IELTS Cue Card: Describe an interesting conversation you had with someone

IELTS Cue Card: Describe an interesting conversation you had with someone

Describe an interesting conversation you had with someone.
You should say:
  • When it was
  • Who you had it with
  • What you talked about
And explain why you thought it was interesting.
Part 3:
  • What do men like to talk about? How about women?
  • What is the difference between a face to face conversation and a phone call?
  • Why are some people nervous when making a presentation?
  • Is it appropriate to make jokes during a presentation?

Part 2 — Sample Answer:

I’d say I’m quite an introvert so I’m less than likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger. In fact I actively try to limit conversations with strangers by often wearing my headphones even if I’m not listening to music. However, there was one day when I decided to break my typical pattern and live life without my headphones.

I was staying in a backpacker hostel in London quite a number of years ago — I think it was in 2014. I’d picked this hostel because of its rave reviews. Most people were saying that they made friends easily with other travelers just by sitting at the bar, and this is exactly what I decided to do.

There was a guy from Florida who was working on a startup while traveling. He plonked himself down on the bar stool next to mine and ordered a beer. Without hesitating he struck up a conversation with me.

We chitchatted for hours, talking about everything and anything until the conversation turned to what I was doing. I was hopelessly undecided at that time, not knowing whether to stay or go to a different country.

He didn’t even bother to weigh the pros and cons with me, but asked me when I was going to check out. I remember it was on a Monday.

“Great!” he exclaimed, and asked me if I’d have ever been to Paris; I hadn’t. He said he was going and asked me if I wanted to join him. I did, and we went that following Monday.

It was because of this single conversation that I ended up uprooting my life and backpacking around Europe for a summer, which ultimately landed me in Eastern Europe, where I’ve created a new life. Neil and I parted ways in Amsterdam, and we’ve occasionally kept in touch ever since.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Introvert (noun)
An introvert is a person who generally prefers being by themself and likes to do activities alone. They may avoid large groups of people. The opposite of an introvert is an extravert.
Example: Mary is introverted and would rather play Monopoly than go to a party.

Less than likely (idiom)
If something is less than likely, it means it probably will not happen. The opposite is more than likely.
Example: The weather is so bad it's less than likely we'll get there before tomorrow.

Strike up (phrasal verb)
It means to start something with someone else, such as a friendship, conversation, or a relationship.
Example: She will often strike up a conversation with complete strangers.

Rave review (noun)
A rave review is when someone writes or talks about something really positively, such as a product, service, book, TV show, movie, etc. They're really happy with whatever they're reviewing.
Example: The movie received rave reviews.

Plonk (informal verb — British)
If you plonk yourself down on a couch, the floor, or a seat, you sit down quickly, carelessly, and heavily. You can also plonk something down, such as a cup or a glass, or any other object. It's mostly used in Britain.
Example A: She came home from work with no energy, and just plonked herself down on the couch.
Example B: He plonked his bag on the table and made a cup of tea.

Chitchat (informal noun or informal verb)
As a noun, it describes a conversation about things that aren't very important, such as gossip, the weather, or anything else that doesn't matter that much. A synonym would be small talk.

As a verb, it means to talk about things that aren't very important.

It's more commonly used as a verb.
Example A (Noun): She really doesn't have time for chitchat.
Example B (Verb): I really love chitchatting with my friends.

Hopelessly undecided (adjective)
If someone is hopelessly undecided, they're completely undecided and there isn't much chance of a decision any time soon.
Example: He's hopelessly undecided about what to study at university.

Pros and cons (phrase)
The pros and cons of something are its advantages (pros) and disadvantages (cons). You'll usually think about the pros and cons when making a decision. It's often used with the phrasal verb weigh up and people will weigh up the pros and cons of something.
Example A: They thought for hours about the pros and cons of starting their own business.
Example B: He weighed up the pros and cons of studying abroad.

