BEST IELTS ACADEMIC Reading Test
Test. No – 6
Reading Passage 1
Read the text below and answer the Questions 1-13.
Bamboo, A Wonder Plant
The wonder plant with an uncertain future: more than a billion people rely on bamboo for either their shelter or income, while many endangered species depend on it for their survival. Despite its apparent abundance, a new report says that species of bamboo may be under serious threat.
Every year, during the rainy season, the mountain gorillas of Central Africa migrate to the foothills and lower slopes of the Virunga Mountains to graze on bamboo. For the 650 or so that remain in the wild, it’s a vital food source. Although they at almost 150 types of plant, as well as various insects and other invertebrates, at this time of year bamboo accounts for up to 90 per cent of their diet. Without it, says Ian Redmond, chairman of the Ape Alliance, their chances of survival would be reduced significantly. Gorillas aren’t the only locals keen on bamboo. For the people who live close to the Virungas, it’s a valuable and versatile raw material used for building houses and making household items such as mats and baskets. But in the past 100 years or so, resources have come under increasing pressure as populations have exploded and large areas of bamboo forest have been cleared to make way for farms and commercial plantations.
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated story. All over the world, the ranges of many bamboo species appear to be shrinking, endangering the people and animals (that depend upon them). But despite bamboo’s importance, we know surprisingly little about it. A recent report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) has revealed just how profound is our ignorance of global bamboo resources, particularly in relation to conservation. There are almost 1,600 recognised species of bamboo, but the report concentrated on the 1,200 or so woody varieties distinguished by the strong stems, or culms, that most people associate with this versatile plant. Of these, only 38 ‘priority species’ identified for their commercial value have been the subject of any real scientific research, and this has focused mostly on matters relating to their viability as a commodity. This problem isn’t confined to bamboo. Compared to the work carried out on animals, the science of assessing the conservation status of plants is still in its infancy. “People have only started looking hard at this during the past 10-15 years, and only now are they getting a handle on how to go about it systematically,” says Dr Valerie Kapos, one of the report’s authors and a senior adviser in forest ecology and conservation to the UNEP.
Bamboo is a type of grass. It comes in a wide variety of forms, ranging in height from 30 centimetres to more than 40 metres. It is also the world’s fastest-growing woody plant: some species can grow more than a metre in a day. Bamboo’s ecological rote extends beyond providing food and habitat for animals. Bamboo tends to grow in stands made up of groups of individual plants that grow from root systems known as rhizomes. Its extensive rhizome systems, which tie in the top layers of the soil, are crucial in preventing soil erosion. And there is growing evidence that bamboo plays an important part in determining forest structure and dynamics. “Bamboo’s pattern of mass flowering and mass death leaves behind large areas of dry biomass that attract wildfire,” says Kapos. “When these burn, they create patches of open ground within the forest far bigger than would be left by a fallen tree.” Patchiness helps to preserve diversity because certain plant species do better during the early stages of regeneration when there are gaps in the canopy.
However, bamboo’s most immediate significance lies in its economic value. Modern processing techniques mean that it can be used in a variety of ways, for example, as flooring and laminates. One of the fastest-growing bamboo products is paper-25 per cent of paper produced in India is made from bamboo fiber, and in Brazil, 100,000 hectares of bamboo is grown for its production. Of course, bamboo’s main function has always been in domestic applications, and as a locally traded commodity, it’s worth about US$4.5 billion annually. Because of its versatility, flexibility and strength (its tensile strength compares to that of some steel), it has traditionally been used in construction. Today, more than one billion people worldwide live in bamboo houses. Bamboo is often the only readily available raw material for people in many developing countries, says Chris Staple-ton, a research associate at the Royal Botanic Gardens. “Bamboo can be harvested from forest areas or grown quickly elsewhere, and then converted simply without expensive machinery or facilities,” he says. “In this way, it contributes substantially to poverty alleviation and wealth creation.”
