Category Archives: IELTS Reading (all)

qualifying words

Qualifying word in IELTS reading


Qualifying word in IELTS reading

Qualifying word in IELTS reading

By now, you should be familiar with the idea of looking for key words in the question before looking for the answer in both the IELTS reading and listening test. However, a common reason for IELTS candidates to lose points is by not looking closely enough at qualifying words – words that modify the degree or amount of the main verb or noun.

Compare these two sentences:

  1. Every government believes that education is important.
  2. Most governments believe that education is important.

When you are looking for key words, you should have identified ‘government’, ‘important’ and ‘education’.

However, you should also have identified the qualifying words – in sentence 1, the qualifying word is ‘every’. In sentence 2, this has changed to ‘most’.


Now look at the TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN question below.

All governments feel that being educated is significant. 

If you were answering question 1 above (Every government believes that education is important), then the answer would be TRUE. However, if you were answering question 2 (Most governments believe that education is important) then the answer changes to FALSE, because it is not ALL governments, only MOST.

As you can see from the example above, qualifying words are particular important in TRUE, FALSE NOT GIVEN  questions, but they can also be important with other question types.


Here are some more qualifying words that are commonly used in the IELTS test.

  • virtually nil, an insignificant number, negligible, rarely
  • a few, a minority, a small number, occasionally
  • always, everyone, the entirety
  • all but a few, the majority, most, little doubt
  • nil, zero, nobody, absolutely none
  • roughly half, sometimes, neither one way nor the other, no particular emphasis either way

Now practice by reading the short text below and answer the questions that follow.

For most people, traditional forms of culture have little impact on their daily lives. Opera, fine art, classical literature – these are special events, not the common fare of the average household. Popular culture, on the other hand, dominates almost all of our leisure time. We are becoming a nation with very short attention spans, spending most evenings in front of the TV, with very few people making the effort of actually entertaining themselves.


Are the following statements TRUE (T) or FALSE (F)?

1 Traditional culture has no impact on our daily lives.

2 Popular culture dominates all our leisure time. 

3 Only a minority of people make their own entertainment. 
Check all three answers

1. FALSE – the questions says ‘no impact’, but the text says ‘little’

2. FALSE – the question says ‘all our leisure time’ but the text says ‘almost all’

3. TRUE – the question says ‘only a minority’, which is equal to ‘very few’


USEFUL TIP: In the writing test, using qualifying words to make your opinion less dogmatic (strong, or presented as absolutely 100%) can help improve your result. For example:

People on lower incomes never save money. This is too strong

People on lower incomes rarely save money. This is more academic as it allows for exceptions.




Reference words in IELTS reading

Reference words in IELTS reading

What’s wrong with this sentence?

Some people believe that a university education should be available to everyone as a university education will help with employment.

The problem here is that ‘university education’ has been repeated – the sentence would have been better presented using a reference word like this:

Some people believe that a university education should be available to everyone as this will help with employment.

Reference words (words that refer back to a previous word or phrase but without repeating it) are very common in IELTS reading, and can often cause some confusion. An important part of understanding a text is being able to identify the reference words and their relationship to other words, phrases or sentences in the passage.

Test your skills – what do the underlined words refer to? Choose the correct letter A-C.

Reference words in IELTS readingNew Zealand is becoming an increasingly popular destination for overseas visitors. It attracts tourists and people on business, but the vast majority come as students. Mostly from Asian countries, they stay for anything from a few weeks to a few years or more, studying at language schools, colleges and universities. New Zealand can offer good homestay accommodation, a clean and beautiful environment and a reasonable cost of tuition. These factors attract an ever-increasing number of overseas students, accounting for millions of dollars in revenue for New Zealand.

It refers to

(a) overseas

(b) New Zealand

(c) a popular destination

Show answer(B) – New Zealand


They refers to

(a) Asian countries

(b) tourists and business people

(c) students

Show answer(C) – students


These factors refers to

(a) accommodation, environment and reasonable tuition costs

(b) schools, colleges, universities

(c) increasing overseas students

Show answer(A) – accommodation, environment and reasonable tuition costs


Now try using reference words the other way round. What reference word could replace the underlined words?

  1. Professor Edwards has been lecturing for 16 years.
  2. Overseas students often find university courses difficult.
  3. The IELTS test is becoming increasingly popular.
  1. Professor Edwards … Show answerHe
  2. Overseas students … Show answerThey
  3. The IELTS test … Show answerIt


Tip 1: Subject or object reference words

Be careful – reference words can change depending on whether they are the subject or the object of the sentence. For example:

Overseas students often find university courses difficult.

  • They often find university courses difficult.
  • Overseas students often find them difficult.

Mr Smith works with Mr Jones every day.

  • He works with Mr Jones every day.
  • Mr Smith works with him every day.


Tip 2: Singular and plural

When talking generally, you may find that some singular nouns take a plural reference word. For example:

A teacher (singular) should always be prepared. They (plural) should also be punctual.
Tip 3: The dummy subject

Sometimes ‘it’ can appear in a sentence but it is not a true reference word – it doesn’t refer back to anything specific. This is called the dummy subject. For example:

It is commonly accepted that people with a higher education generally work in higher paid jobs.

In the sentence above, ‘it’ does not refer to anything specific, just the general situation.

