Updated Mar 24, 2020


IELTS Part 2 and Part 3 Topics and Questions

Page 137


681.  A Time You Looked at the Sky  (Sep, 2015)  (Probably no longer used)

682.  Something that Made You Happy (Sep, 2015)  (Probably no longer used)

683.  Something You Would Like to Learn More About  (May or Sept. 2015)    (Probably no longer used)

684.  A Time You Shared Personal Information  (Sept. 2015)  UNCONFIRMED TOPIC

685.  No Topic



FQ = frequent question = a question that has frequently been reported = a question that is probably in the examiner's question book

* = my guess at a question


681.  A Time You Looked at the Sky  (Sep, 2015)  (Probably no longer used)

Describe a (recent) time when you looked at the sky (either day or night)

               You should say:

what you were doing when you looked at the sky

who you were with

what you saw in the sky

and explain how you felt when you looked at the sky.



  • The word "recent" might be included. They use this word in some Part 2 questions because they want you to speak about something that you remember quite well. For these Part 2 topics, you can think of,  "recent" as meaning, "within the past year or so".

  • What you saw in the sky need not necessarily be "beautiful", although that is the most common idea when we look at the sky. It could have been something strange, something unusual or something scary etc. It could have been the sky before an unusual weather event.

  • I suggest not focusing too much on any man-made objects in the sky such as a plane or a balloon talk mostly about the natural aspects of the sky itself. An exception to that could be talking about a polluted sky (when most of the pollution is man-made).

  • Other times when many people look at the sky are during a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse or when there is a meteor shower.


Possible follow-up questions:


Part 3

Make sure you know the difference between "astronomy" and "astrology". And learn how to pronounce, "astronomer"  & "astronomical". Another vocabulary word to know is "the horoscope". Of course, you should also learn several words associated with outer space and the universe, including the names of the planets in the solar system.

See also the questions that were used for the topic, "The Sky" in the May-August 2015 Part 1. I copied those questions to Note 17, below.

See Note 18 if you are interested in the topic (the "conspiracy theory"?) of whether man really did land on the moon in 1969, or whether it was a hoax.

Ideas about the Stars

  • What do you think ancient people thought (or felt) when they looked at the stars (or, thought about the stars)?

  • What do average people today in your country think of the stars?

  • Do you think modern humans place more importance on the stars than ancient humans did, or is it the opposite?

  • Do you have any traditional stories in your country about the moon or the stars? FQ

Learning about Astronomy / Exploring the Universe

  • How often do you look at the sky?

  • Why do you do that?

  • (Similar to above) Can you suggest why some people like to look at the sky? FQ

  • What do you think is the best way to learn about the stars and planets?

  • How do you think ordinary people can be helped to understand the universe?

  • Is reading about astronomy (or, the stars) very popular in your country? FQ

  • Are there ever any (documentary) TV programs in your country about astronomy?

  • Can you explain why (fictional) movies about outer space are so popular? FQ

  • (Possible question, not reported yet) Do you think people can learn much about outer space from watching those movies? *

  • Do you think looking at the sky is important?

  • (Similar to above) Do you think it's important to look at the stars?  FQ  See Note 14

  • (Similar to above) Do you think learning about astronomy is important?  FQ  See Note 14

  • Can you suggest why some ordinary people (i.e., non-scientists) are so keen to learn about astronomy?

  • People in what professions look at (or, study) the stars?

  • Can you suggest why these people study the stars? FQ

  • Do you think there is much practical value in studying the stars?

  • Do you know what hi-tech equipment is used to study the stars?

  • Have you ever looked at the night sky through a telescope?

  • How do you think modern technology helps astronomers in their work?

  • Do you think people who study the stars and planets should be well-paid?

  • People (or, some countries) invest so much in exploring space. Do you think it's (or, it will be) worth it?

  • What are (man-made) satellites used for? *

  • How important do you think it is for humans to explore outer space (or, learn about outer space)? FQ

  • Do you think the knowledge gained from studying the stars can help us to better understand our own planet ?

  • Do you think humans will one day be living on other planets (or on the moon / on other stars)? FQ

  • How do you think space travel, for example, tourism to the moon, would affect the environment here on earth? FQ

  • If alien creatures exist in outer space, how similar do you think they are to humans?