Given bamboo’s value in economic and ecological terms, the picture painted by the UNEP report is all the more worrying. But keen horticulturists will spot an apparent contradiction here. Those who’ve followed the recent vogue for cultivating exotic species in their gardens will point out that if it isn’t kept in check, bamboo can cause real problems. “In a lot of places, the people who live with bamboo don’t perceive it as being endangered in any way,” says Kapos. “In fact, a lot of bamboo species are actually very invasive if they’ve been introduced.” So why are so many species endangered? There are two separate issues here, says Ray Townsend, vice president of the British Bamboo Society and arboretum manager at the Royal Botanic Gardens. “Some plants are threatened because they can’t survive in the habitat – they aren’t strong enough or there aren’t enough of them, perhaps. But bamboo can take care of itself – it is strong enough to survive if left alone. What is under threat is its habitat.” It is the physical disturbance that is the threat to bamboo, says Kapos. “When forest goes, it is converted into something else: there isn’t any-where for forest plants such as bamboo to grow if you create a cattle pasture.”
Around the world, bamboo species are routinely protected as part of forest ecosystems in national parks and reserves, but there is next to nothing that protects bamboo in the wild for its own sake. However, some small steps are being taken to address this situation. The UNEP-INBAR report will help conservationists to establish effective measures aimed at protecting valuable wild bamboo species. Towns end, too, see the UNEP report as an important step forward in promoting the cause of bamboo conservation. “Until now, bamboo has been perceived as a second-class plant. When you talk about places such as the Amazon, everyone always thinks about the hardwoods. Of course, these are significant, but there is a tendency to overlook the plants they are associated with, which are often bamboo species. In many ways, it is the most important plant known to man. I can’t think of another plant that is used so much and is so commercially important in so many countries.” He believes that the most important first step is to get scientists into the field. “We need to go out there, look at these plants and see how they survive and then use that information to conserve them for the future.”
Reading Passage 1 has six paragraphs A-F.
Which section contains the following information?
Write the correct letter A-F in boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet
NB. You may use any letter more than once
1. The limited extent of existing research
2. Comparison of bamboo with other plant species
3. Commercial application of bamboo
4. Example of an animal which relies on bamboos for survival
5. The human activity that damaged large areas of bamboo
6. The approaches used to study bamboo
7. Bamboo helps the survival of a range of plants
Use the information in the passage to match the people (listed A-D) with opinions or deeds below.
Write the appropriate letters A-D in boxes 8-11 on your answer sheet.
NB. You may use any letter more than once
A. Ian Redmond
B. Valerie Kapos
C. Ray Townsend
D. Chris Stapleton
8. Destroying bamboo jeopardizes to wildlife.
9. People have very confined knowledge of bamboo.
10. Some people do not think that bamboo is endangered.
11. Bamboo has loads of commercial potentials.
Answer the questions below using NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 12-13 on your answer sheet
12. What problem does the bamboo’s root system prevent?
13. Which bamboo product is experiencing market expansion?
Reading passage 2
Read the text below and answer the Questions 14-26
Tasmanian Tiger Although it was called tiger, it looked like a dog with black stripes on its back and it was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. Yet, despite its fame for being one of the most fabled animals in the world, it is one of the least understood of Tasmania’s native animals. The scientific name for the Tasmanian tiger is Thylacine and it is believed that they have become extinct in the 20th century.
Fossils of thylacines dating from about almost 12 million years ago have been dug up at various places in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. They were widespread in Australia 7,000 years ago, but have probably been extinct on the continent for 2,000 years. This is believed to be because of the introduction of dingoes around 8,000 years ago. Because of disease, thylacine numbers may have been declining in Tasmania at the time of European settlement 200 years ago, but the decline was certainly accelerated by the new arrivals. The last known Tasmanian Tiger died in Hobart Zoo in 1936 and the animal is officially classified as extinct. Technically, this means that it has not been officially sighted in the wild or captivity for 50 years. However, there are still unsubstanti-ated sightings.
Hans Naarding, whose study of animals had taken him around the world, was conducting a survey of a species of endangered migratory bird. What he saw that night is now regarded as the most credible sighting recorded of thylacine that many believe has been extinct for more than 70 years.
