How to Describe a Film


Describing a film 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 film that you have seen before you take the test.

Choose a film that is based on a book 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 book). 

The questions about the film 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 film, describe something you saw recently, describe something that made an impression on you, the last film you saw or a film you would like to see.

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


Describe a film you saw recently that you enjoyed

You should say:

  • what this film was about
  • why you decided to watch it
  • where you watched it

and say why you enjoyed it


Model Answer:

Ok, thank you. I’m going to tell you about a film I saw recently that I really enjoyed. The film was called Girl on the Train and it’s based on the bestseller novel by Paula Hawkins.

It’s about 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 really gripping film with lots of twists and turns in the plot and there’s a great twist in the tale - you think that one thing is reality but then everything turns out to be totally different to what you thought.

I decided to watch this film as I read the book and really enjoyed it. I’m a big fan of thrillers like this; I’m not really a fan of horror movies but I love suspense – I was on the edge of my seat for the whole film!. One big difference between the film and book is that the film is set in America whereas the book was set in the UK, so that was a bit strange I thought, but it still worked ok.

I went to the cinema to watch the film with a group of friends. We always go every Tuesday because there are special student prices and as a student I don’t have a lot of money. I think that going to the cinema is better because you can lose yourself in the film whereas at home there are too many distractions like the internet or my younger brother and sister wanting to play.

At the cinema you concentrate on the film and in my opinion it’s always better to watch something on the big screen and the atmosphere is better in the cinema. Also I love eating popcorn and somehow it tastes better in the cinema!

As for the last question, why I enjoyed it, well, it’s basically a really gripping film and as I said before I love thrillers. I also think it’s also interesting to see films of books you have read. You have in your mind what the characters look like but sometimes they can be totally different in the film version to what you expected.

And another aspect of going to the cinema with friends is the social one as after the film we usually go to a café and catch up on all the latest gossip, which is also enjoyable for me!


Useful vocabulary for discussing films:

The plot – what happens in the film

Movie – film in US English

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

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

Suspense – where you don’t know what is going to happen next in the film

Horror – a film that makes you feel frightened

Big screen – what the film is shown on in the cinema as opposed to the smaller TV or computer screen

To be on the edge of your seat – to be very excited and giving all your attention to the film

A gripping film – something that grabs all your attention

Character – a person in the film                  

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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