Children Learning about Astronomy

  • Did you ever look at the night sky when you were a child?

  • Did you learn about astronomy in school?

  • Did you enjoy it (= was it interesting)?

  • Do you think children are interested in (learning about, looking at) the moon and the stars? (Why?)  FQ

  • Do you think all school children should learn about astronomy (the moon, stars and planets) at school?  FQx2

  • (Similar to above) Do you think all school children need to learn about astronomy (the moon, stars and planets) at school?  FQx2

  • (Similar to above) How do you think children can (or should) learn about his subject?

  • (Similar to above) Do you think it's important for children to have knowledge about the stars?

  • What benefits do children get from learning about this topic? FQx2  See Note 19

  • What impact on a child's imagination do you think learning about the stars would have? FQx2

  • Some people continue to learn about this topic throughout their whole life. What do you think about that?  See Note 13


682.  Something that Made You Happy (Sep, 2015)  (Probably no longer used)

Describe a recent event (or something you did) that made you happy. *

               You should say:

what you did (or were doing) *

where you were

who you were with

and explain why it made you happy.



  • So far, there is little clear data on the wording.

  • This is probably a repeat of one of the following topics: 181, 211, or 489, although the Part 3 might be a bit different.

  • "Recent" can be within the past year - it doesn't have to be within the past week. I think the word "recent"  is used in some Part 2 questions so that candidates choose something that they remember well, not something from many years ago.


Possible follow-up questions:


Part 3

In addition to Topics 181.211 and 489 , the topic of happiness was used in the Part 3 of 425, 328, 321, 74, and 629. It was also used in September-December 2011 Part 1.

Make sure you know the difference between "fun" and "funny" (and "interesting"). Although fun involves happiness, not all happiness involves fun.

The Nature of Happiness

  • What makes you happy?  See Note 6

  • What do you do when you feel unhappy?

  • What are some examples of events that make people happy?

  • In general, what do you think makes people happy (in your country)?

  • When are people most happy?

  • How do people become happy?

  • Do you think people in your country are happier today than they were in the past (e.g., 30 or 50 years ago)? FQx2

  • Do you (or, people) feel happy when you (or, they) learn something new?

  • Do people tend to feel happy when they do good things? See Note 16

  • Would you say that being able to do at least one thing well tends to make people fell happy? FQx2

  • (Similar to above) Would you say that people feel happy when they do something well? FQx2

  • (Similar to above) Would you say that people need to have abilities and skills in order to feel happy? FQx2

  • What human relationships make people happy?

  • What family activities bring happiness to people? FQx2

  • What family events make people feel happy? FQx2

  • How/why do people feel happy from doing these family activities?

  • How do people in your country show their happiness at events such as weddings, parties etc?

  • What makes "a happy family"?

  • Do you think the modern lifestyle has pushed the younger generation far from their parents and grandparents?

  • Do you think that money makes people happy? FQx2

  • (Similar to above) To what extent do you think money brings happiness to people? FQx2

  • Can you explain why some people who have a lot of money are not very happy?

  • Do you think exercising (= doing physical exercise) helps to make people happy?

  • Do you think doing activities such as painting can help to make people happy?

  • Do you think that honest people are generally happier than dishonest people?

  • Can you explain why people feel happy when they help others?

  • Do you believe that some people are born happier than others, or is happiness mostly a result of life experiences? FQ

Happiness Throughout Life

  • What age group do you think is most likely to be the happiest? FQ

  • Do you think that childhood is a happier time than adulthood for most people? FQx2

  • (Similar to above) In general, would you say that children are happier than adults? FQx2

  • (Similar to above) Would you say that people's schooldays are generally the happiest time of their lives?

  • What are some examples of things that you think make elderly people feel happy? FQ  See Note 15

  • What are some examples of things that you think make elderly people feel unhappy?

  • Do you think that what makes young people happy, and what makes old (or older) people happy are always the same?

  • Would you say being a student is a happy experience (or, a happy time in one's life)? FQ

  • Were you happy during your school days?

Happiness in Childhood

  • Do you like to talk about your childhood?  See Note 12

  • Do you think childhood happiness is important? *

  • Can you still remember some of the toys you had that you happily played with?

