Reading Test Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

We are going to look at how to deal with all the different types of reading questions which can be found on the reading paper (taken from takeielts.britishcouncil.org).
First you will see tips and then the questions themselves. Follow the tips and see if you can answer the questions for yourself. At the end, compare your answers with our guided reading answers.

This reading passage includes the question types:

Matching lists
Sentence completion

If you would like to practice True/False/Not Given and Multiple choice questions, go to reading passage 1. Do you remember our speed reading advice from that lesson? Here is a reminder.

Speed Reading Note

If you want to learn how to read a text quickly, use skimming and scanning to help you. Here are the important things to know:

First skim to get an overall meaning of the text:
1. Read the first and last paragraph.
2. Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph.
3. Look out for any key names, dates and other nouns.

Scan for the answer to each question:
1. Look at the question and identify key words.
2. Use what you remember about the text from your skimming to find the paragraph which has the answer.
3. Match the meaning of the question with the meaning of the text to find your answer.

 You should take no more that 4 minutes to skim a complete passage, and no more than 20 minutes to finish all the questions for each passage.

If you want to learn about skimming and scanning and get more practice, join our self study reading course. Now free for new students!

00:00:00

​This is the second section of your IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about twenty minutes on it. Read the passage and answer questions 14-26.

​You can use the timer above to practice your skimming skills. Set the timer then skim the text below for the overall meaning before you answer the questions.

THE TRIUNE BRAIN

 
The first of our three brains to evolve is what scientists call the reptilian cortex. This brain sustains the elementary activities of animal survival such as respiration, adequate rest and a beating heart. We are not required to consciously “think” about these activities. The reptilian cortex also houses the “startle centre”, a mechanism that facilitates swift reactions to unexpected occurrences in our surroundings. That panicked lurch you experience when a door slams shut somewhere in the house, or the heightened awareness you feel when a twig cracks in a nearby bush while out on an evening stroll are both examples of the reptilian cortex at work. When it comes to our interaction with others, the reptilian brain offers up only the most basic impulses: aggression, mating, and territorial defence. There is no great difference, in this sense, between a crocodile defending its spot along the river and a turf war between two urban gangs.

Although the lizard may stake a claim to its habitat, it exerts total indifference toward the well-being of its young. Listen to the anguished squeal of a dolphin separated from its pod or witness the sight of elephants mourning their dead, however, and it is clear that a new development is at play. Scientists have identified this as the limbic cortex. Unique to mammals, the limbic cortex impels creatures to nurture their offspring by delivering feelings of tenderness and warmth to the parent when children are nearby. These same sensations also cause mammals to develop various types of social relations and kinship networks. When we are with others of “our kind” – be it at soccer practice, church, school or a nightclub – we experience positive sensations of togetherness, solidarity and comfort. If we spend too long away from these networks, then loneliness sets in and encourages us to seek companionship.

Only human capabilities extend far beyond the scope of these two cortexes. Humans eat, sleep and play, but we also speak, plot, rationalise and debate finer points of morality. Our unique abilities are the result of an expansive third brain – the neocortex – which engages with logic, reason and ideas. The power of the neocortex comes ​from its ability to think beyond the present, concrete moment. While other mammals are mainly restricted to impulsive actions (although some, such as apes, can learn and remember simple lessons), humans can think about the “big picture”. We can string together simple lessons (for example, an apple drops downwards from a tree; hurting others causes unhappiness) to develop complex theories of physical or social phenomena (such as the laws of gravity and a concern for human rights).

The neocortex is also responsible for the process by which we decide on and commit to particular courses of action. Strung together over time, these choices can accumulate into feats of progress unknown to other animals. Anticipating a better grade on the following morning’s exam, a student can ignore the limbic urge to socialise and go to sleep early instead. Over three years, this ongoing sacrifice translates into a first class degree and a scholarship to graduate school; over a lifetime, it can mean ground-breaking contributions to human knowledge and development. The ability to sacrifice our drive for immediate satisfaction in order to benefit later is a product of the neocortex.

Understanding the triune brain can help us appreciate the different natures of brain damage and psychological disorders. The most devastating form of brain damage, for example, is a condition in which someone is understood to be brain dead. In this state a person appears merely unconscious – sleeping, perhaps – but this is illusory. Here, the reptilian brain is functioning on autopilot despite the permanent loss of other cortexes.

Disturbances to the limbic cortex are registered in a different manner. Pups with limbic damage can move around and feed themselves well enough but do not register the presence of their littermates. Scientists have observed how, after a limbic lobotomy2, “one impaired monkey stepped on his outraged peers as if treading on a log or a rock”. In our own species, limbic damage is closely related to sociopathic behaviour. Sociopaths in possession of fully-functioning neocortexes are often shrewd and emotionally intelligent people but lack any ability to relate to, empathise with or express concern for others.

One of the neurological wonders of history occurred when a railway worker named Phineas Gage survived an incident during which a metal rod skewered his skull, taking a considerable amount of his neocortex with it. Though Gage continued to live and work as before, his fellow employees observed a shift in the equilibrium of his personality. Gage’s animal propensities were now sharply pronounced while his intellectual abilities suffered; garrulous or obscene jokes replaced his once quick wit. New findings suggest, however, that Gage managed to soften these abrupt changes over time and rediscover an appropriate social manner. This would indicate that reparative therapy has the potential to help patients with advanced brain trauma to gain an improved quality of life.

1 Triune = three-in-one

2 Lobotomy = surgical cutting of brain nerves

mATCHING iNFORMATION fROM tWO lISTS

There are two lists. One list is numbered and the other is lettered – ABCD. One list usually contains more items than the other. You must match items from the two lists together.

IELTSTutors Tips:

 

  • Step 1: Read the instructions carefully. Can you use an option more than once?
  • Step 2: Read the first numbered item.
  • Step 3: Briefly familiarise yourself with the ABCD items. Which ones seem correct straight away?
  • Step 4: Skim the reading passage to find the section which discusses the numbered item.
  • Step 5: Read that section of the reading passage carefully to find the answer.
  • Step 6: Finally check the ABCD list and select the item which best matches the information in the reading passage. If none of them seem to match, you probably need to read more of the passage.

QUESTIONS 14 – 22

 

Classify the following as typical of

A | The reptilian cortex
B | The limbic cortex
C | The neo cortex

​Answer A, B or C, to questions 14–22.

14. giving up short-term happiness for future gains
15. maintaining the bodily functions necessary for life
16. experiencing the pain of losing another
17. forming communities and social groups
18. making a decision and carrying it out
19. guarding areas of land
20. developing explanations for things
21. looking after one’s young
22. responding quickly to sudden movement and noise



ANSWERS

These are guided reading answers to help you check your work. You should only look at these after you have tried the questions yourself.

14) GIVING UP SHORT-TERM HAPPINESS FOR FUTURE GAINS

C

The text states ‘Anticipating a better grade on the following morning’s exam, a student can ignore the limbic urge to socialise and go to sleep early instead’. This is an example of passing over instant gratification for long term benefit.
​The text later tells directly ‘The ability to sacrifice our drive for immediate satisfaction in order to benefit later is a product of the neocortex’.

15) MAINTAINING THE BODILY FUNCTIONS NECESSARY FOR LIFE

A

The text states ‘This brain sustains the elementary activities of animal survival such as respiration, adequate rest and a beating heart’. These are important bodily functions.

16) EXPERIENCING THE PAIN OF LOSING ANOTHER

B

The text tells us ‘witness the sight of elephants mourning their dead, however, and it is clear that a new development is at play. Scientists have identified this as the limbic cortex’. Mourning in this context refers to experiencing the loss of another.

17) FORMING COMMUNITIES AND SOCIAL GROUPS

B

The text informs us ‘These same sensations also cause mammals to develop various types of social relations and kinship networks. When we are with others of “our kind” – be it at soccer practice, church, school or a nightclub – we experience positive sensations of togetherness, solidarity and comfort’. These examples of social groups help us easily locate the answer.

18) MAKING A DECISION AND CARRYING IT OUT

C

The text tells us ‘The neocortex is also responsible for the process by which we decide on and commit to particular courses of action’. To commit to a course of action means to make a decision about what to do.

