How to Master Picture Description in 5 Simple Steps

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Describing a Picture

Almost every test you take for English as a Second Language these days has a portion that involves describing a picture. These are some simple easy steps that you can use to help you succeed when you are describing a picture for a test of English proficiency.

Picture of Boy with Bear ESL Picture Description

#1 Focus on the main part of the picture

Look at this picture. What can you see?

This is a picture of a little boy sitting on the ground next to a teddy bear.

Useful language:

  • This picture shows
  • There is / there are
  • I can see

#2 Describe as much as you can.

He’s about one and a half to two years old. He’s got short fair hair and he’s looking down. He’s wearing …

Useful language:

  • In the foreground / in the background ( Foreground is the front of the picture/background is the back of the picture)
  • On the right / on the left

#3 Try to use your imagination to make assumptions.

For example:

This little boy looks like he is playing with something on the ground. There are lots of pine cones on what looks like a wooden walking bridge. Maybe he is playing with a pine cone. He looks like he is concentrating very hard on whatever he is doing. It looks as if the bear is listening to him.

Useful language:

  • I think… Maybe / Perhaps…
  • Modal verbs of deduction: he must / can’t / might be …
  • He looks…(happy.) / He looks like … (my son/ cousin/ nephew).

#4 You can also use personal stories

Use your stories and examples from your life to speak more. People are much more comfortable talking about their experiences, so talk about yourself. For example when describing the little boy and his bear you can talk about your own experiences:

The little boy is sitting with his bear, like the bear my daughter has. When she was really young it was a pretty, pink bear. These days she has played with it for about 6 years. The bear is not pink anymore. Now it is gray and it is not quite as soft as when she first got it. It also doesn’t have quite as much stuffing anymore. I think the only thing holding it together now is love. The bear in this picture is light brown and about the same size as the little boy. When he gets to be my daughter’s age maybe his bear will also be gray and raggedy.

See what I mean? Talking about examples about your life while still describing the pictures…of a little boy and his bear but you are more relaxed and comfortable. I used my daughter in this case but most of us had a stuffed animal when we were young that we could substitute. Try it yourself! Think of your favorite stuffed animal and tell a short memory you have of it.

It is best to think about the Wh- questions (WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN WHY HOW) of each picture.

Think about the subject, environment, time of day, weather, location, culture…this will give you ideas to keep you talking.

#5 Practice EVERY DAY.

I practiced with my class almost every other day for a week each time before the test came and it worked! Not only did their English increase but they felt more comfortable when they were describing pictures. Try to describe a wide variety of pictures and look up the words if you find something that you don’t know how to describe.

If you see something that you can’t remember the word to, just describe it some other way. I remember a student once described sneakers as a “footcase.” Not exactly the correct word but it got the point across^^ If you get your mind used to doing the activity you will find that during the exam you will not struggle to find ideas. Your ideas will come to your mind quickly and with little effort.

Some Practice Pictures

Here are a few practice pictures for you to try to see how well you do.

A)practice picture description ESl dog in blanket

What do you see? Where is this happening? Does it remind you of anything?

B)Practice picture description 2 picnic

What is happening? What is the mood of the people? Where are they?

C)Practice Picture Number three Horse race

What is happening? How would you describe the overall feeling of this picture? Who is winning? Have you ever ridden a horse before?

Good Luck

I hope that this helps all of those students and teachers out there who might want to help their students do better on tests. Check back for more informative classes online. I noticed students are looking for ways to study on their own as well as studying in class. Hopefully, this will help.

Remember as always, Teaching English as Fun! I’m having a blast!


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