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Reading Section

Reading Passage 1

You should spend about 30 minutes on Questions 1-15 which are based on Reading Passage I below.

Solving traffic jams - no quick fix

In most cities, however modern, there are peak times when delays form a part of everyday life. Apart from the inconvenience, stress, frustration, increase in accidents and inhibited response of emergency vehicles, the cost to the individual and to the state in terms of lost business is enormous. One estimate put the cost of traffic congestion to the UK between 2013 and 2030 at over €300 billion. Logically speaking, then, any investment that comes in at less than that figure will pay dividends. However, it is not that simple.

It would seem sensible to build more roads, of course. The cost of doing this per kilometre ranges roughly between €4-30 million. Construction in built-up areas will naturally be at the higher end of the scale, probably exceeding it at times. But the cost is not limited to the road itself - other costs include bridges, overpasses, underpasses, lighting and signposting. Then there is maintenance, for which a fixed annual figure must be budgeted. To give an idea of this, the typical cost of cleaning graffiti off a signpost would be somewhere in the region of €75, while its replacement following an accident would be €300. This is small change compared to routine road repairs and spot patching due to potholes, for example. A complete resurfacing needs to be done about every 10 years, although there are cases where this is reduced to two years because of poor-quality materials or workmanship.

Widening existing roads carries with it many of the costs of building new ones, with the exception that there will be fewer compulsory purchase orders on properties bordering the road, and less demolition will be involved. However, there is typically very little margin between existing roads and roadside properties, many of which will be expensive. One benefit to widening something that already exists is that it is unlikely that there will be new archaeological discoveries. These can be the kiss of death to any urban planning, as time is always added on to enable researchers to recover artefacts. In extreme cases, roads have to be diverted around particularly valuable finds. A major disadvantage to widening is the upheaval caused by closing a major road while work is carried out.

Perhaps a more compelling argument against building new roads or widening existing ones is the message that this sends to road users. In a time when many cities are trying to get their inhabitants to leave the car at home and use public transport, wide, modern roads will encourage more car drivers into the city. In just about every case documented, new roads built for a certain capacity of traffic are operating over their projected capacity within a very short space of time. Bucking this trend are roads where a toll is charged, or roads in cities where some form of congestion charge or other limitation is in place. Where these are involved, many argue that we are unfairly punishing residents, commuters and businesses.

If we take the bold step of moving away from roads for mass transit, leaving the roads free for residents, lorries, buses and emergency services, the most logical solution is an extensive underground rapid-transport rail network. Picturesque historical cities can be unmolested, businesses face fewer interruptions, and pollution levels improve. At the same time, millions of passengers are criss-crossing under the city. The benefits really are huge, but then so is the investment. Political and community pressure usually mean tunnels cannot be built using the cut and cover method, so they have to be cut using deep-bore techniques, and that makes the cost astronomical. The figures I quoted above per kilometre Would be counted in the hundreds of millions of euros. Extensions to the New York subway have exceeded the billion-euro mark per kilometre.

Elevated projects - such as monorails - are cheaper than underground ones, and they cause less disruption at ground level than road-widening schemes. Yet the technology and investment involved in these has proved daunting for all but the most progressive city authorities, who face criticism over the aesthetics of a transport system that is very much a feature of the urban landscape and thus not to everyone’s liking.

Trams, trolleybuses and regular buses are familiar in many cities because little needs to be done to an existing infrastructure, so their introduction is by far the easiest and most trouble-free. The downside is that, since they run alongside other road transport, they are subject to all the inconveniences they face, even when they are given partial right of way in the form of traffic-control measures or dedicated bus lanes.

Urban light rail projects are popular solutions in many cities. These can take the form of trains or trams. An improvement on buses when they are legally granted exclusive right of way and are not hindered by congestion, they are a reliable means of transport for commuters within a city. Their capital costs (extremely low compared to underground networks, though more than buses) enable fares to be kept within reasonable limits, further encouraging people to use them; they also have very good safety and reliability records.

Questions 1-9

Match each item with the transport solutions described in the text. Choose the correct transport solution. You may choose a transport solution more than once and it is possible that some transport solutions will not be used.
1. Developers can avoid the delays caused when items of historical interest are found during construction.(Required)
2. The rate of harm to the environment is reversed.(Required)
3. Objections are made on the grounds that the appearance of the city is spoiled.(Required)
4. This solution sometimes solves overcrowding by introducing a charge that did not exist before.(Required)
5. There is a cheaper method of construction, but many are against it.(Required)
6. Less property has to be knocked down to make way for this solution.(Required)
7. Legislation is needed before this solution can be fully exploited.(Required)
8. With this solution, planners routinely underestimate the number of users.(Required)
9. This solution is popular because it does not interfere with the beauty of old cities.(Required)

Questions 10-15

Complete the summary below.

