Free IELTS Academic Reading test 4 Section 1

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 4 Section 1

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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.

To see which of your answers were marked as correct or incorrect, click ‘Show answer’. When completed, move on to Section 2.

Section 1:

Questions 1 – 13

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1 – 13 which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

Language Learning

Is the learning of a language the result of hard work, or an innate talent?

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 4 Section 1 With an increasingly globalized economy – and world, language continues to take on a growing and more and more crucial role in social and business communication. With countries, societies, companies and communities interacting more, it is vital that language is easily learned, understood and used to facilitate commerce, communication and cooperation. As a result, much attention has been focused recently on the science of linguistics, that is, language learning, by scholars and users, both the skills required and the difficulties encountered. Not only young children, the traditional learners of a new language, but also young adults, and, more and more, adults, business people, housewives, and those with an interest, are enrolling in courses in an attempt to master a second, or even a third, language.

So, what are the skills required, and what are the difficulties that are often encountered?  Many linguists hold the view that there is no specific skill involved, instead, it depends on the reason why a particular person is attempting to master another language. Robert Bigler, who is a simultaneous interpreter and speaks five languages fluently, and others with different degrees of fluency, says, “Learning a language requires dedication more than anything else. It is not difficult but certainly time-consuming. I’m convinced we all can learn any language to a degree that allows us to communicate in that language if we are serious about it. As long as you are motivated…, you will succeed.”

There is much debate among scholars as to the importance of innate ability, and whether it is connected with cognitive abilities. While it is generally recognized that learners with better cognitive skills, that is, understanding and learning abilities, will make greater progress, there is no general agreement as to whether there is a specific language learning skill that is stronger in some learners than others. For example, according to Peter Shoebottom, a linguist and teacher,research supports the idea that learning another language from the same language family will be easier than, say, a European learner attempting to master an Asian language, which suggests that there are other factors which are more important than ability or talent.

However, there is general agreement on some of the factors which assist language learning. Aaron Ralby, a director of one learning institute, insists that the method used, traditional or modern, books or computers or teachers, is not that important. What is important, he feels, is that the student should easily adapt to the method, because the learning takes place within the student. Another factor is one’s preconceived notions of how difficult learning a language may be. Many people believe learning a language is one of the most difficult learning  tasks. Jana Fadness, a multi-lingual speaker, learned Japanese, a difficult language for non-Asian speakers, and was not concerned with how ‘difficult’ the language might have been to learn, but rather felt that the reason driving the learning was more important. As she put it, “Rather than asking ourselves ‘Is this difficult?’, I think we should be asking ‘Is this really worth doing?’. If the answer is yes, then we should just do it. Difficulty is irrelevant.”

And the difficulties? As mentioned before, attitude is one serious hindrance in the acquisition of a second language. Attitude, as in believing that learning a language is too difficult, or even in questioning why one has to acquire a second language, or, specifically, a certain language, can be a major determining factor in success in learning. Linguists and experts who studied language learning in the 1970s in Canada found there was a poor success rate, in particular for the English-speaking population attempting to learn French, owing to the tension between the two populations at the time. As well, there is general agreement that ‘rigid thinking’, that is, a reluctance to accept, or even attempt to understand, other languages’ grammar rules, irregularities and new vocabulary, is a major obstacle to the acquisition of a new language. Again, there is growing belief that one of the key aspects in overcoming these obstacles is one’s attitude and desire to learn, often more so than a perceived innate ability.

Interestingly, Kerstin Hammes, who is the editor of an on-line site dealing with language learning, makes the observation that it is essential to have a basic understanding of how one’s own language works. This is an interesting viewpoint, given the tendency in most Western education systems to move away from a grammar-based English language discipline. The observation has often been made by scholars and educationists that it is likely that foreign language learners often have a better understanding of the grammar rules of the target language than the native speakers do, although native speakers obviously have an acquired grasp of the language stemming from childhood learning.

