IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 17

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Human Genome Project

Sometimes referred to as the “Holy Grail” of modern studies in biology, the ambitious Human Genome Project is estimated to cost over £2 billion. In fact, many consider this to be one of the biggest scientific projects undertaken since the Apollo Programme landed a man on the moon. Unlike the relatively short time span for completing those famous lunar missions, the Human Genome Project will likely take longer, with an estimated completion set for early next century. But this is no matter, because according to those involved with this project, it is likely to result in many developments in health and medicine long before its ultimate completion. Those working within the Human Genome Project speak of its potential contribution to breakthroughs in cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as many psychiatric illnesses.

Although the Human Genome Project is incredibly vast in scope, its mission statement is simple. This project aims to map, then examine each and every individual gene within the double helix in human DNA. As a result, a new human anatomy will come to light -- not the skeleton, the muscles or the nerves -- but, for the first time, a comprehensive blueprint for a human DNA. A transformation in the way which we see fields such as medicine is one benefit which may be possible, as well as reducing overall human suffering in the twenty-first century and beyond. Nonetheless, there are some critics of the project who fear a darker outlook for outcome of the project, with some going as far as to claim that it could lead to “Frankenstein” monsters of hybrid DNA, or worse, a rise in the popularity of inhumane practices such as eugenics. 

From the moment of conception, a baby will already have received the very DNA which will impact later-development, determining characteristics such as eye color, as well as the possibility of being born with a genetically-linked illness, such as cystic fibrosis. The human genome itself is an interactive collection of all our genetic instructions. The double helix of DNA contains the chemical letters of our genetic text. This genetic text is incredibly long. In fact, our genome contains more than 3 billion letters, filling about 7,000 volumes of printed page. In just over ten years, researchers of the human genome will have tracked down, analysed and recorded the position of every letter, as well as its relation neighbouring letters. 

In relation to just how many letters there are in the human genome, it seems that nature is usually an effective proofreader, finding and correcting most mutations before they happen. Not all errors in genetics are corrected, though. An error in a single ‘word’ — or a gene – can have drastic effects on the human body, resulting in genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, one of the most common among Caucasians. What’s more, in the genetic recipe for haemoglobin, a protein which gives blood its red colour as it carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, errors can lead to the most common single-gene disorder in the world: thalassaemia. Over 4,000 other single-gene defects have also been found to afflict humans. Most of these defects are fatal, with the majority of the victims being children.

These single-gene disorders are not considered diseases by our conventional understanding, as there is no way for us to administer a cure for them. Instead, the defect is pre-programmed into every cell of the body by their genetic code. However, some progress in this area has happened. For example, 1986, American researchers located the genetic defect which results in one type of muscular dystrophy. In 1989, American and Canadian biologists teamed up to research this, later announcing their discovery of a site of a gene which can become defective, leading to cystic fibrosis. Indeed, not only had they identified the gene, they had analysed the sequence of letters within it, discovering the error which leads to this unfortunate condition. These scientific advances could provide medical professionals with new ways to screen parents who could be at risk of transmitting such a single-gene defect to potential offspring. Foetuses tested while in the womb may then be found free of any possible genetic defects.

In the mid-1980s, scientists became more interested in these techniques, excited by the idea of successfully deciphering disorder-related genes, and perhaps applying their findings towards a larger project: if it’s possible to learn the genetic spelling disorders like cystic fibrosis, why not try to discover how ‘human’ is spelled? From there, the Human Genome Project gained traction, leading science towards this objective of ‘sequencing’ the complete human genome — recording every letter in proper order.

Some issues persist within the Human Genome Project which extend past this original focus on disease. There are supporters have made extravagant claims – stating that at the most fundamental level, the Project will allow us to discover what it is to be human. Those concerned with this emphasis on humanity’s genetic constitution fear such a discovery could instead twist our sense of values, and urge researchers to remember that human life is more valuable than expressions of genetics written in the chemistry of DNA.

New knowledge generated by the Human Genome Project may allow humanity to break free from the many debilitating diseases if applied with care. However, if such information falls into the wrong hands, it may pose a threat to many, giving rise to new forms of discrimination or oppression. Some intrinsic characteristics, such as physical size and intelligence, do not come from interaction of genes alone, but are also subtly impacted by a person’s environment. If, by some possibility, humans were to precisely understand the genetic constitution and environment that may predispose a person towards a higher intelligence, what exactly would the implications of this be? 

Within this century, the boundless curiosity of scientists has discovered the nature of the power of the atom, a discovery which has impacted the fate of entire nations, opening doors to nuclear technology which has changed the course of human history. The Human Genome Project carries a similar weight, its completion suggesting that ultimately, humans might control their genetic inheritance. Ethically, there is a problem here: how can humans be sure that these future possible decisions are made with morality in mind? The potential of this power is great, and it is vital that people do not forget the events of history as the Human Genome Project evolves. 




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 13-26.
Questions 13-19
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 13-19 on your answer sheet, write

YES   if the statement reflects the claims of the writer
NO   if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN   if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

13. Not all scientists are enthusiastic about the Human Genome Project

14. The human genome consists of 3 million letters of genetic text

15. To date, more than 4,000 disorders of haemoglobin have been identified.

16. A genetic defect can be treated with drugs

17. Unborn children can be tested for genetic diseases offering reassurance to parents

18. The Human Genome Project is also concerned with looking at what makes us what we are

19. Because of the Human Genome Project eventually all of today’s diseases will be eradicated

Questions 20-23
Look at the following Statements (Questions 20-23) and A list of categories below.

