Direction: Read the passage below and summarize it using one sentence. Type your response in the box at the bottom of the screen. You have 10 minutes to finish this task. Your response will be judged on the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the key points in the passage.

Question 1.

Moving overseas, whether for employment or educational purposes, is a period of great change and while it can be a rewarding experience, it also presents huge challenges. Many people have a tough time trying to adjust to their new environment. This is known as ‘culture shock’, and is a natural albeit frustrating process.

Having made their move abroad, many people might experience a brief phase where everything is like an incredible adventure, leading them to believe that their transition has been relatively painless. However, after this initial phase has worn off, the reality of trying to survive in an unfamiliar culture means that problems soon arise. There are likely to be instances where people can’t get to grips with a certain aspect of life in the new country. This may be confusion over something practical like using public transport, or it could be a fundamental cultural difference such as attitudes towards marriage. Whatever the issue, it can lead people to the realisation that adapting to a new culture isn’t necessarily as simple as they might have imagined, and it’s often at this point that feelings of isolation or disillusionment may emerge.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that most people experience this at some point while living in an unfamiliar culture. Indeed, as well as being a natural feeling, culture shock is essentially an opportunity for personal growth. It’s a period during which a person starts to question everything, hopefully enabling them to start to understand the new culture more. Interestingly, this process also means that people start to question their own existing beliefs and values. That doesn’t mean people automatically reject their old ideas and replace them with new ones, but, certainly, living in an unfamiliar culture does encourage people to analyse ideas that they had previously taken for granted.

The challenging period of adjustment that many people experience when they move overseas is known as ‘culture shock’, and while it can make people feel frustrated or isolated, it’s also considered to be a natural and even useful process since it encourages people to learn more about the new culture, and also reflect on their own beliefs and ideals.

Question 2.

Previously dismissed by many as something solely for teenagers, the rapid surge in popularity of electronic sports (esports), such as video games, has left many people wondering whether now might be the right time to bring this pastime to an even wider audience.

There is certainly a growing movement of people who want to see esports on the global stage by gaining official recognition from sporting bodies. Such a notion would have been entirely unthinkable not so long ago, but now calls for its inclusion in tournaments like the Olympics are starting to be taken more seriously.

These changing perceptions are partly due to the growing body of literature on the merits of esports. As researchers investigate the cognitive, mental and even physical benefits offered by esports, people are coming to the realization that conventional sports and esports have a surprising amount in common. Studies have shown that many of the teamwork and strategic elements found in professional team sports are displayed by elite esports competitors. Moreover, the determination and level of commitment required to succeed in professional sports are also an integral part of esports at the highest level. Even some of the motor skills which are so vital to numerous sports, including hand-eye coordination and quick responses, play a key role in esports.

Nevertheless, while esports is certainly becoming more popular, at present the largest global sporting bodies still remain unconvinced. Although sporting organizations are starting to recognise the commercial potential of esports, they still remain cautious about the idea of it as a ‘true’ sport. There is currently very little prospect of these powerful organizations changing their stance on esports in the immediate future. As for the longer term, it remains to be seen whether we’ll ever have esports events at the Olympics.

Despite the growing evidence that there are parallels to be drawn between the benefits of conventional sports and those of esports, increasing support for the introduction of esports into large-scale international sporting events is unlikely to persuade the powerful governing bodies of sports to change their attitudes towards esports in the immediate future.

Question 3.

The development of antibiotics was a medical breakthrough that saved countless lives throughout the twentieth century. Not only did these drugs help people recover from infections that previously would have been extremely serious, but also, they enabled doctors to perform surgical procedures safely and improve post-operative outcomes for patients.

However, the reality of antibiotic resistance means that there is an urgent need to rethink our attitude to these drugs. A growing body of evidence indicates that certain strains of bacteria are becoming immune to antibiotics. Put simply, when harmful bacteria develop antibiotic resistance, we will no longer be able to use antibiotics to protect ourselves from disease or infections. Whenever bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, they build up their immunity to the active ingredients, and over time, they become completely resistant. At that point, antibiotics can no longer serve their medical purpose. Scientists fear that the consequences of antibiotic resistance have the potential to be catastrophic for us all.

Antibiotic resistance has emerged primarily due to decades of irresponsible behaviour regarding the use of these drugs. Antibiotics were originally intended to be prescribed and used only when absolutely medically necessary, and certainly not for minor complaints. However, in some places, antibiotics are either an over-the-counter drug available for purchase without restriction, or are prescribed to patients on demand.

Overuse of antibiotics is squandering the huge medical benefits these drugs once afforded us. Now, for all our sakes, governments must tighten the rules. At the same time, we all have a part to play by changing our attitudes, and not expecting or demanding access to antibiotics without clear medical justification. Only by taking such measures can we avert this problem.

