IELTS Cue Card: Describe a piece of advice you received about choosing your major or career

IELTS Cue Card: Describe a piece of advice you received about choosing your major or career


Describe a piece of advice you received about choosing your major or career.
You should say:
  • What the advice was
  • When you received it
  • Who gave the advice
And explain how you felt about it.

Part 3:
  • Why do so many young people choose communication and media studies as their major?
  • Why do young people find it hard to make career choices?
  • What can affect a young person’s career choices?
  • Are people free to choose their own career paths?

Part 2 — Sample Answer:

I’ve always been interested in business, in particular starting my own. I’ve always had a really entrepreneurial spirit and have never felt enthralled about the idea of getting a job or working for someone else.

Ever since I was young, I was thinking up ways to make money. Whether it was mowing people’s lawns or finding things to sell online, there was always a new money-making scheme up my sleeve.

My parents were a bit concerned and didn’t want me to be self employed. They felt it was too risky and would have rather I worked for a big stable corporation instead.

At one of our family dinners, my dad asked me what I wanted to study at university. I explained that I wasn’t really keen on going to university, but instead starting a business. He knew this was going to be my answer, and he’d prepared some statistics and had found some stories about friends who’d started a venture and failed.

He sat there rattling off all the facts and figures, and telling me horror stories about this friend and that friend that hadn’t been successful. My mother wasn’t completely supportive of this advice because she wanted me to at least try, knowing I could fall back on the more conventional path it didn’t work out.

I listened and nodded at appropriate moments, but knew in my heart that I wasn’t going to follow this advice, and was going to do my own thing instead.

I felt that the advice he was giving me was bad and unduly pessimistic. I had a lot of reservations about what he was saying, but didn’t want to hurt his feelings because I knew he meant well and wanted the best for me.

Years later when I had succeeded he conceded that he was wrong to discourage me and was happy I’d disregarded his advice.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Entrepreneurial (adjective)
If someone is entrepreneurial is someone who makes money by starting their own business, especially if this involves managing risks and opportunities.
Example: My brothers have always been entrepreneurial, and have always used their entrepreneurial skills to make money.

Spirit (noun)
The way you think, feel, or behave is your spirit. It’s your attitude, and often it’s how you behave in a team.
Example: The players had a really strong team spirit.

Enthralled (adjective)
If you are so interested or excited by something that you give it all your attention, you are said to be enthralled.
Example: Jack was enthralled with his new puppy, and paid no attention to what the rest of us were doing.

Think up (phrasal verb)
To invent or create a new idea or plan.
Example: I don’t want to go to the party but I can’t think up a good excuse.

Scheme (noun)
A plan for doing or organizing something that will bring some kind of good result for you. Sometimes it’s associated with illegal activities, but often it’s not and is used for positive activities and plans.
Example: They came up with a creative fundraising scheme to raise money for the charity.

Up one’s sleeve (idiom)
A plan or some secret advantage that you can use later if you need it. It’s a reference to cheating at a card game by hiding a favorable card in your sleeve.
Example: I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve if he decides to pursue legal action against me.

Keen on (idiom)
If you’re keen on someone or something, you’re enthusiastic about someone or something.
Example: I’m not too keen on moving to Denver, but I’m really keen about this new job.

Venture (noun)
A business or other activity, especially if it involves risk or uncertainty.
Example: I looked abroad for more lucrative business ventures.

Rattle off (idiom)
If you rattle off something, you say it quickly, especially something you’ve memorized. Often it’s a list of names or things, and sometimes you can be reading it too rather than doing it just from memory.
Example: She rattled off the names of the people who were coming to the party.

Facts and figures (phrase)
Very precise and detailed information.
Example: We are getting some facts and figures together before the meeting with the bank tomorrow.

Horror story (noun)
A story that’s intended to scare or frighten people. It can be a report of real events in which things have gone very wrong, or it can be a fictional story in which scary things happen.
Example: The media are writing the usual horror stories about delays at the airport and flight cancellations.

Fall back on (phrasal verb)
If you fall back on something, you use or do something else after other things have failed. It’s usually a form of financial support when things have failed.
Example: When the business failed, we had to fall back on our savings.

Work out (phrasal verb)
This phrasal verb can mean a few things. Most commonly it means to exercise, and people work out at the gym. It also is commonly used if you’re successful. It can also mean to figure out how to do something.
Example A: He works out at the gym every day.
Example B: If it doesn’t work out, you can always come back here.
Example C: I haven’t worked out how to do that yet.

