IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 3 | Man or Machine | How To Reduce Employee Turnover | Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Man or Machine
During July 2003, the Museum of Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts exhibited what Honda calls ‘the world’s most advanced humanoid robot’, ASIMO (the Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). Honda’s brainchild is on tour in North America and delighting audiences wherever it goes. After 17 years in the making, ASIMO stands at four feet tall, weighs around 115 pounds and looks like a child in an astronaut’s suit. Though it is difficult to see ASIMO’s face at a distance, on closer inspection it has a smile and two large ‘eyes’ that conceal cameras. The robot cannot work autonomously – its actions are ‘remote-controlled’ by scientist through the computer in its backpack. Yet watching AIMIO perform at a show in Massachusetts it seemed uncannily human. The audience cheered as ASIMO walked forwards and backwards, side to side and up and downstairs. After the show, a number of people told me that they would like robots to play more of a role in daily life – one even said that the robot would be like ‘another person’.
While the Japanese have made huge strides in solving some of the engineering problems of human kinetics and bipedal movements, for the past 10 years scientists at MIT’s former Artificial Intelligence (AI) lab (recently renamed the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, CSAIL) have been making robots that can behave like humans and interact with humans. One of MIT’s robots, Kismet, is an anthropomorphic head and has two eyes (complete with eyelids), ears, a mouth, and eyebrows. It has several facial expressions, including happy, sad, frightened and disgusted. Human interlocutors are able to read some of the robot’s facial expressions, and often change their behavior towards the machine as a result – for example, playing with it when it appears ‘sad’. Kismet is now in MIT’s museum, but the ideas developed here continue to be explored in new robots.
Cog (short for Cognition) is another pioneering project from MIT’s former AI lab. Cog has a head, eyes, two arms, hands and a torso – and its proportions were originally measured from the body of a researcher in the lab. The work on Cog has been used to test theories of embodiment and developmental robotics, particularly getting a robot to develop intelligence by responding to its environment via sensors, and to learn through these types of interactions.
MIT is getting furthest down the road to creating human-like and interactive robots. Some scientists argue that ASIMO is a great engineering feat but not an intelligent machine – because it is unable to interact autonomously with unpredictabilities in its environment in meaningful ways, and learn from experience. Robots like Cog and Kismet and new robots at MIT’s CSAIL and media lab, however, are beginning to do this.
These are exciting developments. Creating a machine that can walk, make gestures and learn from its environment is an amazing achievement. And watch this space: these achievements are likely rapidly to be improved upon. Humanoid robots could have a plethora of uses in society, helping to free people from everyday tasks. In Japan, for example, there is an aim to create robots that can do the tasks similar to an average human and also act in more sophisticated situations as firefighters, astronauts or medical assistants to the elderly in the workplace and in homes – partly in order to counterbalance the effects of an ageing population.
Such robots say much about the way in which we view humanity, and they bring out the best and worst of us. On one hand, these developments express human creativity – our ability to invent, experiment, and to extend our control over the world. On the other hand, the aim to create a robot like a human being is spurred on by dehumanized ideas – by the sense that human companionship can be substituted by machines; that humans lose their humanity when they interact with technology; or that we a little more than surface and ritual behaviors, that can be simulated with metal and electrical circuits.
Reading passage 1 has six paragraphs, A-F.
Which paragraph contains the following information?
Write the correct letter, A-F, in boxes 1-6 on your answer sheet.
NB You may use any letter more than once
1. different ways of using robots
2. a robot whose body has the same proportion as that of an adult
3. the fact that human can be copied and replaced by robots
4. a comparison between ASIMO for Honda and other robots
5. the pros and cons of creating robots
6. a robot that has eyebrows
Complete the following summary of the paragraphs of Reading Passage 1.
Using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the Reading Passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 7-13 on your answer sheet.
In 2003, Massachusetts displayed a robot named ASIMO which was invented by Honda, after a period of 7……………………… in the making. The operating information is stored in the computer in its 8……………………… so that scientists can control ASIMO’s movement. While Japan is making great progress, MIT is developing robots that are human-like and can 9………………………. Humans. What is special about Kismet is that it has different 10……………………… which can be read by human interlocutors. 11……………………… is another robot from MIT, whose body’s proportion is the same as an adult. By responding to the surroundings through 12……………………., it could develop its 13…………………………
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14-26 which are based on Reading Passage 2
How to Reduce Employee Turnover
The chief executive of a large hotel became aware that his company was experiencing an annual employee turnover of about 60 per cent, at an annual cost estimated between $10 to $15 million. This large amount of money was calculated based on three factors: the money spent hiring and training replacements; the cost to the business in lower productivity due to employees becoming familiar with the requirements of their new job; and reduced occupancy rates, due to poor guest satisfaction levels.
