BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 17

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 17


BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 17
BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 17



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


MIT’s humanoid robots showcase both human creativity and contemporary pessimism.

Humanoid robots were once the stuff of political and science fiction. Today, scientists working in Japan and the USA have been turning fiction into a physical reality.

A. During July 2003, the Museum of Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts exhibited what Honda calls ‘the world’s most advanced humanoid robot’, ASIMO (the Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). Honda’s brainchild is on tour in North America and delighting audiences wherever it goes. After 17 years in the making, ASIMO stands at four feet tall, weighs around 115 pounds and bob like a child in an astronaut’s suit. Though it is difficult to see ASIMO’s face at a distance, on closer inspection it has a smile and two large ‘eyes’ that conceal cameras. The robot cannot work autonomously — its actions are ‘remote controlled’ by scientists through the computer in its backpack. Yet watching ASMIO perform at a show in Massachusetts it seemed uncannily human. The audience cheered as ASIMO walked forwards and backwards, side to side and up and downstairs. It can even dance to the Hawaiian Hula.

B. While the Japanese have made huge strides in solving some of the engineering problems of human kinetics and bipedal movements, for the past 10 years scientists at MIT’s former Artificial Intelligence (Al)  lab  (recently  renamed  the  Computer  Science  and  Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, CSAIL) have been making robots that can behave like humans and interact with humans. One of MIT’s robots, Kismet, is an anthropomorphic head and has two eyes (complete  with  eyelids),  ears,  a  mouth,  and  eyebrows.  It has several facial expressions, including happy, sad, frightened and disgusted. Human interlocutors are able to read some of the robot’s facial expressions, and often change their behaviour towards the machine as a result – for example, playing with it when it appears ‘sad’. Kismet is now in MIT’s museum, but the ideas developed here continue to be explored in new robots.

C .Cog (short for Cognition) is another pioneering project from MIT’s former Al lab. Cog has a head, eyes,  two  arms,  hands  and  a  torso  and  its  proportions  were  originally measured from the body of a researcher in the lab. The work on Cog has been used to test  theories  of  embodiment  and  developmental  robotics,  particularly  getting  a  robot to  develop  intelligence  by  responding  to  its  environment  via  sensors,  and  to  learn through these types of interactions. This approach to Al was thought up and developed by  a  team  of  students  and  researchers  led  by  the  head  of  MIT’s  former  Al  lab,  Rodney Brooks (now head of CSAIL), and represented a completely new development.

C .Cog (short for Cognition) is another pioneering project from MIT’s former Al lab. Cog has a head, eyes,  two  arms,  hands  and  a  torso  and  its  proportions  were  originally measured from the body of a researcher in the lab. The work on Cog has been used to test  theories  of  embodiment  and  developmental  robotics,  particularly  getting  a  robot to  develop  intelligence  by  responding  to  its  environment  via  sensors,  and  to  learn through these types of interactions. This approach to Al was thought up and developed by  a  team  of  students  and  researchers  led  by  the  head  of  MIT’s  former  Al  lab,  Rodney Brooks (now head of CSAIL), and represented a completely new development.

D. This work at MIT is getting furthest down the road to creating human-like and interactive robots. Some scientists argue that ASIMO is a great engineering feat but not an intelligent machine because it is  unable  to  interact  autonomously  with  unpredictability’s  in  its environment in meaningful ways, and learn from experience. Robots like Cog and Kismet and new robots at MIT’s CSAIL and media lab, however, are beginning to do this.

E. These are exciting developments. Creating a machine that can walk, make gestures and learn from its environment is an amazing achievement.  And  watch  this  space:  these achievements  are  likely  rapidly  to  be  improved  upon.  Humanoid  robots  could  have  a plethora  of  uses  in  society,  helping  to  free  people  from  everyday  tasks.  In  Japan,  for example,  there  is  an  aim  to  create  robots  that  can  do  the  tasks  similar  to  an  average human, and also act in more sophisticated situations as firefighters, astronauts or medical assistants  to  the  elderly  in  the  workplace  and  in  homes  partly  in  order  to counterbalance the effects of an ageing population.

