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.
Here's the short video lesson that I promised for today:
If you don't have access to YouTube, try watching on Vimeo by clicking here.
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.
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 passage.
The cinematograph is a motion picture film camera which also serves as a film projector and developer. It was invented in the 1890s, but there is much dispute as to the identity of its inventor.
Some argue that the device was first invented and patented as "Cinématographe Léon Bouly" by French inventor Léon Bouly on February 12, 1892. Bouly coined the term “cinematograph”, which translates in Greek to “writing in movement”. It is said that Bouly was not able to pay the rent for his patent the following year, and that the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière bought the licence.
A more popular version of events is that Louis Lumière was the first to conceptualise the idea. The Lumière brothers shared the patent, and they made their first film, Sortie de l'usine Lumière de Lyon, in 1894.
Choose the best title for the whole passage from the list below.
A) How the cinematograph was invented
B) The first film projector
C) Who invented the cinematograph?
D) What is a cinematograph?
Read the following passage about cognitive behavioural therapy:
A) Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach: a talking therapy. CBT aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviours and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure in the present.
B) The particular therapeutic techniques vary, but commonly may include keeping a diary of significant events and associated feelings, thoughts and behaviours; questioning and testing cognitions, assumptions, evaluations and beliefs that might be unhelpful and unrealistic; gradually facing activities which may have been avoided; and trying out new ways of behaving and reacting. Relaxation, mindfulness and distraction techniques are also commonly included.
C) Going through cognitive behavioural therapy is not an overnight process for clients; a typical course consists of 12-16 hour-long sessions. Even after clients have learned to recognise when and where their mental processes go awry, it can in some cases take considerable time or effort to replace a dysfunctional process or habit with a more reasonable and adaptive one. CBT is problem-focused and structured towards the client. It requires honesty and openness between the client and therapist, as a therapist develops strategies for managing problems and guiding the client to a better life.
Choose the best headings for paragraphs A, B and C from this list:
Students are often confused by the difference between 'false' and 'not given'.
You should choose false if the information in the passage directly contradicts the question statement; in other words, you need to be able to show that a different answer would be true. Choose not given only when there is no information, or not enough information.
Click here to see two example questions. The answer to the first one is 'false', and the answer to the second is 'not given'. Hopefully my explanations will help you to see the difference.
The answers to last week's reading exercise were B, C and F. We get those answers by doing two things:
Read the following passage about a tunnel in London.
The Thames Tunnel is an underwater tunnel that was built beneath the River Thames in London between 1825 and 1843. It is 396 metres long, and runs at a depth of 23 metres below the river surface. It was the first tunnel known to have been constructed successfully underneath a navigable river.
Although it was a triumph of civil engineering, the Thames Tunnel was not a financial success, with building costs far exceeding initial estimates. Proposals to extend the entrance to accommodate wheeled vehicles failed, and it was used only by pedestrians. However, the tunnel did become a major tourist destination, attracting about two million people a year, each of whom paid a penny to pass under the river.
The construction of the Thames Tunnel showed that it was indeed possible to build underwater tunnels, despite the previous scepticism of many engineers. Its historic importance was recognised on 24th March 1995, when the structure was listed Grade II* in recognition of its architectural importance.
Which THREE of the following statements are correct?
A) The Thames Tunnel was the world’s first ever tunnel.
B) Construction of the tunnel was more expensive than predicted.
C) There were plans to allow vehicles to use the tunnel.
D) Tourism eventually made the tunnel profitable.
E) Many engineers had already tried to build underwater tunnels.
F) The Thames Tunnel is now considered to be a significant work of architecture.
Read the following text about volcanoes in Iceland.
Iceland has a high concentration of active volcanoes due to unique geological conditions. The island has about 130 volcanic mountains, of which 18 have erupted since the settlement of Iceland, circa 900 CE. Over the past 500 years, Iceland's volcanoes have erupted a third of the total global lava output.
Geologists explain this high concentration of volcanic activity as being due to a combination of the island's position on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and a volcanic hotspot underneath the island. The island sits astride the boundary between the Eurasian and North American Plates, and most volcanic activity is concentrated along the plate boundary, which runs across the island from the south-west to the north-east of the island. Some volcanic activity occurs offshore, especially off the southern coast. This includes wholly submerged submarine volcanoes and even newly formed volcanic islands such as Surtsey and Jólnir.
The most recent volcanic eruption in Iceland was that of Eyjafjallajökull, which started on April 14, 2010. The Eyjafjallajökull eruption closely followed an eruption in Fimmvörðuháls, which had erupted on March 20.
Are the statements below true, false or not given?
You can't get a high score in the IELTS reading test without learning a lot of vocabulary.
For example, here are some words and phrases that my students needed to know for a reading test that we did:
Write the new words and phrases that you read or hear in a notebook - that's the best way to improve your vocabulary knowledge.
The Paper Clip
According to the Early Office Museum, the first patent for a bent wire paper clip was awarded in the United States to Samuel B. Fay, in 1867. This clip was originally intended primarily for attaching tickets to fabric, although the patent recognized that it could be used to attach papers together. Although functional and practical, Fay's design along with the 50 other designs patented prior to 1899 are not considered reminiscent of the modern paper clip design known today.