  • Can you suggest why people like to recall their childhood(s)? FQ

  • What can help (or what helps) people keep happy childhood events in their memory? FQ

  • Do people in your country usually keep things from their childhood? FQ


683.  Something You Would Like to Learn More About  (May or Sept., 2015)  (Probably no longer used)

Describe something that you are interested in learning more about. *


Describe something interesting that you would like to learn more about. *               

                You should say:

 what you would like to learn more

 where you would learn it *

 how you would learn it

  and explain why you would like to learn more about this. *




  •  No-one has yet reported that the word, "about" is included in the wording - I have added that myself . In fact, no-one has included much wording of any sort since May 2015 except "learn more" and "interesting" or "interested in".

  • The Part 2 wording as shown above is more suitable for abstract or theoretical knowledge, rather than knowledge of how to do something, which is really what Topic 657, A New Skill, as all about. For example, it would be suitable for Topic 683 (this topic) to talk about wanting to learn more about a whole disciple such as business, physics or history or a narrower area of knowledge such as the stock market, astronomy, or ancient Indian history. It could also apply to a mystery such as what happened to flight MH370, the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that disappeared on March 8, 2014.

  • I have put some of the same Part 3 sub-topics and questions in the Part 3 of both this topic and Topic 657, including the questions from Topic 602. (It is better to have too many questions than too few.) In fact, I suspect that some examiners are using some of the same questions interchangeably between the two topics.

  • See the notes HERE for an explanation of the sometimes subtle differences between the two words "learn" and "study".


Possible follow-up questions:


Part 3

I think many examiners will make some of their own questions on Part 3 for this topic. They will probably ask some questions discussing what you said in Part 2.

Studying and Learning  See Note 7

  • Do you like to learn things?

  • What new things do people in your country want to learn?

  • (Similar to above) What new knowledge do people in your country want to acquire?

  • What are some major differences between the way people used to learn new things in the past, and the way they do it today?

  • Do you think reading (or studying from) books is the most efficient way to learn/study?

  • (Possibly) Do you think reading (or studying from) books is the only way to learn/study?

  • Which way(s) of learning something do you prefer?

  • Which do you think is more reliable, learning things on the internet or learning things from books?  See Note 11

  • Do you think distance learning is a good way to study?  See Note 10

  • How do you think the internet has changed the way people study / learn things? FQ

  • Are there many reliable resources on the internet for learning (or studying) new things?

  • What are some of the various ways that people can use to get the new information that they want to learn?  FQ

  • Do you think learning by using special teaching computer software (programmed learning) is a good way to learn something new?  See Note 9

  • Do you think computers might one day replace teachers?

  • Do you think there are differences between the study (or learning) that children do, and that of adults?

  • Who do you think can learn something easier, a young person or an old person?  See Note 8

  • Do you think old people can learn anything from young people?

  • Do you think people can learn much from educational TV programs?

  • Which do you think is more useful to learn, general knowledge or more specialized knowledge? FQ

  • Which do you think is best for society, to have most people specialized in one area of knowledge, or for most people to have broad knowledge?

  • What do you think are some of the differences between learning from books and learning from life experience?

  • Which do you think is more important, academic learning or learning from experience?

Further Education  (the most reported sub-topic)

  • Do you think everyone should continue learning new things, even after they finish school or graduate from university? FQ

  • (Similar to above) What do you think is the importance (= value, benefits) of people continuing to learn throughout their lives? FQ

  • What sorts of things do adults in your country learn?

  • Are there any courses for adults in your country?

  • Where do they do this learning?

  • Do you think most adults have the time to continue learning (or, studying)?

  • Do you think elderly (or, retired) people should also continue learning? FQ

  • Do you think elderly people like learning new things?

  • Do you think the government should provide courses for old people to learn new things? FQ

  • Who do you think should pay for such courses, the government or the people attending the courses? FQ

Technical Education

  • Can you explain why people (technicians) must occasionally update their old methods of doing technical work?

  • Where can people get the latest technical information?

  • What do you think is the relationship between science (on the one hand) and (modern) technology (on the other hand)?

  • (Possibly) How do you think modern technology is related to scientific research?

  • How important do you think technical education is?

  • (Possible question) Which do you think is more important to study (or, learn about), science and technology, or the humanities and arts? *

Children's Education

  • Which do you think is more important, what children learn at school or what they learn at home?  FQ

  • (Similar to above) Which learning (or knowledge) is better, what they learn at home or what they learn at school?

