Did you make a keyword table for last week's reading exercise? Here's mine:
Read the following passage about the meaning of 'genius'.
A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of an unprecedented leap of insight. Various philosophers have proposed definitions of what genius is.
In the philosophy of David Hume, a genius is seen by others as a person disconnected from society, who works remotely, away from the rest of the world. For Immanuel Kant, genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person. Arthur Schopenhauer defined a genius as someone in whom intellect predominates over "will". According to Bertrand Russell, a genius possesses unique qualities and talents that make him or her especially valuable to society.
Match each of the following statements to one of the philosophers below.
1. A genius is someone who does not require instruction.
2. We tend to regard geniuses as solitary figures.
3. A genius has the ability to make an exceptional contribution to society.
How can you improve your reading? Here are 6 tips:
I'm sure you can think of other suggestions. Be creative with your reading practice, try to enjoy the learning process, and trust that you will improve if you persist.
If you want to improve your IELTS reading score, the most important thing to work on is your knowledge of vocabulary. Exam techniques are of little use if you don't understand the words that you are reading.
I tell my students to keep a vocabulary notebook, and to use a dictionary to find meanings and examples of usage. Here are some words and phrases that we noted in an IELTS reading lesson that I taught last week:
To help my students, I tried to explain the meanings and to give some example sentences. Can you write your own sentences to show that you can use the vocabulary above?
Read the following paragraph about 'minority languages'.
Minority languages are occasionally marginalised within nations for a number of reasons. These include the small number of speakers, the decline in the number of speakers, and their occasional consideration as uncultured, primitive, or simple dialects when compared to the dominant language. Support for minority languages is sometimes viewed as supporting separatism. Immigrant minority languages are often also seen as a threat and as indicative of the non-integration of these communities. Both of these perceived threats are based on the notion of the exclusion of the majority language speakers. Often this is added to by political systems which do not provide support (such as education and policing) in these languages.
Are the following statements true, false or not given?
Read the following text about bad behaviour in schools.
The misbehaviour of children is common in all schools, although most schools manage to maintain tolerable standards of discipline. Low levels of indiscipline can result in a detrimental working environment for children, while poor disciplinary management within a school can cause a more general breakdown in order.
Problems with school discipline have also led to a reduction in the number of people willing to become teachers, especially in schools regarded as difficult. Student misbehaviour and rudeness is the leading cause of teacher resignations. In some areas and countries, this has led to a severe teacher shortage, with classes either not taught, or taught by an unqualified person. In some schools, a class may have up to a dozen different teachers in a single year, as the replacements decide to leave rather than deal with student behaviour. Many countries are now trying to offer incentives to new teachers to remain in such schools, but with very limited success.
Find words or phrases in the text that are similar to those in the list below.
1. sufficient levels
3. resulted in
4. main reason for
6. as many as twelve
Whenever you practise doing an IELTS reading test, you should treat it as an opportunity to improve your vocabulary knowledge. Look carefully at the phrases used, and the way ideas are expressed.
For example, did you notice this vocabulary in last week's lesson?
Try making your own sentences to practise using some of these phrases.
Read the following passage and choose the best heading.
The environmental challenges posed by agriculture are huge, and they’ll only become more pressing as we try to meet the growing need for food worldwide. We’ll likely have two billion more mouths to feed by mid-century - more than nine billion people. But sheer population growth isn’t the only reason we’ll need more food. The spread of prosperity across the world, especially in India and China, is driving an increased demand for meat, eggs and dairy, boosting pressure to grow more corn and soybeans to feed more cattle, pigs and chickens. If these trends continue, the double whammy of population growth and richer diets will require us to roughly double the amount of crops we grow by 2050.
(Source: National Geographic, May 2014)
A) Two key trends driving the demand for food worldwide.
B) The impact of agriculture on the natural world.
C) Growing populations and their need for food.
Here's an interesting way to use reading tests from the Cambridge IELTS books:
This technique forces you to stop testing yourself. Instead, it makes you focus on finding key vocabulary and understanding the reason for each answer. You might be surprised at the improvements you make if you regularly practise in this way.
The following exercise comes from a 'match the headings' question in Cambridge IELTS book 5. I have given you the correct heading for each description, but can you find the 'keywords' that prove why the two answers are correct?
This book describes the creativity of Aboriginal people living in the driest parts of Australia. Stunning reproductions of paintings, beautiful photography and informative text.
