How to Describe Image on the PTE

The Describe Image question type on the Pearson Test of English is perhaps the most difficult speaking question on the test. But not to worry! By the end of this article, you will have the strategies, tips, and tricks that you need to get a great score.

Be sure to check out our other article: 50 Describe Image Examples with Answers.

Table of Contents

How the Describe Image Question Type Works

You will see 3 or 4 Describe Image questions on the test. You will be given an image. You have 25 seconds to study the image and prepare your answer and then 40 seconds to describe it aloud.

Example of a Describe Image question type on the Pearson Test of English Academic
The Describe Image question type on the Pearson Test of English Academic

Your response counts toward your Speaking score. You are graded on:

  1. Content: Are your observations relevant and accurate?
  2. Oral Fluency: How smooth and natural is your speech?
  3. Pronunciation: How well do you pronounce words?

For the "Content" scoring criteria, it's important to note that Pearson isn't looking for whether you speak about a particular aspect of the image. In other words, there is no "right" answer. As long as your observations are directly related to the image, and they are accurate, you will receive a high score for this criterion.

If your observations are relevant and accurate, you will receive high marks for the "Content" scoring criterion.

The Types of Images

One of the main aspects that make this question type so difficult is that you can see so many different kinds of images. This means that you need an extensive vocabulary to describe images. You also need to understand how to interpret the images in the first place.

The most common kinds of images are data-related. You will likely see images like charts, graphs, and diagrams. As you are preparing, you should focus on these.

Focus on data-related images while you are preparing for the test since these are most common kind of images.

Let's now look at the different types of images you could see.

Bar chart

Example of a bar chart
Bar chart

Line graph

Line graph example
Line graph

Typically, but not always, the x-axis of a line graph will be time.

Pie chart

Pie chart example
Pie chart


Example of a table


Example of a map with data


Example of a photo

Flow chart

Flow chart example
Flow chart

Floor plan

Floor plan example
Floor plan

Venn diagram

Venn diagram example
Venn diagram

How to Prepare Your Response

Recall that you will have 25 seconds to study the image and prepare your response before you need to speak. Let's go through the steps you should follow as you prepare.

1. Identify the type of image

To start, you should identify what kind of image you are looking at. Is it a graph? What kind of graph? A table? A diagram?

By identifying the type of image, you can understand what kind of information it contains. For example, a graph or a table will visually present data. In contrast, a Venn diagram shows you which groups different items belong too.

2. Read the title

Most of the images that appear on the test contain a title. The title should tell you what the image is about. You want to make sure that you understand the title. Also, you should notice particular terms that you can use in your response.

3. Study data labels

In graphs, data labels are used to explain what data is being shown. They include:


The x axis is the horizontal axis and the y axis is the vertical axis.

Diagram showing the x and y axes
The x and y axes


Legends are most commonly used on maps.

Screenshot showing the legend on a map
The legend on a map


Icons can give you clues about what data is being shown. For example, in the chart below, the arrow icons correspond to growth, stagnation, or decline.

Flowchart with icons
Icons help you interpret an image

Data annotations

Sometimes, there is valuable information in small print that explains what is contained in the data. For example, look at the text in the red box below:

It tells us how many people were surveyed per country, their ages, and when they were surveyed. This is all information you can use your in your response.

Let's go through a full example together to see how to use data labels.

On the x-axis, there are countries. That tells us that the data is broken down by country. Each country has 2 bars. On the righthand side of the image, we are given 2 data labels: The yellow bars show data for 2013. The green bars show data for 2021. On the lefthand side of the image, we see that the numbers on the y-axis are population in the millions. Finally, we see that the specific values are displayed on top of each bar. All of these data labels make it much easier to interpret the graph.

4. Understand what the image is showing you

After you have read the title and studied the data labels, it may already be clear what the image is showing you. But if it isn't, you should study the image's contents to make sure you understand what you are looking at. It is important to have this "high level" understanding before you start studying the details of the image because if you jump straight to the details, it is easy to misinterpret the image.

5. Identify 2 or 3 interesting aspects

Once you understand the image in general, you should identify 2 or 3 interesting aspects that you will comment on in your response.

You should pretend like you are a newscaster, explaining the image to your audience. What should audience know about the image?

Screenshot of a newscaster explaining a graph
Pretend like you are a newscaster explaining an image

A newscaster has to succinctly explain the significance of the image to their audience. They don't have the time to discuss the small details.

On the PTE, you also don't have a lot of time, so you don't want to talk about small details in the image. Rather, you should try to highlight the most important things.

How to Structure Your Response

You now understand how to prepare your answer, so let's look at how to actually respond.

1. Introduce the image

Your first sentence should introduce your image. Here is a template that you can use:

This image is a [image type] that shows [what the image is about].

If the chart has a title, this first sentence will be easy. For this example:

The first sentence could be something like: This image is a pie chart that shows the population of the European Union broken down by country.

It is best not to copy the title directly. I could write: This image is a pie chart that shows the population of countries of the European Union in 2021 by percentage. However, this would not gain me as many points as using my own words to describe the image.

Avoid copying the language in the title directly. You will get more points if you rephrase it using your own words.

2. Describe the most interesting aspect

Now you should talk about the most interesting aspect that you noticed in the planning step! In the image above, the most interesting aspect to me is:

The largest country in the European Union is Germany, although France is only a little smaller.

3. Describe the second most interesting aspect

Another thing I noticed was:

The four largest countries – Germany, France, Italy, and Spain – make up the majority of the population of the EU.

4. Describe the third most interesting aspect (and so on)

Finally, I could comment that:

One thing in the image that surprised me is that Poland is more than twice as large as the Netherlands.

You will likely only have time to comment on 2 or 3 aspects of the image. However, if you have time remaining, you can just keep commenting on more aspects.


Now you know how to approach Describe Image questions on the PTE! Next up, you should check out our articles on How to Re-order Paragraphs or How to Summarize Written Text.