Practice by reading the sentences below and deciding whether ‘it’ is used as a reference word or a dummy subject.

  1. Look at those clouds. It’s going to rain.
  2. Homework is essential. It allows students to review work they have studied in class.
  3. Admittedly, student depression is hard to investigate as few people are willing to talk openly about it.
  4. It can take up to four years to complete a degree.
  5. Otago is a very popular university. It was the first university in New Zealand.


1.  Show answerThis is a dummy subject

2.  Show answerThis is a reference word

3.  Show answerThis is a reference word

4.  Show answerThis is a dummy subject

5.  Show answerThis is a reference word


Now test yourself. Read the text below and decide what the underlined reference words refer to.

Academic overdrive?

Student life is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only are students expected to perform and compete within the class, but also to devote time and energy to extra-curricular activities as well as struggle with an increasing load of homework. The push to get into the top universities has caused many overachieving students to take on heavier workloads and more challenging classes.

This push, however, doesn’t end once students reach university. In fact, when they reach the top places they have worked so hard to get into, many students are forced to work even harder than they did in high school. Once in the top universities, the pressure is on to secure a place in the top graduate school. But it doesn’t end there. Once students have graduated with the best results, they find that they must continue to overextend themselves in order to secure the top jobs in their particular field. Such is the emphasis on academic success.

There are many who claim that this entire system is wrong because it puts too much emphasis on measuring achievement and not enough on true learning. This in turn has inevitable effects on the students themselves. In such a high-pressure learning environment, those that find the pressure overwhelming have nowhere to turn. In an academic world measured only by academic success, many students begin to feel a low sense of worth, yet they fear to turn to anyone for help as this would be perceived as a signal of failure, an inability to cope with that which other students appear to have no problem. This can be particularly hard for foreign students as they find themselves isolated without familiar cultural or family ties in their new environment and thus they concentrate solely on their work.

Perhaps the main thing to remember is that although it is important to study hard, school life should also be fun.

  1. This push refers to…… Show answerThe push to get into top universities
  2. They refers to…… Show answerOverachieving students (not just ‘students’)
  3. It refers to…… Show answerThe pressure
  4. There refers to…… Show answerAt top universities
  5. This refers to…… Show answerOverachieving / overextending / pressurised (system)
  6. Those refers to…… Show answerStudents who have overextended themselves
  7. This refers to…… Show answerThe situation where students feel depressed, have low self esteem, feel that they cannot talk to anyone

NB: Identifying the meaning of a reference word is not a question you will be directly asked to do in IELTS.

IELTS reading parallel expressions

IELTS reading parallel expressions

One of the skills that you will be tested on in the IELTS test is the ability to identify parallel expressions – that is, two sentences that have the same meaning but are written using a different structure, vocabulary or grammar.

It involves transforming vocabulary into words or phrases which have the same or similar meaning as the original.

This can be done in two ways:

By different word families:

Our cities are becoming increasingly polluted. Pollution is increasing in our cities.

Or with different vocabulary:

Yet the reality is nowhere near as appealing. The truth, however, is far less attractive.


Plocatingractice with parallel expressions

Read the text below and answer the questions.

There is a dark corporate conspiracy at work in the petroleum industry. On television and in the media we are constantly bombarded with images of green trees, promised a fuel that is ’97% cleaner than ever before’ and told we are heading towards ‘a healthier future’. Yet the reality is nowhere near as appealing. Our cities are becoming increasingly polluted as the number of cars continues to rise and petrol emissions show no sign of easing. Much like car manufacturers who market their products under the image of freedom and independence, we are being sold a fantasy which simply does not hold true.

Answer the following questions using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS FROM THE TEXT

1. Who is responsible for the shadowy scheme of selling dreams, not the truth?    Show answerThe petroleum industry. Consider how the language has changed – ‘dark > ‘shadowy’. ‘sold a fantasy’ > ‘selling dreams’, ‘does not hold true’ > ‘not the truth’


2. Who sells their product as a symbol of independence?

Show answerCar manufacturers. This is a little easier as the question uses the word family of one of the words in the question (independent). However, ‘symbol’ has changed to ‘image of”.


3. What images are we constantly bombarded with?

Show answerGreen trees. This should be the easiest of the three answers as you can match complete phrases in the text.

In the IELTS reading test, there are three ways you can find answers to questions:

1. matching exact phrases in the text Question: What images are we constantly bombarded with? Text: we are constantly bombarded with images of
2. scanning for matching words Question: Who sells their product as a symbol of independence? Text: car manufacturers who market their products under the image of freedom and independence
3. looking for parallel expressions Question: Who is responsible for the shadowy scheme of selling dreams, not the truth? Text: a dark corporate conspiracy at work we are being sold a fantasy which simply does not hold true

As with any useful tip or hint, you need to practice by applying these techniques to an authentic IELTS reading test – take a look at our complete practice tests to try out your new skills.

Understand meaning in IELTS reading

Understand meaning in IELTS reading

As you’ve probably experienced, it can sometimes be difficult to understand meaning in IELTS reading, and this can sometimes be caused by indirect sentences, where the meaning is (intentionally) not immediately clear.

Consider this sentence – what does it mean?

