top of page

Reading and Use of English

Part 6 Reading passage



You are going to read a magazine article about an expat coming back home. For questions 31-36, choose the answer (A, B, C or D) which you think fits best according to the text.

Madrid, my home sweet home

It took a long time, but expat Isabel Eva Bohrer is finally ready to call Madrid her home

“Back home!” Whenever I board and disembark a plane, I make a point of texting my family about the status of my travels. The Iberia flight from Munich, where I grew up, to Madrid, where I had been living for two years, had been on time. “That’s a surprise”‘, I thought — the Spanish airline is notorious for its delays and strikes. Yet when I hit the ‘send’ button of my phone, I was caught even more profoundly by surprise. For the first time, I had referred to Madrid as my home.

As expats, we are bound to reflect on the notion of home at one point or another. Where is home? For many expats, the concept isn’t black or white. Home involves numerous gray areas, including family and friends, memories, language, religion, lifestyle, culture and more. Having lived abroad in the United States, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Switzerland and France, among others, I knew what it was like not to feel at home. In the United States, not having a Social Security Number made me an outsider, causing numerous inconveniences, such as not being able to get a phone contract with certain providers. In Brazil, not speaking the language perfectly had made me uneasy as I sensed that people talked behind my back.

In Spain, my blonde hair and fair skin clearly marks me as not a native. And yet, over the course of two years, I have managed to feel at home in the Spanish capital. My unpretentious apartment in the barrio de Salamanca — as opposed to the waterproof tent I had lived in while working on an organic farm in the Argentine Patagonia — allowed me to unload my baggage, both physically and mentally. Instead of having to gather wood for the night’s fires, as I had done when hiking in the South American mountains, I could settle down and focus on my professional goals as a writer.

But the feeling of home transcends the mere fact of having a somewhat permanent place to live. It is a mental sensation of equilibrium that is achieved over time. For me, feeling at home in Madrid has been a slow progressing relationship. The city initially made my acquaintance as a child: I had attended several summer camps to improve my language skills. At age 16, I completed an internship at an architecture firm in the north of the city. And at age 22, the capital and I hit a home run: I came back for good, moving in to my current piso (apartment). Slowly but surely, I learned to live the Spanish lifestyle. Dealing with cantamafanas (literally translated as “those who sing tomorrow”) is the quotidian routine here.

As a natural optimist, I continue to believe in all the positive aspects of living in Madrid. If sports ignite your spirit, Spaniards will welcome you to cheer along — the third-straight crowning of the Spanish football team at Euro 2012 was unprecedented. Unparalleled, too, is the nightlife, which will enthral flamenco lovers and clubbing addicts alike. At 8 a.m. you can watch the sun rise with chocolate con churros. In fact, the culinary joys never seem to sleep in Spain. There are tapas bars open at all hours, too many to enumerate. For the best bacalao (cod fish) in town, try Casa Labra, and the Bar Los Caracoles near the Rastro flea market for some Spanish escargot.

From the azure sky, my glance returned to the SMS on my phone: “Glad to hear you arrived safely,” my family had texted back. Though they referred to that particular Munich-Madrid flight, I read the message as a more universal interpretation of the expat lifestyle. As expats, we undergo a period of ambiguity, in which we always feel like those who have just arrived. But if you give your new destination a chance, it can eventually become your home.


31 What is most unexpected for the writer?
A the early arrival of a plane that is usually late
В something she subconsciously includes in a message
C a difficult question she is asked by her family
D the respect other travellers give her


32 Feeling comfortable in another country isn’t easy if
A you are not accepted by the local people
В you are always moving on
C you are out of touch with your family
D you have some official problems


33 The writer compares her accommodation in Madrid and Patagonia to focus on
A expenses
В practicalities
C health problems
D ethical issues


34 What does the writer say about feeling at home in Madrid?
A It didn’t happen quickly
В It depended on finding a good place to live
C It was a result of becoming proficient in Spanish
D It required an acceptance of a slower lifestyle


35 According to the writer, which aspect of Spanish culture gives both traditional and modern experiences?
A sport
В food
C shopping
D nightlife


36 The writer believes that expats are often
A disappointed by their new life
В insecure in the first few months
C anxious about their decision to move
D unlucky in their choice of destination

Image by Joshua Lawrence
Image by Richard R. Schünemann

Part 6 Reading


You are going to read extracts from four reviews of a book about the way children are brought up. For questions 37-40, choose from the reviews A-D. The reviews may be chosen more than once.

