Written Jun 17, 2018


IELTS Part 2 and Part 3 Topics and Questions

Page 166

836.  An Important Letter (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

837.  A Little-Known Place (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

838.  A Music Place (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

839.  A Park or Garden (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

840.  Positive Words You Received (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)



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


836.  An Important Letter (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

Copy of Topics 1 & 514

Describe an important letter that you received.

        You should say:

                who wrote it

                what the letter was about

                how you felt about the letter

        and explain why it was important




Possible follow-up questions:

  • Do you still have that letter?


Part 3

See also:
514.  An Important Letter    1.  An Important Letter (1)     105.  An Important Letter You Received (2)
376.  An Important Letter You Received (3)    236.  A Letter or Card You Received
163.  An Important Letter You Wrote       574.  A Letter or Email You Wrote    &    Topic 129

Personal Letters

  • Do you often write letters (including messages) to your friends? FQ

  • What are some of the reasons why people write letters?

  • What kinds of (or, examples of) letters would you say are the most important? FQ

  • Would you say people like to receive letters? FQ

  • Do you think people still like to receive letters even when the letters are not very important?

  • Do people in your country usually write letter on the computer (or electronic devices) or do they prefer to write by hand?

  • What are the main differences between handwritten and electronic letters? FQ

  • What are the differences between e-mails and communicating on services such as Wechat or Skype?

  • On what occasions are people more likely to write a handwritten letter?

  • Do old people prefer to write letters by hand (on paper), or to use email?

  • Do you think emails will eventually replace handwritten letters (or, letters on paper)?

  • Do you think the use of handwritten letters might eventually almost disappear, to be used only on special occasions? FQ

  • What skills do you think people need to use when writing a letter?  See Note 20

  • (Especially for Asian candidates) Do you think (old) people will still be practicing calligraphy in the future?

Business Letters

  • Are letters important in business? FQ

  • Are printed letters important in your job?

  • Why are letters needed in business? FQ

  • Do businesspeople usually write letters themselves or are they written by their secretary?

  • Do you prefer printed or electronic information?

  • In what ways are business telephone calls and business letters different?

  • What features are important in professional communication?

  • Are business letters more formal than personal letters? FQ

  • Can you explain why this formality is important? *

  • Would you say a typed letter is (always, or necessarily) more formal than a handwritten letter?

Historical Letters

  • In what ways do you think old letters are important when studying historical records (or, when studying or researching history)? FQ

  • Do you think future historians will be able to analyse us in 50 years by reading letters that are written today? FQ

  • Will it be easy to do that, in your opinion?


837.  A Little-Known Place (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

Describe an interesting place in your country which few people visit. *


Describe an interesting place to visit in your country that is unknown to most tourists. *

               You should say:

 what place it is

 where it is

 why it is interesting

 and explain why (you think) it is an unknown (or, a little-known) place.




  • This seems to be a new topic, one never used before.

  • The word "place" can refer to a specific site, such as a waterfall hidden in the forest, or it can refer to an area, such as a province, a county, a city or a town. But just to say something like, "the north of my country" as the place is not very suitable because that is just stating a part of your country, not specifically a place. On the other hand, if you named a province, county, area, town or city in the north of your country then that would be a case of specifically stating a place, not simply a part of your country.

  • In the wording on the card, the word following the words, "your country" could be either "which" or "that". British English is flexible concerning which word is grammatically acceptable to use but American English tends to only use, "that" in this kind of statement.


Possible follow-up questions:

  • Have you been to that place yourself?

  • Have (or has) your family been there?

  • Do you think many other people will go there in the future?


Part 3

Tourism  See Note 6

  • Where do people from your country like to travel as tourists? FQ

  • (Similar to above) Which areas (or places) do you think are most popular as tourist attractions?

  • (Similar to above) What are some examples of famous tourist attractions in your country? FQ

  • Do you have any famous attractions in your hometown?

  • What's so special about those places?

  • What makes a place interesting for tourists? FQ

  • What can people do in these places?

  • What factors influence people's choices of where to visit?

  • Where do foreigners like to go (as tourists) in your country? FQ

  • What makes tourist locations in your country unique, (or, what makes your country unique) as compared to other countries?

