Describing someone in your family is a very popular Part Two Question in the IELTS Speaking Test.
It should be easy. After all, these are the people you know and love well. But many students seem to get in a real muddle over this.
Let’s look at some examples of Part Two Questions about Family. And look at ways to talk about these questions.
You should refer to my articles on describing family here:
The Topic Cards
We will look at three Part Two Questions in this article.
Topic Card 1
First of all, think about the word ADMIRE. What does it mean?
The dictionary definition says:
to feel respect and approval for (someone or something)
to regard with admiration
So, for example:
I really admire my father, because he works hard to support his family
I greatly admire my grandmother as she brought up three children on her own
To admire someone is to look up to them. This person has done something or does something to make you feel highly of them.
So, who do you admire?
Who in your family do you look up to with respect?
Who in your family do you have strong positive feelings for?
It’s quite common to have admiration for an older family member. Our mother or father, an uncle, a grandmother. But it could be an older brother.
It could also be a younger sibling, because they do things that make you feel proud.
What is the relationship between this person and you?
That is the meaning of the first task on the topic card.
what their relationship is to you
So all you need to say is how you are related.
You might say:
Someone I really admire is my dad.
The person who I really admire the most is my mum.
My uncle is the person who I admire the most.
I would say that my grandfather is a person I really admire.
As long as you say what the relationship is between you and the person you admire, you are all good.
What has this person done in their life?
That is the meaning of the next task:
what this person has done in their life
You just say the things that they have done that make you admire them.
Let me give you an example with my Dad.
My Dad looked after all of us and made sure we had food to eat and clothes to wear. He went to work, and he worked hard. Sometimes he would work many hours every day.
I can remember sometimes he would work two jobs to support us.
But he also made sure that he had time to spend with us and take us out to the forest or to go swimming. He made time to help us learn to read when we were very young.
And he was always cheerful about life. Never unhappy.
He had a positive attitude to life.
Now let’s look at the things my Dad did that made me admire him:
- He looked after us
- He earned money to pay for food and clothes for us
- He worked hard
- He worked many hours every day
- Sometimes he had two jobs
- He spent time with us
- He took us to the forest, and he went swimming with us
- He taught us to read
- He was always cheerful and happy
- He was positive about life
If you think hard, you can find many things to think about when talking about the person you admire.
Now you try!
Make a list of all the things you admire about the person you want to talk about.
Just make a list and write them down.
Now try to form these ideas into sentences. Write the sentences down and then read out loud.
Try to practice talking about your ideas without relying too much on reading from your list.
Remember — you have to sound natural in the IELTS speaking test.
What do they do now?
This is the meaning of the third task:
what they do now
You just say what they are doing with their life now.
It may be very similar to the things you talked about in the previous task.
You might say:
- He is still working in his company
- He is retired now and enjoying a quiet life
- She is at home looking after her grandchildren
- She is still working as a teacher in the school
Why do you admire this person?
This is the meaning of the last question task at the end of the topic card.
and explain why you admire this person
So, you have to give all the reasons why you admire the person you are talking about.
Take a look at the list you made and try to give good, clear reasons why you admire this person. You can do this by taking each thing you admire them for and saying what you like about them doing this thing.
For example, I said that my Dad took us to the forest and taught us how to swim. So, I might say:
I really like the fact that he would spend time with us and take us to the forest. He was very busy and would come home feeling tired, but he still made time to go to the forest with us. And when we went to the forest, he was always happy and laughing with us.
He never said no if we asked him to come to the forest with us.
And he taught us to swim. Again, he must have been tired on some days, but he always went swimming with us, no matter what.
I think this showed that he was a really great dad, and he tried to spend time with us and teach us some skills in life.
To do this with the person you admire, just look at the things you admire about the person and say WHY you admire these points.
Hard-working — He is hard-working and he does this to look after his family
Caring — She cares for others even though she is busy she still makes time to look after other people
A good listener — She takes time to listen to me when I have trouble. She has her own things to deal with but still takes the time to listen to me. This is very kind and generous of her.
Now you try!
Go through all the good things that people do that you admire. Now write down reasons why you admire them for doing these things.
You should try to think of more than one reason.
With practice, you should be able to think of many reasons. The more reasons you have, the easier it is for you to talk about it in the test.
Now Put It All Together
Once you have worked on each part of the topic card above, you should have many sentences to use.
