Describing places in the IELTS speaking test

Describing places in the IELTS speaking testDescribing places in the IELTS speaking test. During the IELTS speaking test, you will often find at least one or two questions that require you to describe a place. Here are some example questions where you might need to demonstrate this skill:

Part 1:

  • Tell me about your hometown.
  • What’s the most interesting place you’ve been to?
  • Is there a country you would like to visit?
  • Where do people visiting your country like to visit?
  • Where did you last go on holiday?

Part 2:

  • Describe the place where you grew up
  • Describe a place you know which is very popular
  • Describe a place you know well

Part 3:

  • Why do you think some people prefer to visit cities and some people prefer to spend time in the countryside?
  • What are some of the factors that make a place interesting to visit?
  • Why do you think some people do not like to visit new places?


Let’s start by looking at one of the more common IELTS questions – talking about your hometown. Here are 2 examples of candidate responses – one is good and the other is bad.

Examiner: Tell me about your hometown.

Candidate 1: It’s small. It’s quiet. It’s boring. There are some shops. I think about 2000 people live there.

Candidate 2: Well, it’s a pretty small place really, so it’s fairly quiet. There isn’t a lot going on in the town, although there are some shops. I’ve never really been interested in shopping, but just outside the town there’s a large forest which I really like spending time in – it’s gorgeous! I’ve often been camping there, and if you know your way around the forest you can find a beautiful lake in the middle that’s great for a quick swim. The town itself only has about 2000 inhabitants, and not many of them go camping so it’s a very tranquil place to spend a few nights.

As you should have guessed, Candidate 2’s answer is much better than Candidate 1. It’s not just the length of the answer, but also the additional information. For example, Candidate 1 says that their hometown is boring, but does not qualify why they think that. Candidate 2 says ‘there’s not a lot going on in town’ (a much better way of saying ‘boring’), and has qualified this by saying that they’re not interested in shopping. Candidate 2 has also talked about what they did there (camping, walking through the woods, swimming in the lake), but candidate 1 has not told the examiner anything about what they did. Candidate 2 has also use much more expressive adjectives in their description  – the forest is gorgeous, the lake is beautiful and camping is tranquil.

So here are some useful pointers when talking about a place:

  • say how you feel about it with a wide range of adjectives
  • extend your answer as much as you can
  • use a wide range of vocabulary to express yourself
  • explain why you feel that way when you give an opinion

Now let’s look at some of the vocabulary you can use to talk about places (you should also take a look at the ‘Describing places’ lesson in the Level B1 course):

Describing how a place feels:

  • peaceful / tranquil
  • beautiful
  • pictureqsue
  • unspoiled
  • stunning

Describing what you can do:

  • stroll around / wander around (walking slowly, not necessarily aiming for a particular destination)
  • Go sightseeing
  • enjoy the nightlife
  • immerse yourself in the local culture

Describing what a place offers:

  • It’s well known for…
  • You shouldn’t miss the…
  • A popular visitor attraction is…
  • It’s popular with tourists because…


Ready to test your skills with describing places in the IELTS speaking test? Click the link in the table below to take a practice exercise. If you haven’t done so already, why not create a free membership account so you can follow your progress as you study? It’s free! If you already have an account, all you need to do is login.

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