  • Do you think there are any things that children can learn at home that they don't (or, can't) learn at school? FQ

  • Do children learn different things at different ages?

  • What do you think children should be learning at home before they start attending school?

  • Do you think children should read books more at school, or at home?

  • Who do you think has the greater impact on the education of children, their parents or their teachers?  FQ

  • How do parents & teachers differ in the education of children?

  • Do you think parents should (try to) teach "academic knowledge" to their children?

  • Do you think parents today have enough time to teach things (or, life skills) to their children?  FQ

  • Are there any topics / subjects that you think parents should not (or cannot) teach at home?

  • Do you think (senior) high school students should have a choice on what subjects they study at school, or should the schools make this decision?

  • Would you like to be a teacher?


684.  A Time You Shared Personal Information  (Sept. 2015)  UNCONFIRMED TOPIC

Describe a time when you shared personal information with someone.

               You should say:

who you shared it with

what information you shared

why you shared this information *

and explain how you felt after sharing this information. *



  • This topic was reported  for a test outside of China and I have so far only seen it reported that one time. It has not yet been reported in China although someone in China seemed to recently write something about "internet piracy", so possibly it is in use in China. (Piracy is not the same as privacy.)

  • Possibly this was mistakenly reported and the candidate really got Topic 664,  An Important Conversation and chose to talk about sharing personal information in their answer. But I doubt this was the case since the candidate's English was quite good in their reporting and he or she provided such a detailed description of the Part 2 & Part 3 questions.

  • "Sharing information" basically means the same as "giving information".


Possible follow-up questions:


Part 3

Internet Privacy

  • What do you know about data privacy?

  • Do you think sharing information on the internet is a good idea?

  • Why do researchers share information online?


685.  No Topic


Note 1

This is an old issue that is mainly about the subjects that senior high school students study, especially in their last year or two. The wording "schools to decide" means that the subjects are compulsory.

Note 2

(Especially for Chinese readers)  Make sure you know the differences between "interesting", "fun" and "funny".

Note 3

"Fun" lessons are, at times, more suitable for primary school kids, especially in the first few years of primary school. Very young kids (e.g., under 7 years old) learn best when they think they are just playing!

Note 4

This sort of question has been reported more than once. It's a relevant question but it also could be a trap, testing to see if you confuse "fun", "funny" and "interesting".

Note 5

The questions here might be referring to TV and the internet in general, for everyone, including school children when they are not at school. Alternatively, the questions might be referring to educational tools used in school classrooms. This is not clear.

Note 6

All of these questions about "what makes people happy" should be interpreted as = "what brings happiness to people", not necessarily always brings great happiness to people. There are varying degrees of happiness some things bring more of a sense of happiness than others, and some things could be more accurately described as, "bringing a sense of well-being" or contentment  or even simply satisfaction to people rather than "making people happy".

Of course, good relationships with family and friends is probably the most importance source of happiness for human beings, followed by good relationships with others in one's community.

Other examples could be job satisfaction; being close to nature, beautiful art (especially music); beautiful weather; success (= achievement); doing a task or job well (= achievement); good health and feeling physically fit (especially for older people); good food; satisfying hunger or thirst; sex; romance (being in love); getting married; the birth of one's child; having a pet; the respect or praise of others; a warm smile from someone; human touch; satisfying one's curiosity / or gaining an understanding of something / or improving one's ability to do some mental task / or expanding one's knowledge (all are examples of intellectual satisfaction); creativity (an example of achievement); excitement (fun); humour (laughing); doing "the right thing" in cases where you have a choice (= having a clear conscience); helping others; and bringing happiness to others.

Another very important factor contributing to people's happiness is having a sense of optimism or hope for the future.

As I wrote in a previous note, I think that to a certain extent money does bring happiness to people, but the meaning of "happiness" should be expanded in your answer and the question of "to what extent" also needs to be explained.

More specifically, not being poor brings a certain amount of happiness or, more accurately, a sense of well-being [or contentment or even, "financial peace of mind" = no financial worries] to people.  In other words, being poor usually brings varying degrees of unhappiness to people but, at the other end of the spectrum, being wealthy does not necessarily bring happiness or contentment to people and may even be the cause of some unhappiness.