The development of antibiotics radically improved medical treatment in the twentieth century, saving lives and improving the health of millions of people, but the very real possibility of antibiotic resistance means that unless governments and individuals take urgent steps to address society’s irresponsible use of these drugs, such as unnecessary prescriptions and over-the-counter purchasing, soon we will no longer be able to use them when we need them most.

Question 4.

For obvious reasons, photography as an art form has a much shorter history than traditional fine arts like painting, sculpture or drawing. Nevertheless, it’s still possible for us to describe the development of photography in terms of how it has been inspired over the years by various artistic movements or approaches.

As photography began to gain popularity as an art form in the nineteenth century, some of the contemporary art movements of that time also had an influence on photography. In fact, when we trace the history of fine art since that time, elements of the major artistic styles can also be seen in photography. For instance, in the late nineteenth century, Impressionist painting in France certainly influenced other art forms, including photography. That’s hardly surprising since Impressionism is characterised by its usual use of natural light, colours, and lively composition. Many of these principles are easily transferrable to photography, even if the specific techniques or equipment differ.

Yet at the same time, photography has also developed its own movements and artistic styles. To illustrate, Pictorialism is an approach unique to photography and was concerned with the use of symbols and image manipulation in order to convey a message. Pictorialism promoted photography as an art form that had emotional impact at its core.

Photography as an art form has been influenced by a wide range of artistic movements, not limited only to those associated with art in general, like Impressionism, whose influence was obvious given its focus on light, but also including ones which are unique to photography itself, such as Pictorialism, which appealed to the emotions.

Question 5.

People whose knowledge of economics is limited to seeing financial reports in the media might come to the conclusion that it is an extremely complex subject that requires vast amounts of mathematical knowledge. However, many of the fundamental principles upon which economic theory is based are actually relatively simple. Indeed, many of these principles are ones that we probably apply without thinking in our everyday lives.

One of the most important concepts in economics is the principle of scarcity. Scarcity is essentially the situation where there are not enough resources to meet our requirements. Of course, scarcity affects us all because as we all know, resources are limited. This applies to our own individual resources, such as our personal finances, but also to the world’s natural resources like coal.

The key point about scarcity is that because resources are limited, individuals, organisations and governments are forced to make strategic decisions. When we have limited financial resources, we prioritise certain things over others because we decide that they are the most important things to have. Similarly, governments have to weigh up the pros and cons of every budgetary decision they make. After all, if a government decides to invest in healthcare, then that will inevitably lead to a sacrifice in some other department, such as education or transport.

Although people assume that economic ideas are highly complex, scarcity is an important economic principle which is actually very simple because it refers to how limited resources force us all, both individuals and the state, to make tough decisions about what it is essential for us to have, and what we can manage without.

Question 6.

Environmental issues are never far from the media spotlight, and most of us know that we need to do more to protect nature. However, the fact is that unless companies, especially multinational corporations, are willing to take more measures to make their businesses more sustainable, it’s hard to see how the environment can be preserved for the future.

There’s no question that companies are keen to use environmental issues as a way of boosting their public image. After all, companies know that environmental concerns are now a key factor that influences many consumers’ spending decisions. Companies which can persuade the public that they care about the environment are likely to benefit a lot by gaining more customers.

To be fair to companies, many of them now are at least trying to do business in a way that is more ecologically sustainable. For instance, the retail sector has been making some progress in the fight to reduce plastic waste. Ultimately though, minor adjustments are simply not enough to overturn decades of unsustainable business practice. All the latest studies and statistics show that companies have to reduce their carbon footprints significantly and immediately for the sake of the planet.

While companies have been making efforts to adopt more sustainable business practices, sadly the planet is unlikely to survive unless companies go beyond minor steps which are primarily aimed at attracting more customers, and instead focus on radical strategies to reduce their carbon footprints.

Question 7.

For thousands of years, since the time of Pythagoras, people have known there is a relationship between maths and music. In fact, some universities allow students to study music and maths at the same time because of the relationship between the subjects. People think that studying one subject can help with the other, so students can benefit from doing a degree that involves both.

This relationship is mostly due to patterns. Musical pieces contain patterns that are often repeated. There are common patterns called scales and arpeggios that people who play a musical instrument must learn. Different areas of maths also contain many patterns. For example, when people study different shapes, they are thinking about patterns. You can also find patterns in a series of numbers, such as 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.

However, patterns in both music and maths can be quite boring. That is usually when people expect the pattern. Somebody who listens to a piece of music may be more interested when there is a pattern that they don’t expect. It is this kind of pattern that people remember most. It may also be why people sometimes have an emotional reaction to a piece of music, for example when music makes a person cry.

