B2 First (FCE)
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Test 1 / 42

Variation in English

When foreign learners of English first come to the British Isles, they are usually surprised, and often dismayed, to discover how little they understand of the English they hear. For one thing, people seem to speak faster than expected. Also, the English that most British or Irish people speak seems to be different in many ways from the English the visitor has learnt. While it is probably differences of pronunciation that will immediately strike them, learners may also notice differences of grammar and vocabulary.

Their reactions to this experience will vary. They may conclude that most of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish people that they hear do not – or even cannot – speak English correctly. In this they would find that many native speakers agree with them. They might even be told that, since learners of English as a foreign or second language have usually studied English in a formal way, they should know better than would native speakers what is ‘correct’.

Test 2 / 42

The Scottish people

By world standards – even by the standards of Europe and North America – Scots are a very well-educated people. And although the location of Scotland, tucked away in a distant corner of Europe, might have once kept Scots out of touch with the rest of the world, they have had, since the 18th century, a distinctly global outlook. Generations of Scottish emigration means that few Scots are without relatives in countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Africa, or America.

The Scots view of themselves is often quite difficult for visitors to understand. That view tends to be a mixture of outrageous pride and incredible cynicism. It’s a complex mixture. The complete Scottish patriot is a far rarer person than would be found in other countries such as America. And yet, any Scot who|that completely writes off Scotland will be intensely disliked.

Test 3 / 42

Apple Computer

“APPLE II WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK about computers,” read a 1977 ad for a new “personal” computer – and that proved to be true. Personal computing wasn’t just a matter of making computers small and cheap enough for individuals to buy. That had already been achieved in 1975 by the Altair 8800, a build-your-own computer kit selling for $397 that launched a craze among hobbyists. But the Altair computer without a keyboard or monitor, required all programs to be entered laboriously through switches on the front panel.

It displayed the results with sequences of flashing lights. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple’s founders, realised that computers could find a wider audience if they were presented in a self-contained unit, with a keyboard, monitor, and storage device. Their first computer, the Apple, had been a crude device that they assembled by hand in Jobs’ parents’ garage, and they sold only about 200 of them. But the Apple II, launched in 1977 with the help of a $250,000 bank loan, was the user-friendly package they had envisioned.

Test 4 / 42

Printer pioneer Johannes Gutenberg

Before Gutenberg (1394 – 1468), all books had to be copied by hand. The so-called ‘manuscripts’ of medieval times were laboriously hand-written, usually by monks who|that devoted years to the work. Earlier attempts had been made to produce printing ‘blocks’. The designs on playing cards for example were carved from wooden blocks which were inked and then printed onto cards. There are even examples of whole pages in books being hand-carved and printed.

Gutenberg, however, came up with the idea of printing using, not whole page blocks, but letter blocks. because he was a goldsmith by trade, he knew how to mould metal into whatever shape was needed. He made thousands of tiny blocks of ‘type’, each with a letter raised on it, which could be lined up and clamped into position in a ‘forme’ (page block). The type could be linked,  paper laid on top, and the whole thing compressed by turning a handle. When released, the paper had the page printed on it. Years of work went into this invention. Gutenberg had to make the letters, develop an ink which would cling to metal (most didn’t), build the forme, and above all find the money to do all this while not working as a goldsmith.