In the IELTS speaking test, the worst thing a student can do is dry up and have nothing to say.
The purpose of the speaking test is for you to speak English for two minutes with clarity, with a certain level of fluency and with a decent range of vocabulary.
Talking about technology is a common topic in the test and the examiner expects students to talk at length about it.
Technology is in our daily lives, we are surrounded by it and we use it all the time.
Students should be able to talk about this with ease.
But many go into the test without a clue on how to talk in detail about any technology.
In this guide, I will show you how to talk about a piece of technology at length.
Follow all the steps below and you will not be lost for words on the day of the test.
Let’s dive in and take a look.
Why Talk about Technology?
The subject of technology could come up in a variety of ways.
What we are really talking about here is talking about a particular piece of technology. That conversation could come up in your daily life — maybe as you are chatting with one of your colleagues. Or in the classroom with your teacher and classmates. Or you may be asked to do a class presentation about a machine or device that you use regularly.
Then again, if you are working, you may have to describe devices, gadgets and machines as part of your daily work schedule. Especially if you are making sales presentations about such things.
But the subject could also appear in the IELTS speaking test. Describing things that we own or know about is a very common topic in the test, so in that case, you should be prepared to talk about it.
For the sake of this guide, I will assume that you are studying for the IELTS speaking test.
This guide is for you — follow all the steps to find out all the different ways to talk about a piece of technology in the IELTS speaking test.
Common Technological Items to Describe
We have a surprising amount of technology in our houses. And we also use a wide variety of other technology in our daily lives.
The average person these days has a smartphone — no doubt you are reading this on your own phone right now. But we also own computers, TV’s, e-book readers, earphones/earbuds, portable smartphone chargers, digital cameras, drones, smartwatches, hairdryers, coffee makers, fitness trackers, Bluetooth speakers…
The list goes on and on!
You only have to describe one item — not all of these.
And the trick is to choose one you feel comfortable talking about at length. That means choosing a device you are familiar with — a gadget or machine that you know inside out.
I knew a young guy who had a drone that he used for taking aerial photography. He was absolutely crazy about flying drones. He showed me his drone one day, and it was a very high-end machine — this was no toy!
And as he was so obsessed with the hobby of aerial photography, he could talk about his drone for literally hours. He knew every single thing about his drone and drones in general.
I also knew a girl who liked to design things on her computer. She could talk about her computer reasonably well, but she could really talk at length about the benefits of certain design software on her computer. She could talk passionately about this software as it was very useful to her.
So that is what you need to think about. What device do you use all the time that you could talk about for two minutes?
For many people that is their smartphone. If so, no problem, but make sure you can talk about it for a decent amount of time.
The Process of Describing
There could be a proper form in describing things and items, but what I have laid out here is relatively straightforward.
First, we will look at what the item is and its physical appearance.
Then where people can buy the device and how much they cost.
After that, we can go into deeper details of the use of the item.
Finally, we can talk about personal opinions about the device, its history and the future.
At the end, you may have time to talk about a short anecdote about the technology you own.
There is no right or wrong way on how to describe anything. There is no fixed order on how to do it.
I have just made a simple map for you to follow and to keep things simple.
So let’s get started.
What Is It?
You need to say what the actual object is. This is no guessing game.
If you are in the IELTS test, you can simply say something like:
I would like to talk about my smartphone
Or in the case of my student with the drone:
I am really interested in aerial photography, so I want to tell you about my drone
No need for anything else. Just be simple and direct about the very thing you wish to talk about in the test.
What Is It Used For?
Now you say, in simple terms, what the device is used for. You do not carry this thing around with you for decoration; it has a use — or several uses — what are they?
So we might have:
I use my smartphone to call my friends and family, but I can also use it to send messages. It has many apps that I can use for things like communicating with others, listening to music, going online and searching for information. It’s like carrying a small computer in my pocket.
For our friend with the drone:
It is a small flying machine that I can control with a hand-held controller. I can attach my smartphone or a digital camera to the drone and take pictures and videos from high above the ground. I use it as part of my hobby of aerial photography. It’s great fun to play with in my free time.
But how about some other technological items?
You could be talking about your e-book reader.
I use my Kindle to read books. It is light and compact so it can fit into my bag very easily. The great thing about the Kindle is that I can store so many books on it. I like to read several books at the same time, rotating from one book to another, so this really suits me.
Or maybe you want to talk about your wireless earbuds.