Kith: the riddle of the childscape by Jay Griffiths

Four reviewers comment on Jay Griffiths’ new book.

In this new book, Jay Griffiths draws the familiar but erroneous conclusion that traditional societies and tribes treat nature and children better than modern ones. She is no anthropologist, writing more like a romantic poet about nature and people’s identification with the place they grow up in. To justify her admiration for tribal practice, she cites a 2007 UNICEF report that ranked the UK lowest among 21 industrialised countries for the well-being of its children. No analysis of this finding is provided, however. Instead, a single idea of lost childhood freedom is dressed up in excessively poetic, at times, absurd language, and applied to various cultures. According to Griffiths, what children in Britain and similar countries lack is access to nature and the freedom to express their true selves in it. The idea of ‘kith’, an attachment to your ‘home territory’ is an interesting one, but the claims she makes about children’s development are too often illogical and unsupportable.

In a 2007 UNICEF report, the UK came last among 21 industrialised countries for the well-being of its children. Jay Griffiths’ question is: why do they feel so unhappy? Her main answer, passionately and eloquently expressed, is that they are ‘imprisoned’ indoors in front of their TV or computer screens and have lost contact with their kith – the woods, mountains, rivers, streams and wilds of their home territory. There’s definitely something in this idea, but the trouble is that Griffiths pursues it in ways that simply don’t hold up. Part of the problem is that she regards children as originally innocent and good, and that these characteristics are suppressed by the restrictions imposed on them. As parents have known for millennia, however, children are far more complex than that. She is also guilty of selective deployment of evidence. That same UNICEF report found that children in the UK are healthier and safer than ever before, for example.

Jay Griffiths is a self-confessed romantic, believing in the innate purity of children and a need for them to be close to nature, mystery and risk and be gloriously free. She warns us, however, that children in the West today are caged indoors and deprived of their ‘kith’, a natural domain of woodland, play, solitude, animals, adventure and time to daydream, it’s a fascinating proposition, fluently and vividly delivered. But this book is also deeply frustrating. Griffiths ignores all the science that shows that children are, in fact, far from being the simple innocents of romantic tradition. She also fails to provide convincing evidence for her assertion that children in Euro-American cultures are less happy than other children. She refers to a UNESCO report on children’s well-being in the UK, Spain and Sweden to support her argument about the importance of the outdoors. That report, however, finds that well-being depends on many factors like time with family, good relationships with friends, involvement in creative and sporting activities, as well as being outdoors.

In Euro-American culture, argues Griffiths, infants often lack closeness with their parents and wider families, which leaves psychological scars. Simultaneously, older children are controlled, denied access to natural spaces and pushed through a school system designed to produce employees but not psychologically rounded citizens. Parents refuse to let children play outdoors for fear of over-hyped risks, and in so doing, deny children access to the outer worlds of private, unwatched play so vital to their psychological development. The natural playgrounds of childhood, the fields and woods, have been lost to most children. The result, as the UNICEF surveys of well-being that Griffiths’ quotes reveal, is a generation of children who are unhappy and unfulfilled. Her warning message is made particularly compelling by the rare vitality and admirable energy in Griffiths’ writing.



Which scientist …

37 has a different opinion from the others about Griffiths’ style of writing?
38 shares reviewer A’s view of the way Griffiths develops her ideas about the treatment of children?
39 expresses a different view from the others about the use Griffiths makes of data gathered internationally about children?
40 has a similar opinion to reviewer В about Griffiths’ depiction of children’s basic nature?

Part 7 Reading


You are going to read an article about an outstanding individual. Six paragraphs have been removed from the article. Choose from the paragraphs A-G the one which fits each gap (41-46). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.

Jonah Lehrer: the prodigy who lights up your brain

There is a moment familiar to anyone who has ever frittered away innocent hours watching old cartoons. It occurs when Wile E Coyote, Elmer Fudd, Popeye or any of dozens of animated characters gets a sudden moment of insight. With a flash, a light bulb appears above their heads, shining brightly to illuminate the darkness of whatever dilemma they faced. Aha!

