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IELTS Reading: match the names

Read the following passage about the history of the computer.

The history of the computer can be traced back around 2000 years to the birth of the
abacus. However, construction of the first digital computer is usually attributed to the
French inventor Blaise Pascal. In 1642, Pascal built a mechanical calculating
machine which added numbers entered with dials. In the early 19th century, Charles
Babbage, an English mechanical engineer, originated the concept of a
programmable computer. His Analytical Engine incorporated an arithmetic logic unit,
control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory,
making it the first design for a general-purpose computer that could be described in
modern terms.
The era of modern computing began with a flurry of development before and during
World War II. The Z2 was one of the earliest examples of an electro-mechanical
relay computer, and was created by German engineer Konrad Zuse in 1939. In the
same year, electro-mechanical devices called bombes were built by British
cryptologists to help decipher secret wartime messages. The initial design of the
bombe was produced by Alan Turing, who was the first scientist to describe the
principle of the modern computer. He proved that a machine would be capable of
performing any conceivable mathematical computation if it were representable as an
The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, nicknamed Baby, was the
world's first stored-program computer. It was invented by Frederic Williams and Tom
Kilburn, and ran its first program in 1948. Although the computer was considered
"small and primitive" by the standards of its time, it was the first working machine to
contain all of the elements essential to a modern electronic computer.
Which scientist or inventor...
1. designed a computer to aid military intelligence gathering?
2. introduced the concept of the computer as a programmable machine?
3. built the first electronic computer that had all the basic features of the
computers we use today?
4. built the first mechanical computer?
Choose your answers from the following list:
A - Blaise Pascal
B - Charles Babbage
C - Konrad Zuse
D - Alan Turing
E - Frederic Williams and Tom Kilburn

IELTS Reading: match the names

One type of question asks you to "match the names with the statements". You will
see a list of people's names (often researchers or experts) and you have to match
each name with a statement about what he/she did or said.
Here's some advice for this type of question:
1. Find all of the names in the passage first. Scan the whole passage quickly
(this is probably the only type of exercise for which scanning works well) and
underline all the names that the question asks you about.
2. Remember that academic articles often only use surnames. For example, if
one of the names is Robert Smith, you might not see the first name 'Robert'
in the passage. Just look for the surname 'Smith'.
3. Do difficult questions last. If one name is mentioned 3 times in 3 different
paragraphs, it will be more difficult to match with a statement than a name
that is only mentioned once. Start with the name that is only mentioned
4. When you find a match, put a cross next to the statement; you will only use
each statement once.
5. As usual, look for "keywords" - words in the passage that are similar to
words in the question statements.

IELTS Reading: matching exercise

Read the following passage and try the matching exercise below.
London Bridge
Many historical bridges named London Bridge have spanned the River Thames in
central London. The current crossing, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in
1973, was built using concrete and steel. This replaced a 19th-century stone-arched
bridge, which in turn superseded a 600-year-old medieval structure. This was
preceded by a succession of timber bridges, the first built by the Roman founders of
Old London Bridge was built between 1176 and 1209, during the reign of King
John. The bridge was around 8 metres wide and 250 metres long, and it had a
drawbridge for the passage of tall ships up-river, and defensive gatehouses at both
ends. By the fifteenth century there were some 200 buildings on the bridge. Some
stood up to seven stories high, some overhung the river by seven feet, and some
overhung the road, to form a dark tunnel through which all traffic had to pass. By the
end of the 18th century, it was apparent that Old London Bridge, which was by then
over 600 years old, needed to be replaced.
The New London Bridge was designed by John Rennie and opened in 1831. It was
283 metres long and 15 metres wide, and in 1896 it was the busiest point in London,
with 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles crossing it every hour. By 1962, New
London Bridge was not sound enough to support the increased load of modern
traffic, and it was sold by the City of London. The purchaser, an American
entrepreneur called Robert P. McCulloch, bought the bridge as a tourist attraction for

Lake Havasu in Arizona, USA. The bridge was taken apart, each piece was
meticulously numbered, and the blocks were then shipped to Arizona, where the
bridge was reconstructed.
Which bridge is described in each statement below? Choose A, B or C.

Many buildings were constructed on it.

It has a royal connection.
It was taken to a new location.
It had fortified entrances.
It could not cope with increasing congestion.

