Reading Tips Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

In today's blog we have a complete interactive online IELTS reading text for you to try, including a vocabulary focus to increase your lexical resource
At the end of each question, read our answer explanations to learn more about these types of questions.  

​Read the text, then test your skills with the exercises below.
Unexpected Benefits to the Human Brain
  1. James Paul Gee, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, played his first video game years ago when his six-year-old son Sam was playing Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside. He wanted to play the game so he could support Sam’s problem solving. Though Pajama Sam is not an “educational game”, it is replete with the types of problems psychologists study when they study thinking and learning. When he saw how well the game held Sam’s attention, he wondered what sort of beast a more mature video game might be.

  2. Video and computer games, like many other popular, entertaining and addicting kid’s activities, are looked down upon by many parents as time-wasters, and worse, parents think that these games rot the brain. Violent video games are readily blamed by the media and some experts as the reason why some youth become violent or commit extreme anti-social behavior. Recent content analyses of video games show that as many as 89% of games contain some violent content, but there is no form of aggressive content for 70% of popular games. Many scientists and psychologists, like James Paul Gee, find that video games actually have many benefits – the main one being making kids smart. Video games may actually teach kids high-level thinking skills that they will need in the future. 

  3. “Video games change your brain,” according to University of Wisconsin psychologist Shawn Green. Video games change the brain’s physical structure the same way as do learning to read, playing the piano, or navigating using a map. Much like exercise can build muscle, the powerful combination of concentration and rewarding surges of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which strengthens neural circuits, can build the player’s brain. 

  4. Video games give your child’s brain a real workout. In many video games, the skills required to win involve abstract and high level thinking. These skills are not even taught at school. Some of the mental skills trained by video games include: following instructions, problem solving, logic, hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills. Research also suggests that people can learn iconic, spatial, and visual attention skills from video games. There have even been studies with adults showing that experience with video games is related to better surgical skills. Jacob Benjamin, doctor from Beth Israel Medical Center NY, found a direct link between skill at video gaming and skill at keyhole or laparoscopic surgery. Also, a reason given by experts as to why fighter pilots of today are more skillful is that this generation’s pilots are being weaned on video games. 

  5. The players learn to manage resources that are limited, and decide the best use of resources, the same way as in real life. In strategy games, for instance, while developing a city, an unexpected surprise like an enemy might emerge. This forces the player to be flexible and quickly change tactics. Sometimes the player does this almost every second of the game giving the brain a real workout. According to researchers at the University of Rochester, led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games could be a training tool for real-world situations. The study suggests that playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions. Video games can be used to train soldiers and surgeons, according to the study. Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, says gamers must deal with immediate problems while keeping their long-term goals on their horizon. Young gamers force themselves to read to get instructions, follow storylines of games, and get information from the game texts. 

  6. James Paul Gee, professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that playing a video game is similar to working through a science problem Like students in a laboratory, gamers must come up with a hypothesis. For example, players in some games constantly try out combinations of weapons and powers to use to defeat an enemy. If one does not work, they change hypothesis and try the next one. Video games are goal-driven experiences, says Gee, which are fundamental to learning. Also, using math skills is important to win in many games that involve quantitative analysis like managing resources. In higher levels of a game, players usually fail the first time around, but they keep on trying until they succeed and move on to the next level. 

  7. Many games are played online and involve cooperation with other online players in order to win. Video and computer games also help children gain self-confidence and many games are based on history, city building, and governance and so on. Such games indirectly teach children about aspects of life on earth. 

  8. In an upcoming study in the journal Current Biology, authors Daphne Bavelier, Alexandre Pouget, and C. Shawn Green report that video games could provide a potent training regimen for speeding up reactions in many types of real-life situations. The researchers tested dozens of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not ordinarily video game players. They split the subjects into two groups. One group played 50 hours of the fast-paced action video games “Call of Duty 2” and “Unreal Tournament,” and the other group played 50 hours of the slow-moving strategy game “The Sims 2.” After this training period, all of the subjects were asked to make quick decisions in several tasks designed by the researchers. The action game players were up to 25 percent faster at coming to a conclusion and answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game playing peers.

Questions 1 - 4

1. What is the main purpose of paragraph one?
a) To introduce Professor James Paul Gee.
b) To introduce the video game Pajamas Sam.
c) To introduce different types of video games.
d) To introduce the background of this passage.


