"Speak About the Photo" - Guide to Duolingo English Test Question (2024)

“Speak About the Photo” is one of the least favorite questions on the Duolingo English Test. This is because speaking questions are difficult. In addition, with this question you don’t have much time to respond.

By the end of this post, you will see why the “Speak About the Photo” question is not so difficult. You will also have everything you need to get a great score!

Table of Contents

What is the “Speak About the Photo” question type?

The “Speak About the Photo” question type looks like this:

Example of a “Speak About the Photo” question from the Duolingo English Test
Example of a “Speak About the Photo” question from the Duolingo English Test

You are given 20 seconds to study the image. Then, you have 90 seconds to describe it. During that time, you will still be able to see the image.

You can only record yourself 1 time.

This question counts toward your Conversation and Production subscores, and it appears just 1 time on the test.

Tips to do well on the “Speak About the Photo” question type

Study the image carefully

The image you are given is quite small. Be sure to study it carefully to notice all important details.

Don’t stop if you make a mistake

If you make a mistake, keep speaking. You can still get a high score even if you have a few mistakes in your response. But if you stop and don’t speak enough, it is impossible to get a high score.

☝️Remember that you will only be able to record yourself 1 time.

Speak for the entire 90 seconds

You only have to speak for 30 seconds. But we recommend that you speak for the entire time. This will help you get a higher score. In the next section, we will look at a great strategy for this question that will help you generate things to say.

Stay on topic

One of the scoring criteria for the Duolingo English Test is “task relevance.” If your response is not relevant enough to the image, you will lose points.

Take this image for example:

A photo of a young boy and girl hugging and smiling
Example of a photo used in a "Speak About the Photo” question from the Duolingo English Test

If you describe how you and your brother or sister had many happy moments like this when you were young, that’s great! But if you describe what you had for lunch, that is bad.

Check your microphone

If your microphone is bad, you will be difficult to understand in your recording, and you could get a lower score. You can check the quality of your microphone using Arno. You will see how later on.

If your microphone isn’t good, ask to borrow a computer or laptop from someone else that has a better one.

☝️You cannot use headphones or earbuds with a microphone on the Duolingo English Test. However, you can use an external microphone.

Take the test in a quiet place

If there is background noise, it will be harder to hear you, which can negatively impact your score.

Slow down and speak clearly and loudly

When we get nervous or stressed, we talk more quickly. It is important to remind yourself on the test to slow down.

You should also focus on clearly pronouncing each word.

Finally, be sure to talk loudly. We recommend that you pretend like you are talking to someone who is across the room, not someone who is sitting in front of you. This will make it easy to hear you in the recording.

Use a strategy to structure your response

In their official test guide, Duolingo recommends that you, "Try to go beyond simple labeling and describe the image in detail.”

By “simple labeling,” they mean just identifying objects in the picture. If you have a lot of sentences that start with “There is” you likely are just labelling. Relying upon a good strategy will help you describe the image in more detail and get a higher score.

Now, let’s look at the best strategy for the “Speak About the Photo” question type!

How to use the “5 W’s” strategy to get a great score

Here is the 5 W’s strategy:

  1. What is happening in this photo?
  2. Who is doing what?
  3. Where are they doing it?
  4. When are they doing it?
  5. Why are they doing it?

During the initial 20 seconds of the “Speak About the Photo” question, you should ask yourself these questions. They will help you generate ideas for what to talk about. This will make it easier to speak for the entire 90 seconds.

☝️You don’t want to answer the 5 W's questions in order in your response. Rather, these questions are intended to help you think of things to say.

To help you understand the 5 W’s strategy, let’s look at the example from before:

Example of a “Speak About the Photo” question from the Duolingo English Test
Example of a “Speak About the Photo” question from the Duolingo English Test
  1. What is happening in this photo? ⇒ A boy and a girl are laughing and hugging.
  2. Who is doing what? ⇒ The little boy has his hand on the girls head, and he is pulling her toward him.
  3. Where are they doing it? ⇒ They are inside, but it isn’t clear where exactly. The girl’s hair appears to be wet, so perhaps they are just getting out of the bath.
  4. When are they doing it? ⇒ Children typically take baths before bed, so this is likely in the evening.
  5. Why are they doing it? ⇒ They are happy and hugging perhaps because they are brother and sister. They are enjoying themselves while having bath time.

Here is the full response:

In this photo, I see a little boy and a little girl laughing and hugging. The little boy has his hand on the girl’s head, and he is pulling her toward him. They seem to be close to one another, so either they are close friends or brother and sister. It’s not clear what has made them so happy. Perhaps it was nothing; children are often very happy like this! However, I noticed that the girl’s hair is wet. The boy’s hair is too short to tell. Perhaps they were just in the bath and that put them into a good mood.

You can see that I didn’t use all the ideas I generated by asking myself the 5 W questions. I also added ideas during my response.

How to practice “Speak About the Photo” questions

Speaking is the hardest thing to practice, because it requires that you have a speaking partner, and ideally your partner speaks English well and can give you feedback.

However, with Arno you can get instant feedback on your speaking! It’s very cool 😎

Let’s see how you can use Arno to practice “Speak About the Photo” questions:

1) Go to duolingo.goarno.io. If you don’t already have one, just create a free account.

2) Go to the “Speak About the Photo” question type and click the “Play” button (shown inside the red box below).

“Speak About the Photo” practice question in Arno
“Speak About the Photo” practice question in Arno

3) Use the 5 W’s strategy to answer the question.

Example of a “Speak About the Image” practice question from Arno
Example of a “Speak About the Image” practice question from Arno

4) Once the 90 seconds expires, or you submit your response, you will receive a score instantly. You can also listen your response.

☝️ This is a great way to test the quality of your microphone!

Screenshot showing how Arno Arno gives you an instant, estimated score and allows you to listen to your response.
Arno gives you an instant, estimated score and allows you to listen to your response

5) Click on the other buttons to see feedback on your response and learn how you can improve. Here is the grammar feedback:

Screenshot showing how Arno identifies and fixes your grammar mistakes.
Arno identifies and fixes your grammar mistakes.

6) Arno doesn't just fix your grammar mistakes. It also explains why something is incorrect!

Screenshot showing how Arno explains your grammar mistakes.
Arno explains your grammar mistakes.

7) Arno will also give you suggestions to improve your vocabulary and a completely rewritten and improved version of your response.

Screenshot showing how Arno gives you vocabulary tips and a completely rewritten and improved version.
Arno gives you vocabulary tips and a completely rewritten and improved version.

8) Click the right arrow at the bottom to move to another practice question.

Screenshot showing how to proceed to the next question in Arno

Conclusion

Now you understand how to approach the "Write About the Photo" question on the Duolingo English Test.

You also know how you can practice for it and improve your English speaking abilities: Arno!

To start using it to raise your score, just click below to create your free account.

"Try Now" call to action for Arno