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Exercise 1 

You’re going to hear part of a radio programme about the arts. You will hear the talk twice.

1. THE FIRST TIME, just listen. Then I’ll ask you to tell me generally what the speaker is talking about. Are you ready?

2. THE SECOND TIME YOU LISTEN, make some notes as you listen, if you want to. Then explain the reasons for and against the arts in modern society and the speaker’s conclusion.

It is often said, when governments are struggling for money, that they should cut funding to the arts. In times of financial recession, it is common to see libraries, museums and other arts centres closed down. Those who agree with these decisions argue that the arts do not provide any substantial financial contribution to society, so money should be invested in things such as technological innovation, which is more likely to see big financial returns than a local art gallery and benefit society in the long-term.
In totalitarian regimes, the arts are normally among the first things to suffer, given that part of the dominating ideology of such regimes is to limit freedom of expression. The arts can be seen as dangerous, as a way of indoctrinating or brainwashing people against the government. Artists are often responsible for civil disobedience even in more liberal regimes. And it is true that artists and musicians can often set a bad example to young people who are interested in their work. The use of drugs and alcohol which is so prevalent in such circles is often frowned upon by parents when their children start showing an interest in such artists.
Yet it is precisely because of this type of counter-culture that the arts do still hold such prevalence in modern society. Many young people who perhaps feel alienated or lost can find solace in the arts. Knowing that other people have gone through the same problems as them will let them know that they are not alone, while it also makes it easier for them to meet similar like-minded people who they can form new connections with. Many generations have been defined by the music people listened to and the clothes the most popular artists wore. It would be foolish not to recognise the effect that the arts can have on society.
Besides, the argument that the arts do not contribute financially to a country does not really stand up to inspection. How many people go to New York to visit the museums or musicals there? Or to Barcelona for the architecture? Whenever a famous musician performs in a big city people flock there in their thousands to see them perform. In all of these cases, people will spend their money on accommodation, food and souvenirs, all of which helps to boost the economy.
Perhaps most importantly, the arts is how humans have entertained ourselves for thousands of years. Without being able to read a book, or watch a film, or visit an art gallery, people would not be able to fill their free time. So quite simply, it is clear that a world without the arts would be a much more boring one.

Do we need the Arts?

Answers

Main point/gist: The speaker analyses whether we need the arts in society (any broadly similar formulation is acceptable)

Arguments for Arguments against
Can give people a sense of belonging
Can define generations
Provide money to local economies
A world without the arts would be boring
Don’t produce as much money as technological innovation
Artists often set bad examples to children
Conclusion: The speaker is a strong advocate of the benefits of the arts in society.

Exercise 2

You’re going to hear part of a talk about newspapers. You will hear the talk twice.

1. THE FIRST TIME, just listen. Then I’ll ask you to tell me generally what the speaker is talking about. Are you ready?

2. THE SECOND TIME YOU LISTEN, make some notes as you listen, if you want to.Then explain what the speaker thinks the future of newspapers will be.  

It is common to hear these days that the written press is dying and that we will all be worse off for that, but what is often not clear is why this is happening and what the future will look like. Although statistics show that people still read the news as much as they did in the past, our preferred ways of receiving the news are constantly evolving. No longer is the physical newspaper so dominant, and the days when people would spend a whole morning reading a broadsheet are long gone. Indeed, some newspapers have already taken the step to terminate their print version and now only offer online or app versions of their news. It seems logical to think this will continue in the future as more and more people prefer the convenience of reading something on screen, and as worries mount around the future of the planet, saving paper in this way could be beneficial.
Other dangers to the hegemony of the traditional written press come in the form of blogs and non-mainstream media. While traditional press has to abide by the law in various different ways, the advantage that non-mainstream media has is that the laws regarding what they can and cannot say are much less strict. They can also build up cult followings by publishing in depth on a specific issue, something which mainstream media could never do, given its purpose is to provide mass appeal. There’s no reason to believe that this proliferation of blogs will stop any time soon, and presumably people will still continue to read them, but so far this hasn’t affected the number of people who still receive news from more traditional forms, so even if more blogs do pop up, this trend is unlikely to change.
That’s probably because people by and large still recognise the value of well-sourced, professional journalism. Some blogs can be and indeed are very good, but compared to the consistent quality we can read in our newspapers every day, they are at a totally different level. And while blogs often provide thoughtful opinion pieces, they are no substitute for a professional journalist with hundreds of contacts built up over years of experience who can often break new stories. And it is this ability to break new stories which is why newspapers continue to be so important. It is only through this that those in power can be held to account, and it is through traditional media that people understand what is happening in higher levels of society. History has shown us the value of good quality journalism on many occasions, so although traditional physical newspapers themselves may disappear, the organisations that provide that level of journalism won’t be going anywhere. We will likely experience a change in the format of newspapers, but the news itself will stay relatively similar.

