IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 14

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Declining Standards of Literacy

A Across both Europe and North America, falling literacy standards are of growing concern to many educators and parents alike. For example, nearly a third of British teenagers aged 16 exhibit the reading ability of a 14 year old or lower. Intellectual development is affected by literacy, making this apparent decline in standards of literacy all the more alarming. Now, researchers are out to discover what may be causing the issue. Socio-economic factors, as well as types of teaching methods being used in the classroom have been the primary focus of the search thus far.

B No discoveries have yet been made as to what actually impacts literacy. This may be another unfortunate example of the old cliche, “They can't see the wood for the trees.” When picture books are used in the classroom, educators are believed to be upholding a long-established tradition that is universally acceptable. More specifically, within the past 20 years, pictures and images in reading primers are more distracting and noticeable than ever. Meanwhile, language-learning itself has become a weaker point of focus in the classroom.

C  Moreover, no empirical evidence has been shown to support using pictures as educational tools for teaching children to read. In fact, there is actually a growing amount of contrary empirical evidence to this, showing that illustrations do more harm than good. This evidence suggests that using pictures to teach reading is damaging to all aspects in terms of learning to read. In spite of this finding, the first books that many students in western countries receive contain virtually no text.

D Educators of young readers should strive to help children learn the ability to recognise individual words in text, and in addition, how to understand each word’s meaning. Even if a child has the ability to read aloud, his understanding of words is the true key to literacy. When children who can sound out words and read fluently are unable to comprehend what they are reading, this sometimes known as “barking at text.” On a positive note, it seems that any negative effects of television, video games, or lack of communication at home on the effects of language learning can still be counteracted with plenty of language exposure at school.

E It’s common to see a children’s book of over 30 pages to contain little more than a few repetitive phrases of text. On the other hand, illustrations in these same books are often creative and elaborate. These pictures may seem the text seem dull in comparison, or even dampen children’s ability to imagine images for themselves while reading. In fact, viewing pictures may actively prevent children under nine years old from forming their own mental images, while presenting similar difficulties for older children, as well. 

F As children mature, many will end up rejecting books that don’t have pictures, and such a reaction becomes increasingly serious in culture which is rapidly becoming more visual than ever. Helping children learn to graduate from picture books to text-only books is a tougher task when most children’s formative reading experiences are associated with the illustrations themselves. And now, many other sources of entertainment may capture a child’s attention. Though lower intelligence is generally associated with lower rates of literacy, some results are revealing that even highly-intelligent children are not immune to the effects of these detrimental factors. Educators have responded to these challenges by further extending their use of picture books, and by simplifying the language-levels they teach, even within secondary education. Recent conferences were held at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for the purpose of discussing this downward trend in literacy levels among undergraduate students.

G Beautiful, eye-catching pictures can be used as a motivating factor for children to read. However, this kind of motivation for reading is done best while also listening to stories read aloud. Doing this allows children to use their imaginations along with the story. As their reading skills develop, such an experience allows them to better understand new language as a whole. The use of pictures alone will not give children enough of an opportunity to hone these creative skills -- this may lead to a tragic loss of creativity and imaginative skills in future generations.

H Academic journals covering research subjects in education, psychology, language learning, and even psycholinguistics have turned out results from experiments which demonstrate the ways which picture books are problematic for beginning readers. The following is a brief selection of such research:

I Canadian educator, Dale Willows, found results which were both clear and consistent. In this research, Willows concludes that pictures affect speed and accuracy of readers. Moreover, when pictures appeared closer to words, reading became even slower and more inaccurate. She claims that when children come across a word which they are familiar with, pictures are unnecessary and distracting. On the other hand, she shows that children who do not know a word will look to the picture to indicate its meaning. In these cases, they may be misled by aspects of the pictures which are do not match the unfamiliar word’s actual meaning.

J In another instance, the American psychologist Jay Samuels found that lower-level readers who were presented with no pictures learned more words than those who had pictures. He examined other researchers’ work, some of whom had reported problems with the use of pictures, making similar findings about the way children learn words more effectively without pictures. Interestingly enough, he also found that children looking at picture books who seemed to ignore the pictures in favor of pointing to the words themselves were likely to learn more words than the children who pointed at the pictures. Even still, children given books with pictures still learned fewer words than the children who had no illustrated stimuli at all.




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 15-28.
Questions 15-22
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 15-22 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.

15. Literacy is a crucial concern due to its effect on intelligence

16. There have been no answers to the causes of illiteracy

17. It is traditionally accepted that children's books should contain few pictures.

18. It has been proven that using pictures improves reading ability

19. Most of the books that children first receive contain both text and pictures in western countries.

20. Older readers are having difficulty in adjusting to texts without pictures

21. Learning by rote improves the number of words a child can learn

22. Jay Samuels concluded that children improve their vocabulary when using pictures

Questions 23-28
The reading passage has ten paragraphs labelled A-J.

Which paragraph contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-J in boxes 23-28 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

23. Teachers aim to teach both word recognition and word meaning.

24. Pictures in books prevent children from developing creative skills.

25. Reading methods currently in use go against research findings.

26. Readers able to ignore pictures are claimed to make greater progress.

27. The decline of literacy is seen in groups of differing abilities.

28. Illustrations in books can give misleading information about word meaning.




Answer Sheet
1
N/A
2
N/A
3
N/A
4
N/A
5
N/A
6
N/A
7
N/A
8
N/A
9
N/A
10
N/A
11
N/A
12
N/A
13
N/A
14
N/A
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
N/A
30
N/A
31
N/A
32
N/A
33
N/A
34
N/A
35
N/A
36
N/A
37
N/A
38
N/A
39
N/A
40
N/A


Reading Passage Vocabulary
Declining Standards of Literacy


A Across both Europe and North America, falling literacy standards are of growing concern to many educators and parents alike. For example, nearly a third of British teenagers aged 16 exhibit the reading ability of a 14 year old or lower. Intellectual development is affected by literacy, making this apparent decline in standards of literacy all the more alarming. Now, researchers are out to discover what may be causing the issue. Socio-economic factors, as well as types of teaching methods being used in the classroom have been the primary focus of the search thus far.