End up (phrasal verb)
If you end up somewhere, you go somewhere unexpected or unplanned. If you end up in a situation, it means something happened to you that you didn't expect.
Example A: I ended up in Rome for one more night because the flight was cancelled.
Example B: I ended up choosing to study computer science.
Example C: The cake ended up in the trash because it was bad.
Example D: She didn't want to end up like her father, so she moved to Paris.
Example E: The restaurant was too busy so we ended up going to a different one.

Part ways (idiom)
To part ways means to physically go in a different direction from someone else. It can also mean to end a relationship.
Example A: Bob and Mary were going to different cities. They said goodbye and parted ways.
Example B: My parents couldn't stop arguing so they got divorced and parted ways.

Keep in touch (idiom)
If you keep in touch with someone, it means you stay in contact with them.
Example: I keep in touch with my friends from my primary school.

Part 3 — Sample Answers:

What do men like to talk about?

It’s difficult not to paint with a broad brush and lump all men together, but generally men love to talk about a handful of things — their workplace, sports, and politics — just to name a few.

I think it’s fairly self-evident why they’d often talk about work, either with their spouse or their friends over a drink. Most men, and women too, spend an inordinate amount of their life at work and what we spend most time doing, we tend to spend most time talking about.

Sports are another hot topic for men. I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps it’s cultural, but second to talking shop, they’ll pick apart the latest game with a fine tooth comb. Usually the conversation remains friendly, but sometimes the debate can become quite heated.

As I also mentioned, politics can often come up in conversation. Politics can have the potential to have a real impact on someone’s everyday life and so following the latest political news is a must for most men, and indeed women too.

Personally my interests extend beyond these three categories, and I typically talk about the things that are of interest to my conversation partner.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Paint with a broad brush (idiom)
If you describe something, or a bunch of things in very general way without caring about specific details and without paying attention to individual variations, you’re painting with a broad brush.
Example A: Mary painted all her coworkers with a broad brush when she described them as being miserable and lazy, but some of them were hard working.

Lump together (phrasal verb)
If you’re treating several completely different groups as being one group, you’re lumping them together as one group. Usually you’ll think about, or deal with all these different groups in the same way. It’s usually not a good thing.
Example A: All the children are lumped together in one class, regardless of their ability.
Example B: People tend to lump turtles and tortoises together, despite the fact they are different creatures.

Self-evident (adjective)
If something is self-evident, it’s something that’s extremely obvious and doesn’t need to be explained.
Example A: The teacher’s instructions were self-evident, so no students asked any questions about the assignment.
Example B: It’s self evident why you should eat enough food every day.

Hot topic (noun)
A hot topic is a subject that a lot of people are discussing and care about. It’s often something that a lot of people disagree about.
Example: Global warming is a hot topic these days.

Talk shop (idiom)
If you’re not at work, but you’re talking to people you work with about your job, you’re talking shop. Usually other people who don’t do this kind of work will think it’s boring or inappropriate.
Example A: She was at the party with people from work, talking shop.
Example B: Even at the bar, the people from the sales department were talking shop.

Pick apart (phrasal verb)
If you try to find problems with something through excessive analysis or criticism, you’re picking something apart. Usually you’re finding small little things that are wrong.
Example: People on the internet picked apart the politician’s speech, and found dozens of things wrong with it.

With a fine tooth comb (idiom)
If you do something with a fine tooth comb, it means you do something really carefully so that you notice or find everything.
Example A: The police went through the house with a fine tooth comb.
Example B: We have gone through the evidence with a fine tooth comb.

Heated debate (adjective)
A heated debate, argument, or discussion is an argument in which people get angry and excited. It’s not usually a good thing.
Example: My friends were having a heated debate about which politician was going to be best for the country.

Come up (phrasal verb)
If something is mentioned or talked about in conversation, you can say it came up in conversation. It can also mean something happened unexpectedly, usually a problem.
Example A: Did the subject of pollution come up at the meeting?
Example B: He had to cancel his appointment. Something must have come up.

How about women?

I’d say that women do talk about a lot of the same things as men and there isn’t that much of a gap. My conversations with women are largely the same as they are with men, which I find really quite liberating.

