IELTS Academic Reading Sample 84 – In or out?


In or out?

A. British further education colleges did not traditionally have any concerns about student drop-out, because the origins of the sector were in vocational apprenticeship training for employers where the apprentices could net drop out without endangering their job. In the 70s, this sector began to expand into more general education courses, which were seen both as an alternative to school for 16-18-year-olds and a second chance for adults. The philosophy was mainly liberal with students regarded as adults who should not be heavily monitored, but rather free to make their own decisions; It was not uncommon to hear aca­demic staff argue that attendance at classes was purely voluntary.

B. In the 80s, with an increased consciousness of equal opportunities, the focus of the further education colleges moved to widen participation, encouraging into colleges students from previously under-represented groups, particularly from ethnic minorities. This, in turn, led to a curriculum which was more representative of the new student body, For example, there were initiatives to ensure the incorporation of literature by black writers into A-level literature courses; history syllabuses were altered to move beyond a purely Eurocentric view of the world: and geography syllabuses began to look at the politics of maps.

C. A turning point came in 1991 with the publication of a report on completion rates by the government inspection body for education. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for England and Wales, (HMI 1991). However, this report was based on the academic staff’s explanations of why students had left. It suggested that the vast majority left cither for personal reasons or because they had found employment and that only 10% left for reasons that could, In any way, be attributed to the college.

D. Meanwhile, Britain had been going through the Thatcherite revolution and, in parallel to the Reagan politics of the US, a key principle was the need to reduce taxation drastically. At this point (and to a large extent still), further and higher education colleges were almost entirely funded from the public purse, There had been many cuts in this funding through the 80s, but no one had really looked at value for money, However, in the early 90s, the Audit Commission with Office of Standards in Education (OFSTED) (the new version of HMI) turned the spotlight onto further education and published a seminal report, Unfin­ished Business (Audit Commission and OFSTED 1993) which showed that drop-out was happening on a significant scale and, crucially given the politics of the time, attributed a cost to the state of £500 million, arguing that this was a waste of public (i.e. taxpayers) money, To quote Yorke (1999), non-completion became political.

E. The Audit Commission report coincided with government moves to privatize the functions of the state as much as possible; and with the decision to remove further education from the control of local gov­ernment and give it u quasi-dependent status, where colleges were governed by Independ­ent boards of governors bidding to the state for funding to run educational provision, As part of this, a new series of principles for funding and bidding was developed JFEFC 1994) which incorporated severe financial penalties for student drop-out. In essence, the system is that almost all the state funding is attached to the individual student. There is funding for initial advice and guidance, on course delivery arid student achievement, but If the student drops out, the college loses that funding immediately, so that loss of students in the first term leads to an Immediate loss of college funding for the other two terms, Not surprisingly, this focused the concern of colleges immediately and sharply on the need to improve student retention rates.

F. Recently, therefore, there has been considerable effort to improve retention but, as Martinez (1995) pointed out, there was nobody of research on which to base strategies. An ad­ditional complexity was that colleges had been slow to computerise their student data and most colleges were in the position of not knowing what their retention rates were or any patterns involved. Where data did exist it was held separately by either administrative or academic staff with poor communication between these groups. Colleges, however, jumped into h number of strategies bused largely on experience, instinct and common sense and publication of these began. (Martinez 1996, Martinet 1997, Kenwright 1996, Kenwright 1997)

G. The main strategies tried are outlined In the literature as summarised by Martinez (1995). These include sporting activities around entry to ensure “Best Fit”, supporting activities in­cluding child [¡Eire, financial support and enrichment/learner support, connecting activities to strengthen the relationship between the college and the student, including mentoring and tutorials and activities to transform the student, Including raising of expectations and study/career development support and tutoring.

Questions 1-3

Use the information in the text to match each of the years listed (1-3) with one of the Key events ỉn the development of further education (i-vii).

Write the appropriate letters in Boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.

Note that there are more items listed under the key event than years, so you will not use all of them.

1. 1991

2. 1993

3. 1994

Key events in the development of further education

i. Severe penalties for drop-out are developed as part of college funding mechanisms

ii. Serious attempts are made to improve student support

iii. An Influential report showing that non-completion rates are significantly high is published

iv. The lack of a strategical basis is officially recognized

v. The HMI has created

vi. Data oil student completion rates for further education are published

vii. A minor report showing that non-completion is significantly high is published

Questions 4-8

Complete the sentences below.

Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage to fill each blank space.

Write your answers in Boxes 4-8 on your answer sheet.

4. Further education colleges in Britain were originally not worried about student drop-out, because students did not leave college for fear of_______________

5. According to the writer, the philosophy at further education colleges was___________

6. As people became more aware of equal opportunities, colleges encouraged students from underrepresented groups, as a move to

7. The HMI’s report foe used on_____________ completion rates, based on____ of reasons for students’ departure from college.

8. In the early 1990s, the political situation, both in Britain and the US, demanded a drastic__________.

Questions 9-14

Choose the appropriate letters A-D and write them In Buses 944 on your answer sheet,

9. The report Unfinished Business …

A. pointed out the polities of the time

B. gave 1500 mil 11 on to the state

C. linked drop-out lo wasting money

D. turned the spotlight

10. The new series of principles developed in 1994 by the PEPC

A. gave money to each student

B. was quasi-independent

C. meant colleges had to turn their immediate attention to improving student retention rates

D. was aimed fit improving teacher retention rates

11. Attempts to reduce the student drop-out rate were hindered, because …

A. there was a lack of research data on which to base strategies

B. colleges did not know what to do

C. computers in colleges were slow

D. colleges had no patterns

12. Further hindrances in reducing the student drop-out rate were

A. collages slowness in computerising data and tint knowing their retention rates, nor what patterns of retention exited

B. collage inertia and administrative incompetence

C. computer or glitches and strikes, Which occurred at most colleges

D. colleges not knowing their retention rates or where the patterns were

13. Colleges’ strategies to deal with the problem of low retention …

A. brought administrative and academic staff together

B. varied enormously

C. jumped

D. was based on something other than data

14. The main strategies to improve retention included,…

A. “best fit” supporting activities

B. activities to support and transform the Student

C. the raising of College expectations

D. a summary by Martinez


1. Answer: vi, The answer is in paragraph 3. The answer is not v, because there is no mention of when the HMI was created.

2. Answer: The answer is in the fourth paragraph, Note that vii is not possible, because the passage says the report was seminal, i.e. important/influential.

3. Answer: The answer is In paragraph 4.

4. Answer: endangering their Job. The answer is in the first paragraph. The sentence is a paraphrase of the first sentence of the text.

5. Answer: [mainly] liberal. The answer is at the beginning of the last sentence of the first paragraph.

6. Answer: widen/widening participation. The answer is In the second paragraph. Note that the gerund can be changed to the infinitive.

7. Answer: academic staff’s explanation*. The answer is in the second sentence of the third paragraph.

8. Answer: reduction of taxes/tax reduction. The answer is in the first sentence of the fourth paragraph, The verb phrase in the passage needs to be changed Into a noun phrase to fit the sentence given.

9. Answer: The answer is in the fourth paragraph. A is incorrect, as this was not what the report did. B is not right, as the report did not give them money, and D is incomplete.

10. Answer: C. The Answer Is In paragraph 4, A is not right, because the money is not given to the student (it Is given to the college for the student). B. is incorrect, because it was a further education that became quasi-independent, not the principles, and D is not possible, as the text does not say this.

11. Answer: A. The answer can be found in the first sentence of the fifth paragraph. The phrase to reduce the student drop-out rate is a paraphrase of to improve retention. It is important to look out for ways In which sections of the text arc paraphrased In the various types of questions. B, C and D are incorrect because all three contain phrases lifted from the text, but used here in the wrong context.

12. Answer: A. The answer can be found in the second sentence of the fifth paragraph. Note that the sentence gives three complexities, which hinder the reducing of drop­out rates. B is not mentioned in the text, nor Is C. The first element of D Is correct, but the second one is nonsensical,

13. Answer: D. The answer is in the second half of the fifth paragraph. The last sentence answers, i.e. something other than data. A and B arc not stated, and C Is incomplete.

14. Answer: B. The answer is In the final paragraph and is a summary of the examples given. A is a phrase lifted from the text and Is part of two ideas – note the comma in the text. C is incorrect because the passage refers to raising the students’ expecta­tions, not those of the college. D is not correct, because Martinez outlined the strate­gies, so Martinez’s summary included the strategies, and not the other way round.

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