Reading: Girl Scouts

BEC Vantage Reading Part 3

Read the text and then answer questions 1-6.

The idea that a sales team can learn something from Girl Scouts will come as a surprise to many.  What has this out-dated organisation got to do with the fast-moving, corporate world of today? But in the girl scouts’ annual cookie drive, two hundred million units are sold per year, and their revenues exceed $700 million. And these figures are achieved only in a three-month period in the spring.

True, the organization has changed greatly in latter years, ever since the appointment of CEO Kathy Cloninger in 2003. Her mission was to revitalize a 95-year tradition-bound icon, famous only for camping, crafts and cookies. She has worked on instilling leadership qualities in the girls, developing new funding opportunities, creating an efficient organisational structure and developing a reinvigorated brand which is relevant to the modern world.

And nowhere are these changes more noticeable than in the annual cookie sale.  No longer relying on neighbourhood door-to-door sales to obtain a meagre revenue, the organisation now utilises a wide range of savvy, modern methods which businesses worldwide can learn from.

Firstly, the girl scouts organization focuses on providing the girls with life skills.  By investing in the girls, the organization creates a team with strong leadership and communication skills.  ‘Cookie College’ training courses develop the scouts’ business acumen, providing them with presentation, marketing and money management skills; skills which will be invaluable in their future lives.  Through role-playing, case studies and tasks, the girls become inspired and passionate about their role as a salesperson.

And the proof of the pudding – or should I say cookie – is in the eating. These well-trained salesgirls can turn out exceptional results. Scout Markita Andrews sold over $80,000 dollars worth of cookies in the twelve years she was a girl scout.  Her success is for the most part due to the incentive. By selling the greatest number of cookies, Markita won a trip around the world.  Rewards are not only given to the lucky winners, however.  Scouts earn reward points as they sell more cookies. 1,500 cookies gets the scout a Wii game system.

But Girl scouts are not only training and motivating their workforce, but they are also changing their tactics.  Gone are the days when girls went door-to-door around the neighbourhood selling to family and friends.  They now go in for the bulk sales strategy.  They sell to large organisations and businesses, where cookies can be offered as sales incentives or part of corporate gift baskets. This way, girls are able to shift a greater number of cookies and maximise their sales time.


Answer questions 1-6.

1. When do the Girl Scouts sell cookies?
a) all year round
b) for three months per year
c) Every three years
d) Every spring since 2003

2. What was the view of the girls scout organisation before Kathy Cloninger became CEO?
a) not well-known
b) old-fashioned
c) efficient
d) surprising

3. Which of the following is not taught at ‘Cookie College’?
a) how to look after finances
b) how to promote your products
c) how to bake cookies
d) how to speak in front of other people

4. A girl scout can get a trip round the world if she…
a) gets a certain number of reward points
b) sells cookies for twelve years in a row
c) sells $80,000 worth of cookies
d) sells more cookies than anyone else

5. A new selling strategy used by girl scouts is…
a) Selling cookies outside local businesses
b) Giving scouts free cookies as an incentive
c) Selling from door to door
d) Selling large amounts of cookies at once

6. Which of the following sales techniques is NOT mentioned in the passage?
a) motivating the sales team
b) finding new avenues for sales
c) offering discounts for bulk orders
d) training the sales team


Reading: Men outnumbered in Spanish government

Women are on the rise in Spanish politics. Spain’s newly-formed government consists of eleven women and six men. The newly-elected socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has put women in some of the biggest positions in his cabinet, including head of defence, economy, education and finance. Spain now has the highest proportion of women in top government positions than anywhere else in Europe. In a televised statement, Mr Sanchez said his new government consisted of people who wanted to move Spain forward. He said: “All are highly qualified and bring a vocation for public service and reflect the best of Spain. [They are]…open to the world but anchored in the European Union.”

Rajoy failed to remain in power after his controversial handling of recent situations.

Mr Sanchez seems an unlikely leader. His Socialist party holds just 84 of the 350 seats in Spain’s parliament. He took office on Friday, replacing the unpopular conservative leader Mariano Rajoy. Ex-prime minister Rajoy was the focus of a corruption scandal and had become unpopular because of his austerity measures. Sanchez promised to bring change to Spain. However, he has to work quickly to turn Spain’s economy around. He has promised to call elections in less than two years, which may not be enough time to amend the outgoing government’s budget for 2018. One of his biggest challenges will be rebuilding relations with the northeastern region of Catalonia.



