Read the following passage about "mass media".
In the late 20th century, mass media could be classified into eight mass media industries: books, the Internet, magazines, movies, newspapers, radio, recordings, and television. The explosion of digital communication technology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries gave rise to the question: what forms of media should be classified as "mass media"? For example, it is controversial whether to include cell phones and video games in the definition.
Each mass medium has its own content types, creative artists, technicians, and business models. For example, the Internet includes blogs, podcasts, web sites, and various other technologies built atop the general distribution network. Internet and mobile phones are often referred to collectively as digital media, and radio and TV as broadcast media. Some argue that video games have developed into a distinct mass form of media, in the sense that they provide a common experience to millions of people across the globe and convey the same messages and ideologies to all their users.
Are the statements below true, false or not given?
If you are preparing for the academic IELTS test, you might never have tried a general reading paper. I recommend that you do. The techniques that you'll need to use are the same for both papers, and because the general test is easier, it serves as good practice.
Here's my keyword table for the general test questions on page 122 of Cambridge book 4:
Notice how the people who write the IELTS reading test use paraphrasing to make the questions. When you see 'keywords' like cultivation = growing, elderly = aged, or beach = coastal, you know you have the answer.
Read the following description of a book called 'What are Universities for?'.
Across the world, universities are more numerous than they have ever been, yet at the same time there is unprecedented confusion about their purpose and scepticism about their value. What Are Universities For? offers a spirited and compelling argument for completely rethinking the way we see our universities, and why we need them.
Stefan Collini challenges the common claim that universities need to show that they help to make money in order to justify getting more money. Instead, he argues that we must reflect on the different types of institution and the distinctive roles they play. In particular we must recognise that attempting to extend human understanding, which is at the heart of disciplined intellectual enquiry, can never be wholly harnessed to immediate social purposes - particularly in the case of the humanities, which both attract and puzzle many people and are therefore the most difficult subjects to justify.
At a time when the future of higher education lies in the balance, What Are Universities For? offers all of us a better, deeper and more enlightened understanding of why universities matter, to everyone.
Which statement best summarises the book's message?
A) We do not necessarily need universities nowadays
B) Universities should be harnessed for social purposes
C) Universities must justify the money they are given
D) We need to change our understanding of the role of universities
Here's another question that caused some debate among the students in one of my lessons. What answer would you choose, and why?
Question statement (true, false or not given?):
Bus drivers do not give change so you must have the correct money for a ticket.
What the passage says:
Buy your bus ticket from the bus driver, with the correct money if possible.
(From Cambridge IELTS 11 (General), test 3, question 10)
Read the following excerpt from a passage about ethnography.
Ethnography, from the Greek ethnos (folk, people, nation) and grapho (I write), is the systematic study of people and cultures. It is designed to explore cultural phenomena where the researcher observes society from the point of view of the subject of the study.
According to the leading social scientist, John Brewer, ethnographic data collection methods are meant to capture the “social meanings and ordinary activities” of people (known as “informants”) in “naturally occurring settings” that are commonly referred to as “the field”. The goal is to collect data in such a way that the researcher imposes a minimal amount of personal bias. Methods of data collection can include participant observation, field notes, interviews, and surveys.
According to the passage, which TWO of the statements below are true?
A) Ethnography is a field of study that began in Greece.
B) Ethnographic research is concerned with ancient cultures and societies.
C) The subjects of ethnographic research are referred to as "informants".
D) Ethnographers try to make their research as objective as possible.
E) Observation is the most effective form of data collection.
"Which paragraph contains the following information?" This type of question is not the same as "match the headings to the paragraphs".
Here are some tips for "which paragraph contains?" questions:
Click here to try an example "which paragraph contains?" question from the official IELTS website.
The people who write the questions for IELTS reading do something like this:
In other words, they use the "keyword technique" to write the questions, which is why you should use it to find the answers.
Here are 3 study tips to help you improve your reading:
The following question demonstrates the 'keyword technique'.
Question (true, false or not given?)
New trainees who want work experience should check out vacancies before they depart.
What's more important to you - travel or work experience? You can be flexible with travel plans but you must research job opportunities in advance.
The correct answer is 'true', but can you complete the keyword table below to show how we found this answer?
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 excerpt from a passage about etymology.
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. For a language with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages, and texts about the languages, to gather knowledge about how words were used during earlier periods of their history and when they entered the languages in question.
Etymologists also apply the methods of comparative linguistics to reconstruct information about languages that are too old for any direct information to be available. By analysing related languages with a technique known as the comparative method, linguists can make inferences about their shared parent language and its vocabulary. In this way, word roots have been found that can be traced all the way back to the origin of, for instance, the Indo-European language family.