“I had to work at night,” Naarding takes up the story. “I was in the habit of intermittently shining a spotlight around. The beam fell on an animal in front of the vehicle, less than 10m away. Instead of risking movement by grabbing for a camera, I decided to register very carefully what I was seeing. The animal was about the size of a small shepherd dog, a very healthy male in prime condition. What set it apart from a dog, though, was a slightly sloping hindquarter, with a fairly thick tail being a straight continuation of the backline of the animal. It had 12 distinct stripes on its back, continuing onto its butt. I knew perfectly well what I was seeing. As soon as I reached for the camera, it disappeared into the tea-tree undergrowth and scrub.”
The director of Tasmania’s National Parks at the time, Peter Morrow, decided in his wisdom to keep Naarding’s sighting of the thylacine secret for two years. When the news finally broke, it was accompanied by pandemonium. “I was besieged by television crews, including four to live from Japan, and others from the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand and South America,” said Naarding.
Government and private search parties combed the region, but no further sightings were made. The tiger, as always, had escaped to its lair; a place many insist exists only in our imagination. But since then, the thylacine has staged something of a comeback, becoming part of Australian mythology.
There have been more than 4,000 claimed sightings of the beast since it supposedly died out, and the average claims each year reported to authorities now number 150. Associate professor of zoology at the University of Tasmania, Randolph Rose, has said he dreams of seeing a thylacine. But Rose, who in his 35 years in Tasmanian academia has fielded countless reports of thylacine sightings, is now convinced that his dream will go unfulfilled.
“The consensus among conservationists is that, usually, any animal with a population base of less than 1,000 is headed for extinction within 60 years,” says Rose. “Sixty years ago, there was only one thylacine that we know of, and that was in Hobart Zoo,” he says.
Dr. David Pemberton, curator of zoology at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, whose PhD thesis was on the thylacine, says that despite scientific thinking that 500 animals are required to sustain a population, the Florida panther is down to a dozen or so animals and, while it does have some inbreeding problems, is still ticking along. “I’ll take a punt and say that, if we manage to find a thylacine in the scrub, it means that there are 50-plus animals out there.”
After all, animals can be notoriously elusive. The strange fish known as the coelacanth, with its “proto-legs”, was thought to have died out along with the dinosaurs 700 million years ago until a specimen was dragged to the surface in a shark net off the south-east coast of South Africa in 1938.
Wildlife biologist Nick Mooney has the unenviable task of investigating all “sightings” of the tiger totalling 4,000 since the mid-1980s, and averaging about 150 a year. It was Mooney who was first consulted late last month about the authenticity of digital photographic images purportedly taken by a German tourist while on a recent bushwalk in the state. On face value, Mooney says, the account of the sighting, and the two photographs submitted as proof, amount to one of the most convincing cases for the species’ survival he has seen.
And Mooney has seen it all—the mistakes, the hoaxes, the illusions and the plausible accounts of sightings. Hoaxers aside, most people who report sightings end up believing they have seen a thylacine, and are themselves believable to the point they could pass a lie detector test, according to Mooney. Others, having tabled a creditable report, then become utterly obsessed like the Tasmanian who has registered 99 thylacine sightings to date. Mooney has seen individuals bankrupted by the obsession, and families destroyed. “It is a blind optimism that something is, rather than a cynicism that something isn’t,” Mooney says. “If something crosses the road, it’s not a case of ‘I wonder what that was?’ Rather, it is a case of ‘that’s a thylacine!’ It is a bit like a gold prospector’s blind faith, ‘it has got to be there’.”
However, Mooney treats all reports on face value. “I never try to embarrass people, or make fools of them. But the fact that 1 don’t pack the car immediately they ring can often be taken as ridicule. Obsessive characters get irate that someone in my position is not out there when they think the thylacine is there.”
