How to Describe a Book


Describing a book is a topic that frequently appears in part 2 of the Speaking Test, the individual long turn, where you’re expected to speak for up to two minutes on a topic given to you by the examiner.

When preparing to take the Speaking Test, you should make notes on a book that you have read before you take the test.

Choose a book that has also been made into a film as a shortcut so that you have some adaptable ideas for the long turn – you only need to prepare one thing to cover either a book or a film (click here for some ideas on how to describe a film).

The questions about the book can take different forms, so make sure you read what’s written on the topic card carefully. For instance, you may be asked to describe a favourite book, describe something you read recently, describe something that made an impression on you, the last book you read or a book you would like to read.

Here’s an example of a task 2 topic card with a model answer:


Describe a book you have read that you would recommend to a friend

You should say:

  • what this book was about
  • why you decided to read it
  • what you enjoyed about the book

and say why you would recommend it to a friend


Model Answer:

Ok, Thank you. I’m going to tell you about a book I read recently that I really enjoyed and would recommend to a friend. The book I read was called Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

It’s set in London and the main character is a woman called Rachel, who has had a breakdown and is suffering from memory loss combined with a serious drink problem.

Every day her train ride to work takes her past a house where she sees what she thinks of as the ideal couple having breakfast on the balcony. This reminds her of the life she had before her breakdown, but then one day she sees something that shocks her so much that she goes to the police but they don’t believe her so she starts to investigate herself and gets into deep trouble as her past comes flooding back.

It’s a real page turner – one of those books you can’t put down once you start reading it. I read it over a couple of nights because I loved it so much. It has a great twist in the tale - you think that the story is one thing but then everything turns out to be totally different to what you thought.

I decided to read it as I love reading books in English as I think it helps me develop my language skills and at the same time I’m a big fan of thrillers like this book. A lot of my friends were talking about it and it was top of the bestseller list for ages so I borrowed a copy from my friend.

As I said, I’m a big fan of this sort of mystery fiction so what I really enjoyed about this book was the way it draws you into the story and, like I said, you just can’t put it down once you start it. 

As for the last question, why I would recommend it to someone else, well, it’s basically a really gripping read. I would definitely recommend it to my best friend Anna as, like me, she loves reading books in English and is into mysteries and thrillers so I think she’d really enjoy it as much as I did.

Useful vocabulary for discussing books:

Mystery – something that is hard to understand or explain

A twist in the tale – the story moves in an unexpected direction

Thriller – a book, play or film that tells an exciting story, often with a crime involved

Character – a person in the book

Page turner – an exciting book that you want to read as quickly as possible

Bestseller – a book that sells a huge amount of copies

Fiction – a story that describes imaginary, not real, people or events

Novel – a book based on fiction, not fact

A gripping read – something that you cannot stop reading, something that grabs all your attention

What about you – can you think of a book that’s been made into a film that you would talk about in the exam? We’d love to hear from you with your ideas on this.

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