F. So in addition  to  these  potentially  creative  plans  there  lies  a  certain  The  idea  that  companions  can  be  replaced  with  machines,  for  example,  suggests  a mechanical  and  degraded  notion  of  human  relationships.  On  one  hand,  these developments  express  human  creativity  our  ability  to  invent,  experiment,  and  to extend our control over the world. On the other hand, the aim to create a robot like a human  being  is  spurred  on  by  dehumanized  ideas  by  the  sense  that  human companionship can be substituted by machines; that humans lose their humanity when they  interact  with  technology;  or  that  we  are  little  more  than  surface  and  ritual behaviours, that can be simulated with metal and electrical circuits.

G. The tension between  the  dehumanized  and  creative  aspects  of  robots  has  long  been explored  in    In  Karel  Capek’s  Rossum’s  Universal  Robots,  a  1921  play  in  which  the term  ‘robot’  was  first  coined,  although  Capek’s  robots  had  human-like  appearance  and behaviour,  the  dramatist  never  thought  these  robots  were  human.  For  Capek,  being human  was  about  much  more  than  appearing  to  be  human.  In  part,  it  was  about challenging a dehumanising  system, and struggling to become recognised and given the dignity of more than a machine. A similar spirit would guide us well through twenty-first century experiments in robotics.

Questions 1-7

Reading Passage 1 has seven paragraphs, A-G.  

Which paragraph contains the following information? Write the correct letter, A-G, in boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet.

1. The different uses of robots in society

2. How robot is used in the artistic work

3. A robot that was modelled on an adult

4. A comparison between two different types of robots

5. A criticism of the negative effects of humanoid robots on the society

6. A reference to the first use of the word “robot”

7. People feel humanity may be replaced by robots

Questions 8-13

Complete  the  summary  below  using  NO  MORE  THAN  TWO  WORDS  from  the  passage. 

Write your answers in boxes 8-13 on your answer sheet.

It took Honda 8…………….……years to make ASIMO, a human-looking robot that attracted broad interests from audiences.Unlike ASIMO, which has to be controls through a computer installed in the  9………………………….,  MIT’s  scientists  aimed  to make  robot  that  can  imitate  human  behavior and 10…………..………….with humans. One of such particular inventions can express its own feelings through 11…………..……… Another innovative   project is a robot called 12………………., which is expected to learn from its environment to gain some 13……………….….


Nature or Nurture?

A. A few years ago, in one of the most fascinating and disturbing experiments in behavioural psychology, Stanley Milgram of Yale University tested 40 subjects from all walks of life for their willingness to obey instructions given by a ‘leader’ in a situation in which the subjects might feel a personal distaste for the actions they were called upon to perform. Specifically, Milgram told each volunteer ‘teacher-subject’ that the experiment was in the noble cause of education, and was designed to test whether or not punishing pupils for their mistakes would have a positive effect on the pupils’ ability to learn.

B. Milgram’s experimental set-up involved placing the teacher-subject before a panel of thirty switches with labels ranging from ’15 volts of electricity (slight shock)’ to ‘450 volts (danger – severe shock)’ in steps of 15 volts each. The teacher-subject was told that whenever the pupil gave the wrong answer to a question, a shock was to be administered, beginning at the lowest level and increasing in severity with each successive wrong answer. The supposed ‘pupil’ was in reality an actor hired by Milgram to simulate receiving the shocks by emitting a spectrum of groans, screams and writhings together with an assortment of statements and expletives denouncing both the experiment and the experimenter. Milgram told the teacher-subject to ignore the reactions of the pupil, and to administer whatever level of shock was called for, as per the rule governing the experimental situation of the moment.

C. As the experiment unfolded, the pupil would deliberately give the wrong answers to questions posed by the teacher, thereby bringing on various electrical punishments, even up to the danger level of 300 volts and beyond. Many of the teacher-subjects balked at administering the higher levels of punishment, and turned to Milgram with questioning looks and/or complaints about continuing the experiment. In these situations, Milgram calmly explained that the teacher-subject was to ignore the pupil’s cries for mercy and carry on with the experiment. If the subject was still reluctant to proceed, Milgram said that it was important for the sake of the experiment that the procedure be followed through to the end. His final argument was, ‘You have no other choice. You must go on.’ What Milgram was trying to discover was the number of teacher-subjects who would be willing to administer the highest levels of shock, even in the face of strong personal and moral revulsion against the rules and conditions of the experiment.

