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IELTS Town and City Vocabulary

In the IELTS Speaking exam you may be called upon to showcase your vocabulary to describe towns and cities. Read the following IELTS-style questions and answers below and pay attention to the phrases in bold. Use the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the page to check the meaning of any phrases you don’t understand.

Part 1-style questions

Examiner: What is it like where you live?
Christiane: I live in a residential area of a busy town in the south of Spain … we have all the facilities you need … good public transport … a good shopping center … it’s nice …

Examiner: Do you like living in the city?
Andrea: Yes I do … I like going out with my friends and there are lots of lively bars and restaurants within walking distance of my apartment … I’m a bit of a culture vulture as well so it’s great to have access to art exhibitions and that kind of thing …

Examiner: Do you get many tourists visiting your area?
Mandy: Not really no … I live in the inner-city and the area is a little run down … it’s basically a lot of high-rise flats and many of the shops are boarded up … so nothing to interest tourists really …

Part 2-style task

Describe an interesting town or city in your country that visitors might enjoy. You should say

  • what the place is called
  • where the place is
  • what the facilities are like

and say why visitors might enjoy going there.

Monique:  Anyone who comes to my country really should spend some time in Barcelona … it’s a beautiful place … it’s not what you would call a sprawling city … it’s quite compact really and you could walk across the city in a couple of hours … but there’s no need to do that as we have a fantastic public transport system so it’s easy to get around … there are various districts all with their own character … you have the upmarket shops in the center … you’ll find lots of chain stores you’ll recognise from your own country but also local brands as well … we have the narrow streets in the Gothic district with lots of fashionable boutiques and tourist attractions … there’s the Olympic area and the beaches along the coast … and dotted around the city are some lovely public spaces … parks and squares in the city center and on the outskirts of Barcelona where people relax with their friends and family … and of course pavement cafes everywhere … all that and some great historical places of interest … so a great destination for tourists …

Part 3-style questions

Examiner:  What are the advantages of living in a city or big town?
Carrie: I think it’s having access to local facilities really … local shops as well as access to larger shopping malls in the city center … and if you’re well-off you can afford to live in the suburbs away from the busy traffic …

Examiner: In your experience are city center usually attractive places?
Mary: Some can be yes … especially those with a historical interest … but sometimes they’re full of ugly office blocks … multi-story car parks … and residents living in poor housing … it depends on the city doesn’t it?

Examiner: What are some of the challenges facing towns and cities?
Penny: I suppose traffic congestion is a major problem … and the growth in out-of-town supermarkets and retail parks mean lots of town center shops are closing down … plus a shortage of good quality housing … I think these are the major challenges …

Definitions

  • boarded up shops: shops that are no longer doing business
  • chain stores: well-known brands with shops in multiple cities
  • to close down: to stop doing business
  • fashionable boutiques: fashionable clothes shops
  • to get around: to travel around
  • high-rise flats: multi-story apartments
  • inner-city: the central part of a city where people live and where conditions are often poor
  • in the suburbs: the outer area of large towns and cities where people live
  • lively bars/restaurants: bars or restaurants with a good atmosphere
  • local facilities: local buildings or services serving the public
  • multi-story car parks: car parks on several floors
  • office block: a large building that contains offices
  • out of town shopping center/retail park: large shopping center outside of the town or city
  • pavement cafe: cafes with tables outside on the pavement
  • places of interest: buildings that have a particular interest for visitors
  • poor housing: housing that is not in good condition
  • public spaces: areas in a town or city that are open to the public
  • public transport system:  public vehicles such as buses and trains that operate at regular times on fixed routes
  • residential area: an area where people live
  • run down: old and of a poor standard
  • shopping center: an area consisting of multiple shops
  • shopping malls: large indoor shopping center
  • sprawling city: a city that has grown over time and which covers a wide area
  • tourist attraction: a place of interest to tourists
  • traffic congestion: heavy traffic making it difficult to move around a town or city

upmarket shops: expensive fashionable shops