Real Exam English - B2, C1, C2

S02 - 2 City and Country

January 29, 2021 Real Exam English Season 2 Episode 2
Real Exam English - B2, C1, C2
S02 - 2 City and Country
Show Notes Transcript

Native English speakers answer questions about city and country from previous B2, C1, C2 and IELTS  exam papers. 

You´re going to hear loads of urban and rural vocabulary, we analyse the language used to give a speculative opinion and we have some great words and expressions to describe work skills. 

For classes or transcripts go to

Music: Wholesome by Kevin MacLeod

Thanks to all of the contributors, including Ian from the We Dig Music podcast, Arianwen from the In Mothering podast, Trisha from Conversations with a Random Nobody, Chris, Barbara, Ronny, Zoe, Ofordi, Karen, Keith, Mary, Emma and Ursula.

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Hello and welcome to real exam English. Today’s topic is city versus country.  You´re going to hear loads of urban and rural vocabulary, we analyse the language used to give a speculative opinion and we have some great words and expressions to describe work skills. 

We also have our first dialogue, the two guys from the We Dig Music podcast have a chat for us about the city and the country. 

So yea, loads of great stuff for you today. Let´s crack on with the questions.


Would you rather live in the countryside or in a town or city?

Um, so right now I live in a town But you know the town of. I've lived in a city I I've lived in the Countryside, I suppose And now I live in a town. I think I'd prefer the town country as compared to the city. Um, where I live is a town that has a lot of country surrounding it, which is convenient because I get a little bit of both worlds.

So there's nice amenities nearby as far as you know, the grocery stores and hardware stores, and whatever else that that we may need as far as going to the stores concerned, as well as you know, other facilities like gyms and swimming pools and so forth for the parks for children to enjoy. But of course I do enjoy the peacefulness of the countryside And the space between neighbors and so forth. So this is kind of a happy medium there where I can have convenience and country not too far away. I think the city life is something that is enjoyable for certain people. Maybe you know some people all the time and some other people may be at certain times in their life so.

Ok so here is our first lot of urban vocabulary, we have amenities, or amenities as the speaker pronounced it in his US accent, we had grocery stores, hardware stores, facilities, gyms, swimming pools, parks and so forth. This expression and so forth is a great way to finish giving a list of items, it basically means etcetera, and can be a useful expression when you´re giving a list and blank out and can´t think of anything else to add. For example, the shop sells tools, paint brushes, utensils and so forth. So this answer is showing a lot of topic-relevant vocabulary to the examiner which is a great way to make a good impression.

Would you rather live in the countryside or in a town or city?

I would rather live in the countryside and just drive into the city if I needed to because I just love the quietness and the greenery. I love the country views so I would definitely pick countryside.

And what advice would you give to someone from our rural area who was planning to go and live in a megacity?

Be prepared. Make sure wherever you choose to live has like garage parking because if you have to depend on on the Street park in you might have to sleep outside like I had two one night I was visiting my mom in New York and there were no more parking spots and I had to just sleep in the car until the morning someone left out for work. Yeah, so city life. Just be prepared for the business and people always zooming past you. It's gonna be a lot of fun but just be prepared. Do your research.

Do you think that having security cameras in towns and cities is a good way of making sure people follow the rules?

I wouldn't say it's a good way of making them follow the rules. However, when people break the rules, it'll come in handy because you can see who did it, but I don't think that's a deterrent at all because I know that there's cameras in some of the worst parts of the city and it doesn't stop anything, it just once it happens You know the law enforcement can go back and look and you know see who was involved, but I don't think it's a deterrent or anything like that, unfortunately.

Wow, be careful when parking in New York folks! I like the connectors in this last answer, we had I wouldn't say it's a good way of making them follow the rules. However, when people break the rules, it'll come in handy because you can see who did it, but I don't think that's a deterrent at all because I know that there's cameras in some of the worst parts of the city. Remember that discourse markers like this are essential to give your answers a nice structure and keep the examiner happy.

To what extent do you think that people in cities today have lost touch with nature?

It's a good question. I think it Really depends on the on the people and the type of city. I mean If you're talking about megacities, I think it's much harder in a megacity to be in touch with nature, particularly in the built up environment, are very, very urban environment. So, for example, in central London, where you got A proliferation of high rise buildings and not a huge amount of green space and that could be parks or any other kind of open areas. It is really quite hard to be in touch with nature because it's not really around you. It's a concrete jungle as opposed to you know something that's green. That said, I mean there are a number of very, very good parks.

