Cue Card Sample

IELTS Cue Card Sample 3 - Describe a book that had a major influence on you

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

Describe a book that had a major influence on you.

You should say:
  • what the name of the book and its author
  • how you first heard of the book
  • what the main story of the book is

and explain why it had a major influence on you.

[You will have to talk about the topic for one to two minutes. You have one minute to think about what you are going to say. You can make some notes to help you if you wish.]

Part 3: Follow-up Questions:

  • How often do you read books?
  • How books can impact on a man's life?
  • Name some of the famous writers of your country?
  • Have you ever thought about writing a book?
  • How reading books is different from watching movies?

Describe a book

Model Answer 1:

People say that if we read books, it will make us smart, and if we read too much of it, we will become “bookworm”. Not sure, if I am smart or a bookworm, but I do love to read books once in a while if they are a good read. Today, I would like to talk about one such book called “The Alchemist”, a novel, written by a Brazilian writer named “Paulo Coelho”. "The Alchemist", is said by many, continues to change the lives of its readers forever. This book has established itself as a modern classic, universally admired and loved by people.

I heard about the book for the first time during my university years when one of my university friends was doing some research on the Islamic heritage of Andalusia, which was ruled by my the Muslim rulers from 8th century to 14th century, in order to write an essay on it. The book aroused a huge interest in me as I couldn’t possibly find a reason as to why a Brazilian Author would care to write an allegory of someone, who was “supposedly” living in an area called “Andalusia” in Spain which was/is about 8000 kilometres away from Brazil.

Anyway, the book is essentially a third-person narration which tells about the story of a young shepherd boy (Santiago) from Andalusia who dreams to travel around the whole world. However, his greatest incident in life was to meet a Melchizedek, King of Salem, who directs him towards his journey from the Andalusian plains to the exotic markets of Tangier and through the mighty deserts Sahara to the Al-Fayoum oasis where he encounters the “Alchemist” as well as meets a girl called “Fatima” and falls in love with her. 

The book is full of lessons which are bound to influence you one way or another. I learnt that life gives us choices, and chances if we are willing to take them and there is nothing called an impossible dream. Anyway, after reading this book, I understood that fear seems to be the biggest obstacle in achieving our dreams than the “obstacle” itself if any. After reading this book, my belief was re-affirmed once again that truth prevails always no matter how hard we try to hide it. I also realized that we should always try to live in our present if we really want to be happy in life.


Sample Answer 2:

Whenever I get time, I try to read books and this is a hobby I immensely enjoy. The types of books I read greatly vary from skill development books to technical one, sometimes religious, other time fictions, classic and contemporary books. The book I would like to describe for this topic is a novel titled ‘Kane and Abel’ by the famous British writer Jeffrey Archer.

Sometimes I read book reviews on the Internet before I start reading a book. I found that most of the Jeffrey Archer fans have recommended the book ‘Kane & Abel’. Some even commented that this is the best book ever by the same author. I made my mind at this very moment to read this book soon. After a week or so, I purchased the book from a bookstore and started reading it.

The book was first published in 1979 in the United Kingdom and in the USA in 1980. The book was the international success and reached number 1 position on the New York Times best-selling book list. The storyline started with the birth of two infants named Kane and Abel in the year 1906. On different sides of the planet, they grew up: one shaped by a luxurious upbringing, fine schooling and history he read, the other one who lost his mother at the time of his birth and did not know who his father was, well-tempered by war, slavery and history he was part of. The storytelling of Jeffrey Archer was enchanting. Every page I turned tempted me to read further. Not for a single moment, I could have stopped thinking about the events and characters of the books and that had a major influence on me. The characters have their own charismatic powers and followed their own paths. One is gold, meritorious while the other one is steel and have forfeited the Dead himself. On their journey in life, they confront each other and became the ultimate adversary of each other. In their relentless battle, both men knew that there could be only one victor- and one vanquished.

