This reading practice simulates one part of the IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about twenty minutes on it. Read the passage and answer questions 1-14.
The climate in Britain has been arctic for the last several million years, punctuated by relatively warm timespans, or interglacials of thousands of years, one of which we are in as of now. Since the last glaciation, British woodland history is considered quite short in terms of geological time spans, and is also closely related to the human civilization developing.
At the peak of the last glaciation (100,000 – 12,000 BC), the majority of Britain would have had no trees. Birch and willow scrub may have grown along the lower reaches of the ice, with pine in some areas. It’s possible that remnants of pre-glacial flora were sheltered along the western bays of Great Britain and Ireland’s coasts, but as far as the southern parts of England, the ice kept any land barren. Information regarding the development of Britain’s flora following glaciation can be found by studying the deposits of pollen and seed in peat, as well as by the use of radiocarbon dating. Tundra and moorland followed the retreating ice, which lead to phases of different tree species spreading from the south. First came birch, aspen and sallow, followed by pine and hazel continuing to spread north as of 8500 BC, replacing birch to make it less commonly found for the next few thousand years. Oak and alder came after pine, then lime, elm, beech, and maple, all spreading northwards one after the other. From the moment lime arrived, in about 7300, to about 4500 BC the climate remained stable for a length of time known as the Atlantic Period, a time in which numerous species grew to form a series of wildwood or wilderness types.
What did the wilderness or wildwood look like, before man started interfering with it? One theory holds that Britain and Western Europe in Palaeolithic times was covered from coast to coast in a wildwood of continuous trees. However, a modern theory proposed by Francis Vera holds that Western Europe wilderness was a combination of grassland, scrub, and clusters or groves of trees. It was not a dense, impassable wildwood, but instead, an area similar to a park, kept up by wild herbivores eating the plants and grass. Throughout earlier interglacial periods, this may also have been the case in Britain, as creatures of the Palaeolithic era needed to roam large areas of grassland to survive. A variety of grassland plants continued to live there in the last interglacial, as according to pollen records. However, since the last glaciation, the bison, elk and other large herbivores which persisted on mainland Europe were extinct in Britain, so Vera’s theory may not apply so well to Britain.
Meanwhile, throughout the period since it’s spread northwards after the last glaciation, the sustained growth of oak in Britain demonstrates that the wildwood was not as continual as once believed. Oak is a pioneer species, which requires vacant space to generate more of itself. Grazing animals are also present to keep areas open, so Oak regenerates in the thorny brush as a protective measure from their grazing. Archaeological evidence indicates that red deer, who graze on grass as well as browse from trees, were essential to the economy in Mesolithic Britain, with people utilizing them for meat, skins, antlers and bones.
As the Mesolithic (10,000-3000 BC) era ended, evidence of the beginnings of agriculture emerges. Agricultural weeds, such as plantain and stinging nettle, were also increasing in number. Nearly all the wildwood was cut down as the population increased rapidly. However, the falling elm population around 4,000 BC all across Europe has been attributed not to the clearing of trees, but to what’s referred to as Elm disease.
Throughout the Bronze Age (2400-750 BC), people were cutting down trees more than ever before, until the prevalence of the practice “coppicing” peaked, likely at some point during the early Iron Age. Oliver Rackham (1990) theorizes that nearly 50% of land throughout England was no longer wildwood by 500 BC. The regrowth from a stump grows more readily than the original tree, and Neolithic man had discovered this practice, known as coppicing. Much of the remaining woods were maintained by way of this method during the Bronze Age.
The Celtic peoples living in the Iron Age were able to master woodworking as an artform. Today, Celtic woodworking can be seen in houses, boats, wheels and other artifacts of the time. Coppicing as a means to manage woodland was of massive importance throughout two millennia that followed. Buildings, roads, fences, carts, and the fuel for heating, cooking, metalworking and pottery were all made possible due to wood materials gained from the vital practice of coppicing.
A clear divide has existed between wooded and non-wooded regions of Britain since the time of the Romans. As evidenced by The Domesday Book (1086), all the wood in England had an economic value and was the property of either an individual or community owner. Woods were the territories, or ‘exclaves’ of communities who lived some miles away. Even though it had to be transported over long distances, the materials which woodlands produced were of obvious value, and their ownership was long before established. Merely around 15% of land in England was represented by woodland or wood-pasture in the year 1086.
