Cue Card # 1: Describe a time when you helped someone

IELTS Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card # 1

Describe a time when you helped someone.

You should say:

  • whom you helped and why
  • how you helped this person
  • what the result was

and explain how you felt about helping this person.

[You will have to talk about the topic for one to two minutes. You have one minute to think about what you are going to say. You can make some notes to help you if you wish.]

Model Answer 1:
First of all, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for this great topic. Well, I believe helping others is a quality that makes us human and it gives us an inner satisfaction that we can not feel in any other way, at least this is what I believe. So, I often lend a helping hand to others, even if it is in a small way, and for this cue card topic, I would like to share my experience of helping an old lady who was a complete stranger to me.

I still remember the event vividly. A few months ago I was returning home from the city train station. Unfortunately, the elevator repair work was in progress and when I was about to walk down the stairs, an old lady with her trolleys and bags was trying to do the same. She was hesitant to take the stairs as her bags and trolleys were quite heavy and she was trying to lift them up without any success. I felt the voice inside me told me to help her and I cordially asked her if I could assist her in taking the stairs. Then I carried her trolleys and bags down the steep station stairs as she gradually descended behind me, holding the stair railings.

At the bottom of the stairs, I handed the belongings back to the lady and she instinctively said ‘thank you very much’. I think she was very happy to have someone to help her descend the stairs as she thanked me profoundly a few more times.

Honestly speaking, I think being able to help her made me happier than it did for her. I really felt exhilarated and a surge of joy possessed me. I only feel this great sensation when I truly achieve something extraordinary – being able to assist someone is in a way a great achievement, I believe.

Model Answer 2: 
Extending a helping hand to the needy who ask for it is certainly a good thing. Helping somebody, who needs it badly but never really asks for it, is even better. I am thankful to you for this marvellous topic and would like to share my experience of helping a shopkeeper in a remote area.

A few years back when I was working on a project in a remote village, I met a gentleman probably in his early 50s, running a grocery shop while serving some good tea for refreshment at the same time. He looked a bit too old to me for his age probably because of his constant battle with the bitter and unforgiving realities of life. I liked visiting the shop almost every other day for the purpose of buying a loaf of fresh bread for breakfast apart from enjoying its “famous” tea from time to time. Besides, I liked this guy because he was a very hard-working person and just too honest to live a very minimally decent life with his income.

Then, suddenly one day, I found the shop remained closed. I wanted to find out about the reasons as to why the shop was closed. And when I found out about it, I became really sad. The shop was closed because of failing to pay its rent for a couple of months. I wanted to meet the shopkeeper, but I just didn’t know where/how to find him. Luckily, I met him one day by accident, when the shop was still closed, at a nearby vegetable market. I wanted to ask him about his closed shop. In fact, I wanted to offer him some help. But, instead of allowing me the opportunity to speak, he started to ask me about my well-being and my family as if he didn’t want to talk about his own problems!

Anyway, somehow I managed to offer my help to the shopkeeper, but he was really adamant about not accepting any financial assistance from anybody in spite of requesting him repeatedly. But I kept insisting on my offer. Finally, I managed to convince him that accepting help from others, financial or otherwise, doesn’t really belittle anybody. The shop was open once again with the little financial assistance I was allowed to provide. I was happy to visit his shop once again and taste the delicious tea he makes.

In these days and age, while it is very possible that most of our help doesn’t really benefit the right causes at the right times, I sure am glad that I got to help a truly deserving person back on his own feet.

Idea Generation for this Cue Card/Candidate Task Card Topic.

For this topic, you can pick one of the following ideas and then extend it.

1) A hungry person once asked for some money so that he/she could buy some food. I felt sad for this person and then took him to a restaurant and offered him/her a generous meal. I also gave him some money. It immensely helped that person that day, and he/she was so grateful to me.

2) A few months ago, I helped a blind man cross a busy intersection. He was struggling to cross the road, and I helped him with that. Even though it made me a little late to reach your office, I did not feel any regret about what I did. It was rather the opposite.

3) A couple of months ago, I helped my cousin with an assignment that he was struggling even to start. I did not do the assignment for him/her. Rather, I helped him/her understand it so that he/she could finish it himself/herself.

4) Last summer, I visited my grandparents’ house. I stayed there with my parents for a week. During this time, I taught my grandfather the basics of using the internet and how he could find some important information using this technology. My grandfather found it very interesting and he recently informed me that it was indeed a great help for him as he can now find useful information easily.

5) A junior student in my college comes from a destitute family. However, he is a bright student and very amiable with others. So I decided to help this student by raising some funds so that he can support his education. I, along with a few of my friends, managed to collect enough money to support his tuition fees for the next four months. I also bought some books and study materials with the money for him.

6) A couple of years ago, I went to a poor neighbourhood and noticed that a mother and her young girl were shivering in bitter cold during the winter. I did feel very sad for them, and I asked my parents for some money. With this money as well as some of my savings, I purchased a few winter dresses for the mother and her baby girl. I still feel great because I had been able to help them.

7) A few weeks ago, I helped a senior citizen by carrying her groceries to her car from the shopping mall. She was over 75 years old and all alone. It was very tough for her to carry all the bags she had with her. So, I decided to go forward and help her carry those bags.

9 Comments to “Cue Card # 1: Describe a time when you helped someone”

  1. Thank you for the ideas.

    1. It was nothing. I love helping people.

  2. These responses are awful. So full of flowery, people-pleasing language that you’d expect from a cheap politician. Most serious interviewers could see straight through all the fluff.

    1. Can you provide a better one, smart guy?

  3. I loved this writing. Thanks for giving me ideas.

  4. These responses are incredibly weak. Nobody cares about what you did to help someone – it’s about demonstrating your own qualities and what you’ve learned from helping another person.

    Response 1 hints at this in the final paragraph with 1 sentence discussing a “surge of joy,” but nothing else. Response 2 is slightly better in that offers a pivotal moment in which the author convinces the shopkeeper that offering aid is not to belittle.

    And yet, there is so much left unanswered. Why were the authors the most suited to provide aid? What did they learn from the experience about themselves? What makes this experience of offering aid memorable – what was the sacrifice?

    The types of sentences you’d want to see:
    “I knew the shopkeeper was a dignified and proud man who would be hesitant to accept handouts, so I posited the scenario where his shop fails and how the community would be let down. This lowered his guard and he came around to the idea that showing vulnerability is ok, especially when working towards the greater good.”

    “I learned from the old lady the importance of asking when I need something. That I don’t have to do everything myself; people are happy to help. In practice, I now leverage my network more frequently.”

    Maybe I’m thinking too much into this — but from an essay context, this could be better.

    1. Dear KD,

      This is basically not a response to an essay topic. Rather, this is a written speech in response to the Speaking topic “Describe a time when you helped someone”. When you tell a story, you often let it flow naturally rather than making it to structured and organized.

    2. I wouldn’t agree that the answers are “incredibly”, weak but I would say your way of saying it is much stronger.

  5. Great job!

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