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IELTS Physical Appearance Vocabulary

During the IELTS Speaking exam you may want to talk about what people look like. This might involve describing their physical appearance or the type of clothes they like to wear. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

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 make up 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
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IELTS Business Vocabulary

During the IELTS Speaking exam you may be asked to talk about the subject of business. This might involve describing a business you know well or talking about your own ambitions. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: Do you work or are you a student?
Hati: I run my own business actually … I have an online business selling cosmetics … set up the business ۵ years ago and I’m really enjoying working for myself 

Examiner: What is your ideal job?
Kaori: I don’t think I’d enjoy working for a big company … I think I’d like to go it alone and be self-employed … I’m not sure what area of business it would be but I think I’d enjoy the process of drawing up a business plan and seeing if I could be successful …

Examiner: Is your town a nice place to live?
Monique: It’s OK … the main problem we have is our local high street … it used to be a busy center but lots of shops have gone bust … it must be very difficult to make a profit when you have huge supermarkets in the area and a lot haven’t been able to survive with such cut-throat competition

Part 2-style task

Describe a business you know that you admire. You should say

  • what this business is
  • what the business sells
  • how long you have known about the business

and say why you like it so much.

Magda:  Actually I discovered a business very recently that I like so much I’d like to do something similar in the future … it’s a small niche business that runs courses in how to cook … especially bread … the owner uses his kitchen for the courses and went into business with a local community shop and sells a lot of the bread and cakes they make in the shop … I first got to hear about the business last year … my wife paid for me to do one of the baking courses and I got to know the owner during the training … it’s a lifestyle business really … he doesn’t have plans to take on employees or expand into new areas … he’s happy earning a living doing the thing he loves … I really admire what he does and I’m sure a lot of people would love to do something similar … he has a web presence … in fact that’s how we got to find out about his company … and he uses social media to raise the company profile … but he’s the only person involved in running the business so he’s in complete control of where the business goes … that’s something that must make it really satisfying … as long as he’s managing to balance the books and the cash flow is healthy I’m sure he must be very pleased with what he has achieved …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  Why do some people decide to set up their own business?
Marion: I suppose it’s the idea of being in control of your own destiny … or of believing in a product or service idea you may have … plus it must be very exciting … launching products … winning contracts … and seeing your sales figures improving must be wonderful …

Examiner: What are some of the dangers involved in starting a business?
Hiro: Well … obviously you need to have a good idea … some people say you need to do  market research beforehand so you know what the market wants … if you don’t do this you could go under … and if it is a good idea the chances are someone else is doing the same thing so you could end up facing stiff competition …

Examiner: What are some of things you have to do when running your own business that might not appeal to everyone?
Katy: Personally i don’t like being in debt so taking out a business loan wouldn’t  suit me at all … and I know a lot of companies do cold calling to try and drum up business … that’s something I’d hate to do … and laying people off if the business gets into trouble … that would be horrible …


  • to balance the books: to not spend more money than you are earning
  • to be self-employed: to work for yourself/to not work for an employer
  • to cold call: to make a sales call to someone without asking them for permission first
  • cut throat competition: when one company lowers its prices, forcing other companies to do the same, sometimes to a point where business becomes unprofitable
  • to do market research: to do research into what potential customers would or wouldn’t buy
  • to draw up a business plan: to write a plan for a new business
  • to drum up business: to try to get customers
  • to earn a living: to earn money
  • to go bust: when a business is forced to close because it is unsuccessful
  • cash flow: the money coming in and going out of a business
  • to go into business with: to join another person to start or expand a business
  • to go it alone: to start your own business
  • to go under: (see ‘to go bust’)
  • to have a web presence: to have a website or social  media profile that showcases your business
  • to launch a product: to start selling and promoting a new product
  • to lay someone off: when a company ends an employee’s contract of employment
  • lifestyle business: a business that is set up to bring in a sufficient income and no more
  • to make a profit: to earn more money than it costs to run the business
  • niche business: a business that serves a small, particular market
  • to raise a company profile: to make more people aware of a business
  • to run your own business: to have a business of your own
  • sales figures: a report of the income a company generates through sales of products or services
  • to set up a business: to start a business
  • stiff competition: strong competition from other companies in the same area of work
  • to take on employees: to employ people
  • to take out a loan: to borrow money
  • to win a contract: when a business gets legally-binding work with an individual or company
  • to work for yourself: (see ‘to be self-employed’)
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IELTS Personality Vocabulary

