Describing people in the IELTS speaking test

Describing people in the IELTS speaking testDescribing people in the IELTS speaking test. We have previously looked at how to give better descriptions of places in the IELTS test, and on this page we will look at how you can better describe people.

Here are some example questions where you may need to describe people:

Part 1:

  • How well do you know your neighbours?
  • Did you like your school teachers?
  • Do you come from a big or small family?
  • Do you like having visitors to your home?

Part 2:

  • Describe a person you have lived with
  • Describe a member of your family you like
  • Talk about a good friend

Part 3:

  • What kinds of people do you admire?
  • Why do you think some people prefer to live alone?
  • What type of person enjoys team games?
  • What qualities are important in a good friend?
  • What kind of person makes a good politician?


There are two aspects to consider when you are describing people in the IELTS test. The first is that you need to be able to use a range of adjectives. Just saying that someone is ‘nice’ or ‘friendly’ is not enough – you need to be able to be more specific about their qualities and weaknesses. The second aspect you need to consider is supporting your point. Here are 2 examples – one is good and the other is bad:

Examiner: Do you like having visitors to your home?

Candidate 1: Yes. I’m a friendly person.

Candidate 2: Absolutely – I’m quite a sociable person and I think I have quite an extroverted nature, so I enjoy meeting people and being a good host. I feel that it’s important to make people feel welcome when they visit, so I always offer some refreshments to anyone who comes calling – maybe just a coffee, but sometimes I cook a full meal.

Obviously Candidate 2 has the better answer – the response is longer, which is a good start, but there are also a range of much higher level adjectives. Where Candidate 1 just says they are friendly, Candidate 2 uses words like sociable and extroverted. In addition, Candidate 2 supports their point by showing how they are sociable – they welcome people, they offer a drink or maybe a meal.

Here is some useful vocabulary for describing people.

Describing personality

  • Easy-going (someone who is easy to talk to / get along with)
  • Extroverted (likes meeting people / is socially confident – the opposite of introverted)
  • Grumpy (annoyed, irritated, bad-tempered)
  • Mean (not happy to share with other people)
  • Vain (someone who has a high opinion of themselves, often regarding how they look)
  • Affectionate (someone who shows how they feel about someone else)
  • Ambitious (someone who wants to achieve success in life – this can often have a slightly negative meaning)
  • Charismatic (someone who can get and keep the attention of other people)
  • Impulsive (someone who acts without much thought)
  • Upbeat (someone who is happy and has a positive attitude)

Describing physical aspects:

  • attractive, stunning, beautiful, breath-taking
  • plain, average-looking, ugly, unattractive
  • well-dressed, casually-dressed, poorly-dressed, elegant, fashionable, chic, over-dressed (looking too formal for the situation), unkempt
  • thin, slim, slender, skinny, underweight
  • chubby, overweight, obese, fat, plump, portly, rotund, flabby, paunchy
  • Tall, lanky (tall and thin), awkward, slight, beefy, well-built, gangly

Now test your skills at describing people with a practice exercise. Click the link in the table below to get started.