Stereotypically, women are more prone to talking about fashion. Like sports, I believe this is somewhat cultural, especially as there is a lot of pressure on women to look their best.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Liberating (adjective)
If something is liberating, it makes you feel free and able to behave as you like.
Example: Moving to a new country can be a liberating experience because you can be who you want to be.

Stereotype (noun)
A stereotype is an idea that people have about what something or someone is like. It’s usually wrong and usually prejudicial.
Example: It’s a common stereotype that all accountants are boring people. But this is wrong because some are really fun people!

Prone (adjective)
If you’re prone to doing something, you’re likely to do something. It’s usually used to describe a negative thing.
Example: My boss is prone to being late to meetings.

What’s the difference between a face to face conversation and a phone call?

I’d say there are plenty of differences and it’s hard to narrow them down to just a few.

Historically, it wasn’t possible to see the other person when making a phone call, but now with video calling and other such technologies, the differences between a phone call and a face to face conversation are shrinking.

I think one of the key differences is in the fact that you can talk to anybody, even on the other side of the world at a moment’s notice. If you wanted to speak to them in person you’d probably have to fly quite a number of hours to achieve what can be done in seconds with a phone. Not to mention the cost.

However, there’s something that’s lost when a conversation isn’t held in person. Their facial expressions, their body language, and even the richness of their voice is lost to some degree during a video call, and entirely during a traditional audio-only phone call.

I suppose as technology advances with virtual reality becoming a facet of our everyday lives, we’ll start to feel that a face to face conversation can be quite readily emulated, even if that person is on the other end of a phone.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Moment's notice (idiom)
If you have to do something at a moment’s notice, you don’t have much time to start or do something. You’re usually not given much warning or advance notice that you have to do it.
Example: We can’t be expected to stop everything and leave at a moment’s notice.

Body language (noun)
Your body language is how you position or move your body. Your body language shows other people how you’re feeling, without using words.
Example: I could tell from her body language that she was very embarrassed.

To some degree (idiom)
This idiom means partly or not completely.
Example A: To some degree, what he was saying was correct.
Example B: The plan worked, to some degree.

Facet (noun)
A facet is one part of a subject or situation that has many parts. It can be a synonym of part.
Example: We have only two days to read about every facet of this topic.

On the other end of a phone (idiom)
This idiom refers to the person you’re speaking to on the phone.
Example: The lady on the other end of the phone was really rude.

Why are some people nervous when giving a presentation?

I think there was a study done that found that most people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying!

Perhaps it’s the fear of being judged, or making a grave mistake in front of others. In reality, an audience is unlikely to notice minor foibles, but they’d likely notice something more severe, so there is some merit to most people’s fears.

Personally, I used to be terrified of getting up in front of others, especially if they were my classmates. It was routine in several of my classes to have to make presentations, and I loathed those so-called presentation days. I’d talk a mile a minute to get it over and done with as quickly as possible.

Over time though, I’ve overcome this fear. I took several extracurricular classes that taught me how to deliver a presentation flawlessly, and while I sometimes do still get stage fright when presenting, I’m able to readily steady my nerves and get on with presenting more professionally than before.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Grave mistake (adjective)
A grave mistake is a really serious mistake. Sometimes it can be serious enough to cause the loss of a lot of money or even the death of someone, but often it just means a very bad mistake.
Example: Everyone told her that quitting her job was a grave mistake, but she wouldn’t listen.

Foibles (noun)
A foible is a small fault or silly habit that isn’t important and isn’t causing harm to anyone.
Example: We all have our little foibles.

Loathe (verb)
If you loathe something, you really hate it. You can also loathe people too.
Example: I loathe fish and chips.

Talk a mile a minute (idiom)
If you’re talking a mile a minute, it means you’re talking really quickly.
Example: Mike was very excited, talking a mile a minute.

Get it over and done with (idiom)
If you get something over and done with, it means it’s completely finished and there’s nothing left to do.
Example: I couldn’t wait for this train journey to be over and done with so I could go to sleep.

Extracurricular (adjective)
An extracurricular activity or class is a class or activity that isn’t part of the usual school or college course.
Example: I’ve decided to take an extracurricular swimming class every Thursday after school.

