A number of the speaking topics you may be asked to talk about will involve describing or classifying people in some way. In Part 2, the long turn, the examiner may ask you to talk about a friend or a family member, a colleague, or someone who has influenced you. You should talk about their physical appearance and their personality. You will score higher if you demonstrate knowledge of precise and unusual vocabulary.
IELTS Speaking Vocabulary: Physical Appearance
Generally, people’s physical appearances are described in terms of height, build, hair color and style, facial features, eye color, skin tone, and any distinguishing features such as wearing glasses or having a beard, mustache, or particular dress style.
1. Pain in the neck – an irritating, annoying person
Oh, he’s such a pain in the neck! Always just when I’m going home, he gives me some extra work to do.
2. A people person – an outgoing person who gets along with people really well and is a good listener
Tom is enthusiastic and positive and he is a people person.
3. A party animal – someone who likes to attend parties often
Are you going out again tonight? You are such a party animal.
Jack is out every Friday, and Saturday. If there was a party on, he’d be out on a Sunday as well. He is such a party animal!
4. Cheapskate – a mean person who doesn’t like spending money
He was always a cheapskate even though he was earning $200,000 a year.
He is a cheapskate when it comes to his clothes. He’s never bought a new shirt or a new pair of trousers in all the years that I’ve known him.
5. Happy camper – a person who is always happy and satisfied. We often use ‘happy camper’ in the negative.
The apartment was much smaller than I expected, and I was not a happy camper.
He’s finally got that promotion. He is a real happy camper.
6. Nerd – someone who is very interested in science or technology, particularly in computers
He spends all weekends at his laptop, he is such a nerd.
7. Life and soul of the party – someone who is energetic, and good fun during social occasions.
It was a great night, Jim was life and soul of the party.
8. Dipstick – a person who seems to be stupid (very informal)
I don’t know whether to laugh or be angry at his behaviour. What a complete dipstick!
9. Down-to-earth – someone who is practical and close to reality, who accepts other people as equals
Despite his wealth, he was a down-to-earth man. He was very generous and had a kind heart.
10. Early bird – a person who wakes up, arrives to work, etc. before the usual time
This expression comes from the English proverb “The early bird catches the worm”.
My Mum is the early bird in our family, she gets up at 5 o’clock in the morning.
11. Larger than life – someone who is more exciting or interesting than other people
All who knew him would agree that his personality was larger than life, he was a joy to be around.
12. Wimp – a weak person, someone who lacks confidence.
I always avoid confrontations, I am such a wimp.
13. Golden boy – a winning person that everyone is fond of.
Ray Wilkins was a golden boy of English football.
14. Eager beaver – someone who’s always willing to do something.
When he was at school, he used to run home, get his homework done, get his football kit, get out and train. A real eager beaver.
15. Slave driver – someone who makes other people work really hard
My boss is such a slave driver, I had to work two weekends in a row.
16. Big mouth – someone who is not able to keep a secret
Sarah will tell everybody, she’s such a big mouth. Nothing I tell her is going to be a secret.
17. Cool as a cucumber – someone who doesn’t get upset, excited or anxious very easily.
Don’t worry, Sam’s there. He’s as cool as a cucumber. He’ll handle this problem, no problem at all. Just tell him what you want. He’ll get it sorted.
18. Busybody – a person who expresses great interest in other people’s private lives
My next-door neighbour is a real busybody.
19. Scrooge – a miserable person who hates spending money.
This expression comes from a character in “A Christmas Carol” novel by Charles Dickens.
My last boss was a real Scrooge, for years we never received a Christmas bonus.
20. Daydreamer – someone who is having dreamlike thoughts when they should be focusing on the present
I’ve always been a bit of a daydreamer in school.
21. Skiver – someone who is absent from school or work without a good reason
We can also say ‘someone who is pulling a sickie’.
He didn’t bother to turn up for work on Monday, he is a skiver.
22. Clock-watcher – someone who has no interest in the current activity, and keeps watching the time
I hate to be a clock-watcher, but I can’t wait to get out of here.
23. Creep – a nasty person, someone who is trying to impress higher authority
What a creep this guy is.
24. Laid-back – a relaxed person who doesn’t get stressed or upset easily
Our managing editor was a laid-back person but he’s recently begun snapping at the employees.
25. Have a screw loose – someone who is slightly mad or eccentric
Jane’s aunt obviously had a screw loose, just by the way she spoke.