Understand meaning in IELTS reading“Public healthcare, on the other hand, has nothing like the resources available to those with private healthcare.”

Public healthcare has

a) more resources than private healthcare

b) very different resources to private healthcare

c) fewer resources than private healthcare

The correct answer is  C. Hopefully the context helped you find the answer, but this is not always the case in the IELTS test, so test you skills with the sentences below:


Which option A-C means the same as the sentence in bold?

  • One thing that isn’t true about X is that the weather is always bad.
    1. The weather in X is never bad.
    2. The weather in X is always bad.
    3. The weather in X is sometimes good.

      Show answer 3

  • Y is a multicultural city. It’s the biggest city in Z. Most people think it’s the capital. This, however, is a common mistake.
    1. Y is the capital.
    2. Y is not the capital.
    3. Y is not the biggest city.

    Show answer 2

  • It’s highly unlikely that the government will reduce taxes.
    1. Taxes are likely to increase.
    2. The government will reduce taxes.
    3. Taxes probably won’t be reduced.

    Show answer 3

  • It’s a popular misconception that chocolate gives you spots.
    1. Spots are caused by eating chocolate.
    2. Most people are unaware that chocolate gives you spots.
    3. Spots are not caused by chocolate.

    Show answer 3

  • The number of private cars on the roads is getting bigger.
    1. There are more cars being driven than before.
    2. More and more private cars are getting bigger.
    3. Bigger roads are becoming more common.

    Show answer 1

  • It’s not unusual for most Japanese to clean themselves before having a bath.
    1. Most Japanese don’t clean themselves before having a bath.
    2. Most Japanese clean themselves before having a bath.
    3. Most Japanese find cleaning themselves before a bath very unusual.

    Show answer 2

  • Dr Johnson is not unlike his brother Dr Kerr.
    1. Dr Johnson looks similar to Dr Kerr.
    2. Dr Johnson doesn’t like Dr Kerr.
    3. Dr Johnson likes Dr Kerr.

    Show answer 1

  • Peter doesn’t think you should think the worst of people.
  1. Peter thinks you should think the best of people.
  2. Peter thinks you should think the worst of people.
  3. Peter doesn’t think about the worst people.

Show answer 1


Using prefixes

Prefixes are also very important when trying to understand more complex sentences. Here are some examples:

  • Miscommunication, even amongst speakers of the same language, can often lead to arguments.
  • Before going to war, governments should carefully consider the possible impact of anti-war protesters.
  • The Olympic Games first began in pre-Christian times, nearly 3000 years ago.
  • After completing university courses, some postgraduates find themselves unable to get a good job.
  • Very few people can maintain a good relationship with their ex-husband or ex-wife


Here are some explanations of common prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example word
Mis- badly or incorrectly Miscommunication
Anti- Opposite, opposed to, against anti-war
Pre- Before pre-Christian
Post- After postgraduates
Ex A state which is no longer true ex-husband
inter- between/among interdepartmental
micro- too small to see with the naked eye microwave
pseudo- false, not true, a pretence pseudoscience
psycho- connected to the mind psychological
quasi- partly, in part quasi-success
eco- connected with the environment ecological
narco- connected with numbness narcotic

 Now try this complete example exercise to practice your skills!

Skimming and scanning in the IELTS test VIDEO LESSON

Skimming and scanning in the IELTS test

Video lesson

Skimming and scanning in the IELTS testThis video will help you improve your skimming and scanning skills for the IELTS reading test.

When watching our learning videos, it’s a good idea to take notes of anything you think that is worth remembering – writing down useful tips is a more effective way of remembering them than just listening, reading or watching!

Video 1 of 1 for skimming and scanning in the IELTS test

See below the video for the narration



One of the biggest problems in the IELTS reading test is time. You have one hour to answer 40 questions, which means that you will have to be able to get the information you need quickly. There are three different skills you will need in the test -skimming, scanning and reading in detail.

Skimming means looking quickly at the passage to get a general idea of what it is about. Scanning means looking at the passage for specific information. Reading in detail requires you to carefully read the section of the passage you are looking for the answer in.

Here are some common situations in which you have probably already used these skills. You might skim a newspaper article to see if you think it is interesting enough to read. If you were looking for a telephone number in a directory, you would scan, looking for the specific information you need. If you are assembling a complicated product, you would need to read the instruction manual carefully to make sure you understand all the details of what you have to do.

Skimming and scanning skills will help you find the right section of the reading passage to answer the question. Most questions will then require you to read the section you have found in detail in order to get the correct answer. You should not try to read the entire passage in detail or you will run out of time.




IELTS reading improving your result

IELTS reading improving your result

IELTS reading improving your resultSo you’ve practiced, you’ve read a lot of different articles and journals, you’ve even taken the IELTS test – often a number of times – and you’re still not getting the result you’re looking for in the IELTS reading test. What’s going wrong?

Here’s a handy 5 point checklist to work through when taking practice tests to help you identify your weakness and strengths.

1. Timing

Did you run out of time and not manage to cover all of the texts? This is one of the most common issues candidates face when taking the IELTS reading test. The key here is to focus on your technique, and keep in mind that 60 minutes to answer 40 questions from three different sections is not long enough to read in a leisurely way. You need to be able to read at speed, even if that means you don’t understand 100% of what you read. Often, answering the questions relies on you being able to identify the area where you can find your answer and doesn’t require you to read everything in depth. Also keep in mind that there may well be one or two questions in each section that are causing problems for you – accept that you may not have time to answer them and move on to the next question.