Before my wireless earbuds, I used these older earphones with wires and they would get all tangled up in my pocket. The wireless buds are great. I like to listen to music while working out in the gym. When I used my old earphones, the wires would get in my way or get caught on the exercise equipment. But with my wireless earbuds, I don’t have that problem at all.
Then again, maybe your coffee maker.
I use my coffee maker to make filter coffee. It’s like the kind of coffee you can buy in a coffee shop but in my home. I like really good coffee so this works great for me.
All you have to do is say what you use this device or machine for.
I watch my favourite TV shows and movies on it with my family.
We use it to keep the house cool on hot days.
I use this to dry my hair after taking a shower.
If you can, add some personal reference to the device’s use and this makes for a great answer.
Who Uses It?
In this part, you can say what kind of people use the device or machine.
Of course, you use it. That is not what you are talking about. But you can say what other kinds of people use it. Or who usually uses it.
So you could say:
Everyone has a smartphone these days. They are very convenient and almost impossible to live without nowadays.
Everyone has a computer, especially students and people that work in companies. It is a necessary item to have in their daily lives.
Many sports and fitness fans use a fitness tracker. They use it to monitor their progress.
Most of my friends have Bluetooth speakers. They like that they can listen to music in almost any location.
The key thing is to avoid simple, one-word answers like everyone, my family, my friends, teachers, students.
Try to think about who uses it. And you could explain why this group uses the device too.
What Size Is It?
Now you get down to describing the device’s appearance.
When talking about the size of this piece of technology, you are talking about the dimensions of it.
This means you use three main terms:
I don’t mean that you have to use these words, but you should try to talk about these things when describing your item.
Let me show you by talking about my smartphone. I could say:
It’s about 15 cm long and 7 cm wide. And it is very slim, maybe less than half a centimetre. It fits very comfortably in my hand and my pocket so it’s a good size.
Now in the above sentence, I give very clear measurements about my phone’s length and width. You can do this if you wish, but there is no need to be absolutely accurate about this. Just give a rough idea and that is enough.
Also, note that I talk about the phone being slim. In this, I mean its depth but by using the word slim I am describing its size here.
You should think in these terms. Use words that describe something being very big or small, wide or slim.
What Colour Is It?
You simply say the colour of it.
My smartphone is black with a silver edge.
My computer is a light-grey colour.
My earbuds are red.
There is really nothing much to add here.
What Is It Made Of?
And now you talk about the material that the device is made from.
This can cause some confusion. Because what is this strange material? Metal? Plastic?
In fact, most smartphones today are made of a combination of metal alloys.
For the sake of the speaking test, you do not need to think too much about this. As long as you are speaking English, the examiner will not care if your answers are correct or not.
It is a test of English — not your knowledge of electrical appliances manufacturing.
So you could say:
I don’t really know what it’s made of — some kind of plastic?
REMEMBER — the IELTS speaking test is not a test of your knowledge. It is a test of your English speaking. So as long as you say a sentence like the above example, the examiner is happy. He is not going to condemn you for not knowing what your TV or iPad is made of.
I think it is safe to say most people in the world do not know what their technological devices are made of. You could use any of the following sentences below as a good answer for this:
I think my TV is made of a special kind of plastic. But I am not sure.
My coffee machine looks like it is made from a new kind of metal. Something that looks like plastic and is easy to clean.
My earbuds are made of a light plastic, I think. Some new technology that I am not too sure about.
My digital camera feels quite heavy. I think some parts are metal and other parts plastic. I know it is not all plastic because of the weight of it.
Any of these answers are perfectly adequate for the speaking test.
Where We Can Find This Device
In this section, you need to say where we can see the item you are describing.
For some devices, this would mean pretty much everywhere we look — a smartphone, for example.
For smartphones we could say the following:
You see smartphones everywhere. Everyone has one these days. If someone doesn’t have a smartphone, it seems pretty strange. So, of course, you can see them wherever you go.
But some other devices and machines are not portable. They may be fixed in one particular place. Let’s look at what you can say for one of these items:
Usually, people have a TV in their living room. If people watch TV at all, it is usually in their living room with their family.
Coffee machines are kept in the kitchen. That’s where I keep mine. In an office, you might find one in a communal area, but for private use, the kitchen is the best place to have one.
I use my hairdryer in my bedroom. It just seems the best place to have it. It is where I get ready for college after taking a shower. I think most people keep a hairdryer in their bedroom if they use one.
If the examiner asks you where you can see this item, you just say where people use it.