Ethics of Advertising

Answers

Main point/gist: Advertising can be useful and inventive, but it can also go too far in its attempts to sell products any broadly similar formulation is acceptable).

Problems Solutions
Too many adverts – we don’t even know what we want
Advertising betting and alcohol to kids
Knowing our search history and personal details

Fewer advert breaks on TV and radio and only one advert per website
Take them off TV when kids are awake, and don’t put up advertising posters in public
More transparency regarding how they get these details and what they do with them

Exercise 3

You’re going to hear part of a talk about jobs. You will hear the talk twice.

1. THE FIRST TIME, just listen. Then I’ll ask you to tell me generally what the speaker is talking about. Are you ready? 

2. THE SECOND TIME YOU LISTEN, make some notes as you listen, if you want to. Then explain the positives and negatives of teenagers doing part-time jobs and what the speaker’s opinion is. You will hear the talk twice. The fisrt time, just listen

Most countries have different attitudes to part-time work for teenagers. In the USA for example, teenagers are encouraged to work from a very young age, even if it is just in the form of washing cars or taking out the bins. However, in most European countries, students are generally told to focus on their studies and only once they have finished should they look for work. Of course there is no correct answer to this question, as every teenager works in different ways but studies have shown us some rules which would generally be prudent to follow.
Many students would argue that they are too busy to work, given that they are under so much pressure to get good marks at school, and that they would be better off waiting until they have finished their studies before looking for work. And the truth is that some statistics bear this view out. Research shows that students who work around 20 hours per week alongside their studies are more likely to not do their homework, and even skip school. So if teenagers do have part-time jobs, it is clearly important that it is balanced effectively with their studies. Furthermore, a first job can be so important because it will shape a person’s whole view of work from then until the rest of their life. A negative experience might lead a teenager to hate work from a young age.
Nevertheless, there can be numerous advantages of having a part-time job while studying.  While most students often struggle in the transition to adulthood due to their inability to manage their time, teenagers who have worked throughout their school life often have much better time-management skills. Similarly, having a part-time jobs can keep students busy after school, when perhaps their friends are out on the street engaging in more unsavoury activities. Perhaps most importantly, working from such a young age can provide an appreciation of the fact that working hard can lead to financial rewards. Whereas lots of teenagers have to rely on their parents to buy what they want, over 50% of working teenagers expressed that their main reason for part-time work was to be able to afford what they wanted to buy.
Probably the most important factor when it comes to answering this question is the amount of time actually spent working. As previously mentioned, those teenagers who work around 20 hours a week will often struggle at school, indicating that the benefits gained from working are not worth the problems suffered at school, which is still ultimately the most important thing at that stage of life. Students who work around 10 hours a week though can experience the benefits mentioned above and still witness no adverse effects on their studies, indicating that the balance between work and study is the biggest factor.

Part-Time Jobs

Answers

Main point/gist: The positives and negatives of teenagers having a part-time job alongside their studies (any broadly similar formulation is acceptable).

Positives Negatives
Better time-management skills Already under too much pressure at school
Keeps teenagers off the streets Can negatively affect school work and lead to truancy
Financial independence A negative experience can form a negative opinion of work for life
Conclusion: There are advantages and disadvantages, but the most important thing is finding the right balance. If students don’t work too much, they can enjoy the benefits of working without having their studies adversely affected.

Exercise 4

You’re going to hear part of a radio programme about jobs. You will hear the talk twice.

1. THE FIRST TIME, just listen. Then I’ll ask you to tell me generally what the speaker is talking about. Are you ready?

2. THE SECOND TIME YOU LISTEN, make some notes as you listen, if you want to. Then explain how the world would have to change for a world without work to be possible, and if the speaker thinks it would be a good thing and why. You will hear the talk twice. The fisrt time, just listen.