DO: practice speed reading, skimming and scanning, understand that you will not have time to read leisurely, accept that you may not understand 100% of the text you scan.

DON’T: slowly and carefully read the texts, spend more than 20 minutes on each section, get stuck on a question and spend more than 2 minutes trying to find the answer.

2. Did you answer all of the questions?

Although Point 1 in the checklist advises you to skip questions if you can’t find the answer, that doesn’t mean you should leave the answer blank on your answer sheet. In the final minutes before the end of the reading test, put an answer that (a) seems logical (b) suits the requirements of the question – e.g. if the instructions say NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS, your answer isn’t three words (c) very often is a word or words from the text. Remember that you do not lose points for giving the wrong answer, so there’s no harm in taking an educated guess!

DO: Put an answer for EVERY question

DON’T: leave an answer key blank

3. Is there one particular question type that is causing more difficulty than others?

By looking at your answers, check if there is a particular question type that you seem to make more errors with more often than others. For the majority of people, headings style questions and True, False, Not Given questions are the most complicated and result in the most wrong answers, but check for yourself to find your specific areas of improvement. Then go to that section of our our website, or use any other reliable resource, and make sure you study all the subtle nuances of that question type. For example, did you know that True, False, Not Given questions always come in the order of the text? Knowing some tips and hints for each question type can definitely help.

DO: identify question types that you find difficult, study any tips and hints about those question types, practice them repeatedly

DON’T: keep making the same errors with the same question type!

4. For questions you answer incorrectly, do you understand why the given answers are correct and why your answer was incorrect?

Analysing your own work, focusing on the answers you got wrong, retracing why you put that answer and spending time looking at why the correct answer was correct will help you work a lot faster through the reading test. Taking practice tests is a good plan, but you need to spend at least the same amount of time working through the test after you know the answers.

DO: spend as much time analysing your incorrect answers as you did taking the test, even if that means reading the text repeatedly until you can see the logic of the correct answer.

DON’T: simply move on to a new practice test hoping it will improve – without looking at your own mistakes, your result is likely to stay the same!

5. Skim and scan the text, read the question

Understanding the question is key to getting the correct answer – you need to spend time carefully and closely reading the question. You need to read the question with much more caution than the text in general, so if it helps, carefully mark EVERY word – underlining, circling, scribbling, whatever works for you – all of this helps your brain identify all aspects of the question. Here’s an example using a True, False, Not Given question:

Many people believe that the rail network has been slightly improved.

In order to correctly answer this question, you need to identify the following points:

It’s not EVERY person that has to believe this, it relates to the rail network, it uses to the present perfect passive (has been) so refers to something that started in the past and is continuing now or has a current effect, it refers only to SLIGHT improvement. Missing any one of these points can lead to a wrong answer – so read the question carefully.

DO: Read the question word for word, using your pen or pencil to mark the words you think are relevant

DON’T: skim the question and jump straight to the reading text


We hope the 5 point checklist helps, but we’re always open to new ideas, so if you have a technique you think would benefit other IELTS candidates!

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 3

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 3

Go back to Section 1 | Go back to Section 2

This free IELTS reading test (Academic Module) has the same question types, content style, length and difficulty as a standard IELTS test. To get started simply scroll down to read the texts and answer the questions.

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 3Looking for more reading practice tests? Our online course has over 15 complete practice tests as well as end of lesson tests and reading texts used in the lessons.

When you have finished the test,make a note of the number of correct answers check your score with our band score converter.

Section 3:


The dawn of culture

In every society, culturally unique ways of thinking about the world unite people in their behaviour. Anthropologists often refer to the body of ideas that people share as ideology. Ideology can be broken down into at least three specific categories: beliefs, values and ideals. People’s beliefs give them an understanding of how the world works and how they should respond to the actions of others and their environments. Particular beliefs often tie in closely with the daily concerns of domestic life, such as making a living, health and sickness, happiness and sadness, interpersonal relationships, and death. People’s values tell them the differences between right and wrong or good and bad. Ideals serve as models for what people hope to achieve in life.

There are two accepted systems of belief. Some rely on religion, even the supernatural (things beyond the natural world), to shape their values and ideals and to influence their behaviour. Others base their beliefs on observations of the natural world, a practice anthropologists commonly refer to as secularism.

Religion in its more extreme form allows people to know about and ‘communicate’ with supernatural beings, such as animal spirits, gods, and spirits of the dead. Small tribal societies believe that plants and animals, as well as people, can have souls or spirits that can take on different forms to help or harm people. Anthropologists refer to this kind of religious belief as animism, with believers often led by shamans. As religious specialists, shamans have special access to the spirit world, and are said to be able to receive stories from supernatural beings and later recite them to others or act them out in dramatic rituals.

