IELTS Cue Card Sample 451 - Describe a subject that helped you in life

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

Describe a subject that helped you in life, even though you didn’t like it in school.

You should say:

  • what was the subject?
  • do you like it now? why?
  • why didn’t you like it in school?

and explain how it helped you in your life.

Model Answer 1:
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?  Sometimes over time you come to completely change your mind about something, even though you never could have imagined you would.  It’s the same for me a subject I spent some time studying when I was younger, and I absolutely loathed it.  Now, I realise that subject – or more accurately skill – is one of my strongest assets, it has definitely helped me in life, in more ways than I could possibly have realised at the time.

So I’ll explain what the subject is, what I think about it now and why … together with how that’s changed from when I was first learning it, and then I’ll try and explain how it has helped me in life, but that could take a while!

Strictly speaking, this wasn’t a topic I learned at school, but after I left it.  I enrolled at a local college because they were offering a free ‘Intensive Secretarial Course’ and at the time I didn’t have a job so I thought it would be something worthwhile to learn whilst I was doing some volunteering and looking for proper work.  The course was many years ago, believe it or not, this was before the internet, and even before networked computers!   The course covered typing and shorthand, and also how to lay out business letters properly.  Truthfully, I never got the hang of shorthand.  The lessons were after lunch and after a few weeks, I stopped going to those sessions as I found that ‘accidentally on purpose’ they clashed with my volunteering…  I did however, persevere with typing.  Now I can touch type with ease, far faster than I could write anything, and just as fast as I can think.  I don’t know that I ‘like’ it exactly, it has become as natural to me as breathing.  I just couldn’t imagine being without this skill, it is so, so useful.

Why didn’t I like studying it at the time?  Where to begin.  It was just so boring and repetitive.  What’s more, I learned how to type using a manual typewriter, banging out nonsensical phrases on what would now seem to be ancient machines.  You had to hit the keys quite fiercely or they wouldn’t strike the inked ribbon hard enough to leave a mark.  If you weren’t careful you could actually get your fingers caught between the metal keys.  Uurgh, it was horrible!  If you made a mistake using carbon paper (that’s the inked paper you used to have to place in between clean sheets if you were making more than one copy of a document) you had to carefully wind out the paper from the machine, ease the pages apart and using liquid paper corrector paint over the mistakes in ever document. It was incredibly fiddly and frustrating.  The shorthand classes were even worse!  We had to practise taking dictation from a very serious looking woman who read from an archaic book with rather old-fashioned ideas about how women should behave in the workplace.  I remember one phrase was ‘and don’t forget ladies, when dressing for the office, your nail varnish, shoes, handbag and other accessories should always match!’  I was horrified.  Is that all women were supposed to be?  Ornaments for the office?  No wonder I stopped going to those classes.

The funny thing is, although the course felt like the longest 6 months of my life at the time, it was also fantastically useful.  Being able to type helped me straight away both in looking for work and performing once appointed.  I could do everything from being able to create my own professional looking CV, complete smart looking application forms and was able to write up my own reports and letters without secretarial support once I started working.  This made me a much quicker and more independent worker than my non-typing colleagues.  Later on, when computers were introduced, I was way faster than others replying to emails.  They were straining over a keyboard picking out the letters one by one, whereas I could touch type comfortably at 70 words a minute!  I also found knowing how to produce professionally presented reports and documents gave me a great advantage not only in time, but in how my work was perceived.  The only downside was, that I became much more comfortable typing than writing by hand, my handwriting got worse and worse from that point on, now it is barely legible at all!

Nowadays touch typing has enabled me to keep a number of blogs, carry on correspondence with people all over the world, and exchange letters with friends and family over many years.  In a world where computers are everywhere, I am grateful I can use a keyboard with ease.  Though I am left wondering one thing, just as when I learned to type I could never have anticipated how it would be so useful to me later on, I wonder if in the future keyboards too will become a thing of the past.  Perhaps we will all have voice activated computers and the image of me sweating over a manual typewriter back in the eighties will seem an even stranger picture than it already does today!

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

Sample Answer 2:
The subject I liked the least in my school life was history and interestingly I love to read history related books a lot these days and this subject has helped me quite a lot in my life.

History was a mandatory subject throughout my academic years in school and somehow I felt very less passionate about this subject at that time. After I reached my university level, I started reading some story books that were related to historical events in our continent and that grew a great passion in me regarding the history. I should probably add that History channel is my most favourite TV channels as it shows some great programmes which are not only interesting but also great sources of knowledge and information. The main reason I like history nowadays is because of my career as a journalist and the valuable lessons the history can offer us. I believe that histories were made by our ancestors and we could always learn from their great actions and mistakes to make this world a better place to live in.

I did not like history as a subject in school probably because the teachers failed to present this subject in an interesting way or I was too much interested in subjects like math, chemistry and physics. I was partially responsible for the lack of my interest in this subject as I did not try to get deeper inside it and I read very few books related to history by then.

The history shaped the world we live in now and every single event in history has a great influence to change the world that we see now. From this regards, I took this subject seriously and the valuable lessons I learned from it changed my life. For instance, after reading so many books related to wars, I have decided not to get involved in any kind of quarrel with others as quarrels, wars, selfishness can only bring catastrophes. I also learned about the greatest people in human history and how their hard work, determination and willingness have made them the exemplary persons in the worlds and how they contributed towards a better world. The things I learned from the history books and from other sources helped me a lot as a writer in my personal and professional life. I would say the contribution of history, as a subject or interest, has a great effect in my life.

If you prepare for this cue card you should be able to answer the following cue cards as well:

  • Describe a subject you did not like in your school.
  • Talk about your favourite subject in your school or college.
  • Describe a subject that you liked a lot in your school.
  • Describe something important you learned in your school or college.
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