There is a relationship between maths and music because they both contain patterns and so some people study these subjects at the same time at university; however, mathematical and musical patterns can both be boring unless they contain something that we don’t expect.

Question 8.

The new digital revolution that is coming is likely to have a profound effect on the nature of the way that we work. It is not the first major disruption by technology in our history, but it is likely to be different in one important way. The steam revolution generated more new jobs and opportunities than were lost by people who had worked in artisan crafts before steam took over. When the car arrived, a few horse and carriage companies lost their means of livelihood, but the general changes in the economy that cars brought also created more opportunities. When the computer revolution arrived from the 1960s to the 1980s, few people regretted the loss of a handful of office jobs. It is tempting to believe that the current artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning revolution will follow a similar pattern, but that may not be the case. The pace of change is faster than in previous revolutions, and the agents of change are multiple. It’s not just AI, but robot technology, cloud technology, and other recent developments. These technologies are not just accessible to the lucky few, but millions of talented individuals can experiment with these technologies to produce more and more changes for the future. As a result, the emphasis has shifted from valuing labour, to the importance of future investment. What this means is that the AI revolution is likely to be the first shake-up of the way that we work that does not, in fact, result in generating a larger number of jobs.

Previous technological revolutions all had in common the fact that the number of jobs created by the appearance of the new technology always outnumbered the jobs that became redundant in the new economy, yet the speed of change, the number of new technologies, and the number of people with access to AI suggests that investment, not labour, will matter more in the coming years, and job losses may become common.

Question 9.

William Shakespeare has often been credited for inventing much of the English language. Many of the phrases we use today have their origins in his artistry with words. But for some academics, the influence of Shakespeare goes much wider. Names like Romeo, Juliet or Hamlet evoke very modern images of people who we feel are instantly relatable. The romantic lovers, faithful until death, or the indecisive overthinking of Hamlet are so familiar that to call someone a ‘Romeo’ is enough. We need little further information to understand the man’s underlying character.

To accept that Shakespeare foresaw the fundamental characteristics of modern humanity so many centuries in advance is a little mistaken. Our individual idiosyncrasies are varied, and to suggest otherwise requires the reader to take a rather deterministic view of life. More plausible is the idea that far from anticipating the future of the human character, Shakespeare simply gave us yet more language to describe it. The term ‘Shakespearean’ is synonymous with the idea of tragic greatness and is used by people, whether they have passionately read the works of Shakespeare or not. It could, in fact, be argued that Romeo was not a tragic lover. He had, after all, been madly in love with Rosaline, just hours before declaring his loyalty to Juliet. By many modern standards that actually suggests quite a fickle nature and the opposite of what most people wish for in a romantic partner. The details of Romeo’s character matter little. The point is that the words ‘Romeo’ and ‘Shakespearean’ are what resonates with people in modern society. What interpretations we impose on those terms is a purely modern construction.

Although people still use the names of characters from Shakespeare to imply certain qualities in an individual, it is not necessarily a sign that personalities of individuals have changed little over the generations but instead, it appears that the words themselves have taken on new meanings over the years and it is possible to describe something as ‘Shakespearean’ with no knowledge at all of his original works.

Question 10.

A common experience for international students is the adjustment period when they move to a new environment and have to adapt to completely different educational, cultural or social settings, or a new language. Students can expect to feel anything from excitement and wonder to frustration and confusion, from anywhere between several weeks to several months. The common term for this is ‘culture shock’ and it typically stems from the challenges of learning what is appropriate in your new surroundings and what is not. The positive news is that this learning helps most people to develop a more flexible and open attitude, and with this you will be better able to meet these challenges and benefit from them.

Typically, there are three distinct phases: the honeymoon, distress and recovery. In the initial phase, you enjoy the novelty of everything, feeling excited and confident. Before long, the second phase sets in and you begin to miss your usual way of life and question or even criticise the new environment. Being immersed in a different language starts to exhaust you, and your health may suffer. Fortunately, when you make it to the final phase the result is usually regained confidence and comfortable adjustment. You may even surprise yourself and find a new preference for some aspects of your new home.

In order to reduce the experience of culture shock, there are some simple practices you can follow. Firstly, remember it is very common and there will be others who are going through something similar. You’ll also benefit from sharing your experiences with friends and family. Make sure you keep to a healthy diet and exercise routine and get plenty of rest and recreation. Lastly, join some social clubs and make sure to explore your new home and learn as much as you can about it.

Culture Shock, a typical experience for most international students, consists of three distinct phases (the excited ‘honeymoon’ stage,  a ‘distressed’ period, and a final comfortable time of recovery and acceptance) and its varying emotional states can be alleviated by following some simple practices: remembering you’re not the only one with the problem; incorporating a healthy lifestyle including adequate rest; maintaining an active social life, and embracing your new life and everything it offers.

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