IELTS Cue Card! Complete Guide!

How should I respond to the cue card in the speaking portion of the IELTS exam? This manual includes all the tactics you require!

Mastering IELTS Speaking Task 2: Cue Cards!

In IELTS (International English Language Testing System) examinations, the speaking segment often emerges as a formidable hurdle for numerous aspirants. Among the range of tasks, the IELTS Cue Card occupies a significant position, primarily due to its difficult nature. This comprehensive guide aims to unravel the complexities of IELTS Speaking Task 2 and provide novice candidates with insightful strategies to excel in this aspect.


This is how a typical IELTS Cure Card looks like:

Describe a memorable trip you have taken.

  • Where did you go?
  • When did you go on this trip?
  • Who did you go with?
  • What activities did you do during the trip?


Deciphering the Structure


Consider a question that prompts you to “describe a present you have given someone.” Break down this seemingly singular query into distinct fragments: the nature of the gift, its recipient, the unique attributes of the present, a comparative analysis with other gifts, and the underlying motivation for selecting this specific gift. Such analytical deconstruction serves as the foundation upon which a robust response can be constructed.

IELTS General/Academic 7+ Bands Course! 15 Hrs! (FREE FEEDBACK)

Choosing the Right Content


While the cue cards explicitly demand personal experience, you need an element of flexibility. Instead of feeling confined to recounting factual incidents, candidates can opt for an illustrative scenario that is easy to elaborate upon. For instance, you can narrate a hypothetical situation that encapsulates the essential characteristics of the gift, the recipient, and the emotive nuances associated with the act of giving. Make up stuff! It doesn’t have to be real!


Weaving a Cohesive Response


The hallmark of a successful response is its seamless interconnectedness. A valuable advice here is against crafting compartmentalized answers for each individual component. Rather, go for the art of integration, allowing each piece of information to intertwine naturally with the preceding and subsequent elements. This approach promotes a coherent narrative flow, eliminating jarring transitions and repetition that could dilute the response’s impact. Let’s explore this in more detail:


  • Addition (Additive Conjunctions): These conjunctions emphasize the accumulation of ideas and thoughts, contributing to a comprehensive response.
    • Example: “Not only did I give my father a Samsung S10 for his birthday, but I also customized its case to make it more special.”
  • Contrast (Adversative Conjunctions): These conjunctions highlight differences or contrasts, enabling you to present opposing viewpoints or ideas.
    • Example: “While I initially considered gifting my father a simple notebook, I ultimately chose the Samsung S10 for its practicality and significance.”
  • Cause and Effect (Causal Conjunctions): These conjunctions establish a cause-and-effect relationship between ideas, helping you explain the reasons behind your choices.
    • Example: “Because my father had been using an outdated phone, I decided to gift him the Samsung S10 to enhance his communication experience.”
  • Comparison (Comparative Conjunctions): These conjunctions facilitate the comparison of different aspects, enabling you to elucidate the uniqueness of your chosen gift.
    • Example: “In comparison to other presents I have given in the past, the Samsung S10 stood out due to its high-tech features and personalized touch.”
  • Purpose (Final Conjunctions): These conjunctions express the purpose or intention behind an action, allowing you to delve into the thought process behind your gift selection.
    • Example: “I decided to gift my father the Samsung S10 as a token of appreciation for his relentless dedication and sacrifice for our family.”


Sample Response


“Undoubtedly, one of the most cherished gifts I’ve ever given was the Samsung S10 smartphone that I presented to my father on his birthday. Not only did I want to acknowledge his tireless efforts for our family, but I also aimed to offer him a gadget that would significantly improve his daily routine. While I initially pondered the idea of gifting him a traditional notebook, the allure of the Samsung S10’s advanced features and its potential to streamline his tasks proved irresistible.

This choice was fueled by the realization that his existing phone was outdated and hindered his productivity. Thus, the Samsung S10 emerged as the perfect solution, marrying practicality with sentiment. In comparison to other presents I’ve given, this one undoubtedly stood out due to its significance and utility. The personalized case I added as a finishing touch further underlined the thought and care invested in this gift. This choice was driven by a deep-rooted desire to express gratitude for my father’s unwavering dedication. Overall, the Samsung S10 encapsulated my admiration and love for him, making it a gift that remains etched in our memories.”



Range of Vocabulary in the IELTS Cue Card:

1. Synonyms and Alternatives

Rather than relying on repetitive vocabulary, employ synonyms and alternative words to express the same idea. This not only enhances your language variety but also demonstrates your command over nuanced language.

Example: Instead of repeatedly using “beautiful,” you can employ words like “gorgeous,” “stunning,” “breathtaking,” or “captivating” to describe a picturesque destination.

2. Specific Adjectives

Incorporate specific adjectives that vividly depict the attributes of the subject you’re describing. Using adjectives that evoke sensory experiences or emotions can paint a more vibrant picture for the examiner.

Example: Instead of just saying “interesting,” you can use adjectives like “fascinating,” “intriguing,” “enchanting,” or “riveting.”


3. Idiomatic Expressions and Phrases

Including idiomatic expressions or phrases in your response showcases your familiarity with the language’s subtleties and nuances, thereby enhancing your language proficiency.

Example: Instead of a straightforward description, you can use an idiom like “the trip was a breath of fresh air” to convey the revitalizing impact of the experience.

4. Collocations and Word Pairings

Using collocations (words that commonly go together) and well-matched word pairings adds depth and authenticity to your response, demonstrating an advanced understanding of the language.

Example: Instead of using generic phrases, you can use collocations like “adrenaline-pumping activities,” “culinary delights,” or “off-the-beaten-path destinations.”


5. Analogies and Similes

Employ analogies and similes to make your descriptions more vivid and relatable. Analogies draw parallels, while similes use “like” or “as” to create imaginative comparisons.

Example: Instead of stating something was “very big,” you can say “the skyscrapers soared into the sky like giants guarding the city.”


6. Technical Jargon (Appropriate Context)

For topics that allow, incorporate technical jargon or specialized vocabulary related to the subject matter. This showcases a deeper understanding of the topic and adds authenticity to your response.

Example: In a cue card about technology, you can use terms like “cutting-edge,” “innovative,” or “user-friendly interface.”




Description Analysis:


When answering questions, you have to use the theoretical concepts through a tangible sample response. For example, if you are talking about gifting your father a cell phone, make sure to delve into the memory of gifting your father a Samsung S10 on his birthday. By masterfully interweaving details about the gift’s monetary and sentimental value, the emotional significance of the recipient (your father), and the profound rationale underlying their selection, you craft a vivid and engaging narrative. This approach epitomizes the art of seamlessly amalgamating diverse facets into a unified storyline, enriching the response’s authenticity and persuasiveness.

In navigating the intricate terrain of IELTS Speaking Task 2, the journey calls for a harmonious synthesis of authenticity and structure. By immersing themselves in the question’s essence, weaving a tapestry of interconnected responses, and embracing tactical methodologies, aspirants can elevate their prowess in conquering this challenging segment.

For more detailed techniques and resources, check out this link:


Is the last question the most important?

Yes, many past examiners have emphasized the fact that you should spend the most amount of time on the last question since it is usually more detailed. Our advice here it to have 2-3 points for the last question as well as about 30 seconds (minimum)! Make sure to go in detail and use a range of vocabulary!


Find a video explanation of this lesson here: