Reading Question Types Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

​In this class we are going to learn about the life cycle of a type of fish and look at tips to answer a flow chart type of IELTS test question. We are going to use this opportunity to study some academic vocabulary about wildlife in context. Wildlife and conservation are very common topics in the IELTS test.

For previous Reading Practice lessons, follow the links below:
Reading Practice 1 | Short answer questions and headings
Reading Practice 2 | Matching sentence endings
Reading Practice 3 | Matching headings and sentence completion
Reading Practice 4 |True/False/Not given questions
Reading Practice 5 | Summary and sentence completion + T/F/NG questions
Reading Practice 6 | Matching headings and vocabulary practice

First, read the article.

The Life Cycle of Salmon


Salmon eggs are laid in freshwater streams typically at high latitudes. To lay her roe (eggs), the female salmon uses her tail to create a nest called a redd in the gravel of the river bed. The redd may sometimes contain up to 5,000 eggs of an orange or red colour. Constantly flowing cool water is needed to provide a consistent supply of oxygen to the developing embryos. When developed, the eggs hatch and sac fry, which are small fish with a stripe along each side, emerge and hide amongst the reeds. The juvenile salmon stay for six months to three years in their natal stream before becoming smolts which are distinguished by their bright, silvery colour. Only 10% of all salmon eggs are estimated to survive to this stage.

The salmon spend about one to five years (depending on the species) in the open ocean, where they gradually become mature. The adult salmon then return to the streams where they were born in order to breed. Atlantic salmon spend between one and four years at sea. Some species of salmon grow a hump on their back or bigger teeth before they start breeding. All change from the silvery blue of an ocean salmon to a darker colour. Salmon make amazing journeys. They migrate huge distances up rivers in their hundreds and thousands in order to breed. Swimming upstream to get to their birthplace where they can reproduce takes a huge amount of effort as the fish must swim against strong currents and rapids. Chinook and sockeye salmon from central Idaho, for example, travel over 1,400 km and climb nearly 2,100 m from the Pacific Ocean as they return to spawn. The condition of the fish tends to deteriorate the longer they remain in fresh water, and they then deteriorate further after they breed, when they are known as kelts. Mature Salmon typically die within a few days or weeks of breeding.

Freshwater streams and estuaries on the coast provide an important habitat for many salmon species. They feed on insects, and crustaceans while young, and primarily on other fish when older. Estuaries and their associated wetlands provide vital nursery areas for the salmon before their departure to the open ocean. Wetlands not only keep the estuary clean from pollutants, but also provide important feeding and hiding areas. As wetlands habitats are damaged or converted for human use, there has been a sharp decline in the number of salmon. This has led to some species of salmon becoming endangered and being protected by law in certain countries.

Exercise 1 | Vocabulary Matching

​Read the definition and match an item of vocabulary.

1.To produce babies
2.At risk of being harmed or destroyed
3.A large number of animals moving from one
area to another
4.The quality of something becomes worse
5.A natural area in which an animal lives

1.Where a river becomes wider and meets the sea
2.Not yet an adult
3.A fully developed adult
5.To continue to live or exist
6.A small river

​Exercise 2 | Vocabulary in Use

It’s very important when you learn new words that you understand the context in which to use them. Complete each sentence with one of the words from the previous task.
juvenile   ·  Habit   ·  survive   ·  estuary   ·  young   ·  streams   ·  migrate   ·  deteriorated  
Click or touch a word above
1.When the are born they are fully independent and don’t need the parent’s protection
2. destruction is causing many animals to become extinct.
3.The new factory opened and the quality of the air in the town .
4.Many birds thousands of kilometers every year.
5.Despite being quite small, a king cobra still has enough venom to kill several adult humans.
6.You can find lots of frogs and toads in the and lakes close to my house.
7.Before we went camping in Canada we had to learn how to if a bear attacked us.
8.Don’t swim in an in a tropical country because it may contain crocodiles or bull sharks that come to feed on the fish and mammals which live there.

Exercise 3 | Flow Chart Questions

Our tips: 
Step 1
– Decide what the purpose of the flow chart is. For example, does it ask questions or show the stages in a process?
Step 2 – Check the instructions carefully. Should you use words, letters or numbers? If with words, what are the maximum number of words you can use? Are they words that you must choose from the text? 
Step 3 – Study the words that are given. These words provide clues as to what the missing word/words could be. Think about if you need to write nouns, verbs or adjectives. Match keywords in the flow chart with synonyms (words with similar meaning) in the text and scan carefully for the answer.
Step 4 – Make sure that the sentences in the flow chart are grammatically accurate after you have written your answer.

Now follow these steps to answer the questions below.

Questions 1-5 

Write no more than 3 words from the text per answer

AThe female creates a 1. in the gravel of a stream bed.
BConstantly flowing water keeps the eggs oxygenated and at the correct temperature.
CNewly hatched juveiles escape predators by hiding amongst 2. .
DAfter becoming smolt, they move downstream to the ocean or sea.
EIt takes up to 5 years for salmon to become 3. in the ocean or sea.
FAdults return to their natal streams to 4. .
GAfter reproducing, salmon generally 5. quickly and then die.

Answer Explanations

  1. We see the words ‘female’ and ‘create’ in both the text and question, which guides us to the answer nest or redd.
  2. The key word in this question is ‘juveniles’. We find the synonym in the text ‘fry’ or ‘small fish’. The text later goes on to say that they ‘emerge and hide amongst the reeds.
  3. We can match the key word ‘ocean’ in the question with the text, where it states that ‘The salmon spend about one to five years (depending on the species) in the open ocean, where they gradually become mature.
  4. In the centre of paragraph 2 we read that salmon swim ‘upstream to get to their birthplace where they can reproduce…’ Birthplace is a synonym to ‘natal stream’ in the question, and the text mentions that here the salmon reproduce (breed and spawn are also accepted answers).
  5. We can match the keyword ‘die’ in both text and question. Before we see this word in the text, we read that ‘they deteriorate further after they breed.’ Notice that ‘reproduce’ in the question is a synonym of ‘breed’ in the text.

We hope you have enjoyed this lesson. For further vocabulary practice, complete our free Vocabulary in Context lessons!