IELTS Speaking Cue Cards Topics: Guide and Tips

If you plan to take the IELTS test, you better have your cue cards skills ready as they will come in handy in the IELTS Speaking section, specifically in IELTS Speaking Part 2 or Task 2

You may find yourself anxious and nervous in this part of the test, and we can’t blame you. After all, this part of the test will have you talking for two minutes straight, without any interruption from the examiner. 

This article has gathered the possible topics and the best and proven techniques and strategies to help you prepare for the IELTS Speaking Cue Cards section and perform at your best. 

What is the IELTS Speaking Test?

The IELTS Speaking Test is one of the four sections of the IELTS exam. It is designed to evaluate your spoken-English skills, which include your pronunciation, fluency, grammar, and vocabulary. It takes about 11 to 14 minutes and is divided into three parts. Like the IELTS Listening Test, the IELTS Speaking Test is also the same for both the Academic and General Training modules. 

This part of the test is in the form of an informal interview between you and the examiner. As part of the test protocols, it will be recorded in case you might want a remark. The examiner controls the time, and they will be the one to decide what band score you will be given based on a 9-band scale.

The cue card or what others also call the candidate task card is given to you in the IELTS Speaking Part 2. It contains a topic which you will speak about for two minutes. You will also be given a paper and a pencil, and one minute to prepare for your speech. 

You have to take note that the examiner will control the time in this part of the test, and you are advised to use both the one-minute preparation and two-minute speech to the maximum. 

What are the Question Types in IELTS Speaking Part 2?

One of the best ways to prepare for the IELTS Speaking Cue Card section (Part 2) is to familiarize yourself with the different types of questions that will be asked in this part of the test. This way, you will develop a strategy to answer them best and eventually get a high band score. 

The questions in the IELTS Speaking Part 2 will cover topics that include people, places, things, activities, and past occurrences. There will be 3 to 4 questions:

  • The first 2 to 3 questions will answer the basic ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ questions.
  • The last question will require you to answer and explain ‘why’ and ‘how.’  

Here are a few examples to help you understand:

Topic/Question:

Describe something that you own that is extremely valuable to you

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • What it is
  • What it looks like
  • Where, when, and from whom you got it
  • Why it is valuable to you (explanation) 

Topic/Question:

Describe a time when you give someone an advice 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • Who this person is
  • What your relationship with this person is
  • When you give the advice
  • How your advice affected the life of this person (explanation)

What is a Cue Card in IELTS Speaking?

In general, a cue card is a card with words written on it to help us remember what we need to say. It is called a ‘cue’ card because if we are at a loss, we may look at them from time to time to guide us as we finish whatever we have to say. 

A lot of people use cue cards in their line of work. Actors, television hosts, speakers, and other television productions use cue cards so that the audience will not see them. It helps them save time and work more efficiently. 

A cue card in IELTS Speaking is the topic card given to you at the start of your IELTS Speaking Task 2. It is a piece of paper where the topic that you have to talk about is written. Once you are handed the cue card, you have to take down notes right away, using the paper and pencil given to you, as you only have one minute to prepare. 

Remember that you cannot ask the examiner to change the topic, and you have to talk about that topic regardless of how much or how little you know about it.

After the one-minute preparation period, the examiner will instruct you to start your speech, and as much as possible, you have to utilize the entire two minutes. The examiner will then ask you follow-up questions about your speech, which you have to answer too. 

To prepare for the IELTS Speaking Cue Card section (Part 2), you need to get yourself acquainted with the possible topics that the examiner will ask in this part of the test. Though the topics may be personal and something you might already know, you still do not want to be caught off-guard seeing an unfamiliar topic.

Through the years, these are the most common topics and themes from which your IELTS Speaking cue card will be based:

PeopleA family member, a friend, someone at work, or someone famous
Places A place, a country, or a tourist spot
ThingsThings that might have an important value to you
Activities Activities that you usually do or your hobbies
Past OccurrencesThings that you had experienced and done recently
FavoritesPeople, things, or places that you like 
EmotionsSituations that brought you different emotions
Work/StudiesThings related to school and your profession 

Guidelines to Structure Your Speaking for IELTS Cue Cards

The IELTS Speaking cue cards are an essential part of the IELTS Speaking section. This is the second of three tasks that you have to accomplish in the test. 