Do not say — IN A SHOP. Of course, we can see all of these machines in a shop, but to say that in the test sounds silly and irrelevant.
How Many of These Devices Do People Usually Own?
It is rare, but some people may have more than one of these devices.
Some people have two or three smartphones. I don’t personally know why they would — but some people seem to collect them.
Other people may have three computers.
Usually, in terms of technological items, people usually own only one.
If they have more than that, it may be because they don’t throw away the old ones they bought before.
How Much Does This Item Cost?
You just say what the general price for the device is. Or how much you paid for your item.
So for example:
I paid more than $300 for my phone, which is a little expensive, but it has a really big screen and is a good brand. So maybe it is worth it. Most phones cost less than that.
Drones can be very expensive. Mine is a top of the range model so it cost around $800. But you can much cheaper ones for around $50. These are usually nothing more than toys though. If you are serious about using a drone for videos or photography you should spend at least $250.
My camera was about $400. It’s not so expensive, I think. But it is great quality that takes great pictures. Most people use the camera on their phone.
When talking about the price of something, you can say the actual cost of the item using numbers and the currency you paid. But you can also give a personal opinion on the cost of the item by using the following words or phrases:
Kind of pricey (expensive)
Cost a bomb (expensive)
Dirt cheap (very cheap)
Not expensive (cheap/good price to pay)
Decent price (average price)
You should try to use these phrases too as it shows you can express an opinion about the cost of things.
Talk About the Details
So you have introduced the device you own.
You have described it, talked about its basic uses, where to find one and who uses it.
Now you can talk about more details of it.
The Useful Things About This Device
One way to talk about the details of the device is to talk about how useful it is to you. You can do this by going into detail of all the machines technology.
For example, with a smartphone, there are many apps. You simply talk about all the apps that you downloaded onto your phone and use every day.
What apps do you use every day? And why do you use them?
That is pretty much all you have to say in this part.
Let me show you how:
On my phone, I have the usual kind of apps — like a camera, a calendar, clock, internet and phone. I think most people have these apps. I use the camera quite a lot. Sometimes I take pictures of my friends when we are out together. I might use the calendar to set reminders of things I have to do. And I have an alarm clock on the clock app to make sure I get up in the morning.
Surprisingly, I almost never use the phone though.
I have Skype on my phone and I use that instead to make calls and video calls. It is free to use so why not?
Then I have Facebook — but I only use the messenger app.
I have LinkedIn for work and Spotify to listen to music. I also have Amazon for shopping.
I think that’s about it.
Many of my friends have games apps. And some others use a dating app.
But all of these apps can be very useful. Or they can provide great entertainment — all on one device.
As an exercise, go through all the apps you have on your phone and try to talk about them. Why do you have these apps and what do you use them for?
This can help you if you talk about your smartphone in the IELTS test.
But let’s look at some other gadgets and their details. What can we say about these things?
My camera has detachable lenses. I have three different lenses for my camera — a wide-angle lens, a zoom lens and a standard 50mm lens. They all have their uses for different kinds of pictures that I want to take.
I use the wide-angle lens for taking pictures of scenery. I like to take pictures of the city and I need a wide-angle lens to get all the buildings into one picture.
Other times I like to take pictures of people from far away. That way they look very natural, and they have no idea I have a camera pointing at them. For these pictures, I use a zoom lens. The people look like they are just going about their day.
For any other picture, I just use the standard 50mm lens. It is pretty flexible for all the other kind of pictures I want to take.
What device are you describing?
What special features does it have that you like about it?
If you can’t think of any special features to describe about it, why are you talking about it?
You need to talk about a device that is familiar to you. Something that you use regularly and can talk about with ease.
The Negative Sides to this Device
There may be a number of positive sides to this device of yours. And you should talk about as many of these as you can.
But in the IELTS speaking test, it is always a good idea to talk about the negatives of something too.
By doing this, it shows that you can express the good and bad sides of a topic and it makes you sound more fluent and capable in English.
So what are the negatives to the device you are describing?
For smartphones, there is one major downside to it — and that is that people become so engaged with their phone that they do not concentrate on their surroundings.
This can cause them to do something a little foolish by walking into a tree or a lamppost — or even worse — to walk into a road in front of traffic.
There are more dangerous sides to the smartphone — where people use their phone while driving, for example. This could cause a serious accident.
If you have heard or read any news about this kind of situation, then you should try to talk about it in the test.
But what about with other items?
How about the TV in your living room?