D. Prior to carrying out the experiment, Milgram explained his idea to a group of 39 psychiatrists and asked them to predict the average percentage of people in an ordinary population who would be willing to administer the highest shock level of 450 volts. The overwhelming consensus was that virtually all the teacher-subjects would refuse to obey the experimenter. The psychiatrists felt that ‘most subjects would not go beyond 150 volts’ and they further anticipated that only four per cent would go up to 300 volts. Furthermore, they thought that only a lunatic fringe of about one in 1,000 would give the highest shock of 450 volts. Furthermore, they thought that only a lunatic cringe of about one in 1,000 would give the highest shock of 450 volts.

E. What were the actual results? Well, over 60 per cent of the teacher-subjects continued to obey Milgram up to the 450-volt limit! In repetitions of the experiment in other countries, the percentage of obedient teacher-subjects was even higher, reaching 85 per cent in one country. How can we possibly account for this vast discrepancy between what calm, rational, knowledgeable people predict in the comfort of their study and what pressured, flustered, but cooperative teachers’ actually do in the laboratory of real life?

F. One’s first inclination might be to argue that there must be some sort of built-in animal aggression instinct that was activated by the experiment, and that Milgram’s teacher-subjects were just following a genetic need to discharge this pent-up primal urge onto the pupil by administering the electrical shock. A modern hard-core sociobiologist might even go so far as to claim that this aggressive instinct evolved as an advantageous trait, having been of survival value to our ancestors in their struggle against the hardships of life on the plains and in the caves, ultimately finding its way into our genetic make-up as a remnant of our ancient animal ways.

G. An alternative to this notion of genetic programming is to see the teacher-subjects’ actions as a result of the social environment under which the experiment was carried out. As Milgram himself pointed out, ‘Most subjects in the experiment see their behaviour in a larger context that is benevolent and useful to society – the pursuit of scientific truth. The psychological laboratory has a strong claim to legitimacy and evokes trust and confidence in those who perform there. An action such as shocking a victim, which in isolation appears evil, acquires a completely different meaning when placed in this setting.’

H. Thus, in this explanation the subject merges his unique personality and personal and moral code with that of larger institutional structures, surrendering individual properties like loyalty, self-sacrifice and discipline to the service of malevolent systems of authority.

I. Here we have two radically different explanations for why so many teacher-subjects were willing to forgo their sense of personal responsibility for the sake of an institutional authority figure. The problem for biologists, psychologists and anthropologists is to sort out which of these two polar explanations is more plausible. This, in essence, is the problem of modern sociobiology – to discover the degree to which hard-wired genetic programming dictates, or at least strongly biases, the interaction of animals and humans with their environment, that is, their behaviour. Put another way, sociobiology is concerned with elucidating the biological basis of all behaviour.

Questions 14-19

Reading Passage 2 has nine paragraphs, labelled A–I.

Which paragraphs contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-I in boxes 14-19 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

14. A biological explanation of the teacher-subjects’ behaviour ……………..

15. The explanation Milgram gave the teacher-subjects for the experiment ……………

16. The identity of the pupils ………………

17. The expected statistical outcome………………

18. The general aim of sociobiological study ………………

19. The way Milgram persuaded the teacher-subjects to continue ………………

Questions 20-22

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

20. The teacher-subjects were told that they were testing whether

A. A 450-volt shock was dangerous.

B. Punishment helps learning.

C. The pupils were honest.

D. They were suited to teaching.

21. The teacher-subjects were instructed to

A. Stop when a pupil asked them to.

B. Denounce pupils who made mistakes.

C. Reduce the shock level after a correct answer.

D. Give punishment according to a rule.

22. Before the experiment took place the psychiatrists

A. Believed that a shock of 150 volts was too dangerous.

B. Failed to agree on how the teacher-subjects would respond to instructions.

C. Underestimated the teacher-subjects’ willingness to comply with experimental procedure.

D. Thought that many of the teacher-subjects would administer a shock of 450 volts.

Questions 23-26

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 2?

In boxes 23-26 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

23. Several of the subjects were psychology students at Yale University. ………………

24. Some people may believe that the teacher-subjects’ behaviour could be explained as a positive survival mechanism. ………………

25. In a sociological explanation, personal values are more powerful than authority. ………………

26. Milgram’s experiment solves an important question in socio-biology. ………………

Reading Passage – 3

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 27-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.

