1. News editors decide what to broadcast on television and what to print in newspapers. What factors do you think influence these decisions? Do we become used to bad news, and would it be better if more good news was reported?
It is true that editors have to make difficult decisions about which news stories they broadcast or publish, and their choices are no doubt influenced by a variety of factors. In my opinion, we are exposed to too much bad news, and I would welcome a greater emphasis on good news.
Editors face a range of considerations when deciding what news stories to focus on. Firstly, I imagine that they have to consider whether viewers or readers will be interested enough to choose their television channel or their newspaper over competing providers. Secondly, news editors have a responsibility to inform the public about important events and issues, and they should therefore prioritise stories that are in the public interest. Finally, editors are probably under some pressure from the owners who employ them. For example, a newspaper owner might have particular political views that he or she wants to promote.
It seems to me that people do become accustomed to negative news. We are exposed on a daily basis to stories about war, crime, natural disasters and tragic human suffering around the world. I believe that such repeated exposure gradually desensitises people, and we become more cynical about the world and more sceptical that we can do anything to change it. I would prefer to see more positive news stories, such as reports of the work of medical staff after a natural disaster, or the kindness of volunteers who help in their communities. This kind of news might inspire us all to lead better lives.
In conclusion, it must be extremely difficult for editors to choose which news stories to present, but I would like to see a more positive approach to this vital public service.
(285 words, band 9)
2. Economic progress is often used to measure a country’s success. However, some people believe that other factors are more important. What other factors should also be considered when measuring a country’s success? Do you think one factor is more important than others?
The relative success of different countries is usually defined in economic terms. There are several other factors, apart from the economy, that could be used to assess a country, and in my opinion education is the most important of all.
Standards of education, health and individual human rights should certainly be considered when measuring a country’s status. A good education system is vital for the development of any nation, with schools, colleges and universities bearing the responsibility for the quality of future generations of workers. Healthcare provision is also an indicator of the standard of living within a country, and this can be measured by looking at average life expectancy rates or availability of medical services. Finally, human rights and levels of equality could be taken into account. For example, a country in which women do not have the same opportunities as men might be considered less successful than a country with better gender equality.
In my view, a country’s education system should be seen as the most important indicator of its success and level of development. This is because education has a considerable effect on the other two factors mentioned above. It affects people’s health in the sense that doctors and nurses need to be trained, and scientists need to be educated to the highest levels before they can carry out medical research. It also affects the economy in the sense that a well-educated workforce will allow a variety of companies and industries to flourish, leading to trade with other countries, and increased wealth.
In conclusion, nations can be assessed and compared in a variety of ways, but I would argue that the standard of a country’s education system is the best measure of its success.
(288 words, band 9)
3. Many people prefer to watch foreign films rather than locally produced films.
Why could this be?Should governments give more financial support to local film
It is true that foreign films are more popular in many countries than domestically produced films. There could be several reasons why this is the case, and I believe that governments should promote local film-making by subsidising the industry.
There are various reasons why many people find foreign films more enjoyable than the films produced in their own countries. Firstly, the established film industries in certain countries have huge budgets for action, special effects and to shoot scenes in spectacular locations. Hollywood blockbusters like ‘Avatar’ or the James Bond films are examples of such productions, and their global appeal is undeniable. Another reason why these big-budget films are so successful is that they often star the most famous actors and actresses, and they are made by the most accomplished producers and directors. The poor quality, low-budget filmmaking in many countries suffers in comparison.
In my view, governments should support local film industries financially. In every country, there may be talented amateur film-makers who just need to be given the opportunity to prove themselves. To compete with big-budget productions from overseas, these people need money to pay for film crews, actors and a host of other costs related to producing high-quality films. If governments did help with these costs, they would see an increase in employment in the film industry, income from film sales, and perhaps even a rise in tourist numbers. New Zealand, for example, has seen an increase in tourism related to the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films, which were partly funded by government subsidies.
In conclusion, I believe that increased financial support could help to raise the quality of locally made films and allow them to compete with the foreign productions that currently dominate the market.
(294 words, band 9)
4. These days more fathers stay at home and take care of their children while mothers go out to work. What could be the reasons for this? Do you think it is a positive or a negative development?
It is true that men are increasingly likely to take on the role of househusband, while more women than ever are the breadwinners in their families. There could be several reasons for this, and I consider it to be a very positive trend.
In recent years, parents have had to adapt to various changes in our societies. Equal rights movements have made great progress, and it has become normal for women to gain qualifications and pursue a career. It has also become socially acceptable for men to stay at home and look after their children. At the same time, the rising cost of living has meant that both marriage partners usually need to work and save money before starting a family. Therefore, when couples have children, they may decide who works and who stays at home depending on the personal preference of each partner, or based on which partner earns the most money.
In my view, the changes described above should be seen as progress. We should be happy to live in a society in which men and women have equal opportunities, and in which women are not put under pressure to sacrifice their careers. Equally, it seems only fair that men should be free to leave their jobs in order to assume childcare responsibilities if this is what they wish to do. Couples should be left to make their own decisions about which parental role each partner takes, according to their particular circumstances and needs.
In conclusion, the changing roles of men and women in the family are a result of wider changes in society, and I believe that these developments are desirable.
(274 words, band 9)
5. Happiness is considered very important in life.
Why is it difficult to define?