  • What should people do before going to a foreign country?  See Note 7

  • What are the differences between visiting a place and seeing pictures of it on the internet?

  • What are the advantages of visiting less-known tourist spots? FQ

  • Have you ever been excited at the thought of visiting a place only to be disappointed when you got there?

  • What problems can result when too many tourists go to the same place at the same time? FQ

  • Do you like the way some tourists behave (or, do you like tourists)?

  • Will (the amount of) tourism grow, or decrease in the future, in your opinion? FQ   See Note 9

  • Do you think virtual tourism will be popular in the future?   See Note 10

  • What do you think about the idea of space exploration?

Paying to Enter Tourist Attractions

  • Do you think tourists should be charged to enter tourist attractions (or tourist sites)? FQ

  • (Similar to above) Do you think people should (have to) pay to visit "places of interest"? FQ  See Note 8

  • Should children be allowed to enter for free while adults have to pay?

  • Should international and local tourists both pay the same price to enter?

  • Should it be free to visit (or enter) places that have particular cultural importance?

  • What sort of entrance fees do you think would be reasonable? (If you say paying is OK)

  • In the future, do you think paying to visit tourist spots will be more common than now, or less common?

  • Do you think it's best for government to manage tourist attractions? FQ 

The Impacts of Tourism

  • What impacts does tourism have on a place (including on the people who live there)? FQ

  • Do you think tourism (or visitors) to a certain place can result in harm? FQ

  • Do you think tourism to a place can harm the culture of people who live there?   See Note 11

  • Do you think tourism (or visitors) to a place harms the environment of that place? FQ

  • (Similar to above) Do you think tourism causes environmental damage? FQ

  • Do tourists ever throw garbage on the ground at tourist locations?

  • What could be done to alleviate this problem?

  • Do you think imposing fines on people who do that would be a good solution?

  • What could be done to preserve the natural beauty of tourist sites (especially when natural beauty is the reason why the tourists go there)? FQ

  • (Similar to above) What do you suggest could be done to avoid (or, prevent) this damage to the environment? FQ

  • Do you think it's the responsibility of government to do something about this problem (or is it the responsibility of the people who visit these places)?

  • Do you think tourists should be restricted from (or when) visiting certain places that have great natural beauty? FQ

  • What do you think should be done if the environment has already been destroyed?

  • Do you think it's best for environmentally sensitive tourist places to be managed by government (as opposed to having private companies manage them)?


838.  A Music Place (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

Copy of Topic 488

Describe a place where people go to listen to music.

You should say:

        where this place is

        what kind of people go there

        what kind of music is played there

and explain what you think (or feel) about this place. *.




  • A "place where people go to listen to music" means a place where people purposefully go in order to listen to music. Examples are concert halls (auditoriums, opera houses), coffee shops or tea houses where music is performed, and pubs, night clubs & discothèques (discos). You could even talk about a place such as a park where there is usually someone playing a musical instrument or a group of musicians. Another example could be a room in a library that has headphones and a choice of music to listen to. It is even possible to talk about people going to the music department in a university just to listen to the students playing music.

People also go to department stores, supermarkets and shopping centres and we often hear recorded music playing softly in places like that. That example is sometimes used in a Part 3 question for this topic but it is not a suitable example for this this Part 2 question – people don't go to a supermarket for the purpose of listening to music there (or to hear the music there).

  • To "hear" something just means that your ears are functioning as they should. To "listen to" something means to focus your attention on what you are hearing.

Similarly, to "see" just means your eyes are functioning as they should. To "look at" (something that is not moving) and to "watch" (something that is moving) means to focus your attention on what you are seeing.


Possible follow-up questions:


Part 3

See also any relevant questions in the Part 3 of:

488.  A Place to Listen to Music   &   136.  A Place where People Listen to Music

Young People and Music Today

  • How often do you listen to music?
  • When do you listen to it?
  • How do young people listen to music?
  • What kinds of music do they prefer to listen to? FQ
  • Do young people have many opportunities to listen to music?
  • Where can they go to listen to music?
  • What (musical) instruments do young people like the most?
  • Do you think (all) young people should learn to play a musical instrument? *
  • What are the benefits of learning to play an instrument?