In larger, agricultural societies, religion has long been a means of asking for bountiful harvests, a source of power for rulers, or an inspiration to go to war. In early civilised societies, religious visionaries became leaders because people believed those leaders could communicate with the supernatural to control the fate of a civilization. This became their greatest source of power, and people often regarded leaders as actual gods. For example, in the great civilisation of the Aztec, which flourished in what is now Mexico in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, rulers claimed privileged association with a powerful god that was said to require human blood to ensure that the sun would rise and set each day. Aztec rulers thus inspired great awe by regularly conducting human sacrifices. They also conspicuously displayed their vast power as wealth in luxury goods, such as fine jewels, clothing and palaces. Rulers obtained their wealth from the great numbers of craftspeople, traders and warriors under their control.

During the period in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe known as the Age of Enlightenment, science and logic became new sources of belief for many people living in civilised societies. Scientific studies of the natural world and rational philosophies led people to believe that they could explain natural and social phenomena without believing in gods or spirits. Religion remained an influential system of belief, and together both religion and science drove the development of capitalism, the economic system of commerce-driven market exchange. Capitalism itself influences people’s beliefs, values and ideals in many present-day, large, civilised societies. In these societies, such as in the United States, many people view the world and shape their behaviour based on a belief that they can understand and control their environment and that work, commerce and the accumulation of wealth serve an ultimate good. The governments of most large societies today also assert that human well-being derives from the growth of economies and the development of technology.

Rapid changes in technology in the last several decades have changed the nature of culture and cultural exchange. People around the world can make economic transactions and transmit information to each other almost instantaneously through the use of computers and satellite communications. Governments and corporations have gained vast amounts of political power through military might and economic influence. Corporations have also created a form of global culture based on worldwide commercial markets. As a result, local culture and social structure are now shaped by large and powerful commercial interests in ways that earlier anthropologists could not have imagined. Early anthropologists thought of societies and their cultures as fully independent systems, but today, many nations are multicultural societies, composed of numerous smaller subcultures. Cultures also cross national boundaries. For instance, people around the world now know a variety of English words and have contact with American cultural exports such as brand-name clothing and technological products, films and music, and mass-produced foods.

In addition, many people have come to believe in the fundamental nature of human rights and free will. These beliefs grew out of people’s increasing ability to control the natural world through science and rationalism, and though religious beliefs continue to change to affirm or accommodate these other dominant beliefs, sometimes the two are at odds with each other. For instance, many religious people have difficulty reconciling their belief in a supreme spiritual force with the theory of natural evolution, which requires no belief in the supernatural. As a result, societies in which many people do not practice any religion, such as China, may be known as secular societies. However, no society is entirely secular.

Questions 23 – 40

Questions 23 – 29

Do the following statements agree with the opinion of the writer? Write
YES if the statement agrees with the writer
NO if the statement does not agree with the writer
NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this in the passage.

  1. People from all around the world are united by the way they think about culture.    Show answer No
  2. Our ‘values’ are the most important aspect of ideology.    Show answer Not Given
  3. Secularism is the most widely accepted system of beliefs, values and ideals.    Show answer Not Given
  4. Shamans act as intermediaries between spirits and the living.    Show answer Yes
  5. Agricultural societies benefited from religion.    Show answer Not Given
  6. In Aztec civilisation, fighters, craftspeople and traders demanded blood sacrifices from the rich.    Show answer No (it was the wealthy and privileged that called for sacrifice, not the fighters, craftspeople and traders).
  7. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European people began turning towards science.    Show answer Yes

Questions 30 – 34

Complete the summary of the reading text using words from the box.

belief latter religion faith ascendancy
former rational decline secular shaman

There are two main (30)     systems which can contribute to our ideology – animism and secularism. The (31)     can be said to dominate older civilisations and tribal societies, whereas larger, more contemporary societies have gone in a more (32)     and scientific direction. One reason that explains the (33)     of more secular beliefs is the importance given to other factors, such as free will and capitalism. Nonetheless, (34)     remains at least to some degree even in the most secular of societies.

30.    Show answer Belief

31.    Show answer Former

32.    Show answer Rational

33.    Show answer Ascendancy

34.    Show answer Religion

Questions 35 – 40

Answer the questions below using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS.

  1. What are beliefs, values and ideals specific categories of?     Show answer Ideology
  2. What was said to be necessary for the continuation of sunrise and sunset in ancient Mexico?     Show answer Human sacrifice OR human blood
  3. In Europe, what title was given to the advance of science and logic?     Show answer Age of Enlightenment
  4. What two things influenced the development of capitalism?     Show answer Religion and science
  5. Before modern advances in technology, what did anthropologists consider societies to be?     Show answer Fully independent systems
  6. What theory is symbolic of the tensions between religion and science?     Show answer Natural evolution


 Completed the reading test? Check your band score using the band score converter

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 2

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 2

Go back to Section 1 | Go to Section 3

This free IELTS reading test (Academic Module) has the same question types, content style, length and difficulty as a standard IELTS test. To get started simply scroll down to read the texts and answer the questions.

Looking for more reading practice tests? Our online course has over 15 complete practice tests as well as end of lesson tests and reading texts used in the lessons.

When you have finished the test,make a note of the number of correct answers and move on to Section 3.

Section 2:

The development of the magazine

In almost every kind of waiting room you can imagine, be it a dentist’s or a car showroom, you will find them. No matter how much of a minority sport, interest or hobby you may have or take part in, you will almost certainly find one devoted to it. Over the past 20 years, magazines have become so popular that they are now outselling most newspapers.

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 2

The forerunners of magazines were nothing like the glossy, colourful affairs they are now. They were small printed pages announcing forthcoming events and providing a little local information. They became popular during the seventeenth century, when the idea was exported around Europe. Magazines became thicker, and were not only informative but also entertaining. In addition, literary magazines began to publish short literary works. Indeed, many classic authors of the period first published their material in magazines such as The Tatler and Gentleman’s Magazine. However, they remained more of a hobby than a business, generating only enough income to cover production costs.

The American Magazine, first published in 1741, was the aptly named first magazine to be available in America. Launched in Philadelphia, it was available for only a few short months, and was soon replaced by more popular (although In the early nineteenth century, the nature of magazines changed as illustrated magazines and children’s magazines made their appearance. The illustrations were immediately popular, and within a few years every magazine was brightening its pages with them.

The Industrial Revolution that hit Europe around this time also had a great impact. With the advent of better quality printing processes, paper and colour printing techniques, magazines became lucrative as local businesses began to pay previously unimaginable prices for advertising space. This heralded a new era within the industry as magazines now represented a significant source of income for publishers.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, better standards of education were resulting in a higher degree of literacy, and this of course meant that there was an increasing number of markets to be exploited, and with better transportation, the means developed with which to reach these markets. The most conclusive factor, however, in the rise of magazines came about with the rise of national advertising. Previously, advertising in magazines had remained relatively local, but with the birth of the concept of national markets, where goods could be delivered to almost any destination and at previously unheard-of speeds, advertisers were willing to pay for as wide a coverage as possible in as many magazines as they thought would usefully promote their products.

Competition inevitably increased and this led to the development of new magazines. In the following years, magazines became more specialised, significantly rivalling newspapers as the dominant form of media and paving the way for the wealth of choices available today.

It was at this point that magazine owners and editors found another area which would guarantee a wider circulation. Attributed to Samuel S. McClure, editor of the American magazine McClure’s, the early 1900s saw the advent of the gossip column, in which the private lives of prominent political or social figures was investigated by those who became known as ‘muckraking journalists’. They would invade the privacy of anyone they thought would interest the public, exposing secrets or even fabricating stories in order to raise the circulation of their magazine.

As the circulation of magazines increased, they began at first to reflect, then to influence, popular opinion. This led to them being heavily used by both sides during World War I and World War II as propaganda, inspiring people to join and fight against the enemy. Most people have, at some time in their life, seen the ubiquitous picture of the British General Kitchener pointing out of the poster with the slogan ‘Your Country Needs You!’ printed below, exhorting people to join the army during World War I. It was in magazines that this picture had such wide coverage.

In the 1950s, magazines took a heavy blow at the hands of the new medium of advertising – television. With sound and pictures now on offer, many magazines lost business and faced collapse as advertisers took their business to television studios. Magazines became even more specialised, hoping to still find new markets, and that is why today we find so many obscure titles on the shelves. There is no doubt that the magazine has come a long way from its humble beginnings, but when you can buy magazines devoted to the art of Body Painting or informing us of the latest Caravan Accessories, or read about the latest gossip from another Hollywood star, you have to wonder if magazines have actually come a long way in the right direction.


Questions 11 – 22

Questions 11 – 14

Choose the correct answer A–D

11. The earliest magazines

  1. had a number of similarities with modern magazines
  2. were intended for women
  3. focused on hobbies
  4. were very different from magazines today.

    Show answer D

12. Magazines became a highly profitable business when

  1. they were exported around Europe
  2. they began including illustrations
  3. advertisers began paying more for space
  4. they included short stories.

    Show answer C

13. How have magazines retained their popularity despite increased competition?

  1. By influencing popular opinion.
  2. By specialising.
  3. Because of the war.
  4. Through cooperation with television.

    Show answer B

14. McClure’s magazine

  1. was a respected political and social publication
  2. was the first publication to specialise in invasive journalism
  3. was the most popular American publication of 1900
  4. had the highest circulation of any magazine.

    Show answer B

Questions 15 – 18

Look at the following statements and decide if they are right or wrong according to the information given.

Write TRUE if the statement is true
FALSE if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this in the passage.

  1. Lady’s Book was written by women.     Show answer Not given
  2. After the Industrial Revolution, magazines sold more copies than newspapers.     Show answer Not given
  3. Better education supported the rise of magazines.     Show answer True
  4. Magazines began to influence popular opinion.     Show answer True

Questions 19 – 22

Answer the following questions using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the text

  1. With what form of journalism did Samuel McClure guarantee more sales of his magazine?    Show answerMuckraking journalism
  2. What allowed the exploitation of new markets in the late 1800s?    Show answer Better transportation (better education created new markets but it was better transportation that allowed for their exploitation)
  3. Whose picture was in many magazines during World War I?    Show answer (General) Kitchener
  4. What stopped the increasing rise of magazines?    Show answer Television

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Once you have finished, check your answers, then move on to

Section 3

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 1

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 2 Section 1

Go to Section 2 | Go to Section 3

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Section 1:

A running controversy

In 1988, Canadian athlete Ben Johnson set a new world record for the 100 metres sprint and set the Seoul Olympics alight. Just a few days later, he was stripped of his medal and banned from competing after having failed a drug test, highlighting what has since become an international problem – drug use in sport.