19) GUARDING AREAS OF LAND

A

The text informs us ‘the reptilian brain offers up only the most basic impulses: aggression, mating, and territorial defence’. The last example is of guarding an area of land.

20) DEVELOPING EXPLANATIONS FOR THINGS

C

The text tells us ‘humans can think about the “big picture”. We can string together simple lessons (for example, an apple drops downwards from a tree; hurting others causes unhappiness) to develop complex theories of physical or social phenomena (such as the laws of gravity and a concern for human rights)’. Theories is a synonym of explanations.

21) LOOKING AFTER ONE’S YOUNG

B

The text states ‘Unique to mammals, the limbic cortex impels creatures to nurture their offspring by delivering feelings of tenderness and warmth to the parent when children are nearby.’ Nurture is a synonym of look after in this context.

22) RESPONDING QUICKLY TO SUDDEN MOVEMENT AND NOISE

A

The text states ‘The reptilian cortex also houses the “startle centre”, a mechanism that facilitates swift reactions to unexpected occurrences in our surroundings. That panicked lurch you experience when a door slams shut somewhere in the house, or the heightened awareness you feel when a twig cracks in a nearby bush while out on an evening stroll are both examples of the reptilian cortex at work’. Swift reactions and responding quickly are synonyms.

Sentence Completion

​There are some incomplete sentences. Each sentence contains a gap which you must fill.

IELTSTutors Tips:

  • Step 1: Read the instructions carefully. Can you use your own words or must you use words from the reading passage? How many words are you allowed to use?
  • Step 2: Quickly read through all the incomplete sentences to get an idea of what information you will have to find in the passage.
  • Step 3: Read the first sentence more carefully. Decide what information you will need, for example, a name or place.
  • Step 4: Skim the passage to find the relevant section. Then look back at the incomplete sentence and decide what specific information you need to complete it.
  • Step 5: Read that part of the passage more carefully to find the answer. Remember that the correct answer must fit the incomplete sentence grammatically.
  • Step 6: Check your spelling is accurate. If your spelling is incorrect you will lose the point. You can use British or American spelling.

QUESTIONS 23 – 26

Complete the sentences below.
Use NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

1. A person with only a functioning reptilian cortex is known as .
2. in humans is associated with limbic disruption.
3. An industrial accident caused Phineas Gage to lose part of his .
4. After his accident, co-workers noticed an imbalance between Gage’s and higher-order thinking.

ANSWERS

Open the boxes below to see the answers to these questions.

23) A PERSON WITH ONLY A FUNCTIONING REPTILIAN CORTEX IS KNOWN AS ……………….

BRAIN DEAD

​The text states ‘The most devastating form of brain damage, for example, is a condition in which someone is understood to be brain dead. In this state a person appears merely unconscious – sleeping, perhaps – but this is illusory. Here, the reptilian brain is functioning on autopilot despite the permanent loss of other cortexes.’

24) ……………….. IN HUMANS IS ASSOCIATED WITH LIMBIC DISRUPTION.

SOCIOPATHIC BEHAVIO(U)R

The text states it directly ‘In our own species, limbic damage is closely related to sociopathic behaviour’. Check your spelling of this term. Remember, bad spelling costs points.

Note: The (u) is the English spelling. Without it is the American spelling.

25) AN INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT CAUSED PHINEAS GAGE TO LOSE PART OF HIS ……………….

NEOCORTEX

The text tells us ‘Phineas Gage survived an incident during which a metal rod skewered his skull, taking a considerable amount of his neocortex with it’. Incident is another way of saying accident.

26) AFTER HIS ACCIDENT, CO-WORKERS NOTICED AN IMBALANCE BETWEEN GAGE’S ……………….. AND HIGHER-ORDER THINKING.

ANIMAL PROPENSITIES

The text informs us ‘his fellow employees observed a shift in the equilibrium of his personality. Gage’s animal propensities were now sharply pronounced while his intellectual abilities suffered; garrulous or obscene jokes replaced his once quick wit’. Sharply pronounced means very obvious/clear, while suffered here means that his intellectual (higher-order) abilities were weaker. This is the imbalance.

Well done. Now go on to passage 3 to practice matching headings/information, Yes/No/Not Given questions and summary completion.