During the IELTS Speaking exam you may be asked to talk about someone’s personality or character. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: How would you describe yourself?
Paula: Everyone tells me I take after my mum as I’m quite laid-back … I think I’m good company but you should ask my friends if they agree …

Examiner: In which ways are you similar to your friends?
Manuel: I seem to be attracted to introverts … not people who are painfully shy but most of my friends are a little reserved … and I think that’s what I’m like …

Examiner: Are you similar or different to your brother(s)/sister(s)?
Mira: I think my brother and I are very similar … I’d say we’re fun-loving and tend to be a bit extroverted … my brother is certainly the life and soul of the party … I’m not sure that applies to me …

Part 2-style task

Describe a teacher you once had who you enjoyed being taught by. You should say

  • who this person was
  • when they were your teacher
  • which subject they taught you

and describe what it was about their character that you liked.

Carolina:  I’d like to describe my English teacher from school … Miss Thomas … this was a few years ago now and she was my teacher at a time when I was getting a little bored with being at school … unlike some of the other teachers Miss Thomas never lost her temper … she was very calm and easy-going … she was also very broad-minded … we were able to ask her questions about lots of subjects that some other teachers would refuse to discuss which made us respect her even more … she had a great sense of humour too … she’d laugh at our jokes as well as making us laugh … and she would also bend over backwards to help us with our work … she always put us first and often stayed around at the end of class to talk with anyone who needed help … apparently she was highly respected within her field but you would never know as she was the type that hid her light under a bushel … she was very modest and self-effacing … so yes … Miss Thomas was a teacher I have fond memories of …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  Which personal qualities do you think we most want to pass on to our children?
Martin: I certainly would want my children to be self-confident and self-assured … I really believe that people who feel good about themselves are in a good position to face what life has to offer them … and I’d hope they wouldn’t be self-centerd … but remembered to think about others …

Examiner: Which characteristics do you think are the least appealing in a person?
Marianne: Well … people who are very narrow-minded are difficult to get on with … it’s nice when someone is open to other people’s opinion and willing to think about their own views … and people who are two-faced can be a little irritating … relationships are built on trust and without honesty there’s not much left …

Examiner: Which personality types do you think are less likely to suffer from stress or anxiety?
Sol: Probably people who are thick-skinned … who don’t let people or problems affect them too much … and if you are fair-minded you’ ll be less likely to overreact to situations or be quick-tempered …


  • to be the life and soul of the party: a fun person, someone who is the centre of activity
  • to bend over backwards: to try very hard to help someone
  • broad-minded: prepared to accept other views or behaviours
  • easy-going: relaxed and not easily worried about anything
  • extrovert: an energetic person who likes the company of others
  • fair-minded: to treat people equally
  • fun-loving: to enjoy having fun
  • to hide one’s light under a bushel: to hide one’s talents and skills
  • good company: enjoyable to socialise with
  • good sense of humour: the ability to understand what is funny
  • introvert: someone who is shy
  • laid-back: see ‘easy-going’
  • to lose one’s temper: to suddenly become angry
  • narrow minded: opposite of ‘broad-minded’ (see above)
  • painfully shy: very shy
  • to put others first: to think of others before yourself
  • quick-tempered: to become angry quickly
  • reserved: shy
  • self-assured: confident
  • self-centred: thinks only of oneself
  • self-confident: believes in one’s own ability or knowledge
  • self-effacing: to not try to get the attention of others (especially in terms of hiding one’s skills or abilities)
  • to take after: to be like (often another member of the family)
  • thick-skinned:  not easily affected by criticism
  • trustworthy: can be trusted
  • two-faced: not honest or sincere. Will say one thing to someone to their face and another when they are not present.
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IELTS Clothes & Fashion Vocabulary