Stage fright (noun)
If you have stage fright, you feel nervous because you’re about to perform or talk to a large group of people. Traditionally, actors and performers often get stage fright.
Example: Several students said they had stage fright when they were giving their presentations.

Steady your nerves (idiom)
If you steady your nerves, you make yourself feel calmer or more relaxed. Usually it’s because you’re stressed or worried about something.
Example: After the accident, he went for a walk to steady his nerves.

Is it appropriate to make jokes during a presentation?

I think like most things in life, it depends. You have to be able to read your audience and figure out how receptive they'll be to humor, but often a well placed joke here and there can serve as a good icebreaker.

There are obviously some situations where it’s wildly inappropriate to crack a joke or two, for example if the presentation is delivering some form of bad news. In any other situation I wouldn’t be worried about using humor as a tool. But like salt, a little goes a long way, and I’d not want a presentation to look like an open mic night at a standup comedy club.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Figure out (phrasal verb)
If you figure something out, it means you understand something. It can also mean you solve a problem.
Example: He figured out why the washing machine was making that loud noise.

Here and there (idiom)
This idiom means something that’s in different places or from time to time.
Example A: The sky is clear and blue with a few clouds here and there.
Example B: She spoke so quietly I was only able to hear what she was saying here and there.

Icebreaker (noun)
An icebreaker is something that makes people who don’t know each other feel relaxed and more comfortable with each other. Usually it’s something done or said to get through the first difficulties of starting a conversation or discussion. It could be something like a story, game, joke, or question.
Example: I got everyone to go up to the map and point out where they were from. It was a good ice breaker to get people talking.

Crack a joke (idiom)
To crack a joke just means to tell a joke.
Example: I cracked a few jokes to cheer everyone up.

A little goes a long way (idiom)
This idiom is used to say that a small amount will be enough.
Example: Don’t use too much hot pepper. A little goes a long way.

Open mic night (noun)
A open mic (microphone) night is an event that anyone can perform at. It’s usually at a standup comedy club, where amateur comedians can tell some jokes to an audience, but it can be for any kind of performance. They usually don’t have to audition first, so it’s open to everyone.
Example: The bar holds an open mic night every Wednesday, so she’s going to perform her comedy routine and play her guitar in front of everyone.

How long will these questions be valid?

At least until the end of April 2020.
Three times a year the British Council changes many of the topics and questions they ask. Sometimes they decide to keep a topic for another four months, but oftentimes they decide to replace it. This one is very likely to be replaced with a new topic at the beginning of May 2020, but it won't be known for sure until then.

Just to let you know, there are 49 possible part 2/3 topics on the current exam. Sometimes there are more, sometimes there are less, and this number changes when the British Council updates the questions.

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I help students with two things: ✅ Day to day speaking practice ✅ IELTS speaking test preparation I correct everything and will help you learn where your mistakes are and how to fix them. I don't ignore your mistakes! I have all the current questions that can appear on the IELTS speaking test. Preparing with me won't be a waste of time, and you won't be practicing questions that are years out of date. I've helped hundreds of students get the score they want on the IELTS speaking test, which can be an incredibly difficult test sometimes. I can help make sure you're as prepared as possible for the questions that examiners can throw at you. Many of my students have commented that they've practiced the very same questions that appeared on the exam, and were happy to have thought through some tricky topics in advance. Let's get started! Book a class and I'll see you soon!
I help students with two things: ✅ Day to day speaking practice ✅ IELTS speaking test preparation I correct everything and will help you learn where your mistakes are and how to fix them. I don't ignore your mistakes! I have all the current questions that can appear on the IELTS speaking test. Preparing with me won't be a waste of time, and you won't be practicing questions that are years out of date. I've helped hundreds of students get the score they want on the IELTS speaking test, which can be an incredibly difficult test sometimes. I can help make sure you're as prepared as possible for the questions that examiners can throw at you. Many of my students have commented that they've practiced the very same questions that appeared on the exam, and were happy to have thought through some tricky topics in advance. Let's get started! Book a class and I'll see you soon!
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