English woodlands produced mostly underwood used as fuel along with other things, with small oaks being used to construct buildings. The average wood-framed houses of the Medieval era mostly used oaks shorter than 18” in diameter. Longer pieces of timber were hard to come by, and kept only for elaborate buildings intended for the Church. Imported boards of thin oak or wainscot from Central Europe were brought in for the purpose of domestic building. Woodland cover was as low as 15% in 1086, and continued to decline from as a result of an ever-growing population to 10% by 1350. This stopped suddenly with the plague of the Black Death of 1349 wiping out some of the human population. Woods which had persisted up to 1350 mostly prospered over the next 500 years.
Post-glacial is a synonym of following glaciation.
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Tips to improve your reading speed
Keep in mind, having a slow reading speed makes skimming or scanning a reading passage more difficult. The process of quickly skimming through a reading passage for specific keywords or main ideas is a requirement for you to employ successful reading strategies to improve your IELTS reading score. In other words, skimming and scanning are critical skills to ensure you complete all questions in the allotted time frame.
IELTS Reading Strategies
Step 1: Read questions first
One of the most common mistakes that candidates make when approaching the reading exam is reading every single word of the passages. Although you can practice for the exam by reading for pleasure, "reading blindly" (reading without any sense of what the questions will ask) will not do you any favors in the exam. Instead, it will hurt your chances for effectively managing your time and getting the best score.
The main reason to read the questions first is because the type of question may determine what you read in the passage or how you read it. For example, some question types will call for the "skimming" technique, while others may call for the "scanning" technique.
It is important to answer a set of questions that are of the same question type. You'll need to determine which question type you want to tackle first. A good strategy would be to start with the easier question type and move on to more difficult question types later. The Easiest question types are the ones where you spend less time reading. For example, the Matching Heading question type is an easier one because you only need to find the heading that best describes the main idea of a paragraph. An example of a difficult question type would be Identifying Information. For this question type, you'll need to read each paragraph to find out if each statement is TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN according to the passage.
Here is a table that lists the difficulty levels for each question type. Use this table as a reference when choosing which question type you want to tackle first.
Difficulty level Question Type Easy Sentence Completion
Medium Matching Features
Summary, Table, Flow-Chart Completion
Difficult Matching Sentence Endings
Identifying Information (TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN)
Identifying Viewer's claims (YES/NO/NOT GIVEN)
Step 2: Read for an objective
After you've read the questions for the passage, you will be able to read for an objective. What does this mean? For example, if you come across a question that includes the year "1896", you can make a note of when this year comes up in the text, using it to answer the question later on. There are two reading techniques that will help you stay on track with reading for an objective. The first one, skimming, is best defined as reading fast in order to get the "gist", or general idea, or a passage. With this technique, you are not stopping for any unfamiliar words or looking for specific details. The second technique, scanning, is best defined as reading for specific information. With this technique, you are not reading for the overall gist, but rather, specific information. Notice how each of these techniques has a specific objective in mind. This will help you find information more quickly.
Step 3: Take notes
As you're reading for an objective, you should also be making notes on the margins of the passage, placing stars next to key information, or underlining things that you believe will help you answer the various questions. This will make it easier for you to check back when you are asked certain things in the questions. Choose whichever note-taking system is right for you - just make sure you do it!
Step 4: Answer wisely
After you've read the questions, read the passage, and have taken any appropriate notes, you you should have located the part of the text where you where you need to read carefully. Then just read carefully and think critically to determine the correct answer.
IELTS Reading Question Types
The IELTS reading test contains many different question types:
|Matching Headings||IELTS Reading Lesson: Matching Headings|
|Matching Information||IELTS Reading Lesson: Matching Information|
|Matching Features||IELTS Reading Lesson: Matching Features|
|Summary Completion||IELTS Reading Lesson: Summary Completion|
|Identifying Information||IELTS Reading Lesson: Identifying Information|
|Identifying Writer's claims||IELTS Reading Lesson: Identifying Writer's claims|
|Multiple Choice||IELTS Reading Lesson: Multiple Choice|
|Short Answer||IELTS Reading Lesson: Short Answer|
|Match Sentence Ending||IELTS Reading Lesson: Match Sentence Ending|
|Sentence Completion||IELTS Reading Lesson: Sentence Completion|
|Table Completion||IELTS Reading Lesson: Table Completion|