What can you say about these words and your life: politics / government / socialist / cabinet / education / statement / public service / leader / parliament / unpopular / conservative / corruption / scandal / challenges


Comprehension Questions:

  1. How many women were appointed to top government posts in Spain?
  2. Which European country has the highest ratio of women in top posts?
  3. What medium did Pedro Sanchez use to make his statement?
  4. What did Pedro Sanchez say his government brings to public service?
  5. What did Pedro Sanchez say his government was anchored in?
  6. How many parliamentary seats does Pedro Sanchez’s party hold?
  7. What kind of scandal is Spain’s ex-prime minister involved in?
  8. What did Pedro Sanchez promise to bring to Spain?
  9. When did Pedro Sanchez say he would call the next elections?
  10. What does Pedro Sanchez have to build relations with?


Try to recall how these words were used in the text:

  1. seems
  2. 350
  3. focus
  4. bring
  5. call
  6. region
  7. rise
  8. elected
  9. head
  10. else
  11. move
  12. open

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Reading: Scientists close to turning air into fuel

Scientists are close to making carbon capture work. Carbon capture is taking waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from power plants and storing it so it does not harm the environment. A company called Carbon Engineering say its scientists are close to capturing CO2 from the air and turning it into carbon-neutral fuel. This is a big step forward in the fight against global warming. The scientists also said they have reduced the cost of carbon capture, to as low as $94 per ton of CO2 captured. Scientists used to say carbon capture would cost about $1,000 per ton captured.

Carbon Engineering’s technology works by sucking air into special towers. CO2 is mixed with a liquid and frozen. It is then heated and mixed with hydrogen. This produces fuels like gasoline and jet fuel. Carbon Engineering’s Professor David Keith is hopeful about the future of this process. He thinks his company could fight climate change. He said: “After 100 years of practical engineering…we can confidently say that…air capture…is a [realistic] and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future, and for removing carbon in the long run.”


Slow speed version

Normal speed version

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Reading: Exam results affected by hotter weather

Hot weather lowers exam results. A major study from three universities in the USA says heat may reduce learning in the short and long term. Hot weather on test days, and higher than average yearly temperatures lowered grades.

Researchers looked at how the weather affected test scores from 10 million American students. Findings showed that a temperature rise of just 0.55ºC over one year led to a one per cent decrease in learning. The research paper is called “Heat and Learning”. It was published last month.

A worrying conclusion in the study is that global warming may affect the future income of students around the world. Researchers said that if global temperatures continued to rise, the average American student could lose $25,000 because of lower test scores. Air conditioning in classrooms could stop this. Hotter weather was “particularly damaging” for poorer students.




How were these words used in the article:

  1. lowers
  2. major
  3. term
  4. average
  5. grades
  6. decrease
  7. worrying
  8. income
  9. rise
  10. scores




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Reading: The Scotland Camping Trip

Here are the instructions for next weekend’s camping trip in Scotland. There are seventeen people going on this trip so it’s important that you arrive at the meeting point early enough for us to be able to leave at 8am. There will be two minibuses and please make sure you are on the right one. Last week’s e-mail gave all this information.

wild-camping-scotlandWe should arrive in the camping area at about 2pm, which will give us enough time to buy the food we need in the local supermarket and then go to the area where we will set up the tents, which is a long way from town.There will be a total of four large tents put up and each tent will have a tent leader, a person who went on this trip last year and therefore has the necessary experience. If you have any problems during the two days, you should always go directly to your tent leader and speak to him/her. We are not expecting there to be very bad weather this weekend in Scotland, but the weather situation in the Scottish hills is always very unpredictable and for this reason, we have advised everyone to take wet weather clothing with you. If windy, stormy weather arrives at the camping area, it may also be necessary to leave the hills and go down into the town.

It’s very likely that your phones will not work in the hills, so you must warn your parents of this. You will be able to use your phones when we are in the town, but not when we are camping.

If you have any other questions about the trip, come either to me or Mrs. Sanderson.


Answer the questions choosing either True, False or Not Stated if the information is not included in the reading.

