How to describe a picture

During English tests for pilots it’s common to have to describe a picture. Sometimes the picture might be of an accident or sometimes it might be of a bad weather situation, or sometimes it can be of a more common, ‘normal’ situation. What’s the best way to describe a picture? Is there a process that you can use for all types of picture?

Yes there is! Using our process to describe pictures below, you’ll be able to describe a picture without difficulty, the only other thing you’ll need, is practice!

Picture Description Process

Pt. 1) Describe the picture in one sentence, give only the most important information at this stage. You can start the description like this; this is a picture of …

Pt. 2) Describe the details in the picture, start with the most important details and then the less important ones. This is a good opportunity to use lots of vocabulary and show the examiner what you know.

Pt. 3) Make deductions about what you can’t see in the picture. Often this relates to part 2, when you describe details you can make deductions at the same time. Use the language of speculation (this could/ might be etc…)

Deductions often relate to; passengers (where they are & how they feel), the cause of the incident/ situation, what you think is going to happen next, the weather and how it influenced the situation, how the situation you describe will affect the area around it (the airport usually).

How to describe a picture

Picture Description Example

Pt. 1 – This is a picture of a 737 which is parked on its stand (gate).

Pt. 2 & 3 – We can see that pushback tractor is close to the plane. (Pt.3) It’s probably preparing for departure. In the mid-ground the jetway is connected to the plane (Pt.3) and the passengers might be boarding the plane at the moment.

There is a no parking area indicated by the red markings on the ground. This is the area where the jetway moves and as we can see in the picture, there is nothing in this area. There are three people around the plane. One of them is moving the tow bar into position to connect it to the pushback tractor.

(Pt. 3) I can’t see them, but the pilots might be in the cockpit preparing the flight. Normally at this stage during a flight, they’re programming the computer for the flight and performing other checks. This is usually a very busy time for them.

The weather looks nice in the picture, it’s sunny and I can see a shadows of the plane, the jetway and in the foreground I can see what I think is the shadow of the terminal building.
I think that in about fifteen minutes this plane is going to pushback, taxi to the runway and then takeoff. That’s all.

Note 1: In this picture, this is a ‘normal’ situation so there is less speculation about what caused it, although you can still speculate about what’s happening at the moment and what’s going to happen next.

Note 2: When describing a picture, imagine you are looking out of a window and this is what you see. For things in progress in the picture, you should use the present continuous, for things before this moment use the past and for things after this moment use future tenses.

Note 3: You can use, ‘that’s all’ to indicate you are finished describing your picture. You can also use this phrase to indicate you’re finished talking about any other question.

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1 thought on “How to describe a picture

  1. It’s very good

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