PTE Speaking – The Best Strategy To Answer The Describe Image Question

The PTE academic speaking section consists of a number of different tasks, which are designed to assess you speaking abilities. Some of these questions are more challenging than the others. In this article, we will take a detailed look at one of the toughest PTE speaking question types, the describe image question.

Here is a detailed look at what you can expect:

Describe Image Format

In this question type, candidates will have 40 seconds to describe an image on the screen. The images are usually a graph, picture, map, chart or table. You will be given 25 seconds to prepare your talk, after which you will hear a short beep. This denotes that the microphone is now on and you can begin speaking.

The describe image question tests your ability to describe an image from an academic source.

How Is This Question Displayed?

The instructions for this question will be displayed at the top of the screen. Below that, there will be an image of either a graph, picture, map, chart or table. There will be a recording status box present on the screen. The status box will countdown from 25 seconds. Once this time is over, you will hear a short beep, and the microphone will switch on. You will then have 40 seconds to record your response.

The time remaining for your recording will be also be displayed in the recording box. Remember that if you remain silent for more than 3 seconds, the microphone will switch off without warning.

Here is an example of how this question will appear on test day:

How Is This Question Scored?

  • Content: your response should accurately describe all important aspects of the image and also contain key comparisons where possible. You should talk about the general content of the image, then summarize the most significant points, referring to details for support.
  • Oral fluency: Your response should demonstrate a smooth, effortless and natural rate of speech.
  • Hesitations, repetitions and false starts will negatively affect your score.
  • Pronunciation: – produce speech that is easily understood with correct intonation and stress.
  • Responses should also be immediately understandable to a regular speaker of the language.

Strategies For This Question

Analyse The Question

In order to score well for this type of question, you need to use those 25 seconds of prep time very wisely. Doing this ensures that you answer the question fully. Take a good look at the image and note the following

First identify which type of image is displayed. Then take a look at the surrounding information. Every Describe Image question consists of a title and a brief description of the graphic. This gives us a good idea about the type of data we are about to see, and you will have to mention this information at the beginning of your talk.

When analysing the visual information you should make sure you understand what each colour and axis represent. familiarise yourself with any headings, reference points and units of measurement that are present.

You will need to explain this relationship between these different quantities and figures in the second part of your talk

You will also need to note down the main features of the graph and you should also take note of any comparisons that can be made between the bar graphs. For example, graphs, charts and tables often highlight trends. Maps and pictures usually highlight important features.

Try to think about the relationships between parts of the images or details in the image as these relationships and comparisons will be an important part of your talk.

Since your preparation time is quite short, it is not possible to describe everything so you must carefully select which parts you describe. I recommend that you only choose three key features to discuss. Pay more attention to details such as the largest, the smallest, the most common, the largest change or the most similar or the most different aspects.

Make the most of Erasable Notepad, Booklet and Pen provided to you. take notes and use these organise your ideas more clearly.

1. Introductory overall statement

In an introduction statemement you must identify the type of graph and give general information about what the image displays, without going into details.

For example:

2. Detailed Description of key elements

In this section, include the description of the main elements of the graph. Remember to compare and contrast features as well. When giving specific features, you have to mention exact numbers/percentages and include as many details as you can. If the exact numbers are difficult to read, you can use words like around, about and approximately.

For example:

3. Implications or conclusion

The last step would be to offer a conclusion that effectively summarises what you have just mentioned and mention the implication of the information presented.

For example:

Vocabulary For The Describe Image Question

There are different types of words and phrases that can be used for different types of images.

It’s important to familiarise your self with the vocabulary related to the different types of common images present for this question type.

Lets take a look at some useful types of words that can be used for the common types of images.

Verbs And Nouns

For line graphs, being able to describe , you will have to report the main features as well as make comparisons between different sets of data. You have mention periods of stability, upward or downward trends or periods of instability (fluctuations in the graph or charts) To do this you need to have proper knowledge of which vocabulary to use for different types of changes To do that you can either use verbs or nouns:

I’ve compiled an easy to understand table, that contains synonyms for commonly seen trends that appear in the academic writing task.

You can always make the above-mentioned verbs and nouns sound more engaging by adding the correct adjective or adverb to go along with it. Remember that adjectives follow nouns and verbs are usually paired with adverbs.

There are also other instances when it is difficult to determine the exact figures mentioned in the graph. In such cases, you might have to use approximations instead.

Here are some useful approximations vocabulary that can be used for line graphs and bar charts

Time connectors:

Since a process is a series of events , one taking place after the other, you will need to connect your stages, you should use ‘ time connector linking words '. Time connectors are linking words which signal that a sequence is being followed, such as:

  • To begin
  • Following this
  • Next
  • Then
  • After
  • After that
  • Before
  • Subsequently
  • Finally

Location and Place Vocabulary

For some describe images you will be given an image of a map. The map might be of a large area of a continent or a smaller location. For these types of questions you will need be able these locations and the key features within it.

You will also need to be familiar with key vocabulary such as.

  • near
  • between
  • next to
  • beside
  • in front of
  • across
  • turn right
  • turn left
  • go straight on
  • head south
  • head north
  • north
  • south
  • east
  • west
  • at the bottom of
  • west
  • at the end of
  • on your left/ right
  • left-hand side/ right-hand side
  • facing…

Tips for this question

When speaking remember the following tips:

1. Make sure to speak dearly and naturally. Often students panic and speak too quickly due to the short amount of time that is given to answer. It is important to speak at a normal speed. And at a normal volume.

2. Speak loudly and clearly into the microphone. This will ensure that your voice is recorded correctly and that there is enough information available for the AI to assess you on.

3. Make sure that your talk is well structured. Describe the general content of the image, then summarize the most significant points, referring to details for support. When describing developments, conclusions or implications, support your response with details from the image.

4. Try not to repeat information.

5. Do not go back to correct yourself or hesitate. If you make a mistake, continue speaking. The microphone will close after three seconds of silence.

6. Practice under exam conditions – this will help you understand how much information you can reasonably for within 40 seconds, without sounding hurried or rushed. Time practice questions will help to develop the quality of your responses, so that you do not feel overwhelmed on test day.

Sample Question:

Look at the graph below. Describe in detail what the graph is showing.

(Insert Graph question pic)

Model Answer 1

The graph shows the development in comparing more or less developed countries, which, um, it compares to date against the amount by which it develops. And it shows that the less developed regions by year from 1950 to 2050 will have a significant or wider development compared to more developed regions.


The content of this response is fairly good. The major aspects of the graph and relationships between elements are accurately discussed. However, the test taker does not mention population growth, rather the test taker says the graph is showing the amount of development in developing and developed countries. The response is spoken at a conversational rate of speech and the phrasing is appropriate. This response demonstrates good control of grammar with very few errors. The vocabulary used is precise and appropriate for the context. The pronunciation is standard and all words are easily understandable. Stress is placed correctly on common words. This response is 22 seconds long.

Model Answer 1

This graph shows that in less developed regions, the population has grown in the last years. Meanwhile the developed regions has maintained their growth even in the last. The projections show that the more developed regions will continue being stable. Meanwhile the less developed regions will continue their grow to almost nine billion.


The content of this response is just adequate. While the response describes major aspects of the graph, the content is repetitive and several key details are not included. The response is spoken at an acceptable rate and in continuous phrases. There are several hesitations, false starts and repetitions which prevent the response from receiving full credit for fluency