Pearson Adult Learning Centre HomePearson Adult Learning Centre: Sample Certificate Test Essays (2002)


The two essays were written by the teacher during a test essay exercise for the Advanced Composition classes. Each essay is on a different topic.


Topic A: Some people say "The best things in life are free." Agree or disagree. Second essay: The Teacher as Student


What is Best in Life is Free

     It is often said that “The best things in life are free.” So true, I think. Although the “best things” are many in number, there are three worth mentioning here tonight.

     Some of the best free things in life are the wind and the rain. In Vancouver, we have plenty of both, particularly this past winter. Perhaps a meteorologist could explain it better than I, but when two weather fronts collide, the wind will surely come. And when the moist air off the Pacific Ocean rises where it meets the slopes of the North Shore mountains, then we are blessed with the long grey days of rain for which Vancouver is famous. Whenever I hear about the many countries facing drought (including our own Prairies), I remind myself of the incredible blessing of these free resources.

     Another beautiful free thing is the sound of my children’s voices. Not the children themselves, of course, for they are an expensive luxury. But their voices, now that comes to me for free. Just last night my son and daughter laughed over a costume my son was going to use in a school play. I merely needed to sit, entranced, while their peels of laughter played over my waiting ears. Or, when my son or daughter mumble a quick thank you, that is always music to my ears. They want so much to be grown up now that that small sound is something no payment may ever measure. A child’s voice is a lovely thing, and free.

     Best of all, among all the things that are free, are the thoughts that fill my mind as I pass each waking day. There is no price on the fleeting notions passing by as I drive, alone, home tonight from the writing class I teach. Sometimes, I am almost home before I realize that my solitary reverie has carried me off into some other world. It may have been something someone said to me that day, or a smile, or a unique event in one of my student’s lives; whatever it is, we cannot buy it with money, that is for sure. Our thoughts belong to us, requiring nothing more than our continued breathing and are therefore always free.

     So, we receive these “things” for free, and they are among the best we have in our short time living on this Earth. Imagine the pleasure I might have while standing in the rain, hearing my children talking together, thinking about life in all its beauty. 


Topic B: What can teachers learn from their students? Discuss


The Teacher as Student

     Teachers teach students; everyone knows that it is true. But how many of us think of the things that teachers can learn from their students? Teachers can, and do, learn to be humble, to respect the work of learning, and to value the diversity of their students.

     One thing I have always learned from my students is the value of humility in a teacher. Being human, a teacher is fallible. Perhaps students may believe otherwise, but every day that I teach, this fact is hammered home to me. I make mistakes, forget, teach less well that I would desire myself to be taught. The value of this humility is in admitting it, both to myself and to the students who trust me to judge them fairly. Today a comma rule escaped me. I could have said I knew it, and hoped my answer was correct. Instead, I said to my student that I could not remember and said I would have to look up the rule to be sure. Of course, she forgave me. Students humble teachers with their trust, and so teach us well.

     Another thing teachers can learn from their students is how hard it is, exactly, to learn something. Oftentimes, a teacher comes to a subject or discipline due to a natural aptitude for it, or an enthusiasm. For that teacher, the learning of the subject was perhaps easier than for most, and that is where the student can remind a teacher that, indeed, learning is hard hard work. If a teacher sees a student struggle, then that teacher can learn that, for many (if not most) of us each study is a challenge. To be reminded of the difficulty of learning is a lesson students teach their teachers every day.

     The last, and most wonderful, of all the things that students teach their teachers is about the diversity of the people around them. In my job, as teacher of many newcomers to Canada, I learn more, much more, than I teach, it seems, some days. This week I learned about the meaning of graciousness as it applies to inviting others to your home in China. To be gracious, the invitation must be sincere, so much so that you are tested, by the firm “no” you will receive to your first and second (or more) invitations. Clearly, you will be welcomed if your host has asked you the third time, for you are sure, then, of a warm welcome!

    Teachers learn many things from their students, indeed. It is always valuable for a teacher to understand when he is wrong, to notice the sweat and determination needed to succeed, and to meet the many diverse people who inhabit his classroom.