How do children brought up in the city differ from those brought up in the country?

Oh, I think probably Children who are brought up in urban environments tend to be a little bit more streetwise. Um, perhaps a little bit more cynical. Um, you know, I think that they are Not quite as in touch with nature as children who were brought up in smaller towns or villages. I think children that live in cities generally tend to grow up a good deal faster than those who live in slightly less urban environments.

Oh my god, I love the intensifiers used here. We had a little bit more cynical, not quite as in touch with nature, a good deal faster, slightly less urban. Isn´t this so much better than just saying the normal comparative, instead of faster say a good deal faster. This use of intensifiers is very typical in English when speaking about something that isn´t fact, you are telling the speaker this is only my opinion and in our example here it was even amplified by the use of adverbs and other speculative language, so we had perhaps a little bit more cynical, I think they are not quite as in touch, they generally tend to grow up a good deal faster. Awesome stuff there!

Would you rather live in the countryside or in a town or city?

I'd rather live in the countryside, but not too far from a town, so you could still get your shopping But far enough so you've got like lovely country views, and then that sort of thing. I´d prefer to live in the country. Yeah, my mom lives in the country. She's got an old farm. So, um, yeah, it's quite nice actually. She has really, really lovely views, but they've only done half of it up, so they done the farmhouse up and you live in that.

Nice phrasal verb here at the end. To do something up, like they’ve done the farmhouse up. This means they have repaired it or improved it. This phrasal verb is normally used for buildings, cars, boats, that kind of stuff. 

Would you rather live in the countryside or in a town or city?

 I Would rather live in the countryside. I grew up on a cattle ranch in the Panhandle of Texas, so it was several 1000 acres with wide open spaces and unfortunately, that was a lifestyle that money just wasn't there for as many people in the family that wanted to do it. And so I swapped in an I came kinda into came into town that so to speak. 

What advice would you give to someone from a rural area who was planning to go and live in a megacity?

I think that the biggest thing is use all of the skills that you learned growing up in a small area and apply them to a larger area if That makes sense. So to survive as a business in a small town, you have to be brutally honest and you have to get along with people because if you don't then nobody in your town will do business with you. And I think that those skills, those soft skills translate really well into a big city environment, so you can be shrewd and be businesslike. But your communication and your interpersonal skills Will translate well into a big city environment, so use those skills that you developed kind of growing up in your chosen city.

Ok so we heard lots of skills mentioned here. It´s actually really useful vocabulary, very often you are asked in speaking exams about what skills people in photographs need in order to do whatever they are doing in the pictures. Also, you need language about skills if you need to write a letter such as a job application, or perhaps in a report or proposal. So in our answer we heard about soft skills, which are skills you need to fit in at a workplace, things like manners, motivation, attitude and flexibility. We also heard communication and interpersonal skills, being business-like, shrewd and brutally honest. So loads of great language packed into one answer.

How would life in a modern megacity differ from life in an ordinary city or large town?

So I live in Brussels, where I think the population is under 2 million, maybe 1.5 million. Something like that. I did live in London before where the pace was very different. What I like about a more ordinary city like Brussels is that it's big and small at the same time, so there's a huge variety of options available to me, whether that's restaurants or bars or cultural events, and it rarely takes me more than an hour to get anywhere Within the city. But what I miss from bigger cities and what I think Is the characteristic of a more modern city? Is technology, efficiency and innovation.

What do you think governments and city councils should do to improve life in big cities?

I am a big fan of improving air pollution in cities. It's so common, you know in in Europe and beyond, the due to kind of urban planning in the past, cars dominate, especially in Brussels, and I think much more Time and effort should be given to things that will improve air pollution, such as everything from congestion charges to improving public transport, improving cycle paths because it makes the city more livable and very often actually boosts the economy. When places are pedestrianised, sometimes there's a bit of a fifth in the local businesses that there will be less people because there's less people coming by car and therefore they won't be able to carry as much or they're just there for a walk. But actually research shows that people are much more likely to spend money, so for me, that's that's a win win win in every situation.

