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Test 1 / 25


Finding someone with whom you’d like to spend the rest of your life is never easy. All sorts of different strategies have been used, throughout the ages. In some countries, young people marry a person chosen for them by their parents, and sometimes these arranged marriages work very well. Then again, sometimes they don’t.


It becomes more difficult when there are questions of money, or of distance. Perhaps the man’s family is rich, and the girl’s family is poor. Perhaps it may be the other way round.

And then you have to think of the families. Perhaps they live in different parts of the world. From Greece to South Africa, for example, is a long, long way, and the flight can take hours, and be very tiring. The man in the window seat put away his papers.


He left the plane at Athens, and I was not sorry to see him go. Johannesburg was another twelve hours away. I would have to think of some way to pass the time, or i’d go crazy.

I had not travelled through Athens before, so I ran down the steps from the plane to put my foot for the first time on Greek soil. I felt a chill run down my spine. I thought back two and a half thousand years.


Did those great writers, Euripides and Aristophanes, once walk where I walked now? Did they see these same white and gold hills, breathe this same air? It seems incredible to me now.

It was late afternoon, and a soft summer light lay on those distant white hills. The smell of hot engine oil was everywhere. I told myself I could smell the sweet clean air of ancient Greece. I was not looking at the faceless passengers hurrying into a crowded airport. My mind was in a different time. I could only see girls with flowers in their hair.


They were moving with a slow hypnotic rhythm and you couldn’t take your eyes off them.

I had to board my plane again. At the entrance to the airport building, a few bright flowers grew in dry, dusty soil. A young man with bad teeth stopped to offer me picture postcards of Athens. Then a bewildered little group of men and women came into the airport building. The men were all dressed in their poor best clothes.


The women, busy chatting to each other, each carried something, and they all had faces that had seen too much sun, and now showed the passing of the years.

A young girl at their centre, wearing a yellow suit which looked uncomfortably new, stared around her at the strangeness of everything. She looked straight at me with the same bewilderment, smiled and turned away. Her face had a beauty that was centuries old.


There was a circle of white star-like flowers in her long black hair. She must have come down from the heavens, because the contrast between her and her group was stunning. How could such beauty grow in such poor surroundings? I smiled

Back to the time of ancient Greece.One of them carried a cheap suitcase.He had been studying them since they had taken off.I had studied here many years ago.They were dancing to ancient music, for ancient gods.She had large dark eyes, a short straight nose, and a lovely mouth.They may not work out for several reasons.
Test 2 / 25

The Train To Berlin

The train was really flying along now. The buildings, fields and trees all seemed to race by. A bridge shot past the window. Hiro was lost in his thoughts about the life he had left behind.


Too much had happened for that to be possible. Suddenly he was taken out of his thoughts by the noise of the train passing through a station. Not being sure of where they were, he put his face nearer the glass to see the name.

He tried to stop himself from thinking about the past. He knew it would do no good as some of his memories were just too painful. He looked around the carriage and tried to take his mind off things. The new life he was about to start confused him a bit. He saw his reflection in the window.


He had recently broken up with his girlfriend, although that was the very last thing he had wanted to do. Things seemed to happen without allowing him any control.

He forced his thoughts back to the carriage. Where were they? He knew they’d left Belgium and were in Germany now because he’d seen a sign just before the last station. Hiro felt the bulge in his jacket pocket and hoped the book would change his mood.


It was an American thriller which he’d brought with him to practise his English. It forced him to concentrate, and with two violent murders already, it was quite exciting. He was glad, now, that he had decided to bring it, because it helped pass the time.

His mind kept moving onto other things, and he was powerless to stop it. He put the book back into his pocket, and his hand brushed his phone. Without thinking, he took it out and opened it. The screen came to life. For a moment or two he looked at his screensaver. That familiar smiling face that he was so fond of was now just unbearable.


He would have to make many adjustments, he thought, with a tinge of sadness. How could he have lost control of his well-organized life? He realized should have been paying more attention.

Then a man with silvery-grey hair, wearing a grey raincoat got on. He was pulling a small suitcase on wheels. He stopped some way down the train and spoke to one of the people there. He looked up and gave Hiro a wide toothy smile.


He reminded him of a shark. That smile didn’t look right on that face, and the face didn’t look right on that body.

He continued on down the train towards him. Hiro hoped the man would walk past, but he didn’t. He put his suitcase in the rack above and took his seat. He nodded his head politely and turned his head to look out of the window, while Hiro continued to study him closely. Something about the man frightened Hiro and he wondered if he should change seats.


He almost got up, but for some reason decided to stay in his seat. Nothing could happen on a public train, could it?

He realised things would never be the same again.There was something about him that made Hiro uncomfortable.He would have to change it.It surprised him how easy it was to see the sadness in his face.Hiro didn’t care if that looked rude.She had given it to him as a gift.He took it out and read a few lines.