2. What does the author want to express in the second paragraph?
a) Video games are widely considered harmful for children’s brains.
b) Most violent video games are the direct reason of juvenile delinquency.
c) Even though there is a certain amount of violence in most video games; scientists and psychologists see benefits from computer games in terms of children’s intellectual abilities.
d) Many parents regard video games as time-wasters, which rot children’s brains.


3. What is mentioned in paragraph four?
a) Some schools use video games to teach students abstract and high level thinking.
b) Video games improve various aspects of brain ability.
c) Some surgeons have better skills because they play more video games.
d) Skillful fighter pilots in this generation love to play video games.


4. What did the three researchers discover when they conducted a test with people who don’t usually play video games?
a) Gamers have to make the best use of their limited resources in order to be successful.
b) 25 percent of people in the study could perform tasks faster after playing action games.
c) Everyone is better at making fast decisions after playing video games.
d) Playing action games improves a person’s reaction time in tasks performed after playing.





Why are these the correct answers?
Question 1
​Answer D is correct because the paragraph introduces why and how Professor James Paul Gee became interested in the educational value of games. There is mention of different types of games but the paragraph doesn’t just discuss game types. The passage is not just concerned with the game Pajama Sam so option B must also be incorrect. Why and how Professor Gee became interested in the topic is the background of the topic and is as an introduction for the passage.
QUESTION 2
​Statement C is correct. The first part of the paragraph mentions negative views of computer games held by parents and statistics about violence in games are given. Brain rot and violence are mentioned in the paragraph to highlight the negative impression many adults have of games. Towards the end of the paragraph the writer contrasts the negatives with the opinion of Professor Gee and other experts who believe games actually have many benefits – the main one being making kids smart. Statement C closely paraphrases the paragraph with ‘psychologists see benefits from computer games in terms of children’s intellectual abilities.

Notice how statement D contains the phrase ‘rot children’s brains. In the text we have the phrase ‘brain rot’. The question writer is trying to see if you have actually got the meaning of the paragraph or not. A weak candidate may choose statement D because they see the similar phrases without really understanding the meaning of the paragraph. You must watch out for this type of trick.

QUESTION 3
Statement B is correct as a variety of different improvements in cognitive ability are mentioned. ‘Abstract and high level thinking’ is mentioned as being improved as is ‘following instructions, problem solving, logic, hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills ... iconic, spatial, and visual attention’. These examples highlight that a various aspects of brain ability are improved by playing computer games.
Statement A and C cannot be correct as the writer doesn’t explicitly state that games are played at school or that surgeons play video games. Statement D is incorrect as we have no information about whether fighter pilots ‘love’ to play video games.
QUESTION 4
Statement D is correct as in the text it states ‘action game players were up to 25 percent faster at coming to a conclusion and answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game playing peers’.
Statements A and B are incorrect but they use vocabulary from the text such as ‘percent’ and ‘resources’ in order to trick you into picking them. Be aware of these kinds of false answers.
Statement C is wrong as we are not told if everyone is better at making decisions after playing games.

Questions 5 - 8

Are the statements below true, false or not given?
You should select:
            True                       if the statement is true
            False                      if the statement is false
            Not Given             if the information is not given in the passage
5. Most video games are popular because of their violent content.


6. Action game players made fewer mistakes in the experiment.


7. It would be a good idea for schools to apply video games in their classrooms.


8. Chemicals are released in a person’s brain when they play computer games.





Why are these the correct answers?
Question 5
This information is not given. There is statistical information about violence in games but it is not stated that most games are popular because they are violent. Many candidates make mistakes with this type of question because they know that the general topic of the statement – violence in video games - is mentioned in the text and so they assume the statement is true. This is why it is always important to check your answers with the text.
QUESTION 6
This is false because the text states ‘The action game players …  answered just as many questions correctly as their strategy game playing peers’. Therefore, both strategy and action game players made the same number of mistakes.
QUESTION 7
There is no information given about this although schools are mentioned briefly.
QUESTION 8
This is true as the writer states in paragraph 3 when discussing how the brain is strengthened by game play that ‘Much like exercise can build muscle, the powerful combination of concentration and rewarding surges of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which strengthens neural circuits, can build the player’s brain’. ‘Dopamine’ is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain and ‘surges’ are releases. It is difficult to answer this question if you don’t know this vocabulary.

