Question 1 - Reading Practice Test for the TOEFL Test

The phrase “have more weight” in paragraph 1 of the provided passage is closest in meaning to ____.

[1] The expression dog is man’s best friend might “have more weight” in the case of first-year university students suffering from homesickness, according to a new UBC study. The study shows that animal-assisted therapy can help students combat homesickness and could be a useful tool in lowering post-secondary drop-out rates.

[2] “Transitioning from high school to university can prove to be a challenge for many first-year students,” says Assistant Professor John Tyler Binfet of UBC’s Okanagan campus. “Given that students who experience homesickness are more likely than their non-homesick cohorts to drop out of university, universities have a vested interest in supporting students during their first-year transition.”

[3] In the study, 44 first-year university students who self-identified as homesick were given a survey to measure levels of homesickness, satisfaction with life, and connectedness with campus.

[4] Half of the students completed eight weeks of dog therapy, while the other half were informed that their sessions would begin in eight weeks’ time. Dog therapy included 45-minute weekly sessions involving small group interactions with the dogs and handlers, and engagement with other first-year students participating in the study. Following the initial eight-week session, participants in both the treatment group and the non-treatment group completed the survey again.

[5] Participants who completed the eight-week program experienced significant reductions in homesickness and a greater increase in satisfaction with life. Participants reported that sessions “felt like they were at home chatting with friends who brought their puppies,” while the non-treatment group reported an increase in their feelings of homesickness.

[6] According to a 2009 report conducted for B.C. Stats, students who left post-secondary happy were almost twice as likely to have felt a sense of belonging compared to students who left unhappy. Students who left university unhappy were almost twice as likely to say they did not feel a sense of belonging on campus.

[7] A total of 29 percent of students who dropped out cited more interactions and friendships with other students as a factor that would have influenced their decision to stay longer. While further study is needed, a university’s ability to influence campus connections could be a useful tool in lowering drop-out rates in first-year students, says Binfet.

[8] “Many first-year university students face the challenge of integrating into their new campus community,” says Binfet. “Homesick students are three times more likely than those who manage their homesickness to disengage and drop out of university.”

[9] “Moving to a new city, I did not know anyone at the university and became very homesick and depressed,” says UBC Okanagan student Varenka Kim. “I was mainly secluded in my dorm room and did not feel like I belonged here. Coming to animal-assisted therapy sessions every Friday gave me a sense of purpose and kept me enthusiastic about life.”

[10] The impact of homesickness on university students can be profound. It can affect their academic performance, social interactions, and overall well-being. Homesickness can lead to feelings of isolation and depression, making it difficult for students to adjust to their new environment. This is why interventions like animal-assisted therapy are so crucial. By providing a sense of comfort and companionship, therapy dogs can help alleviate some of the emotional burdens that come with being away from home.

[11] Universities across the globe are recognizing the importance of mental health support for their students. Many are now incorporating animal-assisted therapy programs as part of their broader mental health services. These programs not only help students who are struggling with homesickness but also those dealing with anxiety, stress, and other mental health challenges.

[12] The positive outcomes from UBC’s study highlight the potential of animal-assisted therapy as a preventive measure against drop-out rates. By addressing homesickness early on, universities can help students build resilience and develop stronger coping mechanisms. This, in turn, can lead to higher retention rates and better academic performance.

[13] In conclusion, the findings from UBC’s study underscore the value of animal-assisted therapy in supporting first-year university students. As institutions seek to improve student retention and overall well-being, incorporating therapy dog programs can be a key strategy. By providing comfort, reducing homesickness, and promoting a sense of belonging, therapy dogs can help students thrive during their university journey.

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