Those involved in sports face enormous pressure to excel in competition, all the more so as their careers are relatively short. By the time most sportspeople are in their forties, they are already considered to be past their prime, and as a result they need to earn their money as quickly as possible. In such a high-pressure environment, success has to come quickly and increasingly often drugs are playing a prominent role.

There are a number of specific effects that sportspeople are aiming to achieve by taking performance-enhancing drugs. Caffeine and cocaine are commonly used as stimulants, getting the body ready for the mass expenditure of energy required. In addition, there are those who are looking to build their body strength and turn to the use of anabolic steroids. Having worked so hard and needing to unwind, sportspeople may misuse other drugs as a relaxant in that is can help them cope with stress or boost their own confidence. Alcohol is commonly used for this purpose, but for sportspeople something more direct is often required, and this has led to an increase in the use of beta-blockers specifically to steady nerves.

Increasingly accurate drug testing is leading companies and suppliers to ever-more creative ways of avoiding detection, and there are a range of banned substances that are still taken by sportspeople in order to disguise the use of other, more potent drugs. Diuretics is a good example of this: in addition to allowing the body to lose excess weight, they are used to hide other substances.

Drugs or not, the working life of the average sportsperson is hard and often painful. Either through training or on the field, injuries are common and can lead to the use of narcotics simply to mask the pain. There are examples of champion motorcyclists taking local anaesthetics to hide the pain of a crash that should have seen them taken straight to hospital, and though this is not directly banned, use is carefully monitored.

Drug testing has since become an accepted feature of most major sporting events, and as soon as a new drug is detected and the user is banned from competitive sport, then a new drug is developed which evades detection. Inevitably, this makes testing for such banned substances even more stringent, and has in recent years highlighted a new and disturbing problem – the unreliability of drug tests.

Recent allegations of drug use have seen sportspeople in court attempt to overthrow decisions against them, claiming that they were unaware they had taken anything on the banned list. A test recently carried out saw three non-athletes given dietary substances that were not on the banned list, and the two who didn’t take exercise tested negative. However, the third person, who exercised regularly, tested positive. This, of course, has left the testing of sportspeople in a very difficult position. Careers can be prematurely ended by false allegations of drug abuse, yet by not punishing those who test positive, the door would be open for anyone who wanted to take drugs.

The issue is becoming increasingly clouded as different schools of opinion are making themselves heard. There are some that argue that if the substance is not directly dangerous to the user, then it should not be banned, claiming that it is just another part of training and can be compared to eating the correct diet. Ron Clarke, a supporter of limited drug use in sport, commented that some drugs should be accepted as ‘they just level the playing field’. He defended his opinion by pointing out that some competitors have a natural advantage. Athletes born high above sea level or who work out in high altitudes actually produce more red blood cells, a condition which other athletes can only achieve by drug taking.

Others claim that drug use shouldn’t be allowed because it contravenes the whole idea of fairly competing in a sporting event, adding that the drugs available to a wealthy American athlete, for example, would be far superior to those available to a struggling Nigerian competitor.

Governing bodies of the myriad of sporting worlds are trying to set some standards for competitors, but as drug companies become more adept at disguising illegal substances, the procedure is an endless race with no winner. In the face of an overwhelming drug and supplement market, one thing is certain – drugs will probably be a significant factor for a long time to come.

Questions 1 – 10

Questions 1 – 4

Label the diagram below using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS.




1.    Show answer Cocaine

2.    Show answer Anabolic steroids

3.     Show answer Relaxants

4.     Show answer Mask pain


Questions 5 – 8 Answer the following questions using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the text.

  1. Why are sportspeople under such pressure to succeed quickly?     Show answer Short careers / careers are short
  2. What has subsequently become necessary in a number of sports?     Show answer Drug testing
  3. What does Ron Clarke claim drugs can balance?     Show answer Natural advantage
  4. What are drug companies becoming more able to do to avoid detection?     Show answer Disguise illegal substances

Questions 9 and 10

Complete the summary using words from the text. USE NO MORE THAN ONE WORD.

Despite being increasingly more accurate in some respects,  tests for drugs can be flawed as those creating and supplying the drugs are also getting better at avoiding (9)      in the face of creative drug companies. (10)      of drug use have serious side effects on sportspeople even if they are subsequently proved wrong.

9.  Show answer Detection

10.  Show answer Allegations

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Free IELTS Academic Reading test 1 Section 3

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 1 Section 3

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Section 3:


Weakness of the school system

A. By attempting to fit in as much as possible, the school day is continually being added to. In many ways, this would appear to be a good idea, as our knowledge and understanding of the world is always growing and it would seem logical to incorporate this into schools. The reality, however, has some decided drawbacks. There is a growing feeling amongst many that the modern school curriculum, in an effort to teach as many varied subjects as possible, is actually teaching students less. It seems that by constantly adding to what should be taught in the classroom, the classes are less focused, not offering the deeper learning that institutions perhaps should.