1. This letter is from a teacher.
not stated

2. Instructions about the minibuses will be in a future e-mail.
not stated

3. The tents will be set up near the supermarket.
not stated

4. Some of the people going camping this year also went last year.
not stated

5. There was very bad weather on the camping trip last year.
not stated

6. Wet weather clothing can be hired in the town.
not stated

7. Nobody can use their phone during the trip.
not stated







  1. not stated
  2. false
  3. false
  4. true
  5. not stated
  6. not stated
  7. false

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Reading: A Job Riding Harley Davidsons

There is a special job opening for eight people who love riding motorbikes, enjoy long, hot summers, and like feeling the wind in their hair. The position is a summer internship for the legendary motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson. The company is looking for people to learn to ride its bikes and then ride them across the USA all summer. It is offering this job to celebrate the 115th anniversary of the founding of Harley-Davidson. The successful candidates will get special training to ride a Harley and must then share their experiences of their adventures of riding around the USA on social media. The lucky riders must also attend a number of events, including anniversary celebrations.

Harley-Davidson.svgHarley-Davidson CEO Matt Levatich explained why his company wants eight interns to ride motorcycles all summer. He said: “We’re continuously working to grow the sport of motorcycling. What better way to engage future riders than to have a whole team of newly-trained enthusiasts share personal stories as they immerse themselves in motorcycle culture and community – all while gaining marketable career skills. I’m looking forward to following their journeys, learning about their experiences, and seeing them out on the road.” To qualify, candidates must show they are good storytellers, be able to use social media well, and describe what freedom means in an essay, video or photo portfolio.

Comprehension Questions:

  1. How many interns is Harley-Davidson looking for?
  2. What might people like to feel in their hair?
  3. How old will the Harley-Davidson company be this year?
  4. What must successful candidates share on social media?
  5. What must the lucky candidates attend a number of?
  6. What does Harley-Davidson’s CEO want to grow?
  7. What will the interns immerse themselves besides communities?
  8. What marketable skills will the interns pick up?
  9. What must candidates show they are good at?
  10. What word must job applicants describe?

Describe how these words relate to the story above:


Discussion Questions:

  1. What did you think when you read the headline?
  2. What images are in your mind when you hear the word ‘motorbike’?
  3. What do you know about Harley-Davidson?
  4. Why does Harley-Davidson have a cool image?
  5. Do you enjoy feeling the wind in your hair?
  6. Would you like to apply for this internship?
  7. What do you think of internships?
  8. Why is Harley-Davidson doing this?
  9. Where would you go if you won this internship?
  10. Are motorcycles the best form of transport?
  11. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘job’?
  12. What do you think about what you read?
  13. What do you think about motorbikes?
  14. How much would you enjoy riding a motorcycle around the USA?
  15. What is “motorcycle culture”?
  16. What career skills might the interns learn?
  17. How good a storyteller are you?
  18. How would you describe the word “freedom”?
  19. What questions would you like to ask the Harley-Davidson boss?

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Reading: Charity Chic

100215815_0000The First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid, has turned heads at a movie awards ceremony. Fashion reporters said Ms Reid wore a “stunning” black jacket to the Edda Awards – Iceland’s version of Hollywood’s Academy Awards. Ms Reid wore black to show her support for the #metoo movement. However, unlike most people who attend glamorous awards shows, Ms Reid did not spend a fortune on her clothes. When reporters asked her where she had purchased her jacket, she said she bought it in a local Red Cross charity store in Iceland’s capital city. The Icelandic Red Cross was very happy about this news. It told its followers on Twitter that the first lady looked, “awesome in a gorgeous jacket from the Red Cross”.

Eliza Reid is originally from Canada and works as a journalist. She met her husband, President Gudni Johannesson, when she was studying at Oxford University. Ms Reid told the Hit Iceland website in 2017 that she “won” a blind date with the future president at a rowing club event. She had no idea she would one day become First Lady of Iceland. Both she and her husband are very popular in Iceland for being just like normal people. They both have a very down-to-earth attitude and can often be seen in the city shopping with their four children and going to restaurants. The Red Cross also likes Ms Reid. It hopes more people will follow her fashion sense and buy clothes from its charity shops.


icelandic fashion
Another example of Icelandic fashion

Comprehension Questions:

  1. What did Eliza Reid turn at an awards ceremony?
  2. What colour jacket did Ms Reid wear?
  3. What movement did Ms Reid want to show support for?
  4. Who asked Ms Reid where she bought her jacket?
  5. In which city did Ms Reid buy the jacket?
  6. Where is Ms Reid from originally?
  7. Where did Ms Reid meet her husband for the first time?
  8. What kind of club event did Ms Reid meet her husband at?
  9. What kind of attitude to Ms Reid and her husband have?
  10. What does the Red Cross hope people will follow?