Music in General

  • Can you explain why people listen to music?
  • How does music affect people? FQ
  • Would you say music is the best means of expressing emotions?
  • Do you think music helps people from different countries (or cultures) understand each other?
  • Some people say music is like mathematics. Do you agree?

Modern Technology and Music

  • Would would you say has been the impact of technological development on music in recent decades? FQ
  • How does modern technology influence musical artists?
  • Is it free to listen to (or download) music on the internet?
  • Why don't musical  artists charge for their music on those music websites or apps?
  • Why do people around the world use illegal means to download music? FQ
  • Do you think that's good?
  • Did people pay for music before the internet? *
  • Should music be downloaded for free? FQ
  • (Similar to above) Do you think people should be charged to download music? FQ

Children and Music

  • Do you think children should listen to music? FQ

  • (Similar to above) Do you think listening to music is good for children? FQ

  • How do (or how can) they listen to music? FQ

  • (Similar to above) Where do (or can) children listen to (or hear) music? FQ

  • (Similar to above) What opportunities are there for children to listen to (or hear) music? FQ

  • Where do children listen to (or hear) songs?

  • Do you think children like listening to songs?

  • Do you think children are listening to (or hearing) music today more than in the past?

  • When (= at what age) should children listen to (or start listening to) music?

  • (Almost the same as above) When does a child start listening to music?

Music Education for Children

  • Do schools in your country give students the opportunity to learn music?

  • Is music education (for children) important in your country?

  • Do you think schools should have music classes? *

  • (Similar to above) Do you think students should have music classes? *

  • Is it compulsory for students to have music classes?

  • What do they do (or, what do they learn) in music class?

  • Do they learn about (or hear) all kinds of music in music class?

  • Do they learn to play musical instruments?

  • Do you think (all) children should learn to play a musical instrument? FQ

  • How does it benefit a child (or, a person) to learn to play an instrument? FQ

  • (Similar to above) Do you think it's good for children to learn a musical instrument? FQ
  • Do you think parents should put pressure on their children to practice playing (or, to learn to play) a musical instrument? FQ
  • Do kindergartens teach music?
  • What music do kids have in kindergarten?


839.  A Park or Garden (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

Describe a garden or park you enjoyed visiting when you were younger.  *

               You should say:

                               where it was 

                               what it looked like

                               what you did (or, were doing) there [or, what people were doing there]

                and explain why you liked it.




  • Instead of the words, "when you were younger", a couple of people reported the words, "when you were a child".


Possible follow-up questions:


Part 3

See also any related or similar questions Part 3 questions at:

643.  A Park or Garden     537.  A Park or Garden     246.  A Garden or Park    &   102.  An Ideal Park       
For Gardens: Topic 742, Topic 643, Topic 246, Topic 142, Topic 442, Topic 332Topic 102 & Topic 537
and see 403. A Place of Natural Beauty  (Many good questions)


See Note 12 on this Part 3

Parks and Gardens (in Cities and Towns)

     Facilities in Parks  

     Paying to Enter a Park

National Parks and Places of Natural Beauty

840.  Positive Words You Received (Sep. 2017)   (Probably no longer used)

a) Describe an occasion when someone made positive comments about your work  *


b) Describe a time when someone spoke positive words to you  *

               You should say:

 who spoke to you

 where you were

 what you did to prompt these words (or comments)

 and explain how you felt after hearing these words (or comments). *



  • This seems to be a topic that has never been used before.

  • The first line is not clear yet. Version b could be used for many occasions, including a positive comment made about your work, as well as a time when you felt depressing, lacking in confidence or pessimistic about your future

  • "Work" can include school work, or a work of art. But playing well in a game of basketball or football would not usually be considered to be an example of "work" for most people.

  • A couple of people have reported that the words, "positive suggestion" were used. That is possible but I think the wording is probably more general than that - using a "suggestion" is quite specific and it narrows the range of choices of what to talk about.


Possible follow-up questions:


Part 3


  • How can parents motivate their children?   See Note 1

  • In what situations should parents give their children positive feedback (= encouragement)?  FQ    See Note 2

  • How is it useful for parents to give feedback to their children?

  • How does it benefit a person to receive positive comments from others?

