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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