitter so that I get a diverse range of sources. I think it’s a big problem when people get all their news from just one place.

In part 2, you might be asked to describe a magazine or newspaper that you know. It is also possible this could be a website, app, or social media outlet. You would have to speak for 1-2 minutes about this particular topic and so it would be useful to have some good language related to the media. (We’ll come to that in a moment.)

As for part 3, those questions would be a little more challenging. They would be serious issues that require a bit of depth to the answer, probably requiring you to give about 3-5 sentences that explain your position or dig into the issue. For example:

  1. How do you think people will get their news in the future?
  2. How has social media changed the way we get and share the news?
  3. What do you think of children watching TV?

These are not questions you could adequately answer in a single sentence. You would need to give more detail. For example, to the second question, I might say:

I think it’s almost impossible to overstate the way that social media has changed how people get the news. In the past, countries had a few different news outlets, some of which were independent and others controlled by the government, but nowadays people tend to share a wide range of news sources on social media. Whilst this sounds great, actually it has caused a lot of problems because people tend to pick and choose their news sources according to their own biases, creating what some people call an “echo chamber” and amplifying misinformation. Beyond that, some countries have gotten quite adept at manipulating other ones through the spread of misinformation on social media, turning populations against one another and sowing the seeds of distrust for the government. What seems like a shift in the way that people read the news has in fact had a massive impact on billions of lives.

This answer is probably a little longer than you need to speak for, so don’t worry if it seems intimidating. For questions with a lot of scope, though, it is possible to give very developed and nuanced answers like this.

IELTS Media Vocabulary

Right, now let’s look at some useful vocabulary for talking about the media. I will try to group these words into useful collections, but of course there is some overlap between them.

General Media Issues

breaking news(noun) newly received information about an event that is currently occurring or developingThe TV show was interrupted by breaking news about an assassination.
censorship(noun) the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc.Censorship is a major problem in many parts of the world, meaning that people cannot get access to real news.
credible(adj) able to be believed; convincingThe channel is popular, but few intelligent people find their reporting credible.
disinformation(noun) false information which is intended to misleadOne of the biggest threats in recent years is the disinformation campaigns run by the Russian and Chinese governments, which have effectively weaponised free speech in the West.
free speech(noun) the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraintIn most Western countries, free speech is considered a sacred value, yet few realise how many problems it creates.
headline(noun) a heading at the top of an article or page in a newspaper or magazineNowadays, it is pretty common to scan the headlines on a news app without even reading the articles.
journalist(noun) a person who writes for newspapers, magazines, or news websitesJournalists are often criticised but they are an integral part of any democratic society.
mainstream media(noun) traditional or established broadcasting or publishing outletsA lot of people have lost trust in the mainstream media, which is a problem because, in spite of their various biases, they mostly adhere to a code of conduct that is absent in alternative media.
misinformation(noun) false or inaccurate informationSocial media has made misinformation more common than ever before.
print media(noun) means of mass communication in the form of printed publicationsPeople have said for decades that print media is dying, yet it will probably last longer than they think.
propaganda(noun) information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of viewIn some countries, like China and North Korea, there is no real difference between reporting and propaganda.

Bonus: Here’s an explanation of the difference between misinformation and disinformation:

Traditional Media

editorial(noun) a newspaper article expressing the editor’s opinion on a topical issueJust before the election, the paper ran an editorial that endorsed the underdog candidate, giving her campaign a boost.
investigative journalism(noun) reporting that inquires intensively into and seeks to expose malpracticeThough people often mistrust journalists, investigative journalism has brought about many positive changes in our society by exposing corruption and other illegal activities.
press conference(noun) an interview given to journalists by a prominent person in order to make an announcement or answer questionsThe politician held a press conference to announce his resignation.
scoop(noun) a piece of news published by a newspaper or broadcast by a television or radio station in advance of its rivalsThe editor was delighted when his young journalists got the scoop and he was able to break the news two hours before anyone else.
tabloid(noun) a newspaper having pages half the size of those of the average broadsheetMost intelligent people refuse to read the tabloids, but they remain popular because of their sensationalist reporting style.
viewing figures(noun) data on the number of people watching a TV showWith the rise of social media, most TV news outlets are witnessing a huge drop in viewing figures.

New Media

clickbait(noun) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web pageTwenty years ago, who could have predicted the rise of clickbait?
content(noun) information made available by a website or other electronic mediumWhere once journalism sought to inform or ask questions, now it often seems like little more than content.
influencer(noun) a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social mediaOne of the biggest social trends of the last few years has been the rise of the influencer, with most young children now listing this as their career aspiration.
livestream(verb) transmit or receive live video and audio coverage of (an event) over the internetHe’s been livestreaming the protest for about four hours now and has more than 20,000 viewers.
paywall(noun) an arrangement whereby access is restricted to users who have paid to subscribe to the siteA big problem nowadays is that disreputable news outlets give their content for free while the reputable ones hide it behind a paywall.
tweet(verb) make a post on the social media application TwitterShe tweeted a screenshot of the e-mail she received from that company and their share price dropped 20%.
viral(adj) circulated rapidly and widely from one internet user to anotherThe video went viral in a matter of hours and his career was ruined.

That’s all for today. If you want to learn even more about the media, go and read a reputable news website! By reading the news, you should be able to not just learn new vocabulary, but also gain various new ideas that will help you to give more developed answers in your next IELTS test.