Questions 9 - 13

Use the information in the passage to match the people (listed a-f) with opinions or deeds below. Type the appropriate letters, a-f, in the boxes below.

a    The writer’s opinion
b     James Paul Gee
c    Shawn Green
d   Daphne Bavelier
e    Steven Johnson
f    Jacob Benjamin
9. Video games alter the brain’s physical structure.


10. People are ready to make decisions without hesitation when they are immersed in playing stressful games.


11. The purpose-motivated experience that video games offer plays an essential role in studying.


12. Players are good at tackling prompt issues with future intensions.


13. Computer games help children broaden their horizons and gain self-confidence.





Why are these the correct answers?
Question 9
Video games change your brain” we are told in paragraph 3 by the writer quoting Shawn Green. In the question, the word ‘alter’ is used and in the text we find its synonym ‘change’.
QUESTION 10
Paragraph 5 contains the answer. We are told ‘Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist, (says) games simulating stressful events such as those found in battle or action games could be a training tool for real-world situations. The study suggests that playing action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions.’ In the statement we read ‘without hesitationwhereas in the text we see ‘to make quick decisions’. The two phrases have the same meaning.
QUESTION 11
In paragraph 6 we are told ‘Video games are goal-driven experiences, says Gee’. ‘Goal driven’ and ‘purpose-motivated’ are very similar in meaning and so understanding this vocabulary is the key to answering the question appropriately. Be aware that in English often only the last name (family name) of the person being quoted or referenced is used rather than his or her full name. So we see ‘Gee’ not ‘James Paul Gee
QUESTION 12
In paragraph 5 we are informed ‘Steven Johnson … says gamers must deal with immediate problems while keeping their long-term goals on their horizon. There are two sets of synonyms here that need to be understood. ‘Prompt issues’ and ‘immediate problems’. ‘Future intensions’ and ‘long term goals
Question 13
In paragraph 7 the writer gives us the opinion that ‘Video and computer games also help children gain self-confidence and many games are based on history, city building, and governance and so on. Such games indirectly teach children about aspects of life on earth. ‘Self-confidence’ is found directly in the text and examples of how the games broaden horizons are the examples of ‘aspects of life on earth’ such as ‘city building’ and ‘governance’. As the opinion isn’t referenced to anyone else then it must be the writers own opinion.

Vocabulary Focus

While you are preparing for the IELTS test you should try to learn 10-15 new words and phrases a week. Let’s have a look at some interesting items that we encountered in the text and questions above. If any of these are new for you, learn and use them in your writing and speaking to improve your Lexical Resource band score.

to alter

​(regular verb)
This can be used as a more sophisticated synonym for the word ‘change’.

Think about the following questions
  1. Have you altered anything in your lifestyle recently?
  2. If you could alter one thing about your opinion what would it be and why?
  3. What would you like to alter about your hometown?

Broaden your horizons

(idiomatic phrase)

 
Something that broadens your horizons gives you a new view on things or gives you access to more possibilities.

For example:
Travelling in foreign countries really broadens your horizons because it lets you see how people live, think and work outside of your own country.

Going to university will broaden your horizons because you will meet lots of different people from all over the world.

An intention

(countable noun) (common collocation - to have an intension)  
For example:
My main intension is to finish my essay this weekend.

I have no intention of going to Fred’s birthday party.

To make a decision

(common verb-noun collocation)


 
For example:
I haven’t made a decision yet.

It took the president three days to make his decision.

Think about the following questions
  1. Are you good at making decisions?
  2. Why did you make the decision to study IELTS?
  3. Will you have to make any big decisions in your life over the coming year?​

To waste time

(common verb-noun collocation)


 
To use your time to do something that isn’t productive.

For example:
In the school holiday she just wastes her time watching TV and playing video games.

I wasted my time all weekend and so I didn’t get any of my thesis written.


Think about the following questions.
  1. How do you like to waste your time?
  2. Have you ever got in trouble because you wasted your time?
  3. How can you improve your way of studying or working so you waste less time?

We hope this has been a useful course. Check out our reading course on our courses page for more.