B No discoveries have yet been made as to what actually impacts literacy. This may be another unfortunate example of the old cliche, “They can't see the wood for the trees.” When picture books are used in the classroom, educators are believed to be upholding a long-established tradition that is universally acceptable. More specifically, within the past 20 years, pictures and images in reading primers are more distracting and noticeable than ever. Meanwhile, language-learning itself has become a weaker point of focus in the classroom.

C  Moreover, no empirical evidence has been shown to support using pictures as educational tools for teaching children to read. In fact, there is actually a growing amount of contrary empirical evidence to this, showing that illustrations do more harm than good. This evidence suggests that using pictures to teach reading is damaging to all aspects in terms of learning to read. In spite of this finding, the first books that many students in western countries receive contain virtually no text.

D Educators of young readers should strive to help children learn the ability to recognise individual words in text, and in addition, how to understand each word’s meaning. Even if a child has the ability to read aloud, his understanding of words is the true key to literacy. When children who can sound out words and read fluently are unable to comprehend what they are reading, this sometimes known as “barking at text.” On a positive note, it seems that any negative effects of television, video games, or lack of communication at home on the effects of language learning can still be counteracted with plenty of language exposure at school.

E It’s common to see a children’s book of over 30 pages to contain little more than a few repetitive phrases of text. On the other hand, illustrations in these same books are often creative and elaborate. These pictures may seem the text seem dull in comparison, or even dampen children’s ability to imagine images for themselves while reading. In fact, viewing pictures may actively prevent children under nine years old from forming their own mental images, while presenting similar difficulties for older children, as well. 

F As children mature, many will end up rejecting books that don’t have pictures, and such a reaction becomes increasingly serious in culture which is rapidly becoming more visual than ever. Helping children learn to graduate from picture books to text-only books is a tougher task when most children’s formative reading experiences are associated with the illustrations themselves. And now, many other sources of entertainment may capture a child’s attention. Though lower intelligence is generally associated with lower rates of literacy, some results are revealing that even highly-intelligent children are not immune to the effects of these detrimental factors. Educators have responded to these challenges by further extending their use of picture books, and by simplifying the language-levels they teach, even within secondary education. Recent conferences were held at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for the purpose of discussing this downward trend in literacy levels among undergraduate students.

G Beautiful, eye-catching pictures can be used as a motivating factor for children to read. However, this kind of motivation for reading is done best while also listening to stories read aloud. Doing this allows children to use their imaginations along with the story. As their reading skills develop, such an experience allows them to better understand new language as a whole. The use of pictures alone will not give children enough of an opportunity to hone these creative skills -- this may lead to a tragic loss of creativity and imaginative skills in future generations.

H Academic journals covering research subjects in education, psychology, language learning, and even psycholinguistics have turned out results from experiments which demonstrate the ways which picture books are problematic for beginning readers. The following is a brief selection of such research:

I Canadian educator, Dale Willows, found results which were both clear and consistent. In this research, Willows concludes that pictures affect speed and accuracy of readers. Moreover, when pictures appeared closer to words, reading became even slower and more inaccurate. She claims that when children come across a word which they are familiar with, pictures are unnecessary and distracting. On the other hand, she shows that children who do not know a word will look to the picture to indicate its meaning. In these cases, they may be misled by aspects of the pictures which are do not match the unfamiliar word’s actual meaning.

J In another instance, the American psychologist Jay Samuels found that lower-level readers who were presented with no pictures learned more words than those who had pictures. He examined other researchers’ work, some of whom had reported problems with the use of pictures, making similar findings about the way children learn words more effectively without pictures. Interestingly enough, he also found that children looking at picture books who seemed to ignore the pictures in favor of pointing to the words themselves were likely to learn more words than the children who pointed at the pictures. Even still, children given books with pictures still learned fewer words than the children who had no illustrated stimuli at all.

 
IELTS Academic Reading Tips for Success
These are general tips that will appear on all reading questions.

Tips to improve your reading speed
To get a high score on the IELTS reading section, you need to have a fast reading speed. To have a fast reading speed, you need to improve your vocabulary and practice dissecting sentences. One strategy to dissect a sentence is to look for the subject and verb of the sentence. Finding the subject and verb will help you better understand the main idea of said sentence. Keep in mind, a common feature of a IELTS reading passage is to join strings of ideas to form long compound sentences. This produces large chunks that students have a hard time absorbing. Do not get overwhelmed by its length, just look for the subject and verb, the rest of the ideas will flow.


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
Once you can read and comprehend a passage with a rate of, at least, 220 words per minute, you'll be ready to start implementing our strategies. All too often, students spend too much time reading the passages and not enough time answering the questions. Here is a step by step guide for tackling the reading section.

  1. 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
    Short answer
    Medium Matching Features
    Multiple choice
    Matching Headings
    Summary, Table, Flow-Chart Completion
    Difficult Matching Sentence Endings
    Matching Information
    Identifying Information (TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN)
    Identifying Viewer's claims (YES/NO/NOT GIVEN)

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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
 
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