The most common type of wire paper clip still in use, the Gem paper clip, was never patented, but it was most likely in production in Britain in the early 1870s by "The Gem Manufacturing Company", according to the American expert on technological innovations, Professor Henry J. Petroski.
Are the following statements true, false, or not given in the text?
Fill the gaps in the text using the 10 words below.
A _____ report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the "dominant _____" of global warming since the 1950s. The report by the UN's climate panel details the physical _____ behind climate change. On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is "_____", it explained. The panel warns that continued _____ of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system. To contain these changes will require "substantial and sustained _____ of greenhouse gas emissions".
After a week of intense negotiations in the Swedish capital, the summary for policymakers on the physical science of global warming has finally been released. For the future, the report states that warming is _____ to continue under all _____. Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, from Imperial College London, told BBC News: "We are performing a very dangerous _____ with our planet, and I don't want my grandchildren to suffer the _____."
emissions, experiment, cause, unequivocal, landmark, consequences, reductions, scenarios, projected, evidence
Text adapted from BBC website, 27.9.13
Today I'm attaching a reading test that requires you to match names with statements. It might help to scan for the names first and highlight them.
Try this 'paragraph headings' question from Cambridge IELTS 7, page 48-50.
Choose the correct heading for the paragraph below.
It would have been easy to criticise the MIRTP for using in the early phases a 'top-down' approach, in which decisions were made by experts and officials before being handed down to communities, but it was necessary to start the process from the level of the governmental authorities of the district. It would have been difficult to respond to the requests of villagers and other rural inhabitants without the support and understanding of district authorities.
Is it true that the answer is always in the first sentence of the paragraph?
Read the following paragraph and choose the best heading.
Melbourne has topped the list of the best cities in the world to live in, according to a new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit. Vienna in Austria and Vancouver in Canada came in second and third place respectively on the Global Livability Ranking. Cities across the world are awarded scores depending on lifestyle challenges faced by the people living there. Each city is scored on its stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. This is the third time that the Australian city has topped the list. Unfortunately, UK cities fared worse on the list with London coming 55 out of 140 cities while Manchester was ranked 51. The report also shows that livability across the world has fallen by 0.6 per cent.
A) Livability survey produces some surprising results.
B) How cities are ranked.
C) Results of the latest “Most Livable Cities Index”.
D) Melbourne is top city for tourists.
What do I mean by the 'keyword' technique?
By 'keywords' I mean: words in the text that have a similar meaning to words in the questions.
The table below shows the keywords that helped my students to find the answers to the test on page 122 of Cambridge IELTS 6.
Note: this comes from a General Training test, but the technique is the same for both general and academic tests.
Read the following text about 'collocation':
Collocation is defined as a sequence of words or terms which co-occur more often than would be expected by chance. Collocation comprises the restrictions on how words can be used together, for example which prepositions are used with particular verbs, or which verbs and nouns are used together. An example of this (from Michael Halliday) is the collocation strong tea. While the same meaning could be conveyed through the roughly equivalent powerful tea, the fact is that English prefers to speak of tea in terms of being strong rather than in terms of being powerful. A similar observation holds for powerful computers which is preferred over strong computers.
If the expression is heard often, the words become 'glued' together in our minds. 'Crystal clear', 'middle management', 'nuclear family', and 'cosmetic surgery' are examples of collocated pairs of words. Some words are often found together because they make up a compound noun, for example 'text message' or 'motor cyclist'.
Are the statements below true, false or not given in the text?
Have you done the free practice tests from the official IELTS website (ielts.org)?
If you haven't, click the link below. There are 7 sample tasks that you can download and print. The answers are at the bottom of each page.
Read the following passage and answer the questions below.
A Stradivarius is one of the violins, cellos, and other stringed instruments built by members of the Stradivari (Stradivarius) family, particularly Antonio Stradivari, during the 17th and 18th centuries. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it, though this belief is disputed. The name "Stradivarius" has become a superlative often associated with excellence, and the fame of Stradivarius instruments is widespread, appearing in numerous works of fiction.
Depending on condition, instruments made during Stradivari's "golden period" from 1700 to about 1725 can be worth millions of dollars. In 2011, his "Lady Blunt" violin from 1721, which is in pristine condition, was sold at Tarisio auctions for £9.8 million.
These instruments are famous for the quality of sound they produce. However, the many blind tests from 1817 to the present have never found any difference in sound between Stradivari's violins and high-quality violins in comparable style of other makers and periods, nor has acoustic analysis. In a particularly famous test on a BBC Radio programme in 1977, the violinists Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman and the violin expert and dealer Charles Beare tried to distinguish between the "Chaconne" Stradivarius and three other violins, including one made in 1976, played behind a screen by a professional soloist. None of the listeners identified more than two of the four instruments. Two of the listeners identified the 20th-century violin as the Stradivarius.
Are the following statements true, false or not given?
PS. Thanks to those of you who wished me a nice holiday!
'Not having enough time' is the biggest problem for most people taking the reading test. Here are some tips for dealing with this problem:
When preparing for the reading test at home, try not to worry about time at first. Your first concern should be to get the score you need, even if it takes you 3 hours instead of 1 hour to do a full test.