It would appear, then, that individual variations in the learning of a second language may be the most important factor in the degree of success in the taking on of a new language. Issues such as age, the question of learning in a classroom versus learning in a natural setting, motivation, desire, perceived biases against the second language and, indeed, ability, mean that the establishment of criteria necessary for successful language learning is a science far more complicated than initially considered. To return to the words of Robert Bigler, perhaps the crucial key is his observation that “As long as you are motivated…, you will succeed.” As much as in life as well.


Questions 1 – 5  

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?

In boxes 1 – 5 on your answer sheet write

  •      TRUE                      if the statement agrees with the information
  •      FALSE                    if the statement contradicts the information
  •      NOT GIVEN         if there is no information on this in the passage


1   The science of language learning has become an issue for academics, linguists and, indeed, the

learners themselves.
Show answer True   Para 1 mentions all the people who are interested in language learning, and why this is. “…much attention has been focused recently…”

2   Adults find it more difficult to learn a new language than young children do.
Show answer Not Given   Para 1 mentions that “young children, the traditional learners” are learning new languages, and also young adults and adults, but there is no mention of whether it is easier.

3   Evidence suggests that language learners find it much more difficult to learn languages from other language groups than their own.
Show answer True   Para 3 states that “learning another language from the same language family will be easier than… (another) language (family).

4   It is now believed that ‘rigid thinking’ is the most serious drawback in learning a new language.
Show answer Not given   Para 5 states that ‘rigid thinking’ is a major obstacle, but does not say it is the most serious.

5   On-line learning sites make it easier for learners to have a basic understanding of how language works.
Show answer Not Given   Para 6 mentions on-line sites and makes the point that ‘it is essential to have a basic understanding of one’s own language’, but does not say whether it is easier on-line.

Questions 6 – 10

The writer refers to various opinions offered made by individuals in the reading passage. Match the people (A – F) with the opinions made in Questions 6 – 10.

NB: Some names might not be used. Write the appropriate letter (A – F) in boxes 6 – 10 on your answer sheet.

A. Peter Shoebottom
B. Jana Fadness
C. Robert Bigler
D. Kerstin Hammes
E. Aaron Ralby
F. A general observation of linguists and academics

6. It’s not as important whether it’s a traditional or modern approach to language learning, rather, it’s how the the learner embraces the method.  Show answer E   Aaron Ralby Para 4 mentions ‘method’, but says it is not as important as how the learner adapts to it.

7. It is critical to have a grasp of your own language rules, which will help in understanding how language works.  Show answer D   Kerstin Hammes Para 6 says that Hammes believes ‘it is essential to have a basic understanding of how one’s own language works.’

8. Although learning a language can take a long time, the motivation of the learner is a key factor.  Show answer C   Robert Bigler Para 2 and Para 7 repeats the comment that ‘As long as your are motivated…, you will succeed.’

9. Language learners should not worry about the degree of difficulty involved, but rather, should focus on the reasons why they are learning the language.   Show answer B   Jana Fadness Para 4 says that Fadness ‘was not concerned with how ‘difficult’ the language might have been to learn’, and the rest of the paragraph develops this view.

10. It is not unusual for students of a language to better understand the grammar regulations of their new language than the native speakers.  Show answerF   General observation Para 6 states ‘the observation has often been made by scholars and educationists that it is likely that foreign language learners often have a better understanding of the grammar rules… than native speakers…’

Questions 11 – 13

Choose NO MORE THAN ONE WORD from Reading Passage 1 for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 11 – 13 on your answer sheet.

  • It is universally believed that that those with better 11 ………….………………….. abilities will learn a language more easily than those who don’t possess these skills.
  • One problem for Canadians learning the other official language in their country in the 1970s was the 12 …………………………… between the speakers of the two official languages at the time.
  • Linguists agree that to be 13 ………………………….. is most likely to be one of the most critical factors in acquiring a second language.

11.    Show answer cognitive Para 3 ‘While it is generally recognized that learners with better cognitive skills… will make greater progress…’

12.    Show answer tension Para 5 states ‘…owing to the tension between the two populations at the time.’

13.     Show answer motivated Para 2 and Para 7 both state ‘As long as you are motivated…’, and Para 7 mentions a ‘crucial key’


Show All correct answers

Once you have finished, check your answers, then move on to  Section 2

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