Do my own thing (phrase)
If you do your own thing, you do what you want to do without worrying what other people will think about it. Often it refers to something you do on your own.
Example: They spend a lot of time together, but they also like to do their own thing.

Unduly (adverb)
To a level that is more than is necessary or reasonable.
Example: He doesn’t seem unduly concerned about whether he gets a new job.

Pessimistic (adjective)
If you’re pessimistic, you’re thinking that the worst will happen, or you’re emphasizing the bad part of a situation.
Example: The tone of the meeting was very pessimistic and they didn’t think the plan would be successful.

Reservations (noun)
The feeling of doubt about whether something is good or right.
Example: The employees had deep reservations about the new uniform. The management accepted their feedback without reservation though.

Meant well (adjective)
Words or actions that are often well meant are intended to be helpful or kind, but often aren’t helpful.
Example: He has a lot of well meaning advice but it’s often useless. He means well though.

Concede (verb)
To admit, often unwillingly, that something is true or correct.
Example: The government official conceded that he’d made a mistake.

Disregard (verb)
If you disregard something, you ignore it.
Example: He told us to disregard everything we’d learned so far and start again.

Part 3 — Sample Answers:

Why do so many young people choose communication and media studies as their major?

I think some students choose this because they’re not really sure what else to study. Perhaps they weren’t really all that interested in the sciences, or didn’t want to pursue law, but instead wanted a more general degree that could be useful for many different careers. However, I think that’s a really cynical interpretation of their decision and I think there’s a more positive explanation instead.

Many people pursue these majors because they want to work in something like public relations or perhaps want to be a journalist. They feel a degree in media studies or communication will best equip them for such a career.

Even if they’ll learn most of the material on the job, these degrees will provide the foundation and fundamentals they’ll need to get started.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Cynical (adjective)
It can be used in a number of situations. It can be a kind of negativity or pessimism, especially when thinking about an idea. It can also, more commonly be used to express the belief that people are chiefly motivated by self-centered motives.
Example A: The politicians had a cynical view of the average voter’s intelligence.
Example B: They were cynical about the politician’s promise to reform education.

On the job (adjective)
If something happens while you’re on the job, it happens while you are at work.
Example: He was trained on the job and didn’t need any formal qualifications.

Why do young people find it hard to make career choices?

I think there’s a lot of pressure on young people to make life altering decisions very early on. People are encouraged to take a path and stick with it, even when they don’t have a lot of life experience that would help make these decisions.

Their uncertainty as to what they really want, combined with the plethora of choices they have nowadays may cause analysis paralysis, whereby they get stuck between several choices that appear to have equal merit.

I think a lot of young people feel that they don’t want to make a poor choice and spend years working in a career they hate. They feel like it would be impossible to change down the road, and so they get stuck trying to decide.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Life altering (adjective)
Something that has an effect that is significant enough to chance someone’s life.
Example: Moving to another country is a life altering experience.

Early on (phrase)
Something that happens in the early part of a process of activity.
Example: Many new employees decide early on that they aren’t right for the job.

Stick with it (idiom)
If you stick with something, you continue to do it although it is difficult.
Example: It’s a difficult project, but if you stick with it you’ll succeed.

Plethora (noun)
A very large amount of something, greater than you need or want.
Example: There are a plethora of cities you could move to.

Analysis paralysis (noun)
If you have analysis paralysis, you’re unable to make a decision because there’s too much information available in order to make a decision.
Example: He was overwhelmed with options that he didn’t know what to do, and was struggling to overcome analysis paralysis.

Merit (noun)
An advantage or good quality that something or someone has.
Example: I can’t see any merit to this approach.

Down the road (idiom)
It’s a phrase used to talk about the future and what may happen.
Example: Two years down the road you won’t care about this job.

What can affect a young person’s career choices?

I think pressure and advice from parents can have a significant impact on a person’s career choice. Some parents may be quite heavy handed, and say they’ll only be willing to pay tuition fees for certain majors. This will obviously greatly affect someone’s choices, as they’d feel unable to do something different.

I think the media can also play a huge role too. People may want to choose a career because it’s portrayed in the media as sexy. Software developers, pilots, and entrepreneurs are glamorized in popular media, and the superficial appeals of these careers may be what ultimately influences someone to choose such a career path.

There are some schools that give their students an aptitude test, designed to give them an indication as to what kind of career they should choose. I think my school did this, and it was in the form of a multiple choice test. I remember getting the results back and laughing at the options the computer recommended because they all seemed so unappealing.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Heavy handed (adjective)
If you’re heavy handed, you use too much force when dealing with someone. Sometimes you may not consider someone’s feeling when dealing with a situation, or you may use too much physical force.
Example: The police were too heavy handed when dealing with the protestors.