Vocabulary Activity:

Try to recall how the following words were used in the text:

  • originally
  • met
  • won
  • popular
  • seen
  • sense
  • heads
  • version
  • support
  • unlike
  • city
  • followers


Discussion Questions:

  1. What images are in your mind when you hear the word ‘first’?
  2. How important is a First Lady?
  3. Why don’t all countries have a First Lady?
  4. What do you know about Iceland?
  5. What do you think about charity shops?
  6. What would you wear to an awards show?
  7. Should more famous people wear clothes from charity shops?
  8. Why do people want to look glamorous?
  9. Would you buy clothes from a charity shop?
  10. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘lady’?
  11. What do you think about what you read?
  12. What does a First Lady do all day?
  13. What do you think of Iceland’s First Lady?
  14. What would it be like to be married to the President?
  15. What do you think of the idea of blind dates?
  16. How down-to-earth are you?
  17. What is your favourite charity?
  18. What questions would you like to ask Iceland’s First Lady?

Reading: Desert Opera

Map of the region
Map of the region

Saudi Arabia will soon have its very first national orchestra and opera. France will help Saudi to set up the musical groups. The two countries signed a series of agreements on Monday to boost cultural ties, and cooperation through the arts. France’s Culture Minister said: “Today, an agreement was signed with the Paris Opera to help Saudi Arabia set up a national orchestra and an opera.” The world-famous Paris Opera will help Saudi Arabia produce its own classical music performances and operas. Plans are already under way for the country’s first opera house to be built in the kingdom’s second largest city, Jeddah. Saudi Arabia will invest $64 billion in developing its entertainment industry over the next decade

The agreement is part of a plan created by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called Vision 2030. He wants to modernise many areas of Saudi life. There were other projects included in the cultural agreements between France and Saudi Arabia. French archaeologists will work on developing Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula region in the northwest of the country. The area is rich in ancient archaeological sites. French experts will help to preserve the area. Another key part of the agreement is the translation of literature. France’s Culture Minister stressed, “the importance of translating books in both directions, from Arabic into French and French into Arabic”.


Comprehension Questions

  1. What will France help set up, besides the opera?
  2. What kind of ties do the two countries want to boost?
  3. What is the name of the opera company that will help Saudi Arabia?
  4. Where will Saudi’s first opera house be built?
  5. How much will Saudi spend on its entertainment industry?
  6. What is the name of the plan created by the Saudi Crown Prince?
  7. Where in Saudi Arabia is the Al-Ula region?
  8. What is the Al-Ula region rich in?
  9. What is another key part of the agreement between Saudi and France?
  10. In what direction will the translation of books happen?


Vocabulary Activity:

Try to recall how these words were used in the text:

  • plan
  • life
  • region
  • rich
  • key
  • both
  • soon
  • boost
  • arts
  • own
  • already
  • decade


Discussion Questions

  1. What images are in your mind when you hear the word ‘opera’?
  2. What do you think of opera?
  3. Why do so many people prefer pop music to classical music?
  4. Why didn’t Saudi Arabia have an opera house before?
  5. What arts are important in your country?
  6. What do you know about the culture of Saudi Arabia?
  7. Why is Saudi investing so much money in entertainment?
  8. Which is better, classical music or opera?
  9. What kind of performance art do you like best?
  10. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘orchestra’?
  11. What do you think about what you read?
  12. How important is classical music?
  13. Is classical music better than rock music?
  14. How important are the arts?
  15. What would you do to modernize your country?
  16. What could you do on a holiday in Saudi Arabia?
  17. What is the benefit of translating French and Arabic books?
  18. What questions would you like to ask the culture ministers?