A - Old London Bridge

B - New London Bridge
C - The current London Bridge

IELTS Reading: true, false, not given

Read the following passage about the scientist Michael Faraday.
Michael Faraday, (1791 - 1867) was an English scientist who contributed to the fields
of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. Although Faraday received little formal
education he was one of the most influential scientists in history, and historians of
science refer to him as having been the best experimentalist in the history of
The young Michael Faraday, who was the third of four children, having only the most
basic school education, had to educate himself. At fourteen he became the
apprentice to George Riebau, a local bookbinder and bookseller. During his sevenyear apprenticeship he read many books, including Isaac Watts' The Improvement of
the Mind, and he enthusiastically implemented the principles and suggestions
contained therein.
In 1812, at the age of twenty, and at the end of his apprenticeship, Faraday attended
lectures by the eminent English chemist Humphry Davy. Faraday subsequently sent
Davy a three-hundred-page book based on notes that he had taken during these
lectures. Davy's reply was immediate, kind, and favourable. When one of the Royal
Institution's assistants was sacked, Davy was asked to find a replacement, and
appointed Faraday as Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution.
Are the following statements true, false or not given?
1. Many experts regard Faraday as the foremost experimentalist of all time.
2. Faraday educated himself by reading books that were recommended to him
by George Riebau.
3. Faraday came to the attention of a famous chemist after he wrote a book
based on the chemist's lectures.

IELTS Reading: yes, no, not given

Read the following passage about 'habits'.
All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits, William James
wrote in 1892. Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of
well-considered decision making, but theyre not. Theyre habits. And though each
habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to
our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way
we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health,
productivity, financial security, and happiness. One paper published by a Duke
University researcher in 2006 found that 40 percent or more of the actions people
performed each day werent actual decisions, but habits.
Do the statements below agree with the ideas expressed by the author? Write
1. The majority of choices we make on a daily basis are conscious decisions.
2. Saving money is the key to financial security.
3. Habits account for at least 40 percent of the things we do each day.

IELTS Reading: how to do multiple choice

Try following these steps when doing multiple choice questions:
1. Read the question and underline the "keywords" - these are the words that
you will try to find in the passage (the main words that give the meaning of
the question).
2. Read the choices and underline one or two keywords for each one. Focus
on words that make the difference between each choice.
3. Go to the passage and look for the keywords from the question.
4. When you have found the right part of the passage, look for keywords from
the choices.
5. Read the relevant part of the passage carefully, comparing it to each choice.
6. To be sure you have the right answer, you should be able to show that the
other answer choices are wrong.

IELTS Reading: 9 ways to use practice tests

Here are 9 different ways to use practice reading tests.

Do a full one-hour test to see what score you get.

Do a full test with no time limit (or a longer time limit, like 2 hours).
Do just one reading passage in 20 minutes.
Do one reading passage with no time limit (or longer than 20 minutes).
Work on a particular type of question only e.g. true, false, not given.
Do tests with the help of a dictionary, and see if that helps you score.

7. Simply read a full passage and see what you understand. Don't do the
8. Get the answers from the back of the book, and try to prove why they are
9. Make vocabulary lists and 'keyword' tables.
Instead of just testing yourself, try to use practice tests in a variety of ways. This will
make your study time less boring, and you'll probably learn more. Maybe you can
think of other creative ways to use practice tests.

IELTS Reading: easy examples of T,F,NG

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.
Question statements:
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.

IELTS Reading: don't 'over-think' the answer

I've noticed that many students get the wrong answer because they think too much!
They worry about small differences in meaning. For example, look at the following
part of a reading passage:
The two week planned study into the psychological impact of prison life...
Now decide whether the following statement is true, false or not given:
The study aimed to investigate the mental and behavioural effects of life in
The statement is true, but many students put not given because they "over-think" the
meaning of 'psychological'. They think that the definition of psychological must be
more complex than 'mental and behavioural'.
Don't think too hard about small differences in meanings. 'Mental and behavioural'
might not be a perfect definition of 'psychological', but the overall meaning is the
same (a simple definition of psychology is the study of the mind and behaviour).

IELTS Reading: choose the title

Read the following passage, and choose the best title from the list below.
Dennis Tito, an American engineer and multimillionaire, was the first space tourist to
fund his own trip into space. In 2001, he spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew
member of ISS EP-1, a visiting mission to the International Space Station, after
being accepted by the Russian Federal Space Agency as a candidate for a
commercial spaceflight. Tito met criticism from NASA before the launch, primarily
from Daniel Goldin, at that time the Administrator of NASA, who considered it
inappropriate for a tourist to take a ride into space.
In the decade since Dennis Tito journeyed to the International Space Station, eight
private citizens have paid the $20 million fee to travel to space, but it is believed that
this number could increase fifteen-fold by 2020. A web-based survey suggested that
over 70% of those surveyed were interested in travelling to space, 88% wanted to
spacewalk, and 21% liked the idea of staying in a space hotel.
A) A giant leap for tourism in the 21st century.
B) The first space tourist.
C) The pros and cons of space tourism.

IELTS Reading: true, false or not given?

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
Are the statements below true, false or not given?
1. In the 21st century, it is widely accepted that there are now more than eight
mass media industries.
2. Digital media can be subdivided into various content types.
3. Video games are the newest mass media platform.