But Hans Naarding, whose sighting of a striped animal two decades ago was the highlight of “a life of animal spotting”, remains bemused by the time and money people waste on tiger searches. He says resources would be better applied to saving the Tasmanian devil, and helping migratory bird populations that are declining as a result of shrinking wetlands across Australia Gould the thylacine still be out there? “Sure,” Naarding says. But he also says any discovery of surviving thylacines would be “rather pointless”. “How do you save a species from extinction? What could you do with it? If there are thylacines out there, they are better off right where they are,”.
Complete the summary below.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer. Write your answers in boxes 14-17 on your answer sheet.
The Tasmanian tiger, also called thylacine, resembles the look of a dog and has 14………………………..on its fur coat. Many fossils have been found, showing that thylacines had existed as early as 15………………….. years ago. They lived throughout 16………………………before disappearing from the mainland. And soon after the 17………………………… settlers arrived the size of thylacine population in Tasmania shrunk at a higher speed.
Look at the following statements (Questions 18-23) and the list of people below.
Match each statement with the correct person, A, B, C or D.
Write the correct letter, A, B, C or D, in boxes 18-23 on your answer sheet.
NB You may use any letter more than once.
18. His report of seeing a live thylacine in the wild attracted international interest.
19. Many eye-witnesses ’ reports are not trustworthy.
20. It doesn’t require a certain number of animals to ensure the survival of a species.
21. There is no hope of finding a surviving Tasmanian tiger.
22. Do not disturb them if there are any Tasmanian tigers still living today.
23. The interpretation of evidence can be affected by people’s beliefs
List of People
A. Hans Naarding
B. Randolph Rose
C. David Pemberton
D. Nick Mooney
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write the correct letter in boxes 24-26 on your answer sheet.
24. Hans Naarding’s sighting has resulted in
A. A government and organisations’ cooperative efforts to protect thylacine.
B. extensive interests to find a living thylacine
C. increase of the number of reports of thylacine worldwide.
D. growth of popularity of thylacine in literature.
25. The example of coelacanth is to illustrate
A. it lived in the same period with dinosaurs
B. how dinosaurs evolved legs.
C. some animals are difficult to catch in the wild.
D. extinction of certain species can be mistaken.
26. Mooney believes that all sighting reports should be
A. given some credit as they claim even if they are untrue.
B. acted upon immediately.
C. viewed as equally untrustworthy.
D. questioned and carefully investigated
Reading Passage 3
Read the text below and answer the questions 27-40
Assessing the risk
As a title for a supposedly unprejudiced debate on scientific progress, “Panic attack: interrogating our obsession with risk” did not bode well. Held last week at the Royal Institution in London, the event brought together scientists from across the world to ask why society is so obsessed with risk and to call for a “more rational” approach. “We seem to be organising society around the grandmotherly maxim of ‘better safe than sorry’,” exclaimed Spiked, the online publication that organised the event. “What are the consequences of this overbearing concern with risks?”
The debate was preceded by a survey of 40 scientists who were invited to describe how awful our lives would be if the “precautionary principle” had been allowed to prevail in the past. Their response was: no heart surgery or antibiotics, and hardly any drugs at all; no aeroplanes, bicycles or high-voltage power grids; no pasteurisation, pesticides or biotechnology; no quantum mechanics; no wheel; no “discovery” of America. In short, their message was: no risk, no gain.
They have absolutely missed the point. The precautionary principle is a subtle idea. It has various forms, but all of them generally include some notion of cost-effectiveness. Thus the point is not simply to ban things that are not known to be absolutely safe. Rather, it says: “Of course you can make no progress without risk. But if there is no obvious gain from taking the risk, then don’t take it.”
Clearly, all the technologies listed by the 40 well-chosen savants were innately risky at their inception, as all technologies are. But all of them would have received the green light under the precautionary principle because they all had the potential to offer tremendous benefits – the solutions to very big problems – if only the snags could be overcome.
If the precautionary principle had been in place, the scientists tell us, we would not have antibiotics. But of course, we would – if the version of the principle that sensible people now understand had been applied. When penicillin was discovered in the 1920s, infective bacteria were laying waste to the world. Children died from diphtheria and whooping cough, every open-drain brought the threat of typhoid, and any wound could lead to septicemia and even gangrene.