The Chief Executive knew that in order to save his company, he had to reduce the high turnover costs. Making up for the lost income due to turnover is not an easy task and many companies have not declared war on unwanted employee turnover because they have not taken the time to work out the costs of lost revenues and productivity. But the hotel boss decided to tackle the issue head-on by implementing a 4 point plan, the hotel first took the time to calculate their turnover costs; secondly to evaluate the main causes for the staff turnover and; thirdly to discuss some of the solutions to the problems and lastly to prioritize actions and evaluate future returns following implemented changes.
Within a two-year period, the results were significant. The annual employee turnover was reduced by 78 per cent and this impacted downtime due to training and guest satisfaction. The result was a $10 million savings for the company. Because most do not know the root causes of employee turnover and costs have often not been accurately estimated, causes are usually not known. As a result, solutions are commonly not targeted at a company’s individual, specific causes. The following is an examination of what the Chief Executive did to turn the hotel around.
Two factors were considered in relation to the calculation of costs: those departments who had the highest rates of turnover and those whose turnover had the greatest potential effect on profit. After some investigation, it was shown that some of the positions with the highest turnover rates such as cleaners and gardeners did not carry with them high associated costs. In fact, what was revealed was that only 6 per cent of employees accounted for 43 per cent of the turnover. Positions that involved a substantial amount of time in training were the ones that attracted the highest costing. The analysis revealed that those positions within the hotel which had the greatest impact on profit were people like the front office receptionists and those working in accounts.
As unusual as it may sound, it is now a common understanding that offering employees more money is not necessarily a good solution to high employee turnover – often they leave because they simply dislike the work. Therefore, it was important to tackle the analysis from the perspective of what were the chief causes for staff leaving. A holistic approach was undertaken and several key findings emerged. The hotel found that fundamentally they adopted poor recruiting and selection practices. For example, it was shown that almost 35 per cent of the cleaning staff left after the first week and a further 25% during the first month. Candidates were being over-sold the job by recruiters and left soon after they encountered unrealistic job expectations.
Devising solutions to these issues was the other half of the equation. As far a recruiting was concerned, they changed their approach by getting personnel from the hotel to handle it. Once this change was made, the attrition rates decreased substantially. To add to employee motivation, new staff were made aware of the mission and goals of the organization and how they would be paid above industry standard for striving to attain hotel values. New staff were shown where the hotel was heading and how they would have a guaranteed, stable employment situation with a major force in the hotel industry’ – it was even suggested that after a period of employment, new staff might be given the opportunity to contribute to organizational goal setting.
They had been losing many of their employees during the first month or two of employment, so they made new staff aware that bonuses would be offered to newly-hired employees at the end of their first three months which greatly assisted in goal setting. Staff luncheons and the in-house volleyball and basketball competitions remained an effective part of staff unity and development and a support program was also introduced to help all staff with any job-related issues which gave employees a heightened sense of being cared for by the establishment. Another area of change that proved successful was the introduction of the Valuable Employee Program (VEP). When a person was employed in the past they were assigned a senior member of staff who assisted them with getting used to their new job.
Due to the limitations of the senior member’s position however, they were often not in a position to explain any details regarding future advancement. Now, when staff are employed, they are clearly told what is expected in the job and where it might lead to the right candidate. Hotel surveys revealed that over 30 per cent of employees were not satisfied with the career opportunities in their current jobs so the articulation of the definite and realistic opportunity for advancement through the VEP led to a major decrease in
employee attrition. Once the ship had been righted and the relative returns on human resource investments had been calculated, setting priorities became a formality. Although at first a daunting task, the enormous cost of employee turnover offered an excellent opportunity for the hotel to improve profitability.
Complete the summary below of paragraphs A-D of Reading Passage 2.
Choose ONE OR TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in blank spaces next to 14-18 on your answer sheet.