Remember — you cannot just recite these sentences in the test like a parrot.
The examiner will know immediately if you are just reciting something from a script.
The best thing to do is to use the main parts of your sentences — the KEY POINTS — and try to use those when speaking.
The more you practice, the easier it will get.
Topic Card 2
What does get on well with mean?
It means someone that you like and have a good relationship with. Someone easy to talk to and you have many things in common.
How are you related to this person? How do you know them?
This is the meaning of the first topic line:
what relationship you have with this person
It is very simple. You just say who this person is and what your relationship is.
- Someone I get on with very well with is my mum
- I get on very well with my dad
- I would say that the person I get on best with is my brother
- I get on really well with my uncle
Describe this Person
That is the basic meaning of the next topic line:
what kind of person they are
Now when it says this, what they are really asking for is about their personality. You can give a brief description of what they look like physically, but mainly you should talk about their personality.
Why talk about their personality?
Because you are talking about someone that you get on well with. This means that you share common ideas and interests — and this is influenced mainly by similar personality traits.
So now you have to think about what kind of person this is.
Think about the following questions:
- What do they like to do in their life?
- What are they interested in?
- How would you describe their personality?
Let’s look at some examples.
My brother is very easygoing and has a great sense of humour. He loves to watch funny movies, and he enjoys reading comics too.
My dad is pretty quiet, and if he has free time he likes to read about history.
My uncle has been a football fan all his life. He loves football more than anything. He follows Arsenal and went to his first match when he was only five years old.
Now you try!
Introduce something about the person you want to describe. Just say something about their personality and the things they like.
This will give a clear insight into who this person is and why you get on with them so well.
You should read these articles I wrote about describing family members too:
What do you like to do together?
This is the meaning of the next topic line:
what you like to do together
This is where you get to the main part of the topic. The things that you like to do together. This explains why you get on so well with this person.
So you just say the kind of things that you like to do together.
Me and my dad like to go fishing together.
I like to go to see the football with my uncle.
Both me and my brother like horror movies, so we often go to the cinema together.
My grandfather loves history and so do I. So we often go to the history museum together. I like to hear my grandfather talk about history books he has read.
Now you try!
Think about the things you like to do with this person.
- What do you like to do?
- Where do you go?
- How often do you go?
Try to provide as much detail as you can.
Why do you have a good relationship with this person?
That is the meaning of the last question at the end of the topic card:
also why you get on so well
This should be self-explanatory. If you have spoken clearly about the things you like to do together, then you have answered this question.
But you should still answer it!
Here are some things you can say:
I guess the reason I get on with my uncle so well is because he is an Arsenal fan and so am I. He has been an Arsenal fan all his life and so have I.
We are both football crazy and it’s all we talk about every time we meet.
I get on with my dad really well because we share the same sense of humour. My dad is very observant of people, and this helps us to laugh at the funny things that people do sometimes. We don’t laugh at people in a mean way.
My mum loves cooking, and she got me into cooking when I was a kid. Now we like to cook big Sunday roast lunches together. We make a big day out of it — buying all the food and ingredients from the supermarket and then preparing and cooking the food. It’s just a great day for both of us.
Now Put It All Together
Once you have all the smaller parts of the topic written down in various sentences, you can join it all together as one talk.
Do not try to learn this by heart! The examiner doesn’t like to hear answers from a script…
But just keep speaking out loud in all your sentences. Then put your notes to one side and try to speak for two minutes without looking at them.
Keep practising and your talk will develop very quickly.
Topic Card 3
This should be very easy!
Think about a person in your family that you like. You should like at least two or three people in your family.
It doesn’t have to only be your mother or father. It could be your brother, your sister, one of your uncles or aunts, your grandfather or cousin.
It could be any family member at all.
How are you related to this person?
That is the meaning of the first topic line:
How this person is related to you
So, you just say how you are related.
- I would like to talk about my dad…
- The person I want to talk about is my grandmother…
- I really like my brother. We are like best friends.
- My cousin and I have a very strong relationship…
In these opening lines, you can say who the person is — and their relationship with you — and that you like this person and have a good relationship.
It’s a good way to start your talk on this topic.
What this person looks like
The next line on the topic card asks about the person’s physical appearance. All you need to do is give a few details about what they look like.
- Their height
- Their build
- Their face and hair
You don’t need to go into too many details here. You are not describing someone to the police!