To tackle the tasks more effectively, you need a host of skills and strategies to employ, including thinking on your feet. 

Here are the strategies that you need to keep in mind in structuring your IELTS Speaking Cue Cards section (Part 2):

  • Think quickly: There is a chance that you will get cue cards with difficult-to-discuss topics. In such circumstances, do not overthink things; instead, go with your first instinct and make up the details as needed. For example, if you are asked to speak about someone you admire the most, do not strive to respond honestly. Simply choose the first person who comes to mind or invent such a person. Bear in mind that you only have a minute to prepare; spend it wisely. 
  • Utilize the one-minute preparation period: Make the most of your one minute by immediately brainstorming ideas for the topic you will be speaking about. Make a list of any relevant terms that come to mind. This is an opportunity for you to consider the subject you would like to speak about, and as a result, it is a way for you to develop your speech as you prepare. If you utilize the one minute well, you will speak more clearly and for longer periods.
  • Keep in mind the 5Ws and 1H: The 5Ws (‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when,’ and ‘why’) and 1H (‘how’) are addressed in the IELTS Speaking Cue Cards section (Part 2). Most candidates usually do not have problems answering the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ questions, but when it comes to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions, they struggle and are left with nothing to say. Thus, their marks are affected. Improve your skills with these question types beforehand so explaining and expressing your ideas will go smoothly. 
  • Organize your thoughts: Spending your time wisely during the one-minute preparation period does not only mean being able to write down your ideas on the time frame given. What you wrote means nothing if it will not help you in your two-minute speech. With this, make sure that the things you wrote are organized and understandable. Write down your ideas in a way that you will have a solid grasp on whatever it is that you have to say. Having the words in bullets might help. 

Below are the tips on how you should speak in the IELTS Speaking Cue Cards section (Part 2):

  • Start with a good opener: You are advised to have a strong opening statement in mind before you start working on the cue card topic. We recommend memorizing a powerful opener because initiating a conversation in such a high-pressure situation might be challenging. Have an opening that is both catchy and engaging.  Do not use the usual and overused ‘I want to talk about…’ and instead, try something like ‘Well, I actually have a lot of people in mind, but I’d rather talk about….’ This will earn you an excellent first impression with the examiner. 
  • Learn how to paraphrase: Paraphrasing is another excellent approach to show off your language skills. As you begin to speak, avoid using the exact words from the card; instead, describe it in your terms. Aside from being boring, it also gives the examiner an idea that you lack grammar and vocabulary skills. These two criteria account for 50 percent of your IELTS Speaking band score. For example, do not say, ‘I’m going to describe a gorgeous spot in China.’ Say, ‘I’m going to talk about a stunning snow-capped location that we Chinese consider as a slice of heaven on Earth.’ 
  • Share your story, do not narrate: The IELTS Speaking Cue Card section (Part 2), though in the form of a monologue, is not a story-telling test. It is still part of your informal interview with the examiner, and as such, you should strive to keep the same level of comfort as you have in Part 1 or Task 1. Some candidates forget this and, in turn, fail to engage the examiner in the conversation. Imagine the examiner as a friend with whom you are having a casual conversation. Employ facial expressions, friendly body language, and hand gestures. 
  • Maintain your fluency, do not rush: Fluency does not imply speaking quickly. It is about giving yourself time to consider and then speaking clearly. Speak at a natural pace while ensuring that the examiner still understands every word you say. It will not only help you get a higher band score, but it will also allow you to speak for longer than two minutes. Avoid talking too slowly, too, as this may lower your fluency and coherence scores.

40+ IELTS Cue Card Sample Questions

From our research, we’ve compiled a list of possible questions, based on previous exams from IELTS test-takers. Please note that these are a sample. As the IELTS exam evolves, they might add more categories. The examples here are to illustrate how the questions are gathered.

People

Topic/Question:

Describe a person you love/like/admire

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who that person is
  • what you usually do with this person
  • how often you see this person

and explain why you love/like/admire this person.


Topic/Question:

Describe someone famous that you want to meet

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who this person is
  • how you know this person
  • why this person is famous

and explain why you want to meet them.