Training new employees; downtime as new employees get used to their new job, and unfavourable guest satisfaction levels all led to a large 14____________ for a large hotel. It was determined that the solution to these problems, was in the reduction of the company’s 15___________. The hotel addressed these issues in 4 ways through the implementation of a 16_______________ . The efforts of the hotel chief executive decreased downtime and reduced employee turnover which, in turn, resulted in improvements in 17________________. The company position was improved by $10 million. It is not common for big companies to experience such 18____________
Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 2?
In boxes 19-21 on your answer sheet write
YES, if the statement reflects the claims of the writer
NO, if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN, if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
19. It was surprising that positions with the highest turnover were not connected to high costs.
20. There was a clear connection between high costs and length of training.
21. New employees were given an incorrect description of their job.
Reading Passage 2 gives FIVE effective changes that the hotel introduced for staff
Choose these changes from list A-L below.
Write the appropriate letters A-K in boxes 22-26 on your answer sheet.
B discussed future plans
C introduced regular staff luncheons
D started a regular sports program
E clearly defined job expectations
F did their own staff recruiting
G built new sporting facilities
H involved new staff in goal setting
I offered bonuses to proven, committed new staff
J began meeting regularly with new staff
K implemented a support program
L began recruiting through an employment service
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 27-40 which are based on Reading Passage 3
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, named their story collection Children’s and Household Tales and published the first of its seven editions in Germany in 1812. The table of contents reads like an A-list of fairy-tale celebrities: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, the Frog King. Drawn mostly from oral narratives, the 210 stories in die Grimm’s’ collection represent an anthology of fairy tales, animal fables, rustic farces, and religious allegories that remain unrivalled to this day.
Such lasting fame would have shocked the humble Grimms. During their lifetimes the collection sold modestly in Germany, at first only a few hundred copies a year. The early editions were not even aimed at children. The brothers initially refused to consider illustrations, and scholarly footnotes took up almost as much space as the tales themselves. Jacob and Wilhelm viewed themselves as patriotic folklorists, not as entertainers of children. They began their work at a time when Germany had been overrun by the French under Napoleon, who was intent on suppressing local culture. As young, workaholic scholars, single and sharing a cramped flat, the Brothers Grimm undertook the fairy-tale collection with the goal of serving the endangered oral tradition of Germany.
For much of the 19th-century teachers, parents, and religious figures, particularly in the United States, deplored the Grimms’ collection for its raw, uncivilized content. Offended adults objected to the gruesome punishments inflicted on the stories’ villains. In the original “Snow White” the evil stepmother is forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes until she falls down dead. Even today some protective parents shy from the Grimms’ tales because of their reputation for violence.
Despite its sometimes rocky reception, Children’s and Household Tales gradually took root with the public. The brothers had not foreseen that the appearance of their work would coincide with a great flowering of children’s literature in Europe. English publishers led the way, issuing high-quality picture books such as Jack and the Beanstalk and handsome folktale collections, all to satisfy a newly literate audience seeking virtuous material for the nursery. Once the Brothers Grimm sighted this new public, they set about refining and softening their tales, which had originated centuries earlier as earthy peasant fare. In the Grimms’ hands, cruel mothers became nasty stepmothers, unmarried lovers were made chaste, and the incestuous father was recast as the devil.
In the 20th century, the Grimms’ fairy tales have come to rule the bookshelves of children’s bedrooms. The stories read like dreams come true: handsome lads and beautiful damsels, armed with magic, triumph over giants and witches and wild beasts. They outwit mean, selfish adults. Inevitably the boy and girl fall in love and live happily ever after. And parents keep reading because they approve of the finger-wagging lessons inserted into the stories: keep your promises, don’t talk to strangers, work hard, obey your parents. According to the Grimms, the collection served as “a manual of manners”.
Altogether some 40 persons delivered tales to the Grimms. Many of the storytellers came to the Grimms’ house in Kassel. The brothers particularly welcomed the visits of Dorothea Viehmann, a widow who walked to town to sell produce from her garden. An innkeeper daughter, Viehmann had grown up listening to stories from travellers on the road to Frankfurt. Among her treasure was “Aschenputtel” -Cinderella. Marie Hassenpflug was a 20-year-old friend of their sister, Charlotte, from a well-bred, French-speaking family. Marie’s wonderful stories blended motifs from the oral tradition and from Perrault’s influential 1697 book, Tales of My Mother Goose, which contained elaborate versions of “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Snow White”, and “Sleeping Beauty”, among others. Many of these had been adapted from earlier Italian tales.