Guide to the Art of the Australian Desert
Graphic artists have worked with researchers and scientists to illustrate how these prehistoric animals lived and died on the Australian continent.
A Pictorial History of the Dinosaur in Australia
Try following these steps when doing multiple choice questions:
From my experience practising IELTS reading with students, skimming and scanning are techniques that don't usually help. When students try to skim or scan, they often miss the answers completely.
For example, if you are scanning for the word "buy" but the passage contains the synonym "purchase", you probably won't find the answer.
So what is the solution? Instead of skimming or scanning, I tell my students to read at normal speed. Only scan quickly if you are searching for a name or a number.
Read the following passage about the performer Houdini.
Harry Houdini (1874 to 1926) was a Hungarian-American illusionist and stunt performer, noted for his sensational escape acts. He first attracted attention as "Harry Handcuff Houdini" on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to keep him locked up. Soon he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to hold his breath inside a sealed milk can.
In 1904, thousands watched as Houdini tried to escape from special handcuffs commissioned by London's Daily Mirror newspaper. Another stunt saw him buried alive and only just able to claw himself to the surface. While many suspected that these escapes were faked, Houdini presented himself as the scourge of fake magicians and spiritualists. As President of the Society of American Magicians, he was keen to uphold professional standards and expose fraudulent artists. He was also quick to sue anyone who pirated his stunts.
Are the following statements true, false, or not given in the text?
The exercise below serves as both IELTS reading practice and topic research for this week's writing lesson (about 'telework').
Fill the gaps in the passage with the following words:
commute, mobility, instant, efficient, remote, smartphones, locations
Telecommuting, ______ work, or telework is a work arrangement in which employees do not ______ to a central place of work. A person who telecommutes is known as a "telecommuter", "teleworker", and sometimes as a "home-sourced," or "work-at-home" employee. Many telecommuters work from home, while others, sometimes called "nomad workers", use mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or other ______.
Telework is facilitated by tools such as groupware, virtual private networks, conference calling and videoconferencing. It can be ______ and useful for companies since it allows workers to communicate over long distances, saving travel time and cost. Furthermore, with their improving technology and increasing popularity, ______ are becoming widely used in telework. They substantially increase the ______ of the worker and the degree of coordination with their organization. The technology of mobile phones allows ______ communication through text messages, camera photos, and video clips from anywhere and at any time.
Read the following article about the effects of television on young children.
Watching television makes toddlers fatter and stupider at primary school, according to new research. Scientists who tracked the progress of pre-school children found that the more television they watched the worse they were at mathematics, the more junk food they ate, and the more they were bullied by other pupils.
The findings, which support earlier evidence indicating television harms cognitive development, prompted calls for the Government to set limits on how much children should watch. American paediatricians advise that under-twos should not watch any television and that older children should view one to two hours a day at most. France has banned shows aimed at under-threes, and Australia recommends that three to five year-olds watch no more than an hour a day. Britain has no official advice.
Researchers said that pre-school is a critical time for brain development and that TV watching displaced time that could be spent engaging in "developmentally enriching tasks". Even incremental exposure to TV delayed development, said the lead author Dr Linda Pagani, of Montreal University.
According to the article, are these statements TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN?
The articles used in the IELTS reading test often come from magazines like The Economist or The New Scientist. Why not practise for the exam by reading articles from these magazines?
Here are a few paragraphs from an article about the use of wireless communications to improve health care. I've made it into a gap-fill exercise.
Fill the gaps with one of the following words: cutting, advances, track, coming, empower, chief, developing
Pundits have long predicted that ______ in genetics will usher in a golden age of individually tailored therapies. But in fact it is much lower-tech wireless devices and internet-based health software that are precipitating the mass customisation of health care, and creating entirely new business models in the process.
The hope is that nimble new technologies, from smart-phones to health-monitoring devices, will ______ patients and doctors, and thus improve outcomes while ______ costs. The near ubiquity of mobile phones is the ______ reason to think this optimistic scenario may come true. Patients with smart-phones can certainly benefit from interactive “wellness” applications that track diet, exercise and vital signs.
Many companies are ______ up with “home health” devices embedded with wireless technology. Some are overtly clinical in nature: Medtronic, a devices giant, is ______ a bedside monitor that wirelessly tracks the blood sugar levels in diabetic children sleeping nearby. GE has come up with “body sensor networks”, tiny wireless devices that ______ the vital signs of those who wear them.
