Sample Cambridge First Essays, by Daragh McInerney

Essay 1

It is commonly believed that your health is your wealth, yet we work ourselves to death trying to gain physical riches. But is it really possible to live contentedly without much money?
There can be no doubt that money is a necessary evil, as the old adage goes. Bills, mortgages, and taxes all have to be paid if we want to enjoy the luxury of a roof over our heads and food in the fridge. Nevertheless, there is affordable accommodation available and care can be taken not to overspend.
However, this is easier said than done. Consumerism is the new religion, and technological devices are symbols of how devout you choose to be. From mobile phones to remote controls, we pay for status symbols in efforts to placate our new god. At the same time, we are told that we should invest in pension plans from an early age, sacrificing our present in order to properly prepare for an old age that we may never live to enjoy, such is our workload.
As previously mentioned, money is needed for certain basic necessities, but once these are covered, all we really need to be happy, in my opinion, is freedom from time poverty and, indeed, the health to fully enjoy that freedom.

Essay 2

We live in a time that seems to be dominated by smartphones and tablets, Google and YouTube. There are those who believe that the internet can replace tried and tested forms of learning, but can it?
One obvious distinction between learning online and in person is the part teachers and parents play. Without having the guiding hand of experts in the subject matter and people who care about you, it can be difficult to discern truth from fiction, which is a common criticism of DIY learning.
It is now widely accepted that one has to exercise caution when doing research online, due to the prevalence of blatantly false data on websites such as Wikipedia. Here, again, the issue of what can be trusted is relevant.
As a result, despite all its advantages, the internet cannot compete with old-fashioned textbooks from reputable publishers or, most importantly, the confidence that face-to-face contact with experts generates.
For all the reasons previously mentioned, it is my belief that, though the internet does contain an incredible amount of information, it has not managed to replicate the rigour of more traditional learning methods.

Essay 3

It is often said, on the one hand, that blood is thicker than water, and on the other, that you can’t choose your family (but you do have that luxury with your friends). In this essay I intend to examine why those opposing viewpoints exist, and see if it is objectively possible to raise one of two hugely significant pillars of our lives above the other.
As mentioned above, friendship has an element of choice that our initial family lacks. As a result, perhaps fun times are most commonly associated with your peer group, when teenagers shed the constraints of parental control and let their hair down. However, family members are more easily turned to for financial help, though friends can offer a less judgmental perspective when listening to our woes.
Another area worthy of closer consideration is what influence each element has on our personal development. While in both groups there is pressure to conform, the constraints of expectations can sometimes be more noticeable when with your kin, who perhaps also have more emotional investment in your success.
It is patently obvious that the importance that is given to your close relationships is a deeply personal affair, and one dependent on a wide array of factors. Your age, your state of well-being, and how conventional your aspirations are all play a part in determining your stance with regard to family versus friends. At this stage of my life, I consider the family unit to be paramount, but thankfully, in real life, you rarely have to make such a distinction.

Essay 4

As time goes by, we invariably end up reflecting on the changes effected by the years. In my opinion, the difference in the quality of life enjoyed by people in 1914 and 2014 is substantial, though this improvement has not been achieved without also raising issues which have yet to be resolved.
No one can deny that the last century has seen notable advances in many areas. Morbidity rates, especially in developed countries, have significantly improved, due in no small part to leaps in scientific knowledge. We also now have what seems to be an almost unlimited variety of ways to spend our free time, be it through watching cable TV, playing computer games online or streaming the latest hit single over the internet.
Nevertheless, it is said that progress does not come without a price, and the price, in this instance, is balance. The same scientific advances that help keep us alive also serve to prolong our lives when it would be kinder to let go. The entertainment industry that keeps us glued to our screens keeps us from connecting with the natural world around us. And while we now have food from the four corners of the globe on our dinner tables, its arrival could very well have endangered the future of life on our planet by contributing to global warming.
We are now healthier. We now have undreamt of access to literature, films, music. We dine on avocados from Brazil and kiwis from New Zealand. All that is left, perhaps, is to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy, and not condemn, that most fickle of ideals, progress.

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