Learn IELTS Vocabulary: Politeness

Dec 28, 2022 | IELTS Test

IELTS Speaking Test Sample:  

The questions below are focused around politeness. The vocabulary and collocations included in the model answers will help you to score from band 7.0 upwards – and could be useful for any question where you are asked to describe another person or culture.

Read the following speaking-style questions, paying close attention to words you dont know and the words in bold. There are definitions for the words in bold at the end of the page.

Before you read the conversation, you might like to download this free PDF quiz and have a go at completing the blanks.


Part 1-style questions

Examiner: Do you think you are a polite person?

Candidate: Yes, I’d say I’m polite. Perhaps I’m living up to the British stereotype! People in the UK are characterised as the most polite in the world.  

Examiner: Who taught you to be polite? 

Candidate: My parents taught me that table manners and showing gratitude are important parts of your personal development. My father is a vicar, so he has very strong morals, and he leads by example.

Examiner: How important is politeness to you?

Candidate: I think politeness is an underrated quality in a person. Politeness makes for more positive social interactions, especially with strangers, so striving to be polite at all times is important.  


Part 2

Describe a polite person you know. You should say:

  • who the person is
  • how you know the person
  • what the person is like

and explain why you think the person is polite.


The most polite person I can think of was Queen Elizabeth, the former monarch of Great Britain. She was very reserved in her speech, taking care to be polite in all circumstances – she took care never to offend or to be too blunt. I met her once during a ceremony to commemorate World War II veterans. It was quite an honour to meet a royal! 

One of the best-known examples of her politeness is when she was talking to somebody, and she wanted to end the conversation. She always carried a handbag, and she would move it from one forearm to the other when she was ready to move on and speak to somebody else – that was the signal for a member of the royal household to come over and ease her out of the interaction. 


Part 3-style questions

Examiner: Has the way people show politeness changed in the last 30 years? [Compare]

Candidate: No, on balance, I don’t think it has. The fundamentals of a positive social interaction are the same – we still need to treat others with respect, kindness and honesty. 

Examiner: Do you agree that people from cities are more polite than those from the countryside? [Agree/Disagree]

Candidate: From my own experience, I’d have to disagree. Cities have a faster pace of life, and it seems like people sometimes forget to be polite when they’re hurrying around on a busy schedule. Somebody once spilled a coffee over me on the London Underground, and they only stopped to apologise as an afterthought!

Examiner: Do you think politeness is a part of all cultures? [Evaluate]

Candidate: Politeness means different things to different cultures. In Japan, for example, it’s borderline insulting to offer a tip for a restaurant waiter. But in Western countries, it’s impolite not to, unless you have a concern about the service you’d received. So yes, to the best of my knowledge, politeness is a part of all cultures, but it’s not homogenous in how people show it


Definitions for IELTS Achievement Vocabulary

Part 1

Living up to — doing what is expected

Stereotype — a false idea or belief about something, usually a type of person  

Characterised — known as (a character)

Table manners — being polite while eating a meal with other people 

Showing gratitude — showing that you appreciate it when somebody does something for you 

Personal development — becoming a better person

Vicar — the person in charge of a church 

(to have) Strong morals — doing the right thing is important (to a person) 

Underrated quality (of a person) — something somebody should get more appreciation for  

(to) Lead by example — shows others how to do things 

Social interaction — a moment when you meet somebody else  

Strangers — people you don’t know

Striving — making a big effort to do something 


Part 2

Monarch — King or Queen

(in all) Circumstances – at all times

(for a person to be) Blunt — not taking care to be polite 

Ceremony — formal occasion to celebrate or show the important of another event 

Commemorate — show respect for 

Veterans — soldiers who have fought in a war 

Honour — high respect  

Forearm — the lower half of the arm 

Royal household — the King or Queen’s’ staff


Part 3

Fundamentals — the most important rules or qualities of something

Pace of life — how relaxing or stressful life is  

Busy schedule — having lots of things to do 

Afterthought – something you think of later 

Borderline – almost 

To the best of my knowledge — I think, but I’m not certain 

Homogeneous — the same


Practice Your IELTS Politeness Vocabulary 

Record yourself answering this question and send it to us for professional feedback.

Our feedback is based on the official IELTS Speaking Descriptors and will give you precise information on how to improve.

We will publish the details of this service and its prices soon. In the meantime, you can contact us here if you would like to be one of the first.

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