Travel Books

There are many reasons why individuals have travelled beyond their own soci­eties. Some travellers may have simply desired to satisfy curiosity about the larger world. Until recent times, however, travellers did start their journey for reasons other than mere curiosity. While the travellers’ accounts give much valuable information on these foreign lands and provide a window for the understanding of the local cultures and histories, they are also a mirror to the travellers themselves, for these accounts help them to have a better under­standing of themselves.

Records of foreign travel appeared soon after the invention of writing, and fragmentary travel accounts appeared in both Mesopotamia and Egypt in an­cient times. After the formation of large, imperial states in the classical world, travel accounts emerged as a prominent literary genre in many lands, and they held especially strong appeal for rulers desiring useful knowledge about their realms. The Greek historian Herodotus reported on his travels in Egypt and Anatolia in researching the history of the Persian wars. The Chinese envoy Zhang Qian described much of central Asia as far west as Bactria (modern- day Afghanistan) on the basis of travels undertaken in the first century BCE while searching for allies for the Han dynasty. Hellenistic and Roman geog­raphers such as Ptolemy, Strabo, and Pliny the Elder relied on their own travels through much of the Mediterranean world as well as reports of other travellers to compile vast compendia of geographical knowledge.

During the post-classical era (about 500 to 1500 CE), trade and pilgrimage emerged as major incentives for travel to foreign lands. Muslim merchants sought trading opportunities throughout much of the eastern hemisphere. They described lands, peoples, and commercial products of the Indian Ocean basin from East Africa to Indonesia, and they supplied the first written accounts of societies in sub-Saharan West Africa. While merchants set out in search of trade and profit, devout Muslims travelled as pilgrims to Mecca to make their hajj and visit the holy sites of Islam. Since the prophet Muhammad’s origin­al pilgrimage to Mecca, untold millions of Muslims have followed his exam­ple, and thousands of hajj accounts have related their experiences. East Asian travellers were not quite so prominent as Muslims during the post-classical era, but they too followed many of the highways and sea lanes of the eastern hemisphere. Chinese merchants frequently visited South-East Asia and India, occasionally venturing even to East Africa, and devout East Asian Buddhists undertook distant pilgrimages. Between the 5th and 9th centuries CE, hundreds and possibly even thousands of Chinese Buddhists travelled to India to study with Buddhist teachers, collect sacred texts, and visit holy sites. Written ac­counts recorded the experiences of many pilgrims, such as Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing. Though not so numerous as the Chinese pilgrims, Buddhists from Japan, Korea, and other lands also ventured abroad in the interests of spiritual enlightenment.

Medieval Europeans did not hit the roads in such large numbers as their Muslim and East Asian counterparts during the early part of the post-classical era, al­though gradually increasing crowds of Christian pilgrims flowed to Jerusalem, Rome, Santiago de Compostela (in northern Spain), and other sites. After the 12th century, however, merchants, pilgrims, and missionaries from medieval Europe travelled widely and left numerous travel accounts, of which Marco Polo’s description of his travels and sojourn in China is the best known. As they became familiar with the larger world of the eastern hemisphere – and the profitable commercial opportunities that it offered – European peoples worked to find new and more direct routes to Asian and African markets. Their efforts took them not only to all parts of the eastern hemisphere, but eventually to the Americas and Oceania as well.

If  Muslim and Chinese people’s dominated travel and travel writing in post- classical times, European explorers, conquerors, merchants, and missionaries took centre stage during the early modern era (about 1500 to 1800 CE). By no means did Muslim and Chinese travel come to a halt in early modern times. But European peoples ventured to the distant corners of the globe, and European printing presses churned out thousands of travel accounts that described foreign lands and peoples for a reading public with an apparently insatiable appetite for news about the larger world. The volume of travel litera­ture was so great that several editors, including Giambattista Ramusio, Rich­ard Hakluyt, Theodore de Biy, and Samuel Purchas, assembled numerous travel accounts and made them available in enormous published collections.