26. Full of yourself– someone who is too pleased with themselves
Jack was always full of himself and liked to pick on his friends.
27. Bossyboots – someone who likes to dominate other people and often tells them what to do
She is a bit of a bossyboots and always wants to get things perfect.
My daughter was a real bossyboots when she was young. She used to give my two sons a terrible time.
28. Lamebrain – a foolish person, a slow thinker (very informal)
The lamebrains in the marketing department continually make mistakes.
29. Moaning Minnie – a person who complains a lot about insignificant things.
Oh, stop being a Moaning Minnie! Just concentrate on your homework.
30. Smart cookie – somebody who has got a strong personality or who is quite smart.
Katie is such a smart cookie, she can make any project a success.
Just give him any particular problem, he’ll get it sorted out in no time at all. He’s a real smart cookie.
31. Wet blanket – a person who ruins other people’s fun by staying pessimistic and complaining all the time.
Katie is so negative about everything, she is such a wet blanket.
32. Chatterbox – a person who talks a lot
My son always gets detentions in school for talking in class, he is such a chatterbox.
33. Crank – a person whose behaviour or way of life is regarded as strange. We can also say an oddball/fish/bird or a weirdo (very informal).
Peter never eats green vegetables, he thinks they make him sleepy. He is such a crank!
34. Rolling stone – a person who moves from place to place, job to job, without staying anywhere long
My brother was a rolling stone until he met his wife.
35. Rough diamond – someone who seems impolite or is not well-educated, but who has a kind heart and good character.
Mike may be a rough diamond, but he is kind and always willing to help.
36. Cold fish – someone who has very little emotions, who is regarded as hard-hearted and unfeeling
John said nothing at all when I told him about my problems. He is a cold fish.
37. Dark horse – someone who has greater abilities than he shows or than other people are aware of
I didn’t know Nick could play the guitar so well. He is a real dark horse!
38. Lone wolf – someone who prefers his own company and does not like socialising. We can also say a lone bird.
Jack became a real lone wolf since his wife passed away last year. He never goes out.
IELTS Speaking Sample: Physical Appearance
1. Do you care about your appearance?
Truth be told, I am the kind of person who really pays much attention to how I look. It is to say that before heading out for work, I usually look at myself in the mirror for around 10 minutes to make sure that I am presentable and neat.
2. Are you afraid of how people talk about your appearance?
Well, never judge a book by its cover, and it is always true in most situations since we may not be the apple of everyone’s eyes. Therefore, I think that there is no need to have all the criticisms ingrained in our head. And all that I want to do is to be my true self.
3. What is the common opinion about a woman’s beauty in your country?
As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing so-called “a stereotype” regarding how a woman should look. I mean that it is just a matter of each individual’s perspective, but generally, most people from previous generations prefer women who dress traditionally.
Describe a person who usually dresses up neatly.
You should say:
- Who he/she is
- How he/she looks like
- How he/she often dresses
- And why he/she often dresses up neatly
Speaking of a person who is presentable most of the time, I would mention my father.
About his appearance, he is in his 50s, so he has started to show various apparent signs of the aging process. To be more specific, his hair has turned grey and his complexion is filled with minor wrinkles, but all of those things are not to conceal but to emphasize his masculinity and wisdom. I may consider him a stocky person with a gentleman’s mustache, but others may call him a plump man.
When it comes to how he dresses, it is a whole long story to venture into, but in short, his perspective is straightforward as he usually says that if we do not dress neatly in any circumstances, we will get embarrassed sometimes. Our image will be ruined at once. As for himself, he is never half-naked like other old men in Vietnam, so even at home, he usually wears a T-shirt and a pair of shorts in dark colors. Whenever intending to go out, he often gets appropriately dressed and sometimes even wears suits. Perhaps his attitude towards the clothes he puts on comes from his job – as a teacher, and I find that appropriate and worth copying.
I remember when he was at home, and his student suddenly came by our house to ask for some instructions for her thesis. My dad stood up straight away and changed into formal clothes. That left a deep impression on me as he told me that our image was hard to build up, and with messy outfits, it would be devastated in the blink of an eye.
To my mind, my dad is a fantastic model for me to follow since his way of keeping a presentable image never fails to help him earn respect from others. As his son, I promised to myself that I would never turn him down and try to mimic his way of dressing properly.
