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Good Enough for Gaokao?

Test your English comprehension against college entrance exam-takers

The first part of this year’s College Entrance Examinations, the make-or-break test known as the gaokao, is over. Students have sat the test, tried supernatural means to boost scores, and now all there is to do is wait for the results that’ll hopefully get them into the universities of their dreams.

A fair chunk of the test is dedicated to English proficiency, and it’s not easy stuff. For stressed-out students who have had very limited exposure to English language in actual use, extended reading passages can be terrifying.

So, to give you an idea of what these kids faced, here is a question from the Beijing version of the exam this year for you to try out and see how you do. (Grammar pedants will notice that the text and answers aren’t perfect—there are a few occasions when vaccine really ought to have been pluralized, the present simple tense is used when a gerund would have been more appropriate, and what’s with the superfluous “in” in the “C” part of question 64?).

If you’re inclined to answer more gaokao questions, the original document can be found here. For the direct pdf download link, click here.

Anyway, have at it!

Measles (麻疹), which once killed 450 children each year and disabled even more, was nearly wiped out in the United States 14 years ago by the universal use of the MMR vaccine (疫苗). But the disease is making a comeback, caused by a growing anti-vaccine movement and misinformation that is spreading quickly. Already this year, 115 measles cases have been reported in the USA, compared with 189 for all of last year.

The numbers might sound small, but they are the leading edge of a dangerous trend. When vaccination rates are very high, as they still are in the nation as a whole, everyone is protected. This is called “herd immunity”, which protects the people who get hurt easily, including those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, babies too young to get vaccinated and people on whom the vaccine doesn’t work.

But herd immunity works only when nearly the whole herd joins in. When some refuse vaccination and seek a free ride, immunity breaks down and everyone is in even bigger danger. That’s exactly what is happening in small neighborhoods around the country from Orange County, California, where 22 measles cases were reported this month, to Brooklyn, N. Y., where a 17-year-old caused an outbreak last year.

The resistance to vaccine has continued for decades, and it is driven by a real but very small risk. Those who refuse to take that risk selfishly make others suffer.

Making things worse are state laws that make it too easy to opt out (决定不 参加) of what are supposed to be required vaccines for all children entering kindergarten. Seventeen states allow parents to get an exemption (豁免), sometimes just by signing a paper saying they personally object to a vaccine. Now, several states are moving to tighten laws by adding new regulations for opting out. But no one does enough to limit exemptions.

Parents ought to be able to opt out only for limited medical or religious reasons. But personal opinions? Not good enough. Everyone enjoys the life-saving benefits vaccines provide, but they’ll exist only as long as everyone shares in the risks.

  1. 63 .The first two paragraphs suggest that __________.
    A) a small number of measles cases can start a dangerous trend
    B) the outbreak of measles attracts the public attention
    C) anti-vaccine movement has its medical reasons
    D) information about measles spreads quickly

  1. 64. Herd immunity works well when __________.
    A) exemptions are allowed
    B) several vaccines are used together
    C) the whole neighborhood is involved in
    D) new regulations are added to the state laws

  1. 65. What is the main reason for the comeback of measles?
    A) The overuse of vaccine.
    B) The lack of medical care.
    C) The features of measles itself.
    D) The vaccine opt-outs of some people.

  1. 66. What is the purpose of the passage?
    A) To introduce the idea of exemption.
    B) To discuss methods to cure measles.
    C) To stress the importance of vaccination.
    D) To appeal for equal rights in medical treatment.

(Highlight for answers: 63: A, 64: C, 65:  D, 66: C)


David Dawson is the former deputy editor of The World of Chinese.

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