Being "financially comfortable" (= not feeling any financial stress) gives people a sense of contentment or well-being but many of us take this for granted we feel this is the way life should be, so we don't often think of being financially comfortable as a source of significant happiness. People in this situation are generally "happy", or at least not feeling any of the unhappiness that results from financial stress. ("Wealthy" = rich = having much more money than average people.)

(I'm sure a copy of these notes finds its way to the IELTS organization. So be careful not to show the examiner that you had obviously read these notes. For example, "financial stress" and "financial peace of mind" might be key phrases that examiners are told to watch for, as an indication of the candidate having probably read these notes. If the examiner is very sure that you have read these notes, he or she might deduct something from your final score.)

Note 7

It is not clear which word is being used for these questions, "learn" or "study". This is especially the case since Chinese uses the same word for both. It's quite possible that the examiner uses both words for different questions. As long as you have a clear understanding of the differences in meaning and usage between the two words and as long as you listen carefully for which word the examiner uses, then you should be able to answer the question in a coherent (suitable) way.

Note 8

There's a saying in English, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." On the other hand, a lot of learning (for humans) is a process of building upon, or developing, knowledge that we already have, especially in the case of theoretical or abstract knowledge. In the case of skills, especially physical skills or skills that do not require much thinking, it does seem that the younger the person, the more quickly and easily they learn these skills. This is where the saying about old dogs has some validity. Therefore, in many cases, a well-educated old person might be able to learn something that is knowledge or thinking-based easier and faster than a poorly educated young person or a child who does not have a large knowledge base or who has not yet developed their "thinking skills" very much.

Interestingly, learning languages comes more under the case of the younger the better. This hints at some similarity between language and physical skills, or that not much (conscious) thinking is involved in receiving and producing language.

Note 9

For example, studying mathematics by using special software that teaches this.

Note 10

"Distance learning" used to be called "correspondence study" (or something similar), which means studying by corresponding with a tutor via letters. In the most isolated parts of Australia, some children used to study by connecting to their tutors via short-wave radio, and this probably still exists. Of course, today, the internet is the main way that people engage in "distance learning".

Note 11

A question worded that way could be answered, in part, by referring to the reliability or otherwise of one's computer, the internet connection etc. Most likely, the real question was about the reliability of the information on the internet, compared to the reliability of the information in books.

Note 12

Although this question is part of the test, (to see how good your spoken English is), the main purpose of the question is to indirectly ask for your permission to ask personal questions. Examiners ask a similar question before asking about a candidate's family. If you say you prefer not to talk about your childhood, the examiner will not ask questions that are too personal.

Note 13

This question could be answered in terms of a) people who study astronomy as a job or, b) people who do it as a hobby. Possibly questions about both are asked. This second group can be called "amateur astronomers" if they are doing it as a hobby.

Note 14

This question might be worded to mean, "Do you think it's important that some people (astronomers) look at the stars?" Actually, a lot of the work of astronomers today involves studying radio telescope (not optical telescope) data, so they are not always actually "looking at the stars".

Note 15

Possibly this question is, "What are some examples of things that make adults feel happy?"

Note 16

I think the test is including two very different questions to see if candidates become confused. These two questions involve the adjective, "good" and the adverb, "well".

In the question, "Do people tend to feel happy when they do good things?", "good things" means, "good deeds" such as helping others, an act of kindness, an act of honesty etc.

In the following question, "Would you say that being able to do at least one thing well tends to make people fell happy?", "do something well" means the same as, "be good at doing that thing", such as being good at playing basketball.  "To play basketball well" = "to be good at playing basketball".

Note 17

Part 1, Topic 18, May-August, 2015

       The Sky


We look at something that is not moving. We watch something that is moving. See is what you (can) do when your eyes are open.


Note 18

Was the Moon Landing in 1969 a Hoax?

I used to think that people who said the moon landing in 1969 was a hoax were in the same category as people who say they have been kidnapped by aliens from outer space, or that Elvis Presley is still alive. But now I am not so sure.

The possible reason for a hoax arises from the fact that the Soviet Union's space program during the Cold War was in many ways more advanced than that of the United States, especially the fact that the Soviet Union was the first to launch a satellite into outer space in 1957 and the first to send a man into space. This in turn created the fear in the USA that some people would start to view the Soviet Union and its political system more favourably and with more respect, and the fear that the US would be viewed with diminished respect.