Given that the origins of many of the Grimm fairy tales reach throughout Europe and into the Middle East and Orient, the question must be asked: How German are the Grimm tales? Very, says scholar Heinz Rolleke. Love of the underdog, rustic simplicity, creative energy—these are Teutonic traits. The coarse texture of life during medieval times in Germany, when many of the tales entered the oral tradition, also coloured the narratives. Throughout Europe, children were often neglected and abandoned, like Hansel and Gretel. Accused witches were burned at the stake, like the evil mother-in-law in “The Six Swans”. “The cruelty in the stories was not the Grimm’s fantasy”, Rolleke points out” It reflected the law-and-order system of the old times”.
The editorial fingerprints left by the Grimms betray the specific values of 19th-century Christian, bourgeois German society. But that has not stopped the tales from being embraced by almost every culture and nationality in the world. What accounts for this widespread, enduring popularity? Bernhard Lauer points to the “universal style” of the writing, you have no concrete descriptions of the land, or the clothes, or the forest, or the castles. It makes the stories timeless and placeless,” The tales allow us to express ‘our utopian longings’,” says Jack Zipes of the University of Minnesota, whose 1987 translation of the complete fairy tales captures the rustic vigour of the original text. They show a striving for happiness that none of us knows but that we sense is possible. We can identify with the heroes of the tales and become in our mind the masters and mistresses of our own destinies.”
Fairy tales provide a workout for the unconscious, psychoanalysts maintain. Bruno Bettelheim famously promoted the therapeutic of the Grimms’ stories, calling fairy tales the “great comforters. By confronting fears and phobias, symbolized by witches, heartless stepmothers, and hungry wolves, children find they can master their anxieties. Bettelheim’s theory continues to be hotly debated. But most young readers aren’t interested in exercising their unconsciousness. The Grimm tales, in fact, please in an infinite number of ways, something about them seems to mirror whatever moods or interests we bring to our reading of them. The flexibility of interpretation suits them for almost any time and any culture.
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?
In boxes 27-32 on your answer sheet, write
YES if the statement is true
NO if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN if the information is not given in the passage
27. The Grimm brothers believed they would achieve international fame.
28. The Grimm brothers were forced to work in secret.
29. Some parents today still think Grimm fairy tales are not suitable for children.
30. The first edition of Grimm’s fairy tales sold more widely in England than in Germany.
31. Adults like reading Grimm’s fairy tales for reasons different from those of children.
32. The Grimm brothers based the story “Cinderella” on the life of Dorothea Viehmann
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write your answers in boxes 33-35 on your answer sheet.
33. In paragraph 4, what changes happened at that time in Europe?
A. Literacy levels of the population increased.
B. The development of printing technology made it easier to publish.
C. Schools were open to children.
D. People were fond of collecting superb picture books.
34. What changes did the Grimm Brothers make in later editions?
A. They made the stories shorter.
B. They used more oral language.
C. The content of the tales became less violent.
D. They found other origins of the tales.
35. What did Marie Hassenpflug contribute to the Grimm’s Fairy tales?
A. She wrote stories.
B. She discussed the stories with them.
C. She translated a popular book for the brothers using her talent for languages.
D. She told the oral stories that were based on traditional Italian stories.
Complete the following summary of the paragraphs of Reading Passage
Using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the Reading Passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 36-40 on your answer sheet.
36. Heinz Rolleke said the Grimm’s tales are “German” because the tales
37. Heinz Rolleke said the abandoned children in tales
38. Bernhard Lauer said the writing style of the Grimm brothers is universal because they
39. Jack Zipes said the pursuit of happiness in the tales means they
40. Bruno Bettelheim said the therapeutic value of the tales means that the fairy tales
A reflect what life was like at that time
B help children deal with their problems
C demonstrate the outdated system
D tell of the simplicity of life in the German countryside
E encourage people to believe that they can do anything
F recognize the heroes in the real life
G contribute to the belief in nature power
H avoid details about characters’ social settings.
IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 3 Online Answers
Also Practice: IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 1 with Answers