Full article: Apr 8th 2010, From The Economist
Read the following text and answer true, false or not given.
Coffee consumption has been shown to have minimal or no impact, positive or negative, on cancer development. However, researchers involved in an ongoing 22-year study by the Harvard School of Public Health state that "the overall balance of risks and benefits [of coffee consumption] are on the side of benefits."
Other studies suggest coffee consumption reduces the risk of being affected by Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout. A longitudinal study in 2009 showed that those who consumed a moderate amount of coffee or tea (3–5 cups per day) at midlife were less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease in late-life compared with those who drank little coffee or avoided it altogether.
The people who write the questions for IELTS reading do something like this:
Have you ever tried writing your own IELTS reading question? It's a good exercise to get you thinking like the question writer, and hopefully you'll see why the keyword technique is so useful.
Tip: If you try this, start by writing your own 'true, false, not given' questions.
Read the following passage, and choose the best title from the list.
Using a laser scan of Bourges cathedral in France, a team led by John Ochsendorf of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have 3D-printed thousands of bricks and are building an exact 1:50 replica. The researchers hope to use the mock-up to devise a way to gauge the stability, and thus safety, of historical buildings built of brick and stone.
Building the replica is painstaking work, but Ochsendorf thinks the process itself may be as valuable as the mechanics uncovered. For students of architecture and structural engineering, hands-on experience has largely given way to computer modelling. Techniques like 3D printing could be a way of reconnecting them with the craft behind the science, he says.
(New Scientist, 14.2 14.)
A) 3D printing a historical structure.
B) The benefits of 3D printing.
C) Computer modelling or hands-on experience?
D) A damaged cathedral is rebuilt.
When practising with the Cambridge IELTS books, try this study technique:
1. Choose a reading passage.
2. Go to the back of the book and get the correct answers.
3. Study the passage with the aim of proving why those answers are correct.
4. Make a keyword table.
When you know what the answers are, you can focus on exam technique: searching for keywords, then reading the relevant part of the passage carefully. You might find this helps you more than simply testing yourself would.
To demonstrate the difference between answering true, false or not given, I usually show my students some easy examples from a General Reading exam.
The following examples come from Cambridge IELTS 7, pages 119-120.
1. The entrance to the campsite is locked after 10 p.m.
2. No dogs are allowed on the campsite.
3. You are not allowed to cook food on open fires.
Don't make any noise after 10 o'clock at night or before 7.30 in the morning. Dogs must be kept on a lead. Owners of dogs that disturb other campers by barking through the night will be asked to leave. The lighting of fires is strictly prohibited.
Decide whether the question statements are true, false or not given. Then try to explain what we can learn from this exercise about the differences between true, false and not given.
Read the following excerpt from a book review:
What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours merely to acquire greater wealth? These are some of the questions that many asked themselves when the financial system crashed in 2008. This book tackles such questions head-on. The authors begin with the great economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1930, Keynes predicted that within a century people’s basic needs would be met, and no one would have to work more than fifteen hours a week.
Clearly, he was wrong: though income has increased as he envisioned, our wants have seemingly gone unsatisfied, and we continue to work long hours. The authors explain why Keynes was mistaken. Then, arguing from the premise that economics is a moral science, they trace the concept of the good life from Aristotle to the present and show how our lives over the last half century have strayed from that ideal. Finally, they issue a call to think anew about what really matters in our lives and how to attain it.
Are the following statements true, false or not given?
Read the paragraph below and choose the best heading from the list.
Reading underwent serious changes in the 18th century. Until 1750, reading was done “intensively”: people tended to own a small number of books and read them repeatedly, often to a small audience. After 1750, people began to read “extensively”, finding as many books as they could, and increasingly reading them alone. Libraries that lent out their material for a small price started to appear, and occasionally bookstores would offer a small lending library to their patrons. Coffee houses commonly offered books, journals and sometimes even popular novels to their customers.
1. The appearance of the first public libraries.
2. Intensive and extensive reading habits.
3. The reading revolution.
Today I'm attaching part of a real IELTS reading test. You'll see that the first section asks "Which paragraph contains the following information?" Try doing these "paragraph" questions last; hopefully you'll find them easier when you've done the other questions and become familiar with the passage.
Feel free to share your answers in the "comments" area.