In the first answer here we had an example of a cleft sentence used to give emphasis, that was what I like about Brussels is that it´s big and small at the same time. We had plenty of city vocabulary too – congestion charges which is money you need to pay to access a city centre using a car. We had urban planning, public transport, cycle paths, pedestrianized streets. So like our first answer earlier, if this was an exam question you would really impress the examiner with so much topic-relevant vocabulary.


Ok, so next up is a dialogue. The format is from a Cambridge B2 or C1 exam and The question that is being discussed is

Why might these things be important when considering moving to a rural area? There are 5 options for the pair to discuss: sense of community, leisure opportunities, work opportunities, transport and scenic views. The chat went on for quite a while so this is a shorter edited version. 

I mean sense of community. I think I had a better sense of community when I lived in a rural area. And yeah, like we, I I never had one when I lived in Tamworth. As such really. But Kenilworth, where I live now is wonderful loads of very good community stuff.

When I think of a sense of community, I think well, you were part of it. Oh yeah, that uh, we would believe that Tamworth. Yeah, yeah.

Whereas in Birmingham I don't really feel like they have any of that, but I am a 38 year old dad now.

Yeah, and that's it. There is probably that there, but we are, yeah.

Yeah, not for us exactly exactly, you know, I've got it. I don't think that's important to me.

As much anymore because I've got loads of really good friends and can keep in contact with them wherever they are Through technology, yes. And it doesn't necessarily have to be in the area where I am, 'cause I can drive to it.

You know, as long as it's not the other side of the world.

There is that, yeah, yeah, absolutely leisure opportunities wise like I.

Is 50/50 wide like there's loads of really nice places to walk, which is lovely and I like being out in nature and wandering around and stuff like that but.

You know, in the city there was like there was the pub. There were libraries, there was cinemas close at hand and stuff like that. So I think there were more.

Leisure opportunities that are weather appropriate.

Got more more restaurants and that kind of thing. Obviously in in a city, but the kind of leisure that I do. Again, he's walking these days so I'm alright with that wherever.

It is yeah yeah. I mean that that would see you then.

And I mean, I think that ties into scenic views as well, then, 'cause you're?

You're walking, you know you. Yeah, we'd love some of the walk around here. I mean you, you come it came out on a walk with me the other week didn't you and work opportunities wise? I think maybe there's less opportunity than there is a city.

But there shouldn't be because it's 2020 and now as people have realized over the last year, most people can work from home and you know should do anyway, yeah.

I I don't think that as much of a, uh.

Consideration to me anymore, no, as long as I can get a good Internet connection where I am. Hopefully I can continue doing what I'm doing, you know. Yeah, yeah, like.

Yeah, I guess if you're moving into a rural location, you have to think about transport links because yes, the original plan when we were moving is 'cause I work further North of here. So I am now closer like my commute was.

Between an hour and two hours, depending on how broken the M6 was so.


It's better, I'm like 45 minutes all the time.

Yeah, I know, but.

We would have moved closer so it was equidistant between mine and my wife's work locations, but she also wanted to be near a train station and that there is the problem.


Gonna be where the right rail network is. Yeah, so all things to be considered.

 indeed indeed, but it all depends on the person you know for different people different things are going to be important, yeah?


Ok, great discussion. If we look at this from an examiner’s viewpoint obviously the pronunciation, intonation and vocabulary used is excellent. However, you are also usually marked on interaction and if you have a dialogue in your English exam it´s often the only place to show off your interaction skills. You need to show some nice expressions for agreeing and disagreeing, making suggestions and coming to a conclusion. While the two speakers we listened to interact very naturally the only phrase we hear to agree is yea, or yes, or yea yea. This IS how friends chat in real life but if the objective is to impress the examiner then you need to have more expressions like absolutely, that´s true, I´m afraid I disagree, I take your point or whatever. Ok, if you need a list of expressions then take a look over on the Real Exam English website.


That´s it for today folks. If you want to practice some of the vocabulary you learned then why not write a paragraph about why you would prefer to live in the city or the country and what skills you would need to survive there. I´ll put a post on Facebook and Instagram with the question if you want to send your paragraph in, I´d love to see them! Remember if you want to retain the language you learn then you have to put it into practice, to borrow a phrase from rugby use it or lose it! 

Ok guys, that´s it, have a great week, all the best