We have all heard that the creation of robots and artificial intelligence is coming along rapidly, and we’re all aware of the science-fiction stories which suggest that they will one day take over the world, but a much more realistic worry is that these machines will take our jobs. So where would that leave us? Well, if we continue using the same basic societal structure that we have used for centuries, it would leave us penniless and unable to feed ourselves. We would have to assume though, that were a situation to arise in which these robots are able to carry out human jobs, we would be able to make the necessary changes to society to allow humans to continue living prosperously.
The first and most important change that would need to happen would be the implementation of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), where everyone would receive enough money to provide for themselves from the government. This would obviously be a radical change from what all of us have known throughout our lives, but experiments with the system carried out in Finland have suggested that the idea has the potential to work. People would need to get used to interacting with robots in daily life, which could bring with it potential problems. But to some extent this process has already started with the widespread implementation of self-service checkouts in supermarkets, when just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable to leave a supermarket without talking to anyone. Our education system would also have to undergo radical change, given that it is currently mainly geared towards providing the skills needed to get a job in the future.
But maybe this would be a necessary change. People have been complaining for years that education these days is all about passing exams and jumping through hoops to get to the next stage, but this could see the reintroduction of learning for the fun of it, simply to expand our knowledge of a variety of subjects. A potential drawback of the system is the argument that people need work as it provides structure to their day and lets them feel they are accomplishing something worthwhile. Certainly there are many cases of people who become less happy in retirement as they miss their work, and when people don’t have jobs it is easy to get depressed precisely because of that lack of structure. But in a world without work, our whole mindset would need to change – instead of needing work to feel fulfilled, we could devote our time to personal projects which would have the dual effect of giving our days purpose and improving ourselves. Whatever actually happens, this is something which governments need to start preparing themselves for. The future could be closer than we think.

Robots’ Rights

Answers

Main point/gist: The potential creation of robots with consciousness, and how they should be treated by humans (any broadly similar formulation is acceptable).

Problems related to creation of robots:

They could take over from humans, or create even more intelligent robots
They would likely be treated badly by humans, even if they are conscious
Governments would struggle to implement laws relating to them

Speaker’s opinion: robots should be given the same rights as humans. If they have consciousness, it is not important whether it is ‘real’ or artificially created by humans.

Exercise 5

You’re going to hear part of a talk about the internet and education. You will hear the talk twice. 

1. THE FIRST TIME, just listen. Then I’ll ask you to tell me generally what the speaker is talking about. Are you ready?

2. THE SECOND TIME YOU LISTEN, make some notes as you listen, if you want to. Then explain how the internet has changed education and how the speaker thinks it will change in the future. You will hear the talk twice. The fisrt time, just listen.

The internet has been the single biggest technological advance of the last 20-30 years, with its impact stretching from how we do our shopping to how we watch TV. Yet perhaps its influence has been felt most keenly in the field of education. Many people still remember what it was like to study before the internet took such a hold on the industry, and the truth is that the two different eras are worlds apart.

Before the internet, practically any piece of work that had to be carried out would be started by a trip to the library. These days, 93% of students find most of their information online. Similarly, the way students organise their group work has been completely revolutionised, seeing as now they can communicate so easily online and share information with a click of a button, whereas previous group work involved arduous treks to other people’s houses, weighed down with books, only to discover that someone else had left a key resource at home.

The internet has also precipitated a huge increase in learning resources, which in the past would have been mainly limited to textbooks in a classroom. As we know that everyone learns in different ways, this multitude of new resources has allowed everyone to learn in the most appropriate way for them. If you don’t like reading textbooks, it is no longer a problem, you can watch a video or do an interactive task online instead. We now have so many materials that we are almost spoilt for choice. This has the potential to lead to a paperless education some day, something which many people would be keen to see given how much paper is used on learning resources today. This could turn out to be the most important impact of the internet one education due to the effect that it could have on putting the brakes on climate change.

Furthermore, online courses have democratised education to a massive extent. Gone are the days when your location had as much of an effect on your education as your intellectual ability. Nowadays, as long as you have an internet connection, you can study. This has to some extent changed the role of the teacher though. Whereas before the internet the teacher’s word would have been gospel, this democratisation means that everyone now has a voice, and with online courses it could be argued that the value of the teacher has been lessened to some extent. It would be no surprise to see this trend continue in the future.

Internet and Education

Answers

Most information online – no need to go to the library
Group work much easier – all preparation can be done online
Many more learning resources so everyone can learn in the best way for them
Democratisation of education – anyone can study no matter where in the world they are.
Could see a paperless education in the future which would help stop global warming
Role of the teacher could be diminished in the future

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