Tackling Familiar Topics in IELTS Speaking: Hometown, Family, and Interests 

 March 25, 2024

By  Jonathan

The early stages of the IELTS Speaking test often focus on familiar, readily relatable topics such as your hometown, family, hobbies, and interests. The aim is to assess your ability to communicate comfortably and clearly about everyday subjects. However, even with familiar topics, preparation is key to giving structured, engaging, and informative answers that showcase your English language skills.

Why Prepare for Familiar Topics?

  • First Impressions: The initial portion of the Speaking test sets the tone. Strong responses build your confidence and create a positive impression on the examiner.
  • Fluency and Vocabulary: Seemingly simple questions offer the chance to demonstrate fluency and use a range of everyday vocabulary accurately.
  • Building a Foundation: Your ability to articulate thoughts about yourself lays the groundwork for more complex discussions of broader topics in later parts of the test.

Preparation Strategies

  1. Brainstorm and Reflect
    • Hometown: Consider its location, size, positive/negative aspects, what makes it unique, recent changes, and whether you would recommend it to others.
    • Family: Describe members, relationships, personalities, how you spend time together, and their influence on you.
    • Interests: Think about hobbies, favorite pastimes, why you enjoy them, and what skills or benefits they offer.
  2. Practice Descriptive Language
    • Go beyond basic statements (“My hometown is big”).
    • Practice using adjectives (lively, historic, peaceful, bustling), adverbs (recently, surprisingly), and provide specific examples.
  3. Build Vocabulary Banks
    • Create topic-specific word lists. Include terms used to describe people, places, hobbies, and daily routines.
    • Learn relevant synonyms to avoid repetition and demonstrate flexibility.
  4. Organize Answers with Structure
    • Simple Present & Past: Practice switching between simple present for describing current situations and past tenses for experiences and changes over time.
    • Logical Sequencing: Think about the order in which you’ll introduce information, using transitions for a smooth flow (“Firstly,… Additionally,… Finally”).
  5. Anticipate Follow-Up Questions
    • Practice elaborating on your initial answers. Be prepared to offer opinions, comparisons, and justifications.

Sample Questions & Enhanced Responses


  • Question: “Where do you come from?”
  • Basic Answer: “I’m from a small town called Milton.”
  • Enhanced Answer: “I come from Milton, a charming coastal town located in the southern part of the country. It’s known for its picturesque beaches, fresh seafood, and friendly community.”


  • Question: “Tell me about your family.”
  • Basic Answer: “I have a small family. I live with my parents and my older sister.”
  • Enhanced Answer: “I’m fortunate to have a close-knit family. I live with my parents and older sister, who is studying to be a doctor. We enjoy spending time together, especially watching movies and going on weekend hikes.”


  • Question: “How do you spend your free time?”
  • Basic Answer: “I like to read and watch TV.”
  • Enhanced Answer: “In my spare time, I’m an avid reader, usually historical fiction or mystery novels. I also enjoy catching up on my favorite TV shows – I find them a great way to relax after a long day.”

Additional Tips

  • Speak Naturally: Focus on clear pronunciation and a conversational tone, rather than memorizing complex sentences.
  • Body Language: Maintain open posture and eye contact to project confidence.
  • Don’t Panic Over Imperfections: Minor grammatical errors are less significant than clear communication and fluency.

Remember: Even ‘easy’ topics deserve practice. Preparation will prevent rambling, hesitant answers and ensure your responses showcase the skills the examiner is looking for: strong vocabulary, natural fluency, and an organized presentation of ideas.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.