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

10. People travelling around the majority of cities are regularly delayed ______ of the day.

11. €75 represents _____ a signpost.

12. When builders find things of great significance underground, new roads must _____.

13. The writer thinks the worst thing about improving the road network is that it does not encourage people who live there to _____.

14. Trams, trolleybuses and regular buses use the _____ so their use is relatively straightforward.

15. Urban light rail is most efficient when it is given the ____ over other forms of transport.

Reading Passage 2

You should spend about 30 minutes on Questions 16-28 which are based on Reading Passage 2 below.

Our attitude to global threats

A One of the things the Internet is good at is presenting doomsday scenarios, and this is most likely to be because they are both shocking and entertaining, a little like the pleasure derived from watching horror films. People tend to dip in and out of this, with very few dwelling permanently in the fear of impending doom. In other words, we embrace the idea of the end of the world for a short time, get a cheap thrill, and then, in the same way as we turn the lights back on after a thriller, we return to the safe haven of our normal life. Nevertheless, we’ve been predicting the end of the world for a very long time, and the possibility of a major catastrophe happening in our lifetime is a strangely compelling one.
B Some analysts have said our fascination with the end of the world stems from boredom - our lives are so humdrum that we need to feel that there is a very real threat to it in order to appreciate life. It’s certainly true that, provided you can get people to listen, they’re more likely to join a campaign to ban carbon emissions, or nuclear power, if you tell them that the consequences of not taking action include the end of life as we know it. It sort of makes them take notice.
C It also gives us a heightened sense of our own importance to think that the whole planet might be destroyed in our lifetime. This is to ignore huge chunks of the planet’s existence. If we look at the big picture, for the first billion years of the Earth’s existence - just under a quarter of its life - there was nothing living here. Nothing at all. For the following two quarters, up until about a billion years ago, the life that did exist was not intelligent. Human existence on the planet? A mere 200,000 years. That as a percentage of the age of the universe? 0.03%. So, for 99.97% of the time since the beginning of the universe, humans didn’t exist. It was statistically much more likely that the Earth would have been destroyed before humans inhabited it - or that it might not have been formed at all - than that it should come to an end during our lifetime or even during the whole of human existence.
D We can discount wild, groundless prophecies that routinely fail to come to pass. The things that many fear most are often not at the top of the list of biggest threats either. This is because our imagination is not very realistic when it comes to fear. Nor is fear always rational, so a believer in a coming alien invasion or zombie apocalypse might be surprised - disappointed even - to find that the end of civilisation is probably not going to come from those two. Statistically, the chances are miniscule. Aliens aren’t even in the top ten. Neither are zombies. Relax - there are plenty of other more mundane threats.
E What, then, are the global threats that we should be taking seriously? According to the Global Challenges Foundation, they include threats from extreme climate change, nuclear war, global pandemic, major asteroid impact, supervolcano and artificial intelligence (which turns against humanity, perhaps because it no longer needs us). It is important to point out, though, that these threats are calculated on the basis of how likely the whole of civilisation is going to be destroyed by any one of the above in the next 100 years. We can prepare for some of these having less than total destruction, but that’s about all.
F The World Economic Forum takes a slightly different approach. In its annual report, it produces, among other things, a list of risks in terms of likelihood. Recent top risks included extreme weather events, major natural disasters, large-scale terrorist attacks and massive incidents of data fraud. In the decade between 2007 and 2017, risks related to the economy have regularly featured in its top five. You will notice that, catastrophic though these may be, they are hardly likely to bring about the end of civilisation as we know it. Yet these are the immediate threats we should be preparing for.

Questions 16-21

Reading Passage 2 has six sections, A-F. Choose the correct heading for each section
16. Paragraph A(Required)
17. Paragraph B(Required)
18. Paragraph C(Required)
19. Paragraph D(Required)
20. Paragraph E(Required)
21. Paragraph F(Required)

Questions 22-28

Complete the summary below. Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

The genuine threats that we need to be taking seriously include climate change, war, pandemic, 22___________impact, and volcanic eruption, although it should be stressed that these are only expressed as the chances of 23 _________civilisation being wiped out in the next 24______. Also, on the list is 25 ___________attacking humanity because we are surplus to requirements. Providing that there is not 26________, we can prepare to some extent. More likely events are not expected to lead to the 27 _________, but we can prepare for them. They cover weather, natural disaster and terrorism, as well as problems related to the economy and 28 ________ .

Writing Task

Write about ONE of the following topics:


Many people in education argue that examinations are the only objective way to assess a student’s progress. Others claim that examinations are unfair on people who suffer from exam nerves. They also say that examinations are not the best way to encourage creativity among students.

What do you think is the best way to assess students?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.



Most car owners appreciate the freedom that driving a car gives them. However, a large number of people feel that public transport is the only sensible option for travelling around a large city.

Do you think people should be encouraged to use public transport when travelling around a city?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.