Match each statement with the correct category

Write the correct number A-D in boxes Questions 20-23 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.
A list of categories
  1. the writer's fears about the Human Genome Project
  2. other people's fears about the Project reported by the writer
  3. the writer's reporting of facts about the Project
  4. the writer's reporting of the long-term hopes for the Project

20. The correct order and inter-relation of all genetic data in all DNA will be mapped.

21. Being 'human' may be defined solely in terms of describable physical data.

22. The Project will provide a new understanding of major diseases.

23. People may be discriminated against in new ways

Questions 24-26
Complete the short answers below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in 24-26 on your answer sheet.

24. how many books would be required to write out the human genome on paper?

25. What is the commonest genetic disorder among Caucasians?

26. What is the most common single-gene disorder in the world?




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
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
N/A
28
N/A
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
Human Genome Project


Sometimes referred to as the “Holy Grail” of modern studies in biology, the ambitious Human Genome Project is estimated to cost over £2 billion. In fact, many consider this to be one of the biggest scientific projects undertaken since the Apollo Programme landed a man on the moon. Unlike the relatively short time span for completing those famous lunar missions, the Human Genome Project will likely take longer, with an estimated completion set for early next century. But this is no matter, because according to those involved with this project, it is likely to result in many developments in health and medicine long before its ultimate completion. Those working within the Human Genome Project speak of its potential contribution to breakthroughs in cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, as well as many psychiatric illnesses.

Although the Human Genome Project is incredibly vast in scope, its mission statement is simple. This project aims to map, then examine each and every individual gene within the double helix in human DNA. As a result, a new human anatomy will come to light -- not the skeleton, the muscles or the nerves -- but, for the first time, a comprehensive blueprint for a human DNA. A transformation in the way which we see fields such as medicine is one benefit which may be possible, as well as reducing overall human suffering in the twenty-first century and beyond. Nonetheless, there are some critics of the project who fear a darker outlook for outcome of the project, with some going as far as to claim that it could lead to “Frankenstein” monsters of hybrid DNA, or worse, a rise in the popularity of inhumane practices such as eugenics. 

From the moment of conception, a baby will already have received the very DNA which will impact later-development, determining characteristics such as eye color, as well as the possibility of being born with a genetically-linked illness, such as cystic fibrosis. The human genome itself is an interactive collection of all our genetic instructions. The double helix of DNA contains the chemical letters of our genetic text. This genetic text is incredibly long. In fact, our genome contains more than 3 billion letters, filling about 7,000 volumes of printed page. In just over ten years, researchers of the human genome will have tracked down, analysed and recorded the position of every letter, as well as its relation neighbouring letters. 

In relation to just how many letters there are in the human genome, it seems that nature is usually an effective proofreader, finding and correcting most mutations before they happen. Not all errors in genetics are corrected, though. An error in a single ‘word’ — or a gene – can have drastic effects on the human body, resulting in genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, one of the most common among Caucasians. What’s more, in the genetic recipe for haemoglobin, a protein which gives blood its red colour as it carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, errors can lead to the most common single-gene disorder in the world: thalassaemia. Over 4,000 other single-gene defects have also been found to afflict humans. Most of these defects are fatal, with the majority of the victims being children.

These single-gene disorders are not considered diseases by our conventional understanding, as there is no way for us to administer a cure for them. Instead, the defect is pre-programmed into every cell of the body by their genetic code. However, some progress in this area has happened. For example, 1986, American researchers located the genetic defect which results in one type of muscular dystrophy. In 1989, American and Canadian biologists teamed up to research this, later announcing their discovery of a site of a gene which can become defective, leading to cystic fibrosis. Indeed, not only had they identified the gene, they had analysed the sequence of letters within it, discovering the error which leads to this unfortunate condition. These scientific advances could provide medical professionals with new ways to screen parents who could be at risk of transmitting such a single-gene defect to potential offspring. Foetuses tested while in the womb may then be found free of any possible genetic defects.

In the mid-1980s, scientists became more interested in these techniques, excited by the idea of successfully deciphering disorder-related genes, and perhaps applying their findings towards a larger project: if it’s possible to learn the genetic spelling disorders like cystic fibrosis, why not try to discover how ‘human’ is spelled? From there, the Human Genome Project gained traction, leading science towards this objective of ‘sequencing’ the complete human genome — recording every letter in proper order.

Some issues persist within the Human Genome Project which extend past this original focus on disease. There are supporters have made extravagant claims – stating that at the most fundamental level, the Project will allow us to discover what it is to be human. Those concerned with this emphasis on humanity’s genetic constitution fear such a discovery could instead twist our sense of values, and urge researchers to remember that human life is more valuable than expressions of genetics written in the chemistry of DNA.

New knowledge generated by the Human Genome Project may allow humanity to break free from the many debilitating diseases if applied with care. However, if such information falls into the wrong hands, it may pose a threat to many, giving rise to new forms of discrimination or oppression. Some intrinsic characteristics, such as physical size and intelligence, do not come from interaction of genes alone, but are also subtly impacted by a person’s environment. If, by some possibility, humans were to precisely understand the genetic constitution and environment that may predispose a person towards a higher intelligence, what exactly would the implications of this be? 

Within this century, the boundless curiosity of scientists has discovered the nature of the power of the atom, a discovery which has impacted the fate of entire nations, opening doors to nuclear technology which has changed the course of human history. The Human Genome Project carries a similar weight, its completion suggesting that ultimately, humans might control their genetic inheritance. Ethically, there is a problem here: how can humans be sure that these future possible decisions are made with morality in mind? The potential of this power is great, and it is vital that people do not forget the events of history as the Human Genome Project evolves. 

 
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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