The word etymology is derived from the Greek word ἐτυμολογία, etymologia, itself from ἔτυμον, etymon, meaning "true sense", and the suffix -logia, denoting "the study of".
Which TWO of the following statements agree with the information above?
A) Etymology involves the study of historical texts.
B) Some languages are too old for linguists to understand.
C) The ancient Greeks were the first to study the origins of words.
D) Most words have their origins in Indo-European languages.
E) The word ‘etymology’ derives from a word meaning ‘the study of true sense’.
Read the following article, and choose the best title from the list below.
The setting is decidedly modest: a utility room in a red-brick house at the end of a cul-de-sac in Wales. But if the hype turns out to be right, this may be the starting point for an energy revolution in the UK. Householder Mark Kerr has become the first British owner of a Tesla Powerwall, a cutting-edge bit of kit that the makers say will provide a “missing link” in solar energy.
Like many owners of solar panels, Kerr and his family have a basic problem. They tend to be out at work and school when the sun is shining and the 16 solar panels on the roof of their home in Cardiff are producing power. The excess they miss out on is fed into the grid and they make a return on it but it does not seem right that they do not get to use the power from their panels. However, from now, energy produced but not used during the day will charge the Powerwall and can then be used to provide them with the energy they need when they’re at home and their lights, music centres, computers, televisions and myriad other devices need feeding.
Choose title A, B, C or D. Can you explain why the others are wrong?
A) The UK energy revolution.
B) Wales at the forefront of technology.
C) New device could herald energy revolution.
D) The problem with solar panels.
If you want to do some realistic IELTS reading practice, the only books that I recommend are Cambridge IELTS books 4 to 10 and the two 'Official Practice Materials' books.
Here are some problems that I've seen in other 'unofficial' books:
You can still use unofficial books for reading practice. Just don't expect the tests in them to be realistic.
Note: Cambridge books 1 to 3 are quite old, and some of the questions don't seem as well written as those in the later books.
Over the weekend I ran an IELTS preparation course here in Manchester. We did some good work on 'paragraph headings' questions, and one of the exercises that we used was test 3, passage 2 in Cambridge IELTS book 5.
Here are the keywords from the 'paragraph headings' section in that test:
Note: I always recommend doing paragraph matching questions last. They are much easier if you are already familiar with the passage, having done other question sections first.
Read the following passage and answer the questions below it.
Learning a second language can boost thinking skills, improve mental agility and delay the ageing of the brain, according to scientists who believe that speaking minority languages should be positively encouraged in schools and universities. Studies have found that children and adults who learn or speak another language benefit from the extra effort it takes to handle two sets of vocabularies and rules of grammar.
“Fewer parents speak minority languages to their children because of the perceived lack of usefulness. Many people still think that a minority language makes children confused and puts them at a disadvantage at school,” said Antonella Sorace of the University of Edinburgh. “These feelings clash with much research on bilingualism, which shows instead that when there are differences between monolingual and bilingual children, these are almost invariably in favour of bilinguals,” Dr Sorace said.
“Bilingual children tend to have enhanced language abilities, a better understanding of others’ points of view, and more mental flexibility in dealing with complex situations,” she told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.
Are the following statements TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN?
Here are two tricky questions that people have asked me about. For each question, decide whether the answer is false or not given, and try to explain why.
Question 1 (Cambridge 7, test 3)
Problems in Nordic countries were excluded because they are outside the European Economic Community.
Relevant part of the passage:
Their initial task was to decide which of the many forest problems of concern to Europe involved the largest number of countries and might be subject to joint action. Those confined to particular geographical areas, such as countries bordering the Mediterranean or the Nordic countries therefore had to be discarded.
Question 2 (Cambridge 10, test 3)
Tourism contributes over six per cent of the Australian gross national product.
Relevant part of the passage:
This industry (tourism) is the world's leading industrial contributor, producing over 6 per cent of the world's gross national product.
Over the weekend I ran an IELTS preparation course here in Manchester. One of the reading exercises that we did came from Cambridge 5 (test 1, passage 2). The topic of the passage was a famous psychology experiment.
My students found the 'which paragraph contains?' exercise particularly tricky. Here's a keyword table for that exercise:
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)
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.
I've just published the final video lesson in my series about IELTS reading. It contains a summary of the tips and techniques in the previous 9 lessons.
Click here to go to the video.
I'll publish my first video lesson for IELTS speaking this Friday.
Later today I'll publish a video lesson that summarises my advice for IELTS reading. Before you see it, think about the following questions:
Over the weekend I taught an IELTS course here in Manchester, and my students found the following question tricky. (Cambridge IELTS book 10, page 67)
Here's the question. Is this statement true, false or not given?:
Tourism has a social impact because it promotes recreation.