Across three generations and around a rapidly changing world, their war rages unchecked, for the love of a dream, the loss of an empire, and the lure of a fortune. Kane became the owner of the largest bank in the USA while Abel came to the USA as a penniless emigrant after the World War I. With intelligence Kane started flourishing the banking business, while Abel made his fortune at last in Hotel business. The first time they confronted each other as a bank owner and a debtor. Though Kane wanted to help Abel regain his business by financing further, but could not do so because of the bank’s board members’ decision. After that, Abel considered Kane as his greatest enemy and sought to destroy Kane. As time passed both had to fight their own fates but the vendetta remained in their hearts. When both men finally grew older, their son and daughter fell in love and got married. They never agreed on the marriage because of their personal hatred of each other. Abel succeeded to buy the bank stocks of Kane’s Bank to hold the power to veto Kane. At the end of the story, both confronted each other for the second and last time. After that Kane died and after his death, Abel learned that it was Kane who backed him financially to start his hotel business. The story was told like a magician and is a powerful portrait of a world that readers would never forget.


Cue Card Answer 3:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about a book that had a major influence on me. I am going to tell you the name of the book and the author, what I remember of it and why it is so significant to me.

Funnily enough, I was thinking about this book only the other day.  It is called ‘The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse’, I don’t know why I remembered it suddenly, but I had to google to look up the author. It is by Ursula Moray Williams, but I didn’t know that when I first read it.

As to how I first heard of the book, I can’t really say! It is actually a children’s book, and I think it must have been chosen for me by my parents as I don’t remember actually buying it with anyone, and I don’t think it was a birthday gift or it would have had an inscription in its front cover. The copy I had was a rather tatty paperback with an orange cover and published by a then famous book company called Puffin Books. It had a picture of crudely fashioned toy wooden horse on the front. The horse had a cylindrical body and straight legs fastened onto a board with four wheels on it. The horse had a flowing mane and tail, and in my copy was facing away from the reader, heading off on its’ adventures.

The story was so very sad! The horse in the title was a toy horse originally supposed to be sold by his maker. The little wooden horse is very loyal and wants only to stay with his Uncle Peder who crafted him. However, sadly the toymaker is forced out of business as mass-produced toys become available, and the little wooden horse sets out to try and make his fortune so the two of them can stay together. Terrible things happen to the horse, he is sometimes lonely and unhappy. Eventually, though, he does make his fortune (I can’t remember how) and returns home only to find the toymaker has vanished! It is heart-breaking. In the end, the little wooden horse and the toymaker are reunited by chance and there is, at last, a happy ending after a harrowing set of adventures.

The reason this book is important to me is that it is the first book I remember really wanting to read for myself. My mum and dad would take turns to read me just one chapter at night, but there were lots and lots of chapters – about twenty I think, and I was so upset not knowing how the story would end if one chapter was finished and the poor little wooden horse was left in distress! I could read a bit, but not that well, and not well enough to read silently in my head. Anyway, one night, after my parents had closed the book and left me alone, I carried on reading all by myself. I had to read out loud, and the story was so sad I was sobbing as I read, which made it even harder for me to get the words out and finish the story. Even so, I carried on reading right to the end and fortunately, the story did end happily! I can still remember this, even though I must have only been about four years old at the time.  My parents remember the episode too. They could hear me in my room reading aloud and crying, and they said it was heart-rending to listen to, but also quite impressive, as I was so stubbornly determined to do this, and on my own.

I have never re-read the book as an adult. I’m afraid if I did and found it wasn’t really very good or very well written it might spoil the memory for me. I prefer to imagine it as the most brilliant story ever written even if that isn’t true at all! So the book is special because it is probably the book that encouraged me to read, as well as being probably my earliest memory.

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


Model Answer 4:

The book that tremendously influenced me in my college level is titled "Pather Panchali" by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. This book was published in 1929 and later a movie was made with the same title by Satyajit Ray. The book is a tragedy and family drama which is considered to be one of the finest literary works in Bengali literature.

