IELTS Cue Card Meaning

IELTS Speaking Part 2: Cue Card Topics

Many students have written to me about whether or not they can ask the examiner to explain the cue card topic in IELTS speaking part 2. Other students ask if they can change the topic of the cue card.

Understanding IELTS Cue Cards

  1. Do you think you can change the cue card topic?
  2. Can you ask the examiner to explain the topic if you don’t understand?


The examiner will give you the cue card with the main topic and prompts underneath. Here is an example:

An outing that didn’t cost anything. You should say:

  • when it was
  • where you went
  • who was with you
  • what you did
  • how you felt about it

You will also be given a piece of paper and a pencil to make notes. You will have one minute to prepare. During that 1 min, the examiner will remain silent. At the end of 1 min, the examiner will ask you to start speaking. You should aim to speak for 2 mins.

Can you change the cue card?

No, you can’t. You are given the IELTS cue card and then you start preparing. There is no chance to change it.

Can you ask the examiner to explain it?

No, you can’t. The examiner is not allowed to help you at this time. The cue card is given to you for your preparation time and also for your talking time. At no point, can the IELTS examiner explain in part 2 speaking.

What if you don’t understand?

  1. Then you must try to speak about something you think is similar. You can explain your choice when you start speaking. Also follow the prompts so that the examiner doesn’t think you are trying to change the topic completely.
  2. Most cue cards are simple topics. They rarely contain language that is complicated. Common cue card topics: a meal you enjoyed, a book you read, an item of clothing you like, your favourite season, a place near water etc. Very easy to understand.
  3. You are not marked on your choice of subject. If you get “a place near water”, you could talk about a place near the sea, a place near a river or just a place near a swimming pool. It really doesn’t matter. The examiner is only interested in your spoken English.
  4. The topic above “an outing that didn’t cost anything” is similar to “an activity that was free”. This is about leisure time activities that do not cost money (no fee was paid) – going to the park, having a picnic, playing badminton in the garden, going to the beach etc.

All the best




  1. Hi Liz,
    Im 19 year old ,from Bangalore,India I got a small query
    Is it good to mention our age just after telling our full name to examiner and does this influence me in getting cue card which is easy/difficult or at the time of introduction or discussion?
    Please let me know both the advantages and disadvantages of telling our age to examiner.

    Hope to hear from you ASAP!

    • Why would you tell the examiner your age? If the examiner asks for your full name, you give your full name – that’s all. No, it would have no impact on the examiner’s choice of topics. Nothing has any impact on the examiner’s choice of topics.

  2. Yetunde Ojo says

    Thanks for the information ma.

  3. I litz, I’m chuka and my speaking exam is slated for tomorrow. My question is: after the one minute preparation, will the cue card be collected from me? I noticed that I often forget the topic of discourse.

  4. Nirmala Naresh says

    Some students in cue card speaking topic start as “thank you for giving the opportunity to speak”. Is this accepted

  5. Hi Liz,
    The cue card will be represented with the Questions ender the topic ?

    • As you see above, there are NO questions on the cue card. The cue card contains a main topic and prompts written as above. NO QUESTIONS.

  6. Hello Liz. I am a big fan of your lesson. Now I going to take Ielts exam on 23 June. I very week in reading section . So could you please give some tips to improve my skill😍

  7. Danielle Shazell says

    Hi Liz, you truly are a star thanks for sharing your knowledge, I wish you health, wealth and happiness 😊
    Could you please let me know if the Candidate is allowed to keep the card while speaking or if they have to give it to the examiner after the 1- min note taking?
    Thanks 🙏🏻

  8. Anunkor Chisom says

    Thank you Liz for your guidlines.

  9. Suvidha Kondam says

    No ….cue card can’t be changed and we cannot ask them for explanation in task2…where as in task 1 we can ask them to repeat the same question and in task3 we can ask them for explanation in a polite way

  10. Bhuvneshwari Kaundle says

    Thanks Liz… I have received good marks in IELTS exam. Listening-8, Reading-7.5, Writing-7, Speaking-7 overall 7.5. Your site and you-tube videos were helpful. Thanks for your amazing Tips. Hope you keep on making more people aware about IELTS. I can see my dream come true now. Thank you soooooo much . Love you loads

  11. khursheed ahmed says

    yes,you can ask him in a polite way for example “Could you repeat that please”

  12. khursheed says

    Yes you can ask him in a polite way for exapmle Could you repeat that please?