Here's the relevant sentence from the passage:
Tourism has a profound impact both on the world economy, and because of the educative effect of travel and the effects on employment, on society itself.
What's the answer?
My students were sure that the answer would be "false". According to the passage, the social impact of tourism is related to education and employment. However, the correct answer is "not given".
There is no mention of "recreation" in the passage. For the answer to be "false", the passage would need to tell us that recreation is not part of the social impact of tourism.
The answer is "false" when the information in the passage contradicts the question statement. If any of the information is missing, we have to answer "not given".
Finding the answers in the IELTS reading test is a bit like doing a "treasure hunt". The answers are all hidden in the passage, and the questions are the "clues" that you follow to find the "treasure".
The next time you do a practice reading test, imagine that it's a game of treasure hunt. The IELTS test writers are your opponents, but if you know how questions are made, you can learn to beat them!
Here are 3 tips to help you prepare for IELTS reading:
First, for test practice I only recommend the official Cambridge IELTS books. These contain real exam papers from previous years, so you can trust that the difficulty level will be accurate. Second, for advice, techniques and quick exercises, use the lessons here on the blog. Finally, read as much English as you can (in newspapers, books, on the Internet etc.) and write new or useful vocabulary in a notebook.
There are just two things that you need to do in the reading test: find and understand. First, you need to find where the answer is in the passage. Then you need to read and understand that part of the passage in order to get the right answer. Look through my lessons here on the blog to find more advice about the "keyword technique". I've also explained the keyword technique in this video and in all of the reading lessons on my video course website.
Improving your score
To improve your score, you need to work on two things: exam technique and your overall knowledge of the English language. With practice, you'll get better at using the "keyword technique" to find answers. However, if you don't understand the passage, you'll find it very hard to get the right answers. To improve your overall language knowledge, read as much English as you can, and write new or useful vocabulary in a notebook.
Read the following text, then answer the questions below it.
John Dewey (1859 to 1952) was an American philosopher and psychologist who is perhaps best known for his ideas in the field of education. He saw education and learning as social and interactive processes, and the school itself as a social institution through which social reform can and should take place. In addition, he believed that students thrive in an environment where they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum, and that all students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning.
While many people at the time believed that education’s purpose was to train students for work by providing them with a limited set of skills and information to do a particular job, Dewey argued that the school and the classroom teacher have a wider responsibility to produce psychological and social goods that will lead to both present and future social progress. As Dewey noted, "The business of the teacher is to produce a higher standard of intelligence in the community. Skill, ability to act wisely and effectively in a great variety of occupations and situations, is a sign of the degree of civilization that a society has reached.”
Are these statements TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN?
Choose the best heading for the following paragraph from the list below.
“Big data” is a term being used more and more by politicians. It refers to the concept that any problem – from underperforming pupils to failing hospitals – can be solved by collecting some tightly focused data, crunching it and making tweaks, such as moving pupils or changing nurses’ shifts, rather than dealing with bigger issues, such as poverty or spending cuts. This is an approach that focuses narrowly on “what works” without ever troubling to ask: “works for whom?” Its watchword is “smart”, which can easily be appreciated, rather than “right”, which can’t. Putting trust in highly educated technocrats, it is naturally less interested in public debate.
A) How data can be used to improve society.
B) Big data: a smart approach to politics that works for everyone.
C) A sceptical perspective on “big data”.
D) Why the public trusts technocrats more than politicians.
Hopefully you do this already, but it’s worth pointing out why underlining is so important when you’re doing an IELTS reading test. I tell my students to underline the main words in the question, then underline any similar words that they find as they read the passage.
There are 3 reasons why underlining is useful:
I can always tell when students have worked hard on a reading paper by the amount of underlining or highlighting they have done. If you don't usually underline things, start now!
Read the following passage, then choose the best title from the list below it.
According to a new review of studies related to running and health, jogging for as few as five or six miles per week could substantially improve someone’s health. “It seems like the maximum benefits of running occur at quite low doses,” said Dr. Carl J. Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. As little as “one to two runs per week, or three to six miles per week, and well less than an hour per week” can be quite beneficial, he said.
However, there may be an upper limit to the desirable mileage if your primary goal is improved health. Some evidence, he said, suggested that running strenuously for more than about an hour every day could slightly increase someone’s risks for heart problems, as well as for running-related injuries and disabilities.
Choose title A, B, C or D.
A) The health benefits of jogging
B) How much running is best?
C) Surprising findings about running
D) The benefits and drawbacks of regular jogging