Cultural Exchange: podcasts about life in the UK

Life in the UK: how and where to learn British history (and prepare for the citizenship test)

06.04.2021Anastasia Fedorova

All applicants must pass the Life in the UK test when applying for British citizenship. To properly understand the traditions, history, and other topics you may encounter on the exam, we have selected the most useful resources for you.

What you need to know about the Life in the UK test

The Life in the UK test is required of almost everyone applying for British citizenship. The only exceptions are those under 18 or over 65 and those who have already taken the test, for example, to apply for a residence permit.

You should sign up to take the test on the official website of the UK government at least three days before the test, pay a fee of 50 pounds, choose one of thirty centers and come there at the appointed time. If your plans change, you can cancel your reservation and request a refund and re-book for another day. There is no limit to the number of tests, but each subsequent attempt is not possible until seven days later.

The exam tests knowledge about the structure of the country, its basic values and principles, the history and modern society of Great Britain, as well as British government and laws. There are a total of 24 questions in the test, which must be answered within 45 minutes. The result will be scored if the number of correct answers is 75% or more.

You can prepare for the exam using the officialstudy guide: you can subscribe to the electronic version with practice tests and materials on the website, or purchase the test guide and study materials in hard copy. If you search for similar books in bookstores, make sure you choose the most recent edition. Additional sources can also be utilized. We tell you what advice is given by those who have already obtained a British passport.

British history: books and lectures

First, for a more in-depth study of history, many advise to turn to the lectures of the project “Direct Speech” from Natalia Basovskaya – Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor, author of a book on the history of the Middle Ages. Among the archival recordings: lectures on Anne Boleyn, Queen Victoria, Richard III, and other historical figures. Both audio and print versions of the broadcast are available for purchase on the website. In addition, on the YouTube channel of the TV channel “Kultura” posted archival episodes of the Academia series, in which Natalia talks about England in the time of Henry IV, the personality of the king and his portrait in the tragedies of William Shakespeare.

If there is a desire to prepare immediately in English, we advise you to pay attention to the works of English historian Lucy Worsley. For example, in a series of programs from BBC Four, the broadcaster debunks myths about British history. In one issue, Worsley takes apart the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which resulted in the overthrow of King James II Stuart. What remains of that event is the image of a “glorious and bloodless coup”, but it led to great tragedy in Ireland and Scotland. Lucy shows how fact and fiction shape modern national history.

Interestingly, the researcher herself has produced many documentaries and books on different historical figures, writers and eras. For example, the mini-series Six Wives with Lucy Worsley is about the Tudor court and the most dramatic moments in the lives of Henry VIII’s wives, including Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon. In Queen Victoria: Daughter, Wife, Mother, Widow, Lucy details 24 days from the Queen’s biography: she explores diaries and personal letters and through them tells the story of her life and reign.

In addition, the documentary series “Kings and Queens of England ” tells about the history of the United Kingdom – its episodes are available on YouTube. Each video focuses on a particular historical period or reign of a monarch, from the Normans in the 11th century to the modern royal family and Elizabeth II. Among podcasts, BBC In Our Time audio episodes from presenter Melvyn Bragg, touching on history as well as culture, science and philosophy, would be a good source for preparation.

Culture and society: websites, courses and podcasts

University lectures such as those on British culture, government and the royal family from Professor Birkbeck (University of London) and London social history specialist Michael Berlin may be a good option for preparation. Coursera can help you understand more: on the platform you can enroll in a course on British common law (case law ) from the University of London, as well as a course on the works of William Shakespeare, co-produced by the University of London and Goldsmiths College.

The test may include questions about British national holidays, both in England and in other regions (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), so it is advisable to prepare on this topic as well to avoid losing points on easy questions. The UK government website can help with this, as well as the Visit Britain portal.

Don’t forget that the test also checks knowledge of modern laws, rights and duties of a citizen. For example, you may be asked what a police officer should say when making an arrest. You can read more about enforcement in the UK in the relevant section on the government‘s website.

The English for the Life in the UK podcast covers topics related to everyday life in the UK, historical events and British society. Since it is aimed also at practicing English, the editions are suitable for Intermediate level students. The podcast comes from the St. Augustine’s Charity Center in Halifax, which works with migrants among others, and the authors’ goal is to help them settle into British society.

The test itself is fascinatingly told by English teacher Luke Thompson in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast, along with his friend, standup comedian Paul Taylor. In a conversation format, the presenters discuss the test, take one of the mock tests, and critique the content. Along with the release, a text description, resources mentioned in the episode, and sample testing materials can be found at the link.

There are quizzes with questions from previous years in the official handbooks in electronic or printed versions, as well as on the Life in the UK Test website.

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