IELTS Reading: choose the best summary

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

IELTS Reading: multiple choice exercise

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.

IELTS Reading: which paragraph contains...?

"Which paragraph contains the following information?" This type of question isnot the
same as "match the headings to the paragraphs".
Here are some tips for "which paragraph contains?" questions:

Instead of looking for the main idea of each paragraph, you need to find one
piece of information.

Some paragraphs might not contain any answers.

The same paragraph might contain more than one answer.

It's not usually difficult to understand the question or answer, but it is difficult
to find the answer.

Do these questions last. By doing other questions first, you will become
familiar with the passage, and you might remember where some of the
answers are.

Look for the easiest information first: questions that contain names, numbers
or big/unusual words might be easier to find.

Motor CAR
A There are now over 700 million motor vehicles in the world and the number is rising by more than 40 million each year. The
average distance driven by car users is growing too - from 8km
a day per person in western Europe in 1965 to 25 km a day in
1995. This dependence on motor vehicles has given rise to
major problems, including environmental pollution, depletion of
oil resources, traffic congestion and safety.
B While emissions from new cars are far less harmful than they
used to be, city streets and motorways are becoming more
crowded than ever, often with older trucks, buses and taxis
which emit excessive levels of smoke and fumes. This
concentration of vehicles makes air quality in urban areas
unpleasant and sometimes dangerous to breathe. Even Moscow
has joined the list of capitals afflicted by congestion and traffic
fumes. In Mexico City, vehicle pollution is a major health
C Until a hundred years ago, most journeys were in the 20km
range, the distance conveniently accessible by horse. Heavy
freight could only be carried by water or rail. Invention of the

motor vehicle brought personal mobility to the masses and

made rapid freight delivery possible over a much wider area. In
the United Kingdom, about 90 per cent of inland freight is
carried by road. The world cannot revert to the horse-drawn
wagon. Can it avoid being locked into congested and polluting
ways of transporting people and goods?
D In Europe most cities are still designed for the old modes of
transport. Adaptation to the motor car has involved adding ring
roads, one-way systems and parking lots. In the United States,
more land is assigned to car use than to housing. Urban sprawl
means that life without a car is next to impossible. Mass use of
motor vehicles has also killed or injured millions of people.
Other social effects have been blamed on the car such as
alienation and aggressive human behaviour.
E A 1993 study by the European Federation for Transport and
Environment found that car transport is seven times as costly
as rail travel in terms of the external social costs it entails congestion, accidents, pollution, loss of cropland and natural
habitats, depletion of oil resources, and so on. Yet cars easily
surpass trains or Academic Reading sample task Matching
information buses as a flexible and convenient mode of
personal transport. It is unrealistic to expect people to give up
private cars in favour of mass transit.
F Technical solutions can reduce the pollution problem and
increase the fuelled efficiency of engines. But fuel consumption
and exhaust emissions depend on which cars are preferred by
customers and how they are driven. Many people buy larger
cars than they need for daily purposes or waste fuel by driving
aggressively. Besides, global car use is increasing at a faster
rate than the improvement in emissions and fuel efficiency
which technology is now making possible.
G Some argue that the only long-term solution is to design
cities and neighbourhoods so that car journeys are not
necessary - all essential services being located within walking
distance or easily accessible by public transport. Not only would

this save energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions, it would

also enhance the quality of community life, putting the
emphasis on people instead of cars. Good local government is
already bringing this about in some places. But few democratic
communities are blessed with the vision and the capital to
make such profound changes in modern lifestyles.
H A more likely scenario seems to be a combination of mass
transit systems for travel into and around cities, with small low
emission cars for urban use and larger hybrid or lean burn cars
for use elsewhere. Electronically tolled highways might be used
to ensure that drivers pay charges geared to actual road use.
Better integration of transport systems is also highly desirable and made more feasible by modern computers. But these are
solutions for countries which can afford them. In most
developing countries, old cars and old technologies continue to
Questions 14 19 Sample Passage 7 has eight paragraphs
labelled A-H. Which paragraphs contains the following
information? Write the correct letter A-H in boxes 14-19 on your
answer sheet. NB You may use any letter more than once.
14 a comparison of past and present transportation methods
15 how driving habits contribute to road problems
16 the relative merits of cars and public transport
17 the writers prediction on future solutions
18 the increasing use of motor vehicles
19 the impact of the car on city development