This book deals with the life, happiness, sadness and inner-picture of Roy family in a rural area. Later they moved to a different place in search of a better life but they had to face a great deal of anguish and losses during their travel to a new transition.

The book describes the rural life, the people of this rural place, their sufferings, their joys, the beautiful countryside, green fields, paddy fields, flowers and many more things that become alive in the story. The storyline, the mastery of story-telling ability, the scenic beauty of the rural area, the tragic death of a touchy character all were so profoundly expressed that I was deeply touched. Moreover, this book was written by one of the superb and talented writers who had a natural talent in describing rural beauty in a style that no other writer can do.

The book reminded me of the rural area I had once been to. It was like travelling to the past in a time machine. Bibhutibhushan is a gifted writer and probably the best of his type. He had the ability to depict rural life and scenic beauty profoundly and perfectly. The characters of his books come from ordinary places and lead ordinary lives, but the impression they create in readers' mind is extraordinary.


Tips for answering this cue card sample:

This cue card topic asks you to talk about a book you have read. You should pick a book that you know well. Let's say you have read a book which was very interesting but you have forgotten the name of the author or the publisher, you can't tell the story in an organised fashion, then you should not talk about that one. Rather pick a book which is interesting, you have read and you know the writer and story of the book. If you are not sure of such a book, think about one, google for the details of the book and remember the following information about the book:

1. Writer.
2. Publisher.
3. Publishing year.
4. Some other book names by the same author.
5. The story of the book.
6. Why the book was critically acclaimed.
7. Some characters in the book.

For the part why this book has a great influenced on you mention some of the following points:

1. The book was written by a writer who has a great way of telling a story.
2. The story is a page-turner and you had a hard time keeping it away.
3. You have learned an important lesson from this book.
4. The characters of this book gave you a great impression.
5. Some of the trivia and facts about the book. etc.

Necessary vocabulary for this cue card: 

Related to describing a book: Hardcover, bestseller, novel, paperback, recommended book, page-turner, plot, fiction, avid reader, bookworm, genre, biography, literary, contemporary, fast-paced,  gripping, to borrow, compelling plot, fascinating characters.

Synonyms of 'major': Significant, important, serious, paramount, prime, great, outstanding, considerable.

Synonyms of 'influence': Effect, impact, consequence, force, significance.

If you prepare for this cue card, you should also be able to answer the following cue card topics:

1. Describe a book you have recently read.
2. Describe your favourite book.
3. Describe a book you read and remember.
4. Talk about a book you enjoyed reading.
5. Describe a book you would recommend your friends to read.
6. Talk about a book one of your friends recommended you.
7. Describe a worth reading book.

Since the cue card topic is asking to describe a book that has a major influence on you, not necessarily you have to talk about a storybook. You can pick any academic book, religious book or specific subject or technology-related books as well.

For instance, if you pick a major book of your religion, you can say how it has changed your views of life and views about the world. How it had helped you learn morality and humanity and religious lessons that you follow in your life. There are so many things we learn from our religion and you can talk about these.

If you pick an academic book, let’s say JAVA programming language book, Introduction to business or Accounting you can tell how this book has changed your view on this specific subject and created a solid base on the subject and influenced you to later study on that subject further.

Part 3: Details Discussion:

Q. How often do you read books?
Answer: Unfortunately, I don't read books very often. When I was younger, my mom used to tell me stories from different books so this is the reason that I am aware of the fairytales. I read 'Twilight' by Stephenie Meyer when I was 15 years old and the motivation to do that was the movie with the same name which was released in 2008. From another perspective, though, I read almost all of my books when I was at university but I was forced to do that. So I would come to the conclusion that I don't read books in my free time but only when I have to.

Tip: You can either say that you don't or you do read books. If you are in the first category refer to the reasons why you don't do that. For example, you can say that you don't have time, many interesting books are expensive, you can't read online books because it's tiring and anything else comes to your mind.