What factors are important in achieving happiness?
It is no doubt true that the majority of people would like to be happy in their lives. While the personal nature of happiness makes it difficult to describe, there do seem to be some common needs that we all share with regard to experiencing or achieving happiness.
Happiness is difficult to define because it means something different to each individual person. Nobody can fully understand or experience another person’s feelings, and we all have our own particular passions from which we take pleasure. Some people, for example, derive a sense of satisfaction from earning money or achieving success, whereas for others, health and family are much more important. At the same time, a range of other feelings, from excitement to peacefulness, may be associated with the idea of happiness, and the same person may therefore feel happy in a variety of different ways.
Although it seems almost impossible to give a precise definition of happiness, most people would agree that there are some basic preconditions to achieving it. Firstly, it is hard for a person to be happy if he or she does not have a safe place to live and enough food to eat. Our basic survival needs must surely be met before we can lead a pleasant life. Secondly, the greatest joy in life is usually found in shared experiences with family and friends, and it is rare to find a person who is content to live in complete isolation. Other key factors could be individual freedom and a sense of purpose in life.
In conclusion, happiness is difficult to define because it is particular to each individual, but I believe that our basic needs for shelter, food and company need to be fulfilled before we can experience it.
(292 words, band 9)
6. Many people decide on a career path early in their lives and keep to it. This, they argue, leads to a more satisfying working life.
To what extent do you agree with this view?
What other things can people do in order to have a satisfying working life?
It is true that some people know from an early age what career they want to pursue, and they are happy to spend the rest of their lives in the same profession. While I accept that this may suit many people, I believe that others enjoy changing careers or seeking job satisfaction in different ways.
On the one hand, having a defined career path can certainly lead to a satisfying working life. Many people decide as young children what they want to do as adults, and it gives them a great sense of satisfaction to work towards their goals and gradually achieve them. For example, many children dream of becoming doctors, but to realise this ambition they need to gain the relevant qualifications and undertake years of training. In my experience, very few people who have qualified as doctors choose to change career because they find their work so rewarding, and because they have invested so much time and effort to reach their goal.
On the other hand, people find happiness in their working lives in different ways. Firstly, not everyone dreams of doing a particular job, and it can be equally rewarding to try a variety of professions; starting out on a completely new career path can be a reinvigorating experience. Secondly, some people see their jobs as simply a means of earning money, and they are happy if their salary is high enough to allow them to enjoy life outside work. Finally, job satisfaction is often the result of working conditions, rather than the career itself. For example, a positive working atmosphere, enthusiastic colleagues, and an inspirational boss can make working life much more satisfying, regardless of the profession.
In conclusion, it can certainly be satisfying to pursue a particular career for the whole of one’s life, but this is by no means the only route to fulfilment.
(310 words, band 9)
7. There are many different types of music in the world today. Why do we need music? Is the traditional music of a country more important than the international music that is heard everywhere nowadays?
It is true that a rich variety of musical styles can be found around the world. Music is a vital part of all human cultures for a range of reasons, and I would argue that traditional music is more important than modern, international music.
Music is something that accompanies all of us throughout our lives. As children, we are taught songs by our parents and teachers as a means of learning language, or simply as a form of enjoyment. Children delight in singing with others, and it would appear that the act of singing in a group creates a connection between participants, regardless of their age. Later in life, people’s musical preferences develop, and we come to see our favourite songs as part of our life stories. Music both expresses and arouses emotions in a way that words alone cannot. In short, it is difficult to imagine life without it.
In my opinion, traditional music should be valued over the international music that has become so popular. International pop music is often catchy and fun, but it is essentially a commercial product that is marketed and sold by business people. Traditional music, by contrast, expresses the culture, customs and history of a country. Traditional styles, such as …(example)…, connect us to the past and form part of our cultural identity. It would be a real pity if pop music became so predominant that these national styles disappeared.
In conclusion, music is a necessary part of human existence, and I believe that traditional music should be given more importance than international music.
(261 words, band 9)
8. Nowadays the way many people interact with each other has changed because of technology.
In what ways has technology affected the types of relationships that people make?
Has this been a positive or negative development?
It is true that new technologies have had an influence on communication between people. Technology has affected relationships in various ways, and in my opinion there are both positive and negative effects.
Technology has had an impact on relationships in business, education and social life. Firstly, telephones and the Internet allow business people in different countries to interact without ever meeting each other. Secondly, services like Skype create new possibilities for relationships between students and teachers. For example, a student can now take video lessons with a teacher in a different city or country. Finally, many people use social networks, like Facebook, to make new friends and find people who share common interests, and they interact through their computers rather than face to face.
On the one hand, these developments can be extremely positive. Cooperation between people in different countries was much more difficult when communication was limited to written letters or telegrams. Nowadays, interactions by email, phone or video are almost as good as face-to-face meetings, and many of us benefit from these interactions, either in work or social contexts. On the other hand, the availability of new communication technologies can also have the result of isolating people and discouraging real interaction. For example, many young people choose to make friends online rather than mixing with their peers in the real world, and these ‘virtual’ relationships are a poor substitute for real friendships.
In conclusion, technology has certainly revolutionised communication between people, but not all of the outcomes of this revolution have been positive.
(257 words, band 9)