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PTE Tips: How To Describe Image

All you need to know about the Describe Image item type for PTE Academic.

About the Item Type

Describe Image is a long-answer speaking task that tests speaking skills. You must describe an image – a graph, chart, map, diagram etc. – in 40 seconds.

What is tested

Of the Enabling Skills, the following are tested:

  1. Pronunciation

  2. Oral Fluency

  3. Content

However, so long as your pronunciation is good, the main focus of this item type is Oral Fluency. In other words, you need to keep speaking! Avoid pauses, hesitations, repetitions and false starts.


You will need to use different vocabulary depending on the type of image. If you’ve done IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 before, you are in luck! You should already have much of the vocabulary need to talk about graphs, charts, processes, diagrams and so on. If you haven’t done IELTS (or can’t remember it), here’s a really good resource for vocabulary!

What do I talk about?

First: Introduction

Start by saying what type of image it is and what it is about. This can most often be found in the title of the image. Be careful! Don’t just read the heading as it is as this is often grammatically incorrect and you may have to add things like articles (the, a/an) or prepositions (of, about, over, etc.)

Here is a table of ways to start your introduction:

Note: make sure you use the correct tense to introduce the graph: PRESENT SIMPLE.

e.g. The chart shows the number of… CORRECT

e.g. The chart is showing the number of… INCORRECT

After that, depending on what you are describing, you may need to use the PAST SIMPLE (to talk about events that happened in the past) or FUTURE tense (for graphs or charts showing predictions of the future).

Next: Main points

The next thing you talk about is the main, or most important features of the image. The main focus though is to keep speaking, so talk about as many of the main features as possible.

The image is too complex! What do I focus on?

You may get a complex image such as a line graph with 3 or 4 lines, or a complex bar chart. When given lots of information, it is important to compare and contrast any similarities or differences between the different lines or bars.

We will be posting a separate blog post with examples of complex Describe Images, so stay tuned to this blog!

Finally: Conclude

The most important thing is to keep talking until the end of the 40 seconds. This keeps your Oral Fluency score up, but it also it ensures that you describe the image completely and thoroughly. If you have time, you can end your description with a conclusion or implication. This can include something notable or remarkable about the image, or if it’s a graph about the future it could be the future effects of the data.

How can I improve?

Practice makes perfect. To improve in this item (and the Speaking section in general) come to one of our Melbourne PTE preparation courses. The classes in our coaching courses are specifically designed to give you tips, strategies and plenty of practice for every item on PTE Academic.

Additionally, if you are already an English Key student, you can book a 1-to-1 Session with one of our talented teachers and get personal feedback on your speaking and Describe Image performance.

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