The Risk of Cigarette Smoke

Discovered in the early 1800s and named nicotianine, the oily
essence now called nicotine is the main active ingredient of
tobacco. Nicotine, however, is only a small component of

cigarette smoke, which contains more than 4,700 chemical

compounds, including 43 cancer-causing substances. In recent
times, scientific research has been providing evidence that
years of cigarette smoking vastly increases the risk of
developing fatal medical conditions.
In addition to being responsible for more than 85 per cent of
lung cancers, smoking is associated with cancers of, amongst
others, the mouth, stomach and kidneys, and is thought to
cause about 14 per cent of leukemia and cervical cancers. In
1990, smoking caused more than 84,000 deaths, mainly
resulting from such problems as pneumonia, bronchitis and
influenza. Smoking, it is believed, is responsible for 30 per cent
of all deaths from cancer and clearly represents the most
important preventable cause of cancer in countries like the
United States today.
Passive smoking, the breathing in of the side-stream smoke
from the burning of tobacco between puffs or of the smoke
exhaled by a smoker, also causes a serious health risk. A report
published in 1992 by the US Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) emphasized the health dangers, especially from sidestream smoke. This type of smoke contains more smaller
particles and is therefore more likely to be deposited deep in
the lungs. On the basis of this report, the EPA has classified
environmental tobacco smoke in the highest risk category for
causing cancer.
As an illustration of the health risks, in the case of a married
couple where one partner is a smoker and one a non-smoker,
the latter is believed to have a 30 per cent higher risk of death
from heart disease because of passive smoking. The risk of lung
cancer also increases over the years of exposure and the figure
jumps to 80 per cent if the spouse has been smoking four packs
a day for 20 years. It has been calculated that 17 per cent of
cases of lung cancer can be attributed to high levels of
exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke during childhood and

A more recent study by researchers at the University of

California at San Francisco (UCSF) has shown that second-hand
cigarette smoke does more harm to non-smokers than to
smokers. Leaving aside the philosophical question of whether
anyone should have to breathe someone elses cigarette
smoke, the report suggests that the smoke experienced by
many people in their daily lives is enough to produce
substantial adverse effects on a persons heart and lungs.
The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association (AMA), was based on the researchers own earlier
research but also includes a review of studies over the past few
years. The American Medical Association represents about half
of all US doctors and is a strong opponent of smoking. The
study suggests that people who smoke cigarettes are
continually damaging their cardiovascular system, which
adapts in order to compensate for the effects of smoking. It
further states that people who do not smoke do not have the
benefit of their system adapting to the smoke inhalation.
Consequently, the effects of passive smoking are far greater on
non-smokers than on smokers. This report emphasizes that
cancer is not caused by a single element in cigarette smoke;
harmful effects to health are caused by many components.
Carbon monoxide, for example, competes with oxygen in red
blood cells and interferes with the bloods ability to deliver lifegiving oxygen to the heart. Nicotine and other toxins in
cigarette smoke activate small blood cells called platelets,
which increases the likelihood of blood clots, thereby affecting
blood circulation throughout the body.
The researchers criticize the practice of some scientific
consultants who work with the tobacco industry for assuming
that cigarette smoke has the same impact on smokers as it
does on non-smokers. They argue that those scientists are
underestimating the damage done by passive smoking and, in
support of their recent findings, cite some previous research
which points to passive smoking as the cause for between
30,000 and 60,000 deaths from heart attacks each year in the

United States. This means that passive smoking is the third

most preventable cause of death after active smoking and
alcohol-related diseases
The study argues that the type of action needed against
passive smoking should be similar to that being taken against
illegal drugs and AIDS (SIDA). The UCSF researchers maintain
that the simplest and most cost-effective action is to establish
smoke-free work places, schools and public places. Academic
Reading sample task Identifying writers views/claims
Questions 4 7 Do the following statements reflect the claims
of the writer in the reading passage? In boxes 4-7 on your
answer sheet write YES if the statement reflects the claims of
the writer NO if the statement contradicts the claims of the
writer NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer
thinks about this
4 Thirty per cent of deaths in the United States are caused by
smoking-related diseases.
5 If one partner in a marriage smokes, the other is likely to take
up smoking.
6 Teenagers whose parents smoke are at risk of getting lung
cancer at some time during their lives.
7 Opponents of smoking financed the UCSF study.

IELTS Reading: 3 study tips

Here are 3 study tips to help you improve your reading:
1. The best way to get better at the reading test is by doing more reading. Do
as many practice tests as you can, and read other things e.g. books,
newspapers and online articles.
2. Try doing a reading test without a time limit, and with a dictionary. If you still
can't get the score you need, you'll need to look carefully at what you are
doing wrong.
3. Spend time analysing your mistakes and the correct answers. If you don't
understand why an answer was right or wrong, ask a teacher to help you.
You'll improve more quickly if you learn from your mistakes.

IELTS Reading: improve your vocabulary

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?

change (verb) over time

make use of

gather knowledge about

apply a method

make inferences about

trace something back to

is derived from

Try making your own sentences to practise using some of these phrases

IELTS Reading: multiple choice

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
The word etymology is derived from the Greek word , etymologia, itself
from , etymon, meaning "true sense", and the suffix -logia, denoting "the study
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.

IELTS Reading: 'paragraph headings' keywords

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.