During the 19th century, European travellers made their way to the interior regions of Africa and the Americas, generating a fresh round of travel writing as they did so. Meanwhile, European colonial administrators devoted numer­ous writings to the societies of their colonial subjects, particularly in Asian and African colonies they established. By mid-century, attention was flowing also in the other direction. Painfully aware of the military and technological prowess of European and Euro-American societies, Asian travellers in particu­lar visited Europe and the United States in hopes of discovering principles useful for the organisation of their own societies. Among the most prominent of these travelers who made extensive use of their overseas observations and experiences in their own writings were the Japanese reformer Fukuzawa Yukichi and the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen.

With the development of inexpensive and reliable means of mass transport, the 20th century witnessed explosions both in the frequency of long-distance travel and in the volume of travel writing. While a great deal of travel took place for reasons of business, administration, diplomacy, pilgrimage, and mis­sionary work, as in ages past, increasingly effective modes of mass transport made it possible for new kinds of travel to flourish. The most distinctive of them was mass tourism, which emerged as a major form of consumption .for individuals living in the world’s wealthy societies. Tourism enabled consumers to get away from home to see the sights in Rome, take a cruise through the Caribbean, walk the Great Wall of China, visit some wineries in Bordeaux, or go on safari in Kenya. A peculiar variant of the travel account arose to meet the needs of these tourists: the guidebook, which offered advice on food, lodging, shopping, local customs, and all the sights that visitors should not miss seeing. Tourism has had a massive economic impact throughout the world, but other new forms of travel have also had considerable influence in contemporary times.

Questions 27-28

Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.

Write your answers in boxes 27-28 on your answer sheet.

27. What were most people travelling for in the early days?
    A. Studying their own cultures
    B. Business
    C. knowing other people and places better
    D. Writing travel books

28. Why did the author say writing travel books is also “a mirror” for travellers themselves?
    A. Because travellers record their own experiences.
    B. Because travellers reflect upon their own society and life.
    C. Because it increases knowledge of foreign cultures.
    D. Because it is related to the development of human society.

Questions 29-36

Complete the table on the next page.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from Reading Passage 3 for each answer.

Write your answer in boxes 29-36 on your answer sheet.

Classical GreeceHerodotusEgypt and AnatoliaTo gather information for the study of 29……………
Han DynastyZhang QianCentral AsiaTo seek 30……………..
Roman EmpirePtolemy, Strabo, Pliny the ElderMediterraneanTo acquire 31………………….
Post-classical Era (about 500 to 1500 CE)MuslimsFrom east Africa to Indonesia MeccaTrading and 32………………
5th to 9th centuries CEChinese Buddhists33…………………..To collect Buddhist texts and for spiritual enlightenment
Early modern era (about 1500 to 1800 CE)European explorersNew WorldTo satisfy public curiosity for the New World
During 19th centuryColonial administratorAsia, AfricaTo provide information for the 34……………….they set up
By the mid-century of the 1900sSun Yat-sen Fukuzawa YukichiEurope and United statesTo study the 35…………….for the reorganization of their societies
20th centuryPeople from 36………………. countriesMass tourismEntertainment and pleasure
BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 17

Questions 37-40

choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.
Write your answers in boxes 37-40 on your answer sheet.

37. Why were the imperial rulers especially interested in these travel stories?
A. Reading travel stories was a popular pastime.
B. The accounts are often truthful rather than fictional.
Travel books played an important role in literature.
D. They desired knowledge of their empire.

38. Who were the largest group to record their spiritual trips during the post-classical era?
A. Muslim traders
B. Muslim pilgrims
C. Chinese Buddhists
D. Indian Buddhist teachers

39. During the early modern era, a large number of travel books were published to
A. meet the public’s interest.
B. explore new business opportunities.
encourage trips to the new world.
D. record the larger world.

40. What’s the main theme of the passage?
A. The production of travel books
B. The literary status of travel books
C. The historical significance of travel books
D. The development of travel books


1. E

2. A

3. C

4. D

5. F

6. G

7. F

8. 17

9. backpack

10. interact

11. facial expressions

12. Cog

13. intelligence

14. F

15. A

16. B

17. D

18. I

19. C

20. B

21. D

22. C


24. TRUE


26. FALSE     

27. C

28. B

29. Persian wars

30. allies

31. geographical knowledge

32. pilgrimage

33. India

34. colonies

35. principles

36. wealthy

37. D

38. B

39. A


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