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Top Techniques for Duolingo English Test Speaking: Mastering the ‘Speak about the Photo’ Task

Hello, future champions of the DET (Duolingo English Test)! Welcome to DET Practice. Today, we’ll explore how to tackle the ‘Speak about the Photo’ section in the DET. First, let’s take a look at what the ‘Speak about the Photo’ question is:

This section, as featured in the official DET study guide, involves a unique oral exercise. Unlike the speaking tasks in TOEFL or IELTS, this task requires you to describe a photograph verbally in English. It impacts both the ‘Conversation’ and ‘Production’ scores, with a response time of 30-90 seconds.

* For a more detailed introduction to the ‘Speak about the Photo’ task, we recommend our earlier article: “Duolingo English Test Tips 3“.

To understand DET scoring and strategies for improvement, refer to “Duolingo English Test Scores: Insights and Comparisons” and “The Ultimate Guide to the Duolingo English Test” respectively.

Achieving a good score in oral tasks requires maintaining fluency within the allocated time. This is also crucial in other language tests like TOEFL or IELTS. One challenge in ‘Speak about the Photo’ is the lack of predefined prompts, which can make sustaining a 1-minute 30-second response difficult, especially when the photo’s elements are limited. So, what strategies can we employ?

Strategy for ‘Speak about the Photo’

Before delving into specific techniques, let’s consider a sample photo. Note that DET often uses images featuring people, which may include close-ups of expressions or actions.

This image was generated using Image Creator from Microsoft Designer in December 2023. The visual content was autonomously created by the AI based on specified parameters and inputs.

Objective Description

In DET, oral tasks are scored based on relevance to the topic. We recommend starting with an objective description of the photo within the first 30 seconds to ensure your response is on-topic. For instance, if the photo shows a blond child sleeping in a stroller in an outdoor setting with lush greenery, possibly a forest or park, you might describe the child’s attire (a white t-shirt and grey shorts suggesting a warm summer afternoon) and a butterfly resting on their head. You could also convey the peaceful atmosphere and speculate that a parent captured this serene moment. In ‘Speak about the Photo’, consider discussing people, clothing, actions, professions, identities, emotional states, facial expressions, and surrounding environments. According to our previous discussion, your answer might be like this:

So, what we’re looking at here is really a picture-perfect scene taken outdoors. The greenery is vibrant—there’s grass, and trees all around, so I’m thinking this could be a beautiful park or maybe even a bit of forest area. Now, right in the heart of this natural setting, we’ve got this adorable blond child, just fast asleep in their stroller. They’re dressed in the simplest summer outfit, you know, a white T-shirt, grey shorts—totally what you’d wear on a sunny afternoon. And there’s this little surprise—a butterfly has landed right on their head! It’s one of those moments that’s just so peaceful, so serene, it’s got to be one of those memories that parents love to capture. It’s the kind of day that just feels like a gift, doesn’t it?

Yes, this answer sounds good. But there is a problem, it is too short. This answer may not be enough to maintain 1 minute and 30 seconds of speaking time. Can we add something else? Yes, we can. This is what we are going to explain below.

Personal Commentary

Is it okay to add personal comments? Yes. After objectively describing the photo, personal comments related to the content are a viable strategy. But be mindful of the sentence count (3-5 sentences) to avoid straying off-topic. Personal commentary helps expand the response while remaining relevant. For the above question, we can say this:

Well, looking at this image really warms my heart. It’s such a delightful scene. Being outdoors, taking in the fresh air, it’s incredibly beneficial for kids—both for their physical health and mental well-being. They get to be up close to nature, run around, jump, and even interact with wildlife, like this gentle butterfly here. It’s fantastic because it’s not just about staying active; it’s about feeding their curiosity as well. I truly believe that kids should engage in outdoor activities more often.

The answer looks good, we added our own comments and tried to keep the answer on the topic. So, remember, adding personal comments is a good way to expand the ‘Speak about the Photo’ question. Are there any other ways to expand the answer? Please continue reading the following content.

Associations

Consider the context of the photo. We can think about it, under what circumstances a picture was taken. As in our example above, we can imagine. This picture may have been taken by the child’s parents, this may be a weekend (because they don’t have to work, have time to go outdoors or to the park for a walk or relax), a scene of a family outing. Or what does this picture remind you of? For example, your own childhood experience. Maybe we can say that this picture reminds me of my childhood, my parents and I often go to the park near our home, and the scenery in the park is as beautiful as the picture. Well, it’s time for us to further expand the answer, let’s continue with the previous answer:

You know, this photo might very well have been taken by the child’s parents, capturing a slice of family time—perhaps over the weekend when there’s no work to rush to, allowing for a leisurely stroll in the outdoors or some relaxing time in the park. And it’s the kind of scene that nudges at my own memories, taking me back to my childhood. My parents would often take me to the park near our home, much like the one in this picture, where the scenery was just as picturesque.

Now the answer looks more substantial, good. Let’s upgrade the difficulty, are there any other ways to expand? Let’s continue:

Add Personal Feelings

Will this be off-topic? Not if your operation is correct. This is the part where you really show your skills, because we are talking about the feelings that the picture brings to us, for example, we can say this:

So, it’s more than just a photograph; it’s a reminder of those carefree, joyful days. It’s about the bond we share with our loved ones and the simple pleasures of life, like watching your child sleep peacefully under the watchful eye of nature. You know, this image is a beautiful echo of times spent with family, treasured and timeless.

Well, that’s it. I believe we have a fairly complete and high-level oral answer example, let’s put it all together:

So, what we’re looking at here is really a picture-perfect scene taken outdoors. The greenery is vibrant—there’s grass, and trees all around, so I’m thinking this could be a beautiful park or maybe even a bit of forest area. Now, right in the heart of this natural setting, we’ve got this adorable blond child, just fast asleep in their stroller. They’re dressed in the simplest summer outfit, you know, a white T-shirt, grey shorts—totally what you’d wear on a sunny afternoon. And there’s this little surprise—a butterfly has landed right on their head! It’s one of those moments that’s just so peaceful, so serene, it’s got to be one of those memories that parents love to capture. It’s the kind of day that just feels like a gift, doesn’t it?

Well, looking at this image really warms my heart. It’s such a delightful scene. Being outdoors, taking in the fresh air, it’s incredibly beneficial for kids—both for their physical health and mental well-being. They get to be up close to nature, run around, jump, and even interact with wildlife, like this gentle butterfly here. It’s fantastic because it’s not just about staying active; it’s about feeding their curiosity as well. I truly believe that kids should engage in outdoor activities more often.

You know, this photo might very well have been taken by the child’s parents, capturing a slice of family time—perhaps over the weekend when there’s no work to rush to, allowing for a leisurely stroll in the outdoors or some relaxing time in the park. And it’s the kind of scene that nudges at my own memories, taking me back to my childhood. My parents would often take me to the park near our home, much like the one in this picture, where the scenery was just as picturesque.

So, it’s more than just a photograph; it’s a reminder of those carefree, joyful days. It’s about the bond we share with our loved ones and the simple pleasures of life, like watching your child sleep peacefully under the watchful eye of nature. You know, this image is a beautiful echo of times spent with family, treasured and timeless.

By combining these approaches, you can create a comprehensive and well-developed oral response. We hope these strategies help you excel in the DET’s ‘Speak about the Photo’ section. Best of luck with your Duolingo English Test!

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