You could say that the negative of the TV is that you may end up passively watching any show or program that comes on because the rest of your family is watching it. Maybe you have no real interest in this show, but you waste an hour just idly sitting in the living room and watching the entire show.
That time could be spent more wisely.
Or how about your hairdryer?
A negative of this is that people nearly always use this with wet hair and maybe wet hands. And using an electrical appliance with wet hands is dangerous.
Of course, in reality, accidents very rarely happen like this with hairdryers. But that is not the point. The idea here is to try to describe any negatives with your chosen technological item.
By talking about any negatives, you will give a good impression to the examiner.
Will This Technology Still Be Around In Five Years? Ten Years?
We live in an age where technology changes at a huge rate.
Certainly in the last decade or so there has been a rapid change in the technology around us.
Will the device you are describing still be around five years from now? What about ten years from now?
It is difficult for us to think about these questions, but we can take a wild guess.
Remember — the examiner is only testing your English ability so you can create some very interesting ideas in this section.
Let’s start with smartphones. You might say:
In five years, I don’t think people will be using smartphones. I think we will have small computer chips installed in our wrists and we will be able to communicate via small screens made of light that only the person can see.
Or maybe you are talking about the fridge in your kitchen:
In the future, fridges can send you an email of recipes using the food that is available inside the fridge at that precise moment in time. It can also tell you how many calories are in each food item as you put it in the fridge.
Or a drone:
In the future, there will be super-drones that people will use as public transportation in big cities. And these drones will be run on solar power to save the environment.
Just use your imagination and you can say almost anything you want in this part!
What did people use in the past?
People didn’t always use this technology. In the past, they had to use something else or some other way of doing things.
It is a good idea to try to talk about this to show you can express different things in English.
In the past, people didn’t have smartphones. Before smartphones, there were just ordinary mobile phones. And before that people used a big telephone in their home.
We call this a landline today, but back then people just called it a phone as there were no other kinds of phones around.
People would use this to contact each other. If the person you were trying to call was not at home, you would have to leave a message for them to call you back.
These days people can reach other people very easily.
We can also talk about the fridge.
Many years ago, people did not have a fridge in their home. They used a special room in their house called a larder. This was often near the kitchen and cooler than other rooms in the house. This is where people stored food. It wasn’t the same as a fridge. We can keep milk in a fridge for several days without it going bad, but this was not the same as a larder. People would often buy things like milk every day.
Or listening to music.
There were no smartphones years ago so people could only listen to music at home. They would use a big electrical device called a stereo. On the stereo, they played records of their favourite music.
Records were big and took up a lot of space in the room. People sometimes had special shelves to store their records.
Nowadays we can listen to music wherever we go. And we can just go to an app and listen to music without buying it.
Talking about the object in the past is just as useful as talking about it in the future. If you try to do this, the examiner will be very happy. It shows that you can use different verb tenses and can express yourself well.
Think about the object you want to describe — now think about how people performed the same actions years ago in the past.
Tell a Story About It
I have talked about this before. You can check my article here. But a very useful thing to do in the IELTS test is to tell a story.
Telling a story can use complex verb tenses and you have to structure the story in a certain way.
If you can do this, the examiner will be very impressed.
So please try!
What story can you tell about your technological item?
You can say:
- Where you bought it and why
- A time when you used it and how useful it was to you
- A time when the device was not working, and you had to get it repaired
- A time when it caused you a big problem from using it at the wrong time or incorrectly
I bought my digital camera in this specialist camera store in town.
I could have bought it online, but I wanted to know that I could talk to someone about the camera — an expert — and get more personal service.
The camera was a little expensive but I think it is good quality. It has many reviews online and many people say how good it is.
One time I was using my earbuds, listening to music while walking along the street. I got totally lost in my own world and wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings. I nearly walked into a tree!
Luckily, I saw it at the last moment and from then on I paid more attention to where I was going. But I could have hurt myself quite badly.
When telling a story in the IELTS test, the point is to show the examiner that you can use different verb tenses and be able to tell a story. That is it. The story is not to try to win an award for the most interesting story. Just to make a good impression on the examiner.
So you should definitely try this method.
Talking about a technological item need not be so dull and uninspiring. There are many things for you to talk about if you put your mind to it and use your imagination.
You do not have to talk about every single section above.
In fact, in the IELTS test, you don’t have time to do that — you only have two minutes.
But if you practice talking about all the parts above, you will find that you are more capable of talking about an item of technology in your spoken English.
And then when it comes to the speaking test, you have plenty to talk about.
Good luck and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!