Play a role (idiom)
If you play a role in something, you participate in something or are involved in it.
Example: We know for a fact that you played a role in hiding your company’s losses from its investors.

Portray (verb)
If you portray something, you show or describe it in a particular way. Often it’s used with the phrases good light and bad light to describe when someone is portrayed positively or negatively.
Example A: The politician was portrayed as stupid and useless by the media.
Example B: The politician was portrayed in a bad light by the media.

Sexy (adjective)
It’s usually used to describe someone as physically attractive, but it can also be used to describe something as being interesting, fashionable, or exciting.
Example A: That celebrity is extremely sexy.
Example B: I just bought a sexy new car.

Glamorize (verb)
If you glamorize something, you’re making something or something seem more attractive than they really are.
Example: That movie glamorizes drugs, sex, and violence.

Superficial (adjective)
If something is only on the surface of something, it is superficial. If something isn’t complete and only involves the most obvious things, it can also be described as being superficial. People can also be superficial too if they only think of things that aren’t serious or important because they focus on things at the surface.
Example A: She’s so superficial and only cares about how she looks.
Example B: I only have a superficial knowledge about the subject because the article was very superficial.
Example C: There was only superficial damage to the car after the accident.

Career path (noun)
The way in which you progress in your work, either in one job or in a series of jobs.
Example: His career path was something to admire. He started off as the janitor and ended up as the CEO of the whole company.

Aptitude test (noun)
A type of test used to find out of someone has the ability for a particular kind of work.
Example: I had to take an aptitude test at the interview to see if I had the right kind of characteristics for the job.

Unappealing (adjective)
Something that’s unappealing is not attractive or enjoyable.
Example: The food at the restaurant was really unappealing and I didn’t want to eat anything I was served.

Are people free to choose their own career paths?

In most cases, yes of course. While parents and teachers may pressure someone to choose a particular career, it’s up to the individual what they do. They may face some backlash if they ignore the advice they’re given, but we live in a world where we’re free to make our own choices.

I think there are some exceptional cases though. While there are many kids that may want to grow up to be an astronaut or star basketball player, they may not necessarily be able to choose this career because of the competitiveness or unavailability of jobs in these areas.

There are rare cases when someone wouldn’t be able to pursue a career because of a physical limitation or disability which would make it next to impossible to work in a particular career. However, this may change for them in the future with medical advances that would help them overcome their restriction.

Vocabulary and idioms for this answer:

Backlash (noun)
A strong and negative feeling in reaction to something that has happened, especially a political or social change.
Example: There was a huge backlash against some new laws that many feared were going to make everything more expensive.

Grow up (phrasal verb)
To change from being a baby or young child to being an older child or adult.
Example: She’s really starting to grow up now.

Pursue (verb)
If you pursue something, you’re trying to achieve or get something. You can pursue a plan, activity, or situation, in which case you’e trying to achieve something over a long period of time. If you’re physically following or chasing something or someone, you can also be said to be pursuing it.
Example A: The police pursued the robber who was running very fast away from the crime scene.
Example B: She pursued her goal of earning a law degree.

Next to impossible (idiom)
Something that’s almost impossible, and probably can’t be achieved.
Example: This crossword puzzle is next to impossible and I don’t think I can finish it.

How long will these questions be valid?

At least until the end of April 2020.
Three times a year the British Council changes many of the topics and questions they ask. Sometimes they decide to keep a topic for another four months, but oftentimes they decide to replace it. This one is very likely to be replaced with a new topic at the beginning of May 2020, but it won't be known for sure until then.

Just to let you know, there are 49 possible part 2/3 topics on the current exam. Sometimes there are more, sometimes there are less, and this number changes when the British Council updates the questions.

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Anglais
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Royaume-Uni
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27
Parle:
Anglais
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I help students with two things: ✅ Day to day speaking practice ✅ IELTS speaking test preparation I correct everything and will help you learn where your mistakes are and how to fix them. I don't ignore your mistakes! I have all the current questions that can appear on the IELTS speaking test. Preparing with me won't be a waste of time, and you won't be practicing questions that are years out of date. I've helped hundreds of students get the score they want on the IELTS speaking test, which can be an incredibly difficult test sometimes. I can help make sure you're as prepared as possible for the questions that examiners can throw at you. Many of my students have commented that they've practiced the very same questions that appeared on the exam, and were happy to have thought through some tricky topics in advance. Let's get started! Book a class and I'll see you soon!
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