And remember — you need to spend time talking about the details of why you like this person. That is the main part of the topic.
So just give a simple description of the person’s physical appearance.
My dad is a little taller than me and kind of on the thin side. He has dark hair and dark brown eyes. And he is always laughing. So when you see him, he often looks to be in a good mood.
My uncle is kind of overweight as he likes to drink beer. He has a shaved head because he said he is losing his hair. So he likes to keep it short all over.
He sometimes looks very mean and unfriendly, but in fact, he is the complete opposite.
My grandmother is small and wiry. But she is pretty strong for her age. Even though she is quite old, she has jet-black hair. She has a really warm smile, and it makes people feel at ease with her.
Now you try!
Think about the person you want to talk about and try to describe their physical appearance.
Just write down a few sentences to describe what they look like.
If you need some help describing someone’s physical appearance, I wrote a very useful article you can check here:
What kind of person he/she is
The next question on the topic card is asking you to talk about the person’s personality.
This is where you describe their character — Are they generally a happy person? Or sometimes angry or sad? Are they outgoing or shy?
Let’s look at some ways we can describe people and their personality.
My dad has a good sense of humour. He is always laughing about something. I think he has a very positive attitude to life.
My brother is very smart and loves reading. He is a pretty quiet person, but that doesn’t mean he is boring. He’s actually a very interesting person to talk to.
My aunt is very kind to me. Every time I visit her, she makes a big fuss of me. I think she loves people very much. She has so many friends and all her neighbours know and love her very much. She’s just an outgoing and sociable person.
Now you try!
Think about the person you want to describe.
Think about what kind of person they are and their personality.
What positive attributes do they have that you can talk about? Try to talk about these and describe their personality traits.
Write down all the sentences you can think of to describe the person’s personality and character.
Now try to speak out loud about these personality traits without reading directly from your list of sentences.
Why do you like this person?
The last question is the key part to you explaining why you like this person.
This is the key part of the topic. All you have to do is join all the parts above together and then use those as reasons why you like this person.
It could be something about their personality. Or maybe you like to do the same things together. Maybe you have shared interests.
You could say things like this:
I like my uncle because he is a big football fan. He loves football and so do I. So we always have plenty to talk about when we meet.
I really like my grandmother, because whenever I visit her home she always makes me something to eat and we sit down and chat about things. As she is old, she seems to have a lot of time, so I can talk to her about school life and everything else.
I like my mum best as she is so kind and thoughtful. We spend a lot of time together when I get home from school. She likes to hear about what I’ve been doing during the day and all the stories about my friends.
Now Put It All Together
To create a great talk, you need to combine all the parts above into one full coherent piece.
To do this, practice talking about each part individually. And then, when you feel more confident, join all the parts together as one.
And let me say again: Do not try to learn the parts as a script!
The examiner will notice this immediately — and it will affect your score.
Try to speak naturally and this will be much better.
Use Stories in your Talk
You might find that you don’t have enough things to talk about when talking about a family member.
If that is the case, then you need something else to talk about.
The best thing to do in this situation is to tell a story about the family member you are describing.
For any of the topic cards above, you should try to think of a story or anecdote to support what you are talking about.
For example, in the first topic card, you need to talk about a person that you admire. You could back this up with a story that supports why you admire the person.
It only needs to be a very short story to show why you admire this person.
The same can be done for the other topics.
You need to think of a story that is relevant and can support what you are saying.
If you want to know how to use stories when talking about people, take a look at my article here — Using Stories to Describe People & Things in the IELTS Test
And I will tell you this…
The examiner loves to hear stories in the speaking test. So, if you get the chance to tell a short story, you must do so.
Many English learners are terrified of doing the IELTS test — mainly because of Part Two and the dreaded Long Talk.
But there is no need to be.
Stop thinking of it as one great mountain that you have to climb. Instead, think of it as lots of small steps that you can take easily.
Each topic card comes with FOUR things they ask you to talk about. If you have to talk for TWO minutes, that means only THIRTY seconds for each part.
Break down each part of each topic and practice talking about those individual parts first. Practice and practice. Then start putting all the parts together and talking about all of them, one after the other.
With practice, you will find this gets easier and easier.
And over time, you will be able to talk with ease for two minutes about any of the above topics.
And as always… let me know your thoughts below!