IELTS Cue Card Sample 422 - Your favourite means of transport

IELTS Speaking Part 2: IELTS Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card.

Describe your favourite means of transport.

You should say:

  • What it is
  • when and how often you use it
  • why you use it

And explain why it is your favourite transport.

Model Answer:
Favourite means of transport? That’s easy! I love going off on adventures, and there is one particular form of transport that I strongly associate with starting off on a voyage of discovery. I wonder if you will feel the same way about it, or whether you might think I’m a bit odd for thinking about it in such a romantic way!  

I’ll tell you what it is, when and how often I use it as well as why, and try to convey to you why it is my favourite way to travel, even if the reality isn’t always as magical as my imagination would like it to be.

My favourite means of transport is the train! I don’t really use the train all that often, but that is part of the attraction. For day to day getting about town I tend to walk, or use the local bus, or if there is no public transport where I want to go then I’ll take my car. However, if I’m heading off further afield I always like to take the train, so that might be just a few times a year, and always for a longish journey – perhaps three hours if I’m going to London, but a lot longer if I was travelling right up to Scotland for example.

I use the train for lots of reasons. The practical reasons are that it is usually a comfortable way to travel as long as you go off peak. (I DO NOT enjoy being packed on a commuter train in the rush hour – that is a completely different railway experience). In cars or coaches, I can get a bit travel sick if I’m a passenger, but there is something soothing about the trundle of a train. I never feel ill journeying that way. Trains are also reasonably efficient at getting you from city to city towards your final destination, and you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic, so although it can be an expensive way to get about, it is always reassuring that you will probably get to wherever you are going on time to say catch your flight or make your meeting appointment.

Those are the practical reasons, but there are more emotional reasons why I like train travel. It is the anticipation you get sitting on a train, heading for a maybe new city, or to get a plane to an unknown destination and you start to think about all the exciting possibilities ahead. It is the first step into the unknown of travel, and it makes you feel alive!  Then, there is the joy of seeing new scenery unfolds as the train passes through towns, cities, countryside. Even if the route is familiar, it will always look different on any day depending on the time of year, the weather, the time of day. You get little snapshots of other people’s lives as you can see into their back gardens, watch them walking through the countryside, or even (if I’m honest) peering into their houses. The view from the train window may not always be beautiful, but it will always be interesting.  Depending on my mood, I like to look at the other passengers and imagine what their stories and destinations might be.  Some travelling alone like me, may be carrying suitcases or backpacks and will be going off on holiday somewhere. There might be others wearing suits and clutching briefcases trying to get to important work meetings. Screeching groups of friends could be on their way to a reunion or party, and then there are quieter couples of individuals who might be going to the shops, visiting a friend or family member in a hospital. I like it when you see gangs who are clearly on their way to the same destination such as a day at the races (all wearing enormous hats and ‘posh’ clothes that would normally be out of place in the middle of the day). Sometimes it might be fans going to a concert or people from one particular profession heading to a work conference. I try and guess where they are all heading.

Amongst this throng of fellow travellers, you sometimes strike gold. British people have a reputation for not talking on trains, and generally, this is true. You do have to be a bit careful about how you read other people’s body language before you strike up a conversation. However, sometimes something will happen – the train is delayed, or you have to talk to each other as you are finding your reserved seat, and then to coin a phrase you’ve ‘broken the ice’ and talk flows.  I’ve had some of the best conversations and experiences of my life talking to strangers on a train. I have a theory that if you are talking to people you will probably never see again, you can be honest and direct in a way you would never risk in ‘normal’ chit chat. I can recall a few. One day I was on a train that was delayed for several hours due to an accident on the track ahead. Probably a suicide I think, although the announcements were a bit vague. This delay led to me having a really profound talk with the woman alongside me. We discussed quite literally attitudes to life and death, personal experiences of dealing with family illnesses, and notions of identity. We also had much more light-hearted conversation about fashion malfunctions and embarrassing stories about ourselves! We talked for hours, but at the end of our journey said our goodbyes and I don’t even know her name. I’ve had other amazing conversations too, one with a guy who claimed to provide personal banking services to millionaires – I’m sure it wasn’t true, but it was fascinating hearing him tell his tales ‘in confidence’ trying to impress me. On another occasion, I met an elderly woman who said she’d been a spy in the war – doubtful, but great to hear her stories all the same. Then there was the youngish man who chose me to unburden his soul to about his relationship problems with his girlfriend. I was surprised by the intimacy of his disclosures, but nosy enough to listen to it all anyway!

So trains are great.  They not only take you to glorious destinations, they are in themselves a snapshot of the world. If you are cautiously open enough to engage with others around you, you can gain insights into other worlds and experiences. You might even get some good advice along the way!

Sadly, not all train experiences are like this. Some are crowded, exasperating, squashed up against the armpits of others, getting increasingly annoyed at the fumes from the overflowing loo and being angry at the noisiness of drunken youths a few seats down. On those journeys I try to close my eyes, concentrate on the rhythmic rocking of the train and imagine myself back on one of my more life-affirming journeys. Maybe next time I get on a train it will be like that all over again!

[ Written by - Lucy Marris:  Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam) ]

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