Those who say it was a hoax firstly claim that the shadows and lighting in the photographs and television broadcast indicate that it was all done in a film studio. They also claim that the movement of the flag seen in the TV broadcast was caused by a breeze, which of course cannot exist on the moon. I am not an expert on these matters so it is difficult to come to a conclusion about these claims but the assertion that shadows from the only light source, the sun, must be parallel is clearly valid.

On the topic of the flag, I think it is difficult for most of us to know, or even visualize how a tinfoil flag would behave in a vacuum and in one 6th of earth's gravity when the flagpole is being twisted and pushed into the soil. How many of us have seen (video of) how things in general, let alone a thin tinfoil flag, move when only one of those two factors (vacuum and 1/6 gravity) exists, let alone both at the same time? Most of us have just seen video of things floating in weightlessness.

For me, the strongest piece of evidence in favour of it being a hoax is the existence of the Van Allen Radiation Belts, located around the the earth, that is, between the earth and the moon. These radiation belts are deadly to humans, who could only travel safely through them if they were protected by thick protective walls of lead (pb) in the spacecraft, which apparently was not done in 1969, and which would make a spacecraft very heavy.

The following is a recent video that features a NASA engineer saying that we have still not solved the problem of travelling through the Van Allen Radiation Belts, so it seems highly unlikely that man travelled through them 47 years ago, in 1969! At 3 minutes 06 seconds in the video, the engineer starts talking about the Van Allen Radiation Belts and at 3 minutes 37 seconds, he says, in reference to the Van Allen Radiation Belts, "We must solve these problems before we send people through this region of space." (7 min)


Note: (added Mar 24, 2020)  Unsurprisingly, that video is no longer available on YouTube. So I have uploaded my copy of the video here - Orion_Trial_By_Fire.mp4


However, Wikipedia claims that the problem of human travel through these radiation belts had already been solved by 1969! Their unconvincing explanation of how the Apollo 11 astronauts travelled through these radiation belts is this 

"Regardless of the differences of the flux levels in the Inner and Outer Van Allen belts, the beta radiation levels would be dangerous to humans if they were exposed for an extended period of time. The Apollo missions minimised hazards for astronauts by sending spacecraft at high speeds through the thinner areas of the upper belts, bypassing inner belts completely."


"The Apollo missions marked the first event where humans traveled through the Van Allen belts, which was one of several radiation hazards known by mission planners. The astronauts had low exposure in the Van Allen belts due to the short period of time spent flying through them. Apollo flight trajectories bypassed the inner belts completely to send spacecraft through only the thinner areas of the outer belts. The command module's inner structure was an aluminum "sandwich" consisting of a welded aluminium inner skin, a thermally bonded honeycomb core, and a thin aluminium "face sheet". The steel honeycomb core and outer face sheets were thermally bonded to the inner skin."

There are several good videos on the internet covering this topic. One of the best is, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon at (46 min). The debunking of the (likely) hoax begins at around the 12 minute point. Youtube also has several interviews of the man who researched and made that film, Bart Sibrel. As an experienced film maker, he recognizes examples of "special effects" in film and he is an expert at recognizing the effects of lighting in film and in photographs. These interviews can be found at

Another quite convincing video on Bart Sibrel's Youtube channel is: Scientific Proof of Moon Landing Hoax at (30 mins) However, that video needs to be edited at a few places.

Two more good videos are, Moon Landing 1969 vs Scientific Evidence at (7 min) and Moon Landing 1969 vs Scientific Evidence II at (3 min).

Finally, if you want to further investigate this topic, you could search for all the videos of Neil Armstrong and consider why he always seemed depressed in the years after 1969. For example, why did the Apollo astronauts not look very happy at the news conference just a few weeks after they returned from their 1969 space trip? They should have been ecstatic! Apollo 11 Press Conference: (1 hr 22 mins) The first minute of the video, before the conference starts, has sound problems.


Note 19

Be careful of repeating these phrases verbatim. Some examiners might be given this little list and told to watch for these phrases. You score will almost certainly be reduced if the examiner strongly believes you have read the material on this website.