B. With classes sometimes only 30 minutes long, the overwhelming amount of information teachers are required to present often only gives students time to learn facts, not to think in any great detail about what they are being presented with. The problem is that students are not getting the opportunity to absorb what they are being taught as the curriculum expands in order to keep what has already been taught and supplement it with everything new that comes along. The weaknesses of such a system are clear – well informed though such students may be, there is the risk of an increasing number of graduates who have no real creative or intellectual ability. By denying students the opportunity to sit and think their way through problems, or even consider their own opinion, some schools are not always providing a truly educational atmosphere. There are, of course, certain aspects of education which need to be taught by simply inputting the information. Basic mathematics, for example. But there are many other subjects which could be best learned by having an opportunity to think and discuss what is being taught. Literature, writing and the social sciences are good examples of subjects which cannot be considered as ‘covered’ by a mass of information without the opportunity to discuss, debate or consider meaning or implications. There are also important social skills to be learned during such periods of open discussion, skills which are not addressed by an endless flow of teacher-centred information.

C. Teachers themselves have also voiced concerns about the amount of information they are required to impress upon their students. There is a feeling in many educational establishments that students are no longer being educated, but taught how to pass tests. In a world where academic success is too often measured by examination results, this is a serious concern. If there is too much information to simply be memorised and not enough time to truly assimilate it, what happens to students who fail to meet the grade? By current standards, they are failures, yet they may have great potential in areas not covered by the test and there are many students who, despite clear intellectual ability, simply do not perform well in tests. Again, the problem is one of focus, as education authorities are looking at the outcome of schooling rather than the content presented in the class.

D. It is here that many teachers feel the situation could be addressed at a local level. By giving more discretion to teachers, school courses could be tailored to suit the students rather than tailoring students to meet ever-expanding course requirements. In addition, by running a curriculum that gives options rather than defines an entire course, considerably more freedom would be possible. As it is, progression through most primary and secondary schools is regimented, and there is little room for students to identify and develop their own skills and strengths. If material could be chosen on the basis of its merits rather than simply because it has been put in the curriculum, then what is selected may be taught to a depth that would serve some purpose. There is, of course, a counter-argument, which claims that such open guidelines could lead to vast differences in standards between schools. What one teacher may see as essential for a student’s education, another may see as irrelevant, and this will result in students with widely different educational strengths.

E. With such a high-pressure learning environment, there are also a number of social aspects to schooling which need to be considered. The increased student workload cannot be covered in the classroom alone for the simple reason that there is not enough time in the average school week, and much of this extra workload has been pushed into the realm of homework. At its best, homework should be the opportunity to look in greater detail at what has been studied. In other words, to actually think about it and its relevance. The reality, however, is often very different. Concerned parents and overextended students are finding that homework is taking an increasingly large part of a student’s evening, cutting into time many feel should be spent as part of a child’s social education. Other social pressures have compounded the situation, as many of the areas of educating a young child which should be the responsibility of the parents have ill-advisedly become the school’s responsibility. Drug awareness and health issues, for example, are occupying an increasingly large part of the school day.

F. Many people believe that we should be teaching less, but teaching it better, and it is here that they think a solution can be found. Yet the process of rewriting a curriculum to incorporate only that which is essential but can be well learned would take far longer than most educational authorities have, and would be considered by many to be a ‘regressive’ step. Changes in the curriculum have largely been motivated by changes in the nature of employment, as job mobility demands that people know something about considerably more areas than were traditionally necessary. A little about a lot allows for the job mobility which has become so common. No matter what the final verdict may be, one thing is for sure – change will be slow, and not always for the best.

Questions 27 – 40

Questions 27 – 32

Choose the most suitable headings for sections A–F from the list below. Use each heading once only.

  1. A question of time
  2. Lack of teacher training
  3. Student success
  4. The argument for flexibility
  5. Importance of teaching experience
  6. Extra-curricular pressures
  7. The benefits of a varied curriculum
  8. Imbalanced focus
  9. Over-reliance on examinations
  10. Quality of quantity?
  1. Section A     Show answerX
  2. Section B     Show answerVIII
  3. Section C     Show answerIX
  4. Section D     Show answerIV
  5. Section E     Show answerVI
  6. Section F     Show answerI

Questions 23 – 37

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer?

In boxes 33 -37 on your answer sheet write

Write YES if the statement agrees with the writer
NO if the statement does not agree with the writer
NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this in the passage

  1. All classes are only 30 minutes long.     Show answerFALSE. The key to the answer here is in the qualifying words –  the text states ‘With classes sometimes only 30 minutes long’ , while the question states ALL classes.
  2. No subjects can be comprehensively learned without time to discuss and debate the facts.     Show answerNO
  3. Tests are a fair measure of ability.     Show answerNO
  4. Schools are trying to be responsible for too many aspects of a child’s education.     Show answerYES
  5. Future changes in the curriculum will improve the situation.     Show answerNO

Questions 38 – 40

Complete the summary below using words from the box from the text. Write the correct letter A-I in the boxes provided.

A. more discretion B. in detail C. differences in standards
D. the extra workload E. job mobility F. shorter classes
G. facts H. a regimented progression I. a weaker system

Too much emphasis is placed on learning (38)    . The modern school curriculum is largely a response to increased (39)    for which graduates are expected to have a much broader general knowledge. One potential solution to this could be to give individual schools (40)    regarding what is taught.

38. Show answerG (Facts)

39. Show answerE (Job mobility)

40. Show answerA (More discretion)

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