The examiner may ask you to talk about the clothes you like to wear or your attitude towards fashion. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: Do you enjoy buying clothes?
Pedro: I used to … yes … like most young people I was a bit of a slave to fashion and I’d always have to buy that must-have shirt or pair of shoes … I’m not so bothered now though … I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing something old fashioned but I’m not as bothered as I used to be about what I wear …

Examiner: What kind of clothes do you like to wear?
Marco: I prefer casual clothes actually … I hate getting dressed up for special occasions … personally I think it’s possible to look good in a pair of jeans … but that’s my opinion … I don’t think my wife would call me a fashion icon that’s for sure …

Examiner: Are there many clothes shops where you live?
Sylvia: Yes … there are lots in my town … apart from the big chain stores we’ve got a couple of really nice shops that sell vintage clothes … old clothes but in a classic style that never really go out of fashion … I love going there 

Part 2-style task

Describe someone you know who dresses well. You should say

  • who they are
  • how you know them
  • what kind of clothes they wear

and say why you like the way they dress.

Tomoko:  I’d like to talk about one of my teachers … Miss Evans … she teaches us English in the school I go to … we always look forward to seeing what she’s going to wear when our lessons start … she’s always very well dressed and takes a lot of pride in her appearance … it’s not that she dresses in very smart clothes … she doesn’t come to school dressed to kill or anything like that … but what she wears really suits her … and she has a great sense of style as well … we often ask her where she gets some of her clothes and most of the time they’re just off the peg … and she says she’s not interested in designer labels or anything like that … she doesn’t seem too concerned about keeping up with the latest fashion … she just wears clothes that are timeless … yes … Miss Evans is the person I think looks great in the clothes she wears …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner: What factors do you think affect the clothes we choose to wear?
Maki: It depends … where we are or where we’re going is a big factor … if you are going out to a club or party you’re going to dress for the occasion … and then there are those who think it’s important to look like they’re on trend … they’ll want to wear the latest fashions … there are lots of factors really …

Examiner: What kind of things determine what is in fashion and what we should be wearing?
Martin: I suppose the big fashion houses and fashion shows must have an effect but the clothes you see on the catwalk don’t always reflect what normal people wear … so I suppose it will be things like what singers are wearing in videos or models are wearing in magazines … that kind of thing …

Examiner: Is it possible to look good without spending lots of money on clothes?
Corinna: I’m sure it is … yes … I suppose it’s about having an eye for what looks good … knowing how to mix and match different items of clothing that go well together … I think you can pick up great bargains in charity shops … sometimes for youngsters even hand-me-downs can look good …


  • to be on trend: to be very fashionable
  • casual clothes: not formal
  • classic style: a simple, traditional style that is always fashionable
  • designer label: a well-known company that makes (often expensive) clothing
  • dressed to kill: wearing clothes that attract admirers
  • to dress for the occasion: to wear clothes suitable for a particular event
  • fashionable: in fashion
  • fashion house: a company that sells (usually expensive) new styles in clothes
  • fashion icon: a person who is famous for their sense of fashion
  • fashion show: an event where modals show off the latest in fashion designs
  • to get dressed up: to put on nice clothes, often to go out somewhere special
  • to go out of fashion: to not be in fashion any more
  • hand-me-downs: clothes that are passed down from older brothers or sisters to their younger siblings
  • to have an eye for (fashion): to be a good judge of
  • to have a sense of style: the ability to wear clothes that look stylish
  • the height of fashion: very fashionable
  • to keep up with the latest fashion: to wear the latest fashions
  • to look good in: to wear something that suits you
  • to mix and match: to wear different styles or items of clothing that aren’t part of a set outfit
  • must-have: something that is highly fashionable and therefore in demand
  • off the peg: clothing that is ready made
  • old fashioned: not in fashion any more
  • on the catwalk: the stage that modals walk along to show off the latest fashions
  • a slave to fashion: someone who always feel the need to wear the latest fashions
  • smart clothes: the kind of clothes worn for a formal event
  • to suit someone: to look good on someone
  • to take pride in one’s appearance: to pay attention to how one looks
  • timeless: something that doesn’t go out of fashion
  • vintage clothes: clothes from an earlier period
  • well-dressed: to be dressed attractively