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Reading: Facebook Data Breach


Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the data breach that was revealed last week. Mr Zuckerberg took out full-page advertisements in broadsheet newspapers in the UK and US to make his apology for the data privacy scandal. Zuckerberg was being criticized for being too slow to respond to the news. Personal data on up to 50 million users was used by a U.S. political consultancy called Cambridge Analytica. This company is accused of using the leaked data to benefit Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Zuckerberg said: “This was a breach of trust, and I am sorry….We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” The apology made no mention of Cambridge Analytica.

Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged that Facebook could and should have done more to protect user data and to stop it being exploited. Reports are now circulating that Facebook was warned its data protection was too weak back in 2011. Mr Zuckerberg outlined the actions Facebook would take going forward. He said: “We’re investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this. We expect there are others. And when we find them, we will ban them and tell everyone affected.” The value of Facebook has fallen by $75 billion this week; Zuckerberg’s wealth fell by $10 billion. There has also been a surge in users abandoning their Facebook pages, in online calls to #deletefacebook.


Comprehension Questions:

  1. What kind of newspapers did Facebook put ads in to apologize?
  2. What is Mark Zuckerberg being criticized for?
  3. How many users may have had their data exploited?
  4. What kind of company is Cambridge Analytica?
  5. What is Facebook taking to ensure there is not another data breach?
  6. What could and should Facebook have done to protect data?
  7. When was Facebook warned about its weak data protection?
  8. What is Facebook now investigating?
  9. How much less is Mark Zuckerberg worth since the scandal began?
  10. What is the hashtag that is encouraging users to close their page?



Look at the words below and try to recall how they were used in the text

  • more
  • weak
  • single
  • ban
  • week
  • surge
  • last
  • slow
  • political
  • leaked
  • sorry
  • mention


Opinion Questions

  1. What did you think when you read the headline?
  2. What images are in your mind when you hear the word ‘online’?
  3. What do you think of Facebook?
  4. How much do you worry about your private information online?
  5. How much damage will this do to Facebook?
  6. Why do you think Mr Zuckerberg was slow to respond to this news?
  7. Does Mr Zuckerberg’s apology go far enough?
  8. What should happen to the political consultancy in this story?
  9. What steps does Facebook need to take?
  10. What advice do you have for Mark Zuckerberg?
  11. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘privacy’?
  12. What do you know about this news?
  13. What do you think of companies that sell your mail address?
  14. How much do you trust online companies with your data?
  15. What actions could users whose details were leaked take?
  16. Will Facebook still be going in 20 years from now?
  17. What would happen if many people left Facebook?
  18. What questions would you like to ask Mark Zuckerberg?

Discussion: It is becoming too dangerous to put our personal information online.

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Reading: AirBnB’s 5 Star Homes

The online accommodation booking company Airbnb is going upmarket. It is moving into the luxury travel market. CEO Brian Chesky has announced an improvement in the company’s business model. It wants richer people to use it. The company will offer new types of places to stay such as vacation homes and boutique hotels. The company has over four million rooms on its site in 81,000 cities and 191 countries. It has helped make over 260 million reservations since it launched nine years ago. Mr Chesky hopes to increase this to more than one billion people staying in its rentals by 2028. Chesky said: “Airbnb is still an alternative. It’s still not for everyone. Today we will show you our road map: Airbnb for everyone.”

flatAirbnb does not own any real estate, or properties. It acts as a broker between property owners who want to make extra cash by renting out their rooms or homes, and travellers looking for a cheaper, more homely alternative to hotels. The company makes money from the booking fees it charges. Its vision is to branch out into luxury accommodation, restaurant reservations, and adventure travel experiences. A new option will allow people to book “unique spaces”. This includes things like yurts – the large, circular tents that are home to many people in Mongolia. Airbnb’s new “Beyond” option will offer travellers “full-on luxury stays” that include “some of the world’s nicest homes”.



Comprehension Questions

  1. What position in Airbnb does Mr Brian Chesky have?
  2. What kind of model did Mr Chesky say he would improve?
  3. In how many countries does Airbnb have rooms?
  4. How many reservations does Mr Chesky want to have had by 2028?
  5. What kind of map did Mr Chesky say he would show people?
  6. How much real estate does Airbnb own?
  7. What does Airbnb make money from?
  8. What kind of travel experiences will Airbnb now start offering?
  9. What is a yurt?
  10. What kind of stays will users of Airbnb’s “Beyond” option get?

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