  13. Alice Vu says

    I think the answer is NO

  14. If you find the question awkward,I think the examiner will cooperate with you and change a cue card.

  15. I would say No for both because they are not testing your ideas rather, they are testing your grammar. I also think you could say at the beginning that you don’t know much about the subject but from your little knowledge…..

  16. I think the cue card cannot able to change.. they will give the questions and sub questions . We will explain the answers after the time starts..

  17. No we cannot change the cue card

  18. Sanaa Khalil says

    I think , we can not change the topic in cue card , but we can ask the examiner about the meaning of the question by paraphrasing it .

  19. No, cue card topic cannot be changed. The examiner may be asked to explain.

  20. Sudhanshu says

    Hi, as per my knowledge you can’t change the cue card topic. However, as this is the test of language skills, so, you can ask examiner to explain the topic if you can’t understand it properly.

  21. I don’t think the cue card can be changed but I think you can paraphrase the question on it and ask the examiner if that’s what it means.

  22. Yes, I think that we can change the cue card once, but I not sure that I can ask the examiner to clarify the topic if I don’t understand

  23. it’s no

  24. I think asking the examiner to expkain the topic will result in reducing one band.

    I dont think we have an option to change the card.

  25. Anunkor Chisom says

    Thank you Liz. 1. I dont think i cam change the cue card topic. 2. Its not wise that i ask the examiner to explain the cue card topic.

  26. Sheetal Solanki says

    I think we can ask examiner if we don’t understand the topic but it doesn’t feel right to ask to change the topic

  27. It’s a NO.

    You can’t change the topic and you can’t ask for explanation either.

  28. 1. Abslutely not.
    2. Yes , you can do it.

  29. ASMA TAHIR says

    i think we can ask examiner to change the topic and akso for some clarification of the question.

  30. you cannot change card however you can interpret .2- you can not ask for explain as much as i know

  31. you can not change the card however you can interpret … i mean if the card was about even … you can talk about football or wedding .. any event … even something happend yesterday ….2 – you can not ask about card .. as much as i know

  32. A big NO to both doubts

  33. If you get a question that is irrelevant to your life, for example, talk about a pet you’ve had, I think you can “adjust” the question but you need to explain to the examiner maybe saying, “To be honest I have never had a pet because I’m allergic, but if I weren’t, I would have had a cat” and then explain why.
    A story is too hard to invent 100% and it’s a test of speaking, not creativity so I think if you show that you are trying to answer the question and be honest, they won’t mark your score down.

  34. It think you once said that, candidates can ask clarification about topic from the examiner, but obviously, it can’t be changed

  35. I don t think that I can ask the examiner this part up to me but I still can change the words that I can used but related to the same topic

  36. Hi Liz,

    I think, we cannot change the topic. Also we cannot ask to explain topic fully, but we can ask if we stuck in any particular confusing word.

  37. Please what is the difference between the opinion essays: “Agree” and “To what extent do you agree”?
    Thank you

    • There is no difference at all. IELTS often paraphrase instructions, but they have the same meaning. They both are an opinion essay and are tackled in 100% the same way.

  38. Hi Liz,

    I don’t think I can change the cue card. But if I cannot tell much about a topic because the information is missing I can start talking about a similar topic and, therefore, lead to a different one I can tell more about.
    If I don´t understand the topic I can ask the examiner to repeat the question and describe or paraphrase it, is that right?

    Kind regards,

  39. Emmanuel Oba says

    If I recall these questions were put forth earlier by Liz some time ago and if I still remember her answer, it was a big “No”. You cant ask for a change of question and certainly can’t request for an eexexplanation.

  40. No sir/ma IELTS Cue Card topics can’t be charged and secondly because it’s a test and a test of knowledge/speech examiners can’t explain to the test takers.

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