If you are in the second category, just think of the kinds of books you have read and try to describe them in a few words. You can also include your university books.

Q. How books can impact on a man's life?
Books are good sources of knowledge and they actually enlighten us. Reading a book is a really good and helpful way whenever you are bored or stressed out. It is preferable to me reading a book than surfing the internet. Going further, in this way people can develop their imagination and nurture their mind and thinking skills. Moreover, there is a possibility for someone to change their view about specific things such as religious issues, gender parity, culture and so on and become more open-minded by reading books. For instance, somebody who isn't romantic may change his opinion after reading a book with a romantic story or someone who is narrow-minded and biassed may change their attitude. Finally, it's a good and effective way to practice a foreign language and this is something I did before coming to England.

Q. Name some of the famous writers of your country?
One of the most famous English writers is JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series. Her books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and were sold more than 400 million copies so far. John Milton whose poetry has been seen as the perfect poetic expression in the English language for four centuries is also from my country. Agatha Christie who is reputably known throughout the world as the "Queen of Crime" and Samuel Johnson who is known as 'arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history' are only some of the many meritorious English authors.

Tip: You can talk about a/few writer(s) of your own country who is successful and well-known even worldwide. They might be contemporary writers or might be from past centuries.

Q. Have you ever thought about writing a book?
  To be honest I haven't. My writing skill isn't so good, so if I had decided to do something like that it would have been a moderate work. In fact, I wouldn't want that because I am a perfectionist. In addition, my imagination isn't that vivid to create a story myself so I would jump to the conclusion that I am not the proper person for this activity. Besides, my favourite types of books are biographies so this is the only plot that I could have written. However, I prefer sharing my personal stories and experiences with my family and friends in verbal form than written form.

Tip: You can also give a semi-negative answer by saying that you haven't written a book but you would like to and give examples and your idea about the story. You can also say that you have thought about writing a book and refer to its content. Finally, you can say that you have written a book if so give details when you wrote it, what was the story and how you were inspired to write this book.

Q. How reading books is different from watching movies?
It is quite different indeed! While reading a book you can imagine the characters and the scenes you are reading about and adjust them to your desires. Everyone makes an image of the main characters' outer appearance, inner traits and so on and personally when I read a book I have a specific actor or actress in my mind. So, I would say that books give someone the chance to make stories based on their personality.

Movies, on the other hand, have some standards. There is the visual element which is absent in books and it can be either good or bad because in some cases watching a movie is much better than reading a book but the opposite can happen as well. Personally, I have seen movies having read the books before and some of them weren't as good as I expected.

[ Part 3 answers are written by - Mary, UK | Economist ]


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1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 4.13 (34 Votes)

IELTS Mentor
Hi, we understand your concern. But it is unlikely that someone has not read any book in his/her entire life and can't talk about one. It can be a religious book or even an academic book. Let's say, someone might have read the biology book in his/her college and have learned a great deal of information about the plants. This might have an influence on his/her life as well.The bottom line is 'you cannot tell the examiner that you have never read a book'. You have to talk about one even if you need to make things up.
What should we reply if we don't read books and we get a question for "describe a book"?
Sample answers are obviously inadequate. They are too long to fit in 2 minutes, and even a band 9 speaker doesn't need to be nearly that good at telling convoluted detailed stories. You just need to show your grammar and vocabulary ranges all the while speaking at length for just 2 minutes, maintaining fluency, and staying reasonably on topic. Sample answers would be more acceptable for writing, although they lack the necessary essay structure to get a high band score for that.
Shelly Bardhana
I don't even understand why they publish so much information. Short passages are easy to read and we can grab only relevant information. I am afraid to read big one because there is still much more to read...
Gurwinder Kaur
Sooooo nice.
Dass David
Hello, the first two samples are really a big passage and it takes more than two minutes. I am afraid that maybe it's not enough to cover the whole parts of questions in 2 mins... :sad: