Did you go to a good school? Where did you go to school? Did you like your teachers? Is there anything you want to change about your school? What are the differences between your school and other schools?
  • To rank (verb) - to have a position higher or lower than others, or to be considered to have such a position.
  • Competent (adj.) - having the skills or knowledge to do something well enough.
  • A handful (noun) - a person, often a child, who is difficult to control.
  • To get along (phrasal verb) - if two or more people get along, they like each other and are friendly to each other.
  • Unsettled (adj.) - nervous and worried; unable to relax.
  • Pupil (noun) - a person, especially a child at school, who is being taught.
  • Perspective (noun) - a particular way of considering something.
  • Impersonal (adj.) - lacking or not showing any interest or feeling.
  • Conformity (noun) - behaviour that follows the usual standards that are expected by a group or society.
  • Mediocrity (noun) - the quality of being not very good.
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Questions and answers
M: Did you go to a good school?

R: Well, I certainly like to think so. I mean, I'm not sure where it ranked on the league tables, but the teachers were certainly competent and seemed to enjoy their jobs most of the time. So I would say that's part of being in a good school.

M: Where did you go to school?

R: I went to a few schools, actually. There were two primary schools and they were just up the road from where I lived. Like literally up the road, you would walk up the road and you would be there. And the high school, which was along the streets and then again up the road. So those were the three schools that I went to.

M: Did you like your teachers?

R: Not really, no. I only liked one. I liked Mrs Jones in primary four. Hi, Mrs Jones, if you're listening. We had a great working relationship. Well, I think I had a great working relationship with her. I imagine that she probably thought I was quite a handful, but with regards to the other teachers, no, I didn't really like them at all. And we didn't get along very well. Not because they were evil, just because I was a pretty unsettled child and they had a great deal of difficulty understanding me or relating to me. But, you know, I was in a class with 30 other pupils, so it's easy to understand why that might not work on a 1 to 1 basis.

M: Was there anything you wanted to change about your school?

R: Well, ideally, I'd have had more time to play and be creative. Well, it's hard to say how that would have turned out, actually. But regardless, things seem to have turned out reasonably well in life. But if I could go back and change things, then I think those would be the two things that I would change.

M: What were the differences between your school and other schools?

R: Well, it's hard to say, really, because you only have the perspective of yourself in your school, which is a pretty isolated context. I don't know what other schools were like, but I would probably say that my schools were a bit impersonal, sort of like factories of conformity and mediocrity, really. Again, not because they're run by horrible people, just because that's the system that you have when you have mass education.

M: Thank you, Rory, for your answers!
M: So positive like, my schools were factories of mediocrity. Mediocrity is this, you know, these usual things, like nothing special, this, you know... If a film is mediocre, it's kind of, the film is okay.

R: Yeah. I mean, I would like to point out that all of this is just my perspective. I didn't like school, I hated school. I was one of those kids and then I became a teacher. How ironic... But, you know, I imagine if you're a kid that fits in and is quite settled and even-keeled, then you would have a great time. And a lot of the kids that I went to school with probably did, but I did not. Sorry, I would love to be normal as a child, but if I had been normal then I probably wouldn't be doing this. So it's... That's the trade-off.

M: First of all, we say go to school. Can we say study in a school?

R: I studied at school. Studied in a school...

M: But that's also some... Kind of weird, because we usually say like, oh, I went to school, I went to university. We don't say I studied at school...

R: Apchu! Excuse me...

M: Bless you, bless you.

R: Thank you! Well, I think for colleges and universities, and particularly in American English, they say I study at X, Y, and Z school, but it's not so common in British English. I haven't heard people say that very often.

M: I went to a good school or I went to school. Yeah? So no article. Rory told us "I'm not sure where my school ranked on the league table". This "the league table" is like top schools. And this is like a table, top one is this school. So Rory was not sure about the ranking of his school.

R: I mean, it did the job and it was in a reasonably nice middle-class area. So I'm assuming that it was okay.

M: The teachers were competent. So that's a nice adjective to use about teachers. The teachers were competent, so they were professional, they knew their subjects. And do you say, school students or pupils?

R: Oh, this is a fun one, because I got in trouble for this all the time in my last job, because I would refer to... Like to pupils as students. And apparently, that's not acceptable.

M: Ooh.

R: So apparently, in the eyes of the people I used to work with, students is an American thing and pupils is a British thing.
M: Really?

R: Yes. I mean, it is if you're someone who enjoys being a complete control freak when it comes to other people's language. It means the same thing - somebody who studies in a school.

M: So it's okay to say like, okay, pupil. Like primary school pupils, secondary school pupils.

R: Yeah. I mean, other people use the word learners as well, which I think, is extremely condescending. But you know...

M: Learners... Okay. I think students... This word is more common now, even like for school students.

R: I think so. I just think it's a bizarre thing to get upset about, but there you go. If you're worried about the distinction, then that's what it is. Pupils are young people in British schools. Students are, well, they can be any age, but if we're thinking about young people in schools, then it's an American thing.

M: Where did you go to school? What kind of question is this? Like, where did you go to school? Well, in my hometown, on Earth. Well, I went to school next to my house. So pretty much that's it, yeah? You can't give more information about it. I don't know... And Rory told us that "I went to a few schools, to primary schools". Primary schools are usually for what? Grades or forms? Like, from 1 to 5. So five years or four years sometimes in primary school, yeah? And then secondary school and then high school. So Rory changed schools three times, you said?

R: Where I'm from secondary school and high school are the same thing.

M: Oh. Mhm.

R: It's complicated because I think in Russia there's three schools. There's like, the elementary, middle and high school, right?

M: Yeah.

R: Okay. And it's the same in lots of places in America. But in Scotland, you have primary school and you have secondary school or primary school and high school. If you're American, it's like elementary, middle and then high school. And I don't really understand why there's this distinction between these things. Probably because Russia and America have a much bigger population than Scotland. So you can afford to have children distributed in this way.

M: So if your school, you went to, was right next to your house, you can say, I went to a school just up the road from where I lived.

R: Just up the road usually means close. But when I said literally just up the road, like if you lived where I did and you took a walk outside of the house for about 10 minutes, then you would be there.
M: Yeah, or you can say it was a ten minute walk from my house to my school. A 10-minute walk or it was a 5-minute walk from my house to the school. And then like, did you like your teachers? Not really, no... Mrs Jones, I only loved you.

R: Mrs Jones, you were the only nice teacher I ever met. Well, no, that's not fair. Mrs Jones was the only teacher that was able to relate to me. Those are two different things. But, you know, like I say, I was quite a difficult child at school, so I don't really blame my teachers when I was in school, they had other pupils to worry about. It's life...

M: So, dear listener, you can say I was a difficult child, I was quite a handful child, I was difficult to deal with.

R: I still am difficult to deal with. No, no, not really. But, I like to think I'm quite chilled out right now. Maria? Please support!

M: Yes, you are, darling. You are amazing, you are kind of calm and like...

R: Very convincing. Like, yes, of course.

M: I was a very unsettled child. Well, pretty much the same. Yeah? I was a difficult child, unsettled child. So teachers did have problems with me.

R: Mrs Jones used to call it lateral thinking, which I think, was just a really nice way of saying, he just refuses to think like other people.

M: Lateral thinking is a manner of solving problems, using an indirect and creative approach via reasoning that is not immediately obvious. So our Rory was a creative child, they wanted him to do some, you know, like dull tasks, but Rory painted the walls in Scottish pattern, so like he did something creative.

R: Well, I didn't do that. I just couldn't be bothered doing the work that I didn't want to do. So I didn't. But turned out all right in the end. But yes, I think that's what lateral thinking means for... Like, you know, in a professional sense. But I think what Mrs Jones was saying was just he's being difficult.

M: You can say that we had a great working relationships with teachers or I get on well with teachers. Also, I got on well with classmates, with my classmates. So classmates, my peers, my classmates. Now, we used the third conditional, okay?

R: Sort of, in a very advanced way. Pay attention.

M: We used the second part of the third conditional. So was there anything you wanted to change about your school? The question is in the past, right? So finito, finish, yeah? Maybe I wanted to change something. So the third conditional. Unreal, in the past, we are thinking. So I would have had more time to play. I would have had. The third conditional, okay? But I didn't have more time to play. In the past. Like, oh, I wanted this, but it didn't happen. So I'd have had more time to play. Yeah, this was something that I wanted to change, but I didn't. Rory, how did you pronounce this? I'd have. Right? You said.
R: I'd have had, yeah. It's sort of like runs together. I would have, I would have had.

M: Yeah. repeat after me. I'd have had, I'd have...

R: I'd have had.

M: I'd have had more time.

R: Do you know what? There's going to be people going to work on the subway, and they'll be like just sitting there going, I'd have had.

M: I'd have had, I'd have had. I'd have had more time to play, I'd have had more competent teachers, I'd have had more friends, I'd have had IELTS Speaking for Success podcast, but it turned out reasonably well. So I didn't have this time to play. Kind of more time to play, but it turned out well. It turned out - it happened. So everything was okay in the end, even if I didn't have much time to play.

R: Well, if I think about my life now, it's turned out well. Because now I have all the time in the world, it's awesome. At the time, it was probably not so great.

M: And then Rory got a little bit, kind of philosophical. You usually only have the perspective of yourself as a child, in an isolated context. What is this? Could you just answer the question?

R: I mean... What? You were... What was the question again? What were the differences between your school and other schools? Well, how on earth would I know? I mean, I was a child at the time. What would I know?

M: But now, you know, like you know different schools now and like, was there a difference?

R: No, I don't. What? Other schools where? Other schools in the world? Well, they're in different countries, so they have different education systems.

M: Yeah. You see, kind of a strange question. But here you can say like, well, I think that my school was okay, my school was the same as other schools. And then you can add adjectives. Like some not really positive adjectives. Like impersonal, dull, the teachers were strict, the school was expensive, for example. Or it was like middle class, you said? At the beginning.

R: It was in a middle-class area. Hence all of the conformity.

M: Yeah, conformity. And Rory said like a factory of conformity. Conformity? When you conform to the rules when you follow the rules. So the crowd follows the rules and you follow the rules. So everybody says that this jacket is black and also you say that this jacket is black but it's freaking pink.

R: Unless you're Rory, in which case you do whatever you like.

M: Yeah, this is called conformity. So people conform to rules or what? Conform to the regulations of society?

R: Well, they probably conform to social norms.

M: Social norms, yeah, yeah, yeah, there we go. Right? So my school was a factory of conformity, a factory of mediocrity. Well, it's kind of a bit harsh. But, well, you know, maybe it's your opinion. Or you can say that the teachers were competent, it was the best school in the neighbourhood because we had this close community. Or I went to a private school, it was expensive, so yeah. But make sure you do use some adjectives, okay? Why were you a handful? What did you do? Threw toilet paper at the teachers?

R: I was just a pain. I didn't, like, misbehave or assault the teachers. It was just... I was an extremely awkward child. And was a bit slow, probably, in their opinion.

M: Were you an introvert? Like all like closed in yourself? Or were you like...?

R: How best to describe? I was an extroverted introvert.

M: Thank you very much for listening, dear listener. Bye!

R: Bye!
M: Yeah, dear listener, so you can talk about libraries as community centres, right? So where people go to have different classes, I don't know, to meet other people, to just hang around with your friends. And also, I think some people use libraries when their internet at home is down. WiFi doesn't work, so they just pop in their local library to use like free WiFi, because it's like, free, right? Supposed to be. Is it for free?

R: I don't know. I don't think we have WiFi in our local library.

M: No? Ahh, Scotland these days...

R: But we're, we're in the middle of nowhere.

M: I like the way you say it, now. I'm in the middle of nowhere. Excellent. So Rory has officially accepted that he is just in the middle of nowhere, in a small village, just out there somewhere in Scotland. We don't even know where he is.

R: That doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. It means it's quiet.

M: Oh, no, no. Quiet, yes. Do you think that libraries are in real danger of closing down, Rory?

R: Everything is in real danger of closing down. Probably not the really big state-owned ones. So, the one that you were describing in Moscow, for example, or... I'm trying to think of a big library in London. I don't know any famous libraries in London. But the ones that are owned by the government, they probably won't close. But local community libraries, as they're used less and less often will probably close down.

M: Oh, and do you know that in some libraries, you can use your voice to search for library materials?

R: That will not be in my local library, I assure you.

M: Yeah, but maybe in some, you know, in libraries in London or in other capitals, you can just use your voice. Please find me a book by Rory Fergus Duncan-Goodwillie. A book by who?

R: If you hooked up an AI to a search database, then yeah, probably. You could say like, I need you to find a book that's about X, Y, and Z and they would find it. It'd be great.

M: Thank you very much for listening! So please make sure that you let us know, like do you know any people who go to libraries these days? Do you go to a library? Or maybe when you were at school or at university, did you use to go to a library and what you did there? Okay? Thank you very much! Hugs, Korean hearts, kisses, lots of energy and we'll see you in our next show! Bye!

R: Bye!
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Did you like this episode?
Make sure to subscribe to our social media to see some of the “behind the scenes” stuff!

Our Instagram:
Our Telegram:
Error get alias
Show more
Study with us