41 …

That little nugget of information – blending culture and science – is the essence of the remarkable rise of Jonah Lehrer. He is a contributing editor at Wired, has published three books, is a prolific blogger and counts publications from the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post as home. The New York Times has called him a ‘popular science prodigy’ and the Los Angeles Times once hailed him ‘an important new thinker’.

42 …

Lehrer’s own ‘aha moment’ came while he worked in the laboratory of acclaimed neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel. As Lehrer helped in Kandel’s lab on a project to study the molecular links between smell and memory, he was well on his way to one important discovery. ‘What I discovered was that I was a terrible scientist,’ he later told one interviewer.

43 …

That was the end of Lehrer’s prospects as a scientist but the beginning of a writing career acting as an interpreter between two worlds: the sciences and the humanities. After he graduated from Columbia in 2003, he became a Rhodes scholar, travelling to Oxford. He arrived with a plan to study science but rapidly changed it to literature and theology.

44 …

There is no doubt Lehrer is very smart. He was born on 25 June 1981 in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Los Feliz. His father, David, is a civil rights lawyer and his mother, Ariella, developed educational software. It was a happy, middle-class home under sunny Californian skies with parents that encouraged their son’s manic curiosity.

45 …

Prompted by a baffling moment trying to pick out a box of Cheerios on an aisle crowded with scores of different cereal brands, Lehrer looked at human decision-making. He took dramatic individual decisions – a pilot landing a stricken plane, a Superbowl pass, a poker playing physicist – and looked at the neurology behind them. He examined how different parts of the brain took on different decisions and how that made an impact on the world.

46 …

Art and human emotions — all our failures, foibles and triumphs – may just be chemicals and firing neurons but Lehrer’s words make them sing all the same.

A That tome was followed up by a third offering in the shape of Imagine, which looks at how neurology and creativity interact. Far from showing how innovations come to one-off geniuses, he reveals how solid science lies behind the creative process, which can be understood neurologically and thus nurtured.

В But no matter. For Lehrer had started reading Marcel Proust on his way to work; in particular, he became engrossed with Proust’s explorations of how smell could trigger memory. Lehrer once described the moment thus: “I realised that Proust and modern neuroscience shared a vision of how our memory works.”

C “I remember Mom patiently listening as I prattled on about my latest interests” Lehrer told me. An interest in science was always there. He recalled stepping into a lab for the first time. “It seemed like a magician’s lair” he said. He followed up on Proust by diving further into the borderland between neurology and human experience in 2009’s How We Decide.

D After shining at school, Lehrer went to Columbia, where he met his wife-to-be, Sarah Liebowitz, in a Shakespeare class. She went with him to Britain, where she worked for the Boston Globe’s London bureau. They have an eleven-month daughter called Rose and the family lives in the Hollywood Hills.

E All of which is not bad for someone who is only thirty. Lehrer’s stock-in-trade is the boundary between science and the humanities. He strives to link art and neurology: how chemical reactions within three pounds of squidgy grey matter inside our skulls actually make us love, laugh and lead our lives.

F He also ended up living in London. It was here he began to work on his first book, Proust was a neuroscientist, which was published in 2007, and began a successful journalism career. Lehrer took a look at numerous cultural figures and studied how their work foreshadowed the research of neuroscience.

G It is harmless fun. But, according to popular science wunderkind Jonah Lehrer, also literally true. There is indeed a part of the brain associated with a sudden ‘aha moment’ of the type linked to key breakthroughs of luminaries such as Isaac Newton and Archimedes. When you get a sudden insight, it registers a huge spike in activity, just like that light bulb.

Brain Sketch
Image by Jayy Torres

Part 4 Use of English


For questions 25-30, complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence, using the word given. Do not change the word given. You must use between three and six words, including the word given. Here is an example (0).

0 It’s impossible that you saw John last night — he’s in the USA!
John’s in the USA, so you can’t have seen him last night.

25 I am confident that he will be successful in his career.
I am confident _______________ in his career.

26 If you feel stressed, breathing slowly should calm you down.
Breathing slowly _______________ if you feel stressed.

27 I am really bad at remembering people’s names when I meet them.
I _______________ people’s names when I meet them.

28 He lost his job because he was inefficient.
He lost his job _______________ his inefficiency.

29 I’m sorry that I didn’t help him.
I _______________ him.

30 I couldn’t go away for the weekend because I didn’t have enough money.
I was _______________ for the weekend by lack of money.

bottom of page