1. In your opinion, is it important to dress appropriately at all times?
Well, it is hard to tell if we should do so all the time since there are occasions when we have to be free to choose what to wear to feel comfortable. Nevertheless, being presentable at some events or public places is obligatory simply because dressing appropriately is the most practical way to show that we respect people and want them to show respect to us.
2. What do you think about body shaming on social media?
To my mind, this phenomenon is commonplace among very young people as they tend to befriend those who are good-looking and regard that friendship a triumph. Therefore, they are likely to stay away from so-called “ugly” people and may start to use bad words towards them. This is truly shabby in my opinion since it hurts others’ feelings and worsens social relationships.
3. Do you think that we should have some plastic surgeries to change our appearance positively?
As much as I can tell, everyone wants to become beautiful from others’ perspective, so the yearning for a perfect appearance is not a wrong idea at all. However, plastic surgeries have been abused quite a lot recently, which leaves people in long-term pains and somehow gets them killed during the process. Therefore, those going to have surgery must ponder carefully and undertake it at their own risk.
IELTS Speaking Practice: Physical Appearance
Part 1 -style questions
Examiner: Do you look like any other people in your family?
Carlo: No … not at all … take my brother for example … he has short cropped hair and has quite a pointed face … he’s also quite fair-skinned compared to me …
Examiner: Tell me about your family.
Andrea: My father’s getting on a bit … he’s in his 60s … but he looks very young for his age … he still does lots of exercise and is quite well-built …
Examiner: What does your best friend look like?
Mandy: She’s the same age as me … she has shoulder-length hair … fair hair … she has a slim figure and is medium height …
Part 2 -style task
Describe a person whose appearance you like. You should say
- who this person is
- what their relationship is to you
- what they look like
and say what it is about their appearance you like.
Monique: OK … I’d like to talk about my aunt … her name’s Marta and she’s quite a character … she’s middle-aged but has a very youthful appearance … she’s a little overweight I suppose but not too much … she has a friendly round face framed by thick blonde hair … she has a lovely complexion and she’s always well-turned out … she actually always looks like she’s going out for the evening to somewhere special … there’s never a hair out of place … I’ve always thought she bears a striking resemblance to someone on TV … I can’t remember the name now … she wears glasses and always seems to have a different pair on every time I see her … I like the way she looks because she wears clothes that are right for her age and manages to look glamorous without it looking like she’s too done up … yes … I’ll be happy if I look like her when I’m her age …
Part 3 -style questions
Examiner: Is it important to dress well whenever we go out?
Mark: It depends where you’re going … I know some people get done up just to go to the shops … but I don’t see the point … you shouldn’t go out looking scruffy with disheveled hair but I really don’t see the point in getting dressed up to the nines unless you’re going somewhere special …
Examiner: Do people worry too much about their appearance as they get older?
Mira: I’m sure they do … yes … but it happens to all of us doesn’t it … we all go grey eventually and get hard of hearing … we start to lose our figure … that’s why plastic surgery is so popular … personally I think we just need to grow old gracefully and not worry too much about how we look …
Examiner: Is attractiveness a quality worthwhile aiming for?
Phoebe: I’d like to say no … it shouldn’t matter what we look like in terms of our physical appearance … but unfortunately it seems women especially are taken more seriously if they are good-looking with a slender figure with perfect makeup and so on …
to bear a striking resemblance: to look very similar to
cropped hair: very short hair
disheveled hair: untidy hair
to dress up to the nines: to dress very smartly or glamorously
fair hair: light-coloured hair
to be fair-skinned: light skinned
to get done up: to dress smartly
to be getting on a bit: to be getting old
to go grey: to have hair that is turning grey
to be good looking: to be attractive
to grow old gracefully: to act in a way that embraces the fact you are getting older
to be hard of hearing: to find it difficult to hear
in his/her 30s/40s: to be 20/30 something
scruffy: dressed untidily
to look young for your age: to look younger than you are
to lose one’s figure: to have a figure that has lost its toned shape
complexion: natural skin colour and texture
make up: cosmetics
medium height: average height
middle-aged: approximately between 45-65
to never have a hair out of place: perfectly styled hair
to be overweight: to weigh more than is regarded as healthy
pointed face: the opposite of a round face
shoulder-length hair: hair that comes down to the shoulders and no further
slender figure: a figue that is tall and slim
slim figure: attractively thin
thick hair: a lot of hair
to wear glasses: to use spectacles
to be well-built: to be muscular
to be well-turned out: to look smart
youthful appearance: to look young