Topic/Question:

Describe your best friend

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who this person is
  • how you met this person
  • how often do you see each other

and explain why you regard this person as your best friend. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a person who you think is a good leader

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who this person is
  • how you know this person
  • how people behave around this person

and explain why you feel about him/her as a good leader.


Topic/Question:

Describe a neighbor you like

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • Who this neighbor is
  • How long you have known them
  • From where they are

and explain why you like this neighbor. 


Places

Topic/Question:

Describe a place where you want to travel next

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where and what this place is
  • who you want to go with 
  • when you plan to go there 

and explain why you want to go to this place.


Topic/Question:

Describe a historical place that you have been to

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where and what this place is
  • what people do at this place
  • what you enjoy there the most

and explain how you felt being there. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a place where you and your friends went recently

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where and what it is
  • who you go with
  • why you go there

and explain how you felt that day. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a place where you spend most of your free time

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where this place is
  • what you do there
  • how often do you go there

and explain why you love spending your free time there.


Topic/Question:

Describe a country that you want to visit

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what country it is
  • how you know about this country
  • what do tourists usually do in this country

and explain why you want to go to this country. 


Things

Topic/Question:

Describe a gift that you have received recently

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what it is
  • who gave it to you 
  • what the occasion was

and explain how you felt when you received this gift.


Topic/Question:

Describe an item of clothing that you bought for someone

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what it is
  • who it is for
  • why you bought it for that person

and explain how you think that person felt when you gave it to them. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a piece of art that you want to buy

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what this piece of art is
  • how you learn about it
  • how you think you would be able to buy it

and explain why you want to have it. 


Topic/Question:

Describe something that you recently lost 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what it is
  • when you think you lost it
  • how long you have had it

and how you felt when you lost it. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a vehicle you want to buy

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what type of vehicle it is
  • how you know about this vehicle
  • how you got interested in it

and explain why you think it would be a good purchase. 


Activities

Topic/Question:

Describe an activity you find enjoyable

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what this activity is
  • how you know about this activity
  • when you usually do this activity

and explain how you feel when you do this activity.


Topic/Question:

Describe a place where you love to shop

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where this place is
  • how you know about this place
  • whom you go with at this place

and explain why you like this place. 


Topic/Question:

Describe an event that you recently attended

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what event it was
  • when and where it was
  • who else attended the event

and explain how you felt during the event. 


Topic/Question:

Describe one of the busiest days of your life

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • when it was
  • where it was
  • who were involved in it

and explain how you felt after that day was over. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a hobby that you do with your family 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what it is
  • when you usually do it
  • how it is done

and explain how you feel when you do it with your family.  


Past Occurrences

Topic/Question:

Describe a difficult decision that you made 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what decision it is
  • who you consult about it
  • when you made this decision

and explain how it affected your life. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a time when you felt lucky

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what happened
  • when it was
  • where it was

and explain why you felt lucky that time. 


Topic/Question:

Describe the first time you had your first mobile phone

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • when it was
  • what phone model it was
  • if you bought it yourself or someone gave it to you

and explain how you feel about having a new phone that day. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a time when you helped a stranger 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • when it was
  • where it was
  • why that person needed help 

and explain how you felt after helping them. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a time when you tried to do something but weren’t successful 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • when it was
  • where it was
  • why that person needed help 

and explain how you felt after helping them. 


Favorites 

Topic/Question:

Describe your favorite teacher

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who this teacher is
  • where and when you had them as a teacher
  • what your fondest memories with this teacher are

and explain why this teacher is your favorite. 


Topic/Question:

Describe your favorite photograph

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who the person/people in the photograph is
  • when it was taken
  • where it was taken

and explain why you like this photograph. 


Topic/Question:

Describe your favorite subject in school

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what subject it is
  • when you took it
  • if it is a difficult or easy subject for others

and explain why you like this subject. 


Topic/Question:

Describe your favorite song

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • the title and the artist behind the song
  • what kind of song it is
  • how you know about it

and explain how you feel when you hear or sing this song. 


Topic/Question:

Describe your favorite actor

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who this actor is
  • how you know them
  • if this actor is famous both locally and internationally

and explain why they are your favorite.


Emotions

Topic/Question:

Describe a situation that made you upset

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where it happened
  • when it happened
  • who you were with 

and explain why you felt upset.


Topic/Question:

Describe a time when you had an argument with someone 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who this person was
  • when it was
  • what the argument was about

and explain how you felt that time. 


Topic/Question:

Describe one of the happiest travels you had

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where it was
  • when it was
  • who you were with 

and explain why you consider it one of the happiest travels you have had. 


Topic/Question:

Describe an incident when you got scared 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • when it happened
  • what you were scared of
  • who you were with 

and explain how you felt after that incident. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a time when you felt relieved 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • when it happened
  • where it happened  
  • what the other possible outcome was 

and explain how you felt about it. 


Work/Studies 

Topic/Question:

Describe a workaholic person you know

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • who this person is
  • what this person does
  • how you know about this person

and explain how you think this person feels about their job. 


Topic/Question:

Describe an interesting course you took 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what course it was
  • when you took it
  • who the teacher was

and explain why you think it’s interesting. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a time when someone at school/work gave you a compliment

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • when it happened
  • who gave the compliment to you
  • why that person gave you a compliment 

and explain how you feel that time. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a quiet place at school/work where you like spending your break time 

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • what and where it is 
  • who usually go there
  • how often you go there 

and explain how do feel when you are there. 


Topic/Question:

Describe a time when something unfortunate happened at school/work

Guidelines to answer the question:

  • where it happened
  • when it happened
  • how the people reacted 

and explain how you felt during that time. 



General Tips and Tricks to Ace the Cue Cards Section

The IELTS Speaking Cue Card Section (Part 2) can be daunting even for the most confident candidates. This part of the test entails talking for two minutes straight, and if you come unprepared, you might mess this part up. 

Here are the proven tips and tricks that will help you ace the IELTS Speaking Cue Cards Section (Part 2):

  • Practice (a lot): Weeks before the test, practice your speaking skills using a stopwatch. Time yourself while taking down notes and while speaking. Stick to the time limit, even if it is only practice. This will train you to speak continually, making it easier to maintain a two-minute speech.
  • Record yourself: Make an audio or video recording of yourself while giving your speech to prepare for the IELTS Speaking Cue Cards Section (Part 2). After that, listen to how you sound and watch yourself as you do your speech. This will help you realize both your strengths and weaknesses and, in turn, help you focus on the areas that need improvement. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the use of cue cards: Knowing how to use a cue card is crucial in this part of the test. It will not only assist you in remembering what you need to say, but it will also assist you in organizing your speech. Take notes while watching your favorite television show or reading the news, then talk about what you have written. This will help you get familiar with the use of cue cards. 
  • Learn the skill of brainstorming: What you write in the note-taking preparation period will make or break your performance in the IELTS Speaking Cue Card Section (Part 2). This is where your brainstorming skills will come in handy. Learn the different skills and techniques that you can employ to help you come up with the best ideas when you prepare for your speech. For some people, using maps and diagrams work to their advantage. It differs for every person; learn which technique you think would be most effective for you. 

For a thorough and comprehensive guide on how to prepare for the entire IELTS test, check out our comprehensive IELTS preparation guide.


Additional FAQs on the IELTS Speaking Test Cue Card Topics

How Can I Improve My Cue Card Speaking

You can improve your cue card speaking by familiarizing yourself with the use of cue cards. You can do this by taking notes while doing your daily routines, such as watching the television, reading the newspaper, or reading a book. This will help you get familiar with how to use a cue card and, in turn, will make you more confident on the day of the test. 

How Do I Answer Cue Cards in IELTS?

You need to make sure that you answer every bullet in the cue card that will be given to you. You will be given one minute to prepare for your speech and two minutes to talk. Make sure to utilize both periods wisely. Do not include irrelevant topics, as it will affect your overall band score. 

How Can I Get an 8.5 in IELTS Speaking?

You can get an 8.5 in IELTS Speaking if you practice and study enough. Utilize all the possible resources you have that will help you improve your grammar, vocabulary, fluency, and pronunciation. This includes books, magazines, television, radio, smartphone, and the internet. Do a lot of mock tests too. Another way is for you to hire a private tutor. 

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