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Why take a gap year?

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Introduction

Some students delay university to take a year off travelling. The emphasis now is on doing a productive, purposeful gap year that will look good on your CV and help you get a job. Is it a good idea? Neil and Georgina hear two students with different views and teach you related vocabulary.

This week's question

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which subject studied at university will lead to the highest average earnings five years after graduating? Is it...

a) Law

b) Veterinary science

c) Medicine and dentistry

Listen to the programme to find out the answer.

Vocabulary

gap year

year between leaving school and starting university that is usually spent travelling or working

at the back of my mind

an idea we don't think about frequently but keep stored deep in our memory

productive

something that leads to a good or useful outcome

predicted

what is likely to happen in the future based on current information

an alien concept

an idea that is strange and not familiar

practical

relating to the learning of real skills which can be usefully applied

Transcript

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil

Hello. This is 6 Minute English and I'm Neil. And joining me to do this is Georgina.

Georgina

Hello.

Neil

Now, Georgina, I know you went to university to study for a degree but before you moved from college to university, did you take a year off?

Georgina

I did.

Neil

Well, you're not alone. Many students choose to take a break from their studies to travel or gain work experience before moving on to university.

Georgina

Yes, and this is what we call a 'gap year'.

Neil

And ... in this programme we're talking about taking a gap year and why doing this has become more important than ever. But first, as always, I need to challenge you and our listeners, Georgina, to answer a question. Are you ready?

Georgina

Ready and waiting, Neil!

Neil

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which subject studied at university will lead to the highest average earnings five years after graduating? Is it...

a) Law b) Veterinary science, or c) Medicine and dentistry

What do you think, Georgina?

Georgina

Well, all are subjects that involve lots of studying - but as a guess, I think those studying veterinary science end up working as vets and earning the most money - so it's b), I think.

Neil

OK. Well, we'll find out if you're right at the end of the programme. Let's get back to talking about gap years - as the name suggests, it's a break or gap in between your studies - we might also call it a year out. It's not a new concept - meaning idea - and there are a number of reasons why someone may choose to take one.

Georgina

That's right. The BBC's Smart Consumer podcast looked at this and heard from two students - one, Meg, took a gap year and the other, Tom, didn't. Let's hear from them now...

Students - Meg and Tom

Meg: I knew I wanted to go to university, but... I decided I'll do it after a year out. That way I can wait till I get my official results and apply to university with those rather than getting predicted grades and then, you know, potentially being surprised and not being able to follow the path I wanted. I just always had in the back my mind that I'd spend a year doing something productive and something that would just be good fun.

Tom: It's not something that I really knew about to be honest, I think, until I started university. It was a bit of an alien concept to me. It's something I've never thought about - it would have been far too expensive and it's not something that would have been able to rely on my parents or family members for.

Neil

Two different experiences there. So Meg said she had 'in the back of my mind' doing a gap year. That means she had the idea but didn't think about it frequently - it was stored deep in her memory.

Georgina

And she had the idea of doing something productive - that means leading to a good or useful outcome - and, of course, having fun at the same time!

Neil

She also wanted to do something while she waited for her exam results to come in, rather than applying for a university place based on predicted results which may turn out to be wrong. If something is predicted, it's an estimation of what is likely to happen in the future based on current information.

Georgina

Now, Tom had a different experience. He wasn't really aware of the gap year and described it as an alien concept - so an idea that is strange and not familiar.

Neil

Tom also mentioned a gap year would have been too expensive - but according to Chris Rea from the organisation Prospects, it needn't cost a lot of money. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme, he says it's about gaining skills and being more employable...

Chris Rea, Higher Education Services Manager, Prospects

I think the experience of the gap year has become actually much more practical, partly as I say to do with university participation increasing, but also because of the demands on developing skills, specifically employability skills. Actually from an employer's point of view, certainly, any form of experience and skills acquisition that you've undertaken is valuable.

Neil

According to Chris Rea, the focus these days is for a gap year to be more practical - this adjective describes the learning of real skills which can be usefully applied.

Georgina

Yes, and these are skills that help you compete for a place at university and ultimately make you more employable - they help you get a job.

Neil

Right, but which job might earn you the most money Georgina? Earlier I asked you, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which subject studied at university will lead to the highest average earnings, five years after graduating? Is it...

a) Law b) Veterinary science, or c) Medicine and dentistry

What do you say, Georgina?

Georgina

I said veterinary science. Was I correct?

Neil

Sadly you weren't. The correct answer is c) Medicine and dentistry. According to research in the UK, graduates of medicine and dentistry earn an average of £46,700.

Georgina

That's more than an English teacher I suspect, but that's not going to stop us recapping today's vocabulary.

Neil

OK. So, we've been talking about a gap year - that's a year between leaving school and starting university that is usually spent travelling or working.

Georgina

When we say something is at the back of my mind, we mean an idea we don't think about frequently but keep stored deep in our memory.

Neil

And when something is productive - it describes something that leads to a good or useful outcome.

Georgina

Next, we mentioned the word predicted. If something is predicted, it's an estimation of what is likely to happen in the future based on current information.

Neil

An alien concept is an idea that is strange and not familiar.

Georgina

And when you're doing something practical, you're doing something that is real and useful because you learn skills that can be used in the future.

Neil

Thank you, Georgina, for that practical run through of our vocabulary. So that's all from 6 Minute English for now. Goodbye!

Georgina

Bye!

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