Penicillin was turned into a practical drug during the Second World War when the many pestilences that result from were threatened to kill more people than the bombs. Of course antibiotics were a priority. Of course, the risks, such as they could be perceived, were worth taking.
And so with the other items on the scientists’ list: electric light bulbs, blood transfusions. CAT scans, knives, the measles vaccine – the precautionary principle would have prevented all of them, they tell us. But this is just plain wrong. If the precautionary principle had been applied properly, all these creations would have passed muster, because all offered incomparable advantages compared to the risks perceived at the time.
Another issue is at stake here. Statistics are not the only concept people use when weighing up risk. Human beings, subtle and evolved creatures that we are, do not survive to three-score years and ten simply by thinking like pocket calculators. A crucial issue is the consumer’s choice. In deciding whether to pursue the development of new technology, the consumer’s right to choose should be considered alongside considerations of risk and benefit. Clearly, skiing is more dangerous than genetically modified tomatoes. But people who ski choose to do so; they do not have skiing thrust upon them by portentous experts of the kind who now feel they have the right to reconstruct our crops. Even with skiing, there is the matter of cost-effectiveness to consider: skiing, I am told, is exhilarating. Where is the exhilaration in GM soya?
Indeed, in contrast to all the other items on Spiked’s list, GM crops stand out as an example of a technology whose benefits are far from clear. Some of the risks can at least be defined. But in the present economic climate, the benefits that might accrue from them seem dubious. Promoters of GM crops believe that the future population of the world cannot be fed without them. That is untrue. The crops that really matter are wheat and rice, and there is no GM research in the pipeline that will seriously affect the yield of either. GM is used to make production cheaper and hence more profitable, which is an extremely questionable ambition
The precautionary principle provides the world with a very important safeguard. If it had been in place in the past it might, for example, have prevented insouciant miners from polluting major rivers with mercury. We have come to a sorry pass when scientists, who should above all be dispassionate scholars, feel they should misrepresent such a principle for the purposes of commercial and political propaganda. People at large continue to mistrust science and the high technologies it produces partly because they doubt the wisdom of scientists. On such evidence as this, these doubts are fully justified.
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3?
In boxes 27-32 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE – if the statement is true
FALSE – if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN – if the information is not given in the passage
27. The title of the debate is not unbiased.
28. All the scientists invited to the debate were from the field of medicine.
29. The message those scientists who conducted the survey were sending was people shouldn’t take risks.
30. All the 40 listed technologies are riskier than other technologies.
31. It was worth taking the risks to invent antibiotics.
32. All the other inventions on the list were also judged by the precautionary principle.
Complete the following summary of the paragraphs of Reading Passage
Using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the Reading Passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 33-39 on your answer sheet.
When applying the precautionary principle to decide whether to invent a new technology, people should also the consideration of the 33…………………………., along with the usual consideration of 34………………………….. For example, though risky and dangerous enough, people still enjoy 35………………………….. for the excitement it provides. On the other hand, experts believe that future population desperately needs 36………………………… in spite of their undefined risks. However, the researchers conducted so far have not been directed towards increasing the yield of 37…………………………, but to reduce the cost of 38………………………………. and to bring more profit out of it. In the end, such selfish use of the precautionary principle for business and political gain has often led people to 39………………………….. science for they believe scientists are not to be trusted.
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write your answers in boxes 40 on your answer sheet.
40. What is the main theme of the passage?
A. people have the right to doubt science and technologies
B. the precautionary principle could have prevented the development of science and technology
C. there are not enough people who truly understand the precautionary principle
D. the precautionary principle bids us take risks at all costs
12. soil erosion
14. black stripes
15. 12 million
28. NOT GIVEN
30. NOT GIVEN
32. NOT GIVEN
33. consumer’s right (to choose)/consumer’s choice
34. risk and benefit
36. GM crops
37. wheat and rice