IELTS Cue Card Sample 488 - Describe a problem in your city

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

Describe a problem in your city/hometown.

You should say:

  • what it is
  • how serious it is
  • what causes this problem

and say what can be done to solve/reduce this problem.

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

Sample Answer 1:
I live in (… say the name of your city...) and this city has a very large population. With the increasing population, unplanned urbanisation, rapid industrialisation and lack of proper steps from the authority have led to many different problems here and traffic congestion, in my opinion, is the worst of all.  

Traffic jam in large cities is a common problem; however, this in our city is far worse. It is a common scenario in our city that cars are stuck on roads and passengers and drivers have to wait for an unusually long time before they can move forward. Sometimes cars and buses remain unmoved for more than an hour and people get very depressed and annoyed due to this. The long lines of cars and buses and their movement at a snail's pace have become a very annoying yet common scenario in this city. The rush hours are even more devastating and bad traffic kills a considerable amount of time each day. The business owners, office goers, students and their parents and people from all walks of life suffer seriously due to this uncontrollable traffic jam. Everyone seems like devastated and vexed about it, authorities know that as well, and yet there no proper steps to solve this heinous problem.

There are many reasons behind this problem and an increasing number of cars and vehicles, in my opinion, is the main reason. The number of cars is increasing more rapidly than the construction of new roads and roads are becoming more congested. Second, lack of proper traffic control system and scarcity of traffic police could be another reason for that. Moreover, the public transportations are not as reliable and updated as they should have been and due to that people are mostly relying on private cars in my city. Violation of traffic rules is another main reason for this unbearable traffic jam.

Some effective measures must be taken in order to address this serious problem. Since this is already a grave issue, steps should be taken before it gets worse. First, government and road authority should invest more money in building new roads and for the repairing and maintaining of old ones, particularly in areas where traffic jam is more severe. On the other hand, public transportations should be improved so that people use them more frequently. Restriction on private car ownership in our city is also required for the control of increasing traffic jam. At the same time, it is essential that stricter traffic rules be issues and violation of traffic regulation should be severely punished in order to reduce the traffic jam.


