Aptis Speaking: Describing a photo
In this post we’re going to focus on describing a photo. We’ll look at some useful expressions and also highlight the grammar you need to use.
Describing a photo is a typical task in many oral English exams, including Part Two of the Aptis General and Aptis for Teachers tests and Cambridge B1 Preliminary (formerly called Preliminary Test in English, or PET), among others. You have to describe the setting – the place – and the people. You should say what they’re wearing and what they’re doing. You should also use your imagination about where they could be, how they’re feeling, and what has happened or is going to happen.
This is a B1-level task, but of course you should do it to the best of your ability.
Start with a general description of the photo
Use the photo shows, you can see and there is / there are:
The photo shows a classroom and four schoolchildren.
In the photo you can see a group of students in a classroom.
In the foreground there are two boys.
In the background you can see two girls.
Note these expressions for describing where something is:
in the foreground = at the front
in the background = at the back
Later on you’ll also find on the left / on the right.
Talk about the origins of the photo
Use the passive voice to do this. You can also use maybe/perhaps or probably:
The photo was probably taken in a primary school, because the children are quite young.
Perhaps it was taken by the teacher, or by another student.
Maybe it was taken during English class, as the boys in the foreground have got their books open on the desk.
Describe the people, what they’re wearing and what they’re doing
The children aren’t wearing school uniform.
Both the boys are wearing T-shirts.
The boy on the left is reading, and the other boy is looking at him.
The girl on the right has long blonde hair.
She’s telling her friend something.
Speculate about the people, the place or the occasion
Use could, might, must, or can’t. Use because and as to give your reasons:
She must be saying something funny, as her friend’s laughing.
It could be a secret, because she’s covering her mouth with her hand.
It might be an after-school group, as they all look happy.
It can’t be a very strict school, because there’s an informal atmosphere.
You can also use probably, maybe or perhaps.
Maybe they’ve done a class project, because there are lots of pictures on the wall.
Perhaps it’s break-time, or maybe the teacher has left the classroom, as they’re not working very hard.
The children are probably friends, because they’re all smiling.
These expressions with look are also very useful. Note the structures we use with each one:
All the children look about 12 years old (look + adjective)
The girls look like good friends (look like + noun or noun phrase)
The girl on the right looks as if she’s telling her friend something funny (look as if + clause)
So now let’s put it all together. Remember, you have 45 seconds. This isn’t very long, so obviously you won’t use all the expressions we’ve given you here. Choose the options that sound most natural to you, or that you find more memorable. Include something from each category if you can.
Describing a photo
The photo shows a classroom and four schoolchildren. In the foreground there are two boys, and in the background you can see two girls. The photo was probably taken in a primary school, because the children are quite young. They’re not wearing school uniform.
The boy on the left is reading, and the other boy is looking at him. The girl with long blonde hair looks as if she’s telling her friend something funny, as her friend’s laughing. It could be a secret, because she’s covering her mouth with her hand. Perhaps it’s nearly break-time.
Now watch Chris describing the photo. We suggest that you try to copy her pronunciation and intonation, as this will help you to improve yours.
Our next post will cover the following part of the Speaking Test, where you have to compare two photos. Watch this space!
Meanwhile, why not practise your ‘ed’ and ‘s’ endings? And check out our 50+ Useful Phrases to help you pass your Aptis Test.
You’ll find lots more speaking practice and more in the Guide.