  • What are the benefits from giving positive comments to others?  See Note 21

  • Do you think it's possible to encourage a child too much FQ

  • What might be the results of too much encouragement FQ    See Note 3

  • Do you think adults also need encouragement FQ

  • Do you think parents should give their child a reward for doing something good FQ    See Note 4

  • (Similar ti above) Do you think parents should give their child a reward when he or she achieves something FQ

  • Do you think it is good for a child if there's a big inconsistency between the teachers' evaluation and the parents' evaluation of that same child's abilities?

  • Do you think parents should give their children both positive and negative comments?

  • In general, who do you think needs encouragement more, girls or boys?

  • When do you think children need parental encouragement the most FQ

  • (Similar to above) When should a child be given "positive advice"?  FQ  See Note 17

  • Some people don’t accept negative comments very well. Can you suggest why that is the case?

  • When should parents criticise their children?    See Note 5

Encouragement in the Workplace


Note 1

How can parents motivate their children?

This question might in fact be, How can parents encourage their children?

The two words, 'to motivate" and "to encourage" are close in meaning but are not exactly the same. When someone is motivated, they have a reason or a purpose to do something. When someone is encouraged, they are given a feeling of confidence and capability, usually in relation to doing something challenging.

Generally, the word "motivate" is not used alone. It it usually used in the form of "motivate to do something", although we don't always need to state what this "something" is if it is already understood from the context of the conversation. "Motivate children to do their homework" or "motivate children to keep their rooms tidy" are common examples.

In all of these questions about parents and their children, the word "children" can also be used to mean "the sons and daughters of the parents", when these sons and daughters might in fact be young adults, over the age of 12 or even over the age of 20 or 30. Anyone over the age of 12 is no longer a "child". People aged 13 to 19 can be called "adolescents" (or teenagers).

Note 2

In what situations should parents give their children positive feedback?

Instead of "positive feedback", the examiner might use, "positive comments" or "positive words". All mean about the same thing here.

Note 3

"Too much" of something = "an excessive amount" of something.   Chinese: 过度

Note 4

Do you think parents should give their child rewards for doing something good?

"Doing something good" means doing something that is morally good, such as a kind or honest deed.


Do you think parents should give their child rewards for doing something well?

"Doing something well" means doing something with a high level of competence, skill, accuracy etc.

Note 5

To "criticise" someone generally means to give the person negative comments that can be hurtful and/or insulting.

On the other hand, to give someone "constructive criticism" means to give them an objective, impersonal analysis that usually includes some negative comments (possibly also with some positive comments), and is intended to to help the person to improve. The words, "advice" and "suggestions" are suitable to be used when talking about constructive criticism.

Note 6

"Tourism" and "travel" are not the same activities. All tourism involves travel but not all travel is for the purpose of tourism.

Going to one place for a holiday is also not always tourism. For example, people travelling to a place that has a nice beach, staying in a hotel there for a week and spending most of their time at the beach without looking at the surrounding area very much, is not really tourism. Those people are "visitors" but not "tourists". Tourists look at things and take photos and sometimes, but not always, might engage in some fun or interesting activity at the place they are visiting.

Note 7

The examiner was probably using this same question from Topic 822.  An Interesting Foreigner.

Note 8

Do you think people should pay to visit "places of interest"?

I don't particularly like the expression, "places of interest" (with no other words attached to this expression) used by candidates in the IELTS Speaking or even in the Writing test. But that's just me. It's rather formal language, more suitable for a brochure that you might find in your hotel room or in a guidebook for visitors to a country. I would prefer to hear or read IELTS candidates use language such as, "interesting places", "tourist attractions", "places that might be interesting (for tourists)" etc. However, "places of interest for tourists" is a little less formal-sounding. Even though I don't particularly like that expression, I would not reduce a candidate's Speaking or Writing vocabulary score for using it if I were still an examiner. But neither would I be "impressed" enough by this vocabulary to increase the vocabulary score.

This question, using those words, was reported by a candidate but it is not certain that the examiner actually used the words, "places of interest" (with no other words attached to this expression).

Note 9

Will (the amount of) tourism grow, or decrease in the future, in your opinion?

It looks like the examiners are not saying, "tourism in (or to) your country" so the most suitable answer would be to talk about worldwide tourism, while possibly including some words about your own country.

Note 10

"Virtual tourism", which does exist now, means "looking at or exploring a real tourist location that has been re-created in a piece of computer software". This re-creation might use a model of a famous place such as a building or tourist site but most likely it is created using photographs or video (especially video taken by a camera in a drone) of the real place. This software is similar to those computer games where you can choose which room to enter in a building, or which direction to move when traveling across the countryside. I think most of this software is accompanied by audio or written descriptions of what you are looking at.

It's not a bad idea since everyone is limited (by time and money) in the number of tourist attractions they can visit in reality. It also gives people an introduction to a place that they plan to actually visit.

Note 11

This is especially referring to tourism to places where indigenous people, or people from a minority culture live.

Note 12

This Part 3 focuses on two different sub-topics: a) parks in cities (and towns) and, b) national parks. If you don't know much about national parks, you should search the internet and read a little about them, both worldwide and in your country. In order to increase your English vocabulary on this topic, you should try, as much as possible, to read webpages that are written in English.

If you ask a native English speaker some questions about "parks", he or she will automatically think of parks in cities and not think about national parks, at least, not at first. This is an important point to understand. So, in the Speaking test, if the examiner has not yet mentioned "national parks" then you should not mention national parks in any of your answers. Wait until the examiner first mentions national parks before you say anything that includes "national parks" in your answer. Why do this? Because if you mention national parks before the examiner does, the examiner will assume that you knew the questions in this Part 3 before the test, and this might (or probably will) cause you to lose points. You are not supposed to know the questions before the test! And you especially don't want to hint to the examiner that you have read this website!

The reason why I am writing this advice is this: National parks and city parks are quite different concerning the payment of entrance fees, and concerning the facilities they have. All over the world, most city parks are free of cost to enter while most national parks do charge an entrance fee.

Many people have reported the question, "Should it be free to enter (or use) a park?" (or similar words) and it appears that this question is asked concerning city parks, and probably before the sub-topic of national parks is introduced. However, it is possible that the examiner asks this question about national parks only, or it is also possible the examiner asks this question for both city parks and national parks. As I wrote above, if the examiner asks you that question concerning city parks and has not yet mentioned national parks, answer the question for city parks but don't say anything about paying to enter national parks. This same advice applies to any question about the facilities in parks.

Note 13

If you get any question like that, using the word, "would" (with or without "if"), then you should not answer using "will". You should use "would" in place of "will". Questions like that are basically testing your grammar.

Note 14

a) Of course, this is referring to local government (e.g., the city government), not the national government.

b) In almost all questions like this that refer to what government should or should not do, the idea is to express what you believe are the responsibilities (or purpose) of government.

Furthermore, the question usually implies that there is an alternative to having government do something. For example, there is this question in Topic 823: "Do you think it's a responsibility of government to educate people about a healthy life style?" The alternative here is for individuals to educate themselves about this. Other questions, such as the question of whether governments should own and maintain city parks, imply that private companies could do it. Basically, that question is asking for your attitudes or opinions on socialism as opposed to (total or 100%, not partial) capitalism, although you usually don't need to use those two words in your answer. See also Note 5 on Page 165

 Note 15

This question is probably not in the examiners' question book. But it is an example of how some examiners like to challenge the candidate to a mini debate.

Points to consider:

a) Governments, both city and national governments, don't only derive their income from taxing individuals.

b) Parks are a service that people expect from city government and, of course, all services that governments provide to the people are originally funded by taxes of various kinds. This is one reason why most people are willing to pay taxes – they expect the taxes to be used for such services for the citizenry.

Note 16

It is possible that examiners never first mention the term, "national park" in this sub-topic and are, instead, waiting for you to first show that you know this term.

Note 17

When should a child be given "positive advice"?

A few candidates reported that the word, "advice" was used in this topic but I don't think it is always the most suitable word to use, so probably examiners used a different word at times. For example, in this question, "positive advice" is not suitable because all advice is positive.

Note 18

This can be called. "insincere" praise or encouragement. This is a general question that applies to all situations. not just in the workplace. The question might be used in the sub-topic, "Encouragement".

Note 19

See also these questions used in Topic 837, on this Page 166.

Note 20

Some of the same skills are needed when writing both handwritten letters and emails.

Note 21

It's not just the person who receives the positive comments who benefits; the relationship between the two people benefits.