Cue Card Answer 2:
Oh no! I love the city I live in – Sheffield in the UK! It feels wrong to talk about its problems when there is so much about the city that I’d like to celebrate and share with you instead. However, if you really insist, I can think of a problem in my city that certainly leaves me breathless with frustration more often than I like to admit. I’ll try to explain what it is, how serious it is, and the causes of the problem.
So, don’t laugh, but the problem with my city of Sheffield is the hills! Before I moved to Sheffield a few years ago now, I didn’t really know anything about the city. Since I’ve come here I absolutely love it. The city is quite compact, known as ‘greenest city in Europe’ because of a large number of outdoor green spaces within the city boundaries, and is next to one of the UK’s National Parks, The Peak District. I suppose the clue is in the name, ‘the peaks’. Sheffield is said to be built on seven hills – like Rome apparently, though I’ve never been there so I don’t know how the two cities compare. I do know, that when I first moved to Sheffield I could not believe how steep, how long and how many hills there are! I am not talking about gentle undulations, I am talking about proper steep hills, where you have to wear walking shoes, dig deep, head down and haul yourself up to the hills. I thought I was reasonably fit, but soon discovered I was a ‘soft southerner’ (that’s a sort of affectionate derogatory phrase some people who live in the colder, hillier north use to describe their compatriots who live nearer to London in the south of the United Kingdom). I really puffed my way up those hills, and would have to stop now and again to recover my breath, whereas my friends who were born and bred in Sheffield had no problem in storming up gradients that I thought impossibly steep.
How serious is the problem? Well, it depends! It is genuinely a problem if you are, say, elderly or disabled, it is physically challenging to get around. In winter, when there are snow and ice often roads become completely impassable, buses are cancelled and those that are able to walk to work have to do so – sometimes clinging to sidewalls and lampposts along their route to avoid sliding downhill all the way! When I first came to Sheffield I was worried my car wouldn’t be able to cope with the steep hills, I’d never driven up anything with such an incline before. Over time I’ve become a bit more confident in my driving skills, by clutch control and the reliability of my handbrake, but I still won’t venture out in the car at the first sign of ice. In the UK, it is quite common for people to have driveways outside their houses where they can pull up and park their cars on dedicated off-street parking. Sheffield is no different, but what is different is the angles of those driveways. Local people will think nothing of parking their car on a 45-degree slope that would terrify me. I always thought only a four by four vehicle would be safe negotiating such terrain, here the consensus is otherwise!
However, even problems can have unexpected positives associated with them! Walking round Sheffield certainly keeps you fit. I might still puff going up some of the steeper hills, but I can now get up them without stopping. I now take it for granted that everywhere is hilly round me, and although I still can’t work out how it is possible for a route to and from the town centre to apparently be uphill both going out and coming back, I do take it in my stride. I now forget how hilly it is. A few months ago I took part in a half-marathon running race in my home city. The organisers had warned participants that there was a really steep hill section. In fact, it was 6 miles continuously uphill, and then about another 7 miles return undulating back to the start. As we set off, quite soon some runners around me were saying ‘this must be the really steep hill the organisers warned us about’ I was astonished! We were still on a part of the course that in Sheffield terms was flat. The ‘proper’ hill was a long way off, if they thought the route was challenging already, well, oh my, they were in for a shock later on! As a local, I wasn’t necessarily any faster going up those hills, but psychologically at least they didn’t take me by surprise!
What is the cause! Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, local geography! There’s not much to be done about that. So when it comes to saying what might be done to ‘solve the problem’ I think it isn’t about ‘solving’ it at all. Rather it is more of an ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ sort of situation. By which I mean, instead of fretting over what can’t be changed, it’s much better to accept it, and even learn to appreciate it! After all, hard as those hills are to climb, one of the very best things about Sheffield is getting up as high as you can on the edge of the city. Way, way up where the open moors of the Peak District meet the city boundary you get amazing views. In one direction you can see back across the city, and pick out landmarks in amongst the hills. In the others, you can see heather and moor or woodland depending on which way you choose to look. So the hills are a problem, sometimes, but they are also what gives the city its unique character as well as help me in my literal and metaphorical battle to keep fit! Besides, after all, that walking in the open air I think I’ve earned the right for a restorative cup of strong Yorkshire Tea and a slice of cake! So, the hills might be a short-term problem, but they are certainly a long-term gain!

[Written by - Lucy Marris (2016): Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam) ]

More Ideas to talk about this Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card topic:

Topic: Describe a problem in your city/hometown.

1. Proper housing is a great problem for the inhabitants of England. The number of residents has increased to an unbearable extent. So, this is becoming hard to accommodate all the people together. In fact, many of the people from around the globe and the country flock to this city to get a good living and lifestyle. To reduce the problem, I think the government should take some decentralizing steps. Then people would not need to crowd in London alone.

2. The issue of public safety is a great concern in New York City. This is, in fact, a highly serious matter. The problem is caused by multifarious issues. Overpopulation, unemployment, racism etc. all are responsible for the public safety issue. Though there are some rules and customs to follow, the majority of the people are unaware of them. So, public awareness should be raised in the first position. Moreover, the law enforcers should also be careful about the public safety issues. They need paying more attention to the matter.

3. India is troubled with some serious types of problems and air pollution is one of them. Most of the large cities are polluted by air and the issue is so serious that people need to use masks to prevent them from dust while moving on the streets. The air is polluted basically from the burning of fuels and oils. A good number of mills and factories also contribute on this case. Solving the problem overnight is nearly impossible. A mass awareness is required about the air pollution issue. Besides, the mills and factories should be replaced in out of city areas.

4. Health care is a problem for Vietnam and particularly in the Ho Chi Minh city. This is a serious problem and often the hospitals have less or in some cases no arrangements to deal with the critical patients. Moreover, the old buildings that hold the hospitals cannot accommodate all the patients together. The root cause of the problem is poverty. In fact, eradication of poverty is the key way to reduce this problem. When people will have enough money with them, they can have the better treatment.

5. In Islamabad, transportation is a great concern for everyone. The issue becomes serious in the early parts of a day when people move to their offices or other destinations. The lack of public transportation is the key reason to cause the problem. Besides, often the roads are congested with a good number of vehicles and movement becomes impossible for people. A proper urban planning is required to solve the problem. The streets should be expanded too.


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