IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 34

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The Development of Chronometric Tools

A  According to archaeological evidence, at least 5,000 years ago, and long before the advent of the Roman Empire, the Babylonians began to measure time. They did this by introducing calendars to coordinate communal activities, to plan the shipment of goods and, in particular, to regulate planting and harvesting. They based their calendars on three natural cycles: the solar day, marked by the successive periods of light and darkness as the earth rotates on its axis; the lunar month, following the phases of the moon as it orbits the earth; and the solar year, defined by the changing seasons that accompany our planet's revolution around the sun.

B   Before the invention of artificial light, the moon carried a greater social impact. Particularly for those living near the equator, the moon’s waxing and waning were more conspicuous than the passing of the seasons. Hence, the calendars that were developed at lower latitudes were influenced more by the lunar cycle than by the solar year. In more northern places, however, where seasonal agriculture was practiced, the solar year became more crucial. As the Roman Empire expanded northward, it organized its activity chart for the most part around the solar year.

C   Centuries before the Roman Empire, the Egyptians had formulated a municipal calendar having 12 months of 30 days, with five days added to approximate the solar year. Each period of ten days was marked by the appearance of special groups of stars called decans. At the rise of the star Sirius just before sunrise, which occurred around the all-important annual flooding of the Nile, 12 decans could be seen spanning the heavens. The cosmic significance the Egyptians placed in the 12 decans led them to develop a system in which each interval of darkness (and later, each interval of daylight) was divided into a dozen equal parts. These periods became known as temporal hours because their duration varied according to the changing length of days and nights with the passing of the seasons. Summer hours were long, winter ones short. It was only during the spring and autumn equinoxes that the hours of daylight and darkness were equal. Temporal hours, which were first adopted by the Greeks and then the Romans, who disseminated them through Europe, remained in use for more than 2, 500 years.

D   In order to track temporal hours during the day, inventors created sundials, which indicate time by the length or direction of the sun's shadow. The sundial's counterpart, the water clock, was designed to measure temporal hours at night. One of the first water clocks was a basin with a small hole near the bottom through which the water dripped out. The falling water level denoted the passing hour as it dipped below hour lines inscribed on the inner surface. Although these devices performed satisfactorily around the Mediterranean, they could not always be depended on in the cloudy and often freezing weather of northern Europe.

E   The advent of the mechanical clock meant that although it could be adjusted to maintain temporal hours, it was naturally suited to keeping equal ones. With these, however, arose the question of when to begin counting, and so, in the early 14th century, a number of systems evolved. The schemes that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied according to the start of the count: Italian hours began at sunset, Babylonian hours at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday and “great clock” hours, used for some large public clocks in Germany, at midnight. Eventually, these were superseded by the French “small clock” hours, which split the day into two 12-hour periods commencing at midnight.

F  The earliest recorded weight-driven mechanical clock was built in 1283 in Bedfordshire in England. The revolutionary aspect of this new timekeeper was neither the descending weight that provided its motive force nor the gear wheels (which had been around for at least 1, 300 years) that transferred the power; it was the part called the escapement. In the early 1400s came the invention of the coiled spring or fusee which maintained a constant force to the gear wheels of the timekeeper despite the changing tension of its mainspring. By the 16th century, a pendulum clock had been devised, but the pendulum swung in a large arc and thus was not very efficient.

G  To address this, a variation on the original escapement was invented in 1670, in England. It was called the anchor escapement, which was a lever-based device shaped like a ship's anchor. The motion of a pendulum rocks this device so that it catches and then releases each tooth of the escape wheel, in turn allowing it to turn a precise amount. Unlike the original form used in early pendulum clocks, the anchor escapement permitted the pendulum to travel in a very small arc. Moreover, this invention allowed the use of a long pendulum which could beat once a second and thus led to the development of a new floor-standing case design, which became known as the grandfather clock.

H  Today, highly accurate timekeeping instruments set the beat for most electronic devices. Nearly all computers contain a quartz-crystal clock to regulate their operation. Moreover, not only do time signals beamed down from Global Positioning System satellites calibrate the functions of precision navigation equipment, they do so as well for mobile phones, instant stock-trading systems, and nationwide power-distribution grids. So integral have these time-based technologies become to day-to-day existence that our dependency on them is recognized only when they fail to work.




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.
Questions 1-4
The reading passage has eight paragraphs labelled A-H.

Which paragraph contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-H in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

1. How geographic locations influenced the development and the use of the calendar in farming communities.

2. A description of an early timekeeping invention affected by frigid temperatures

3. Time was being measured before the Roman Empire was founded.

4. A description of a newly-developed timekeeper that shaped like a cabinet.

Questions 5-9
Look at the following Events (Questions 5-9) and A list of nationalities below.

Match each event with the correct nationality

Write the correct number A-F in boxes Questions 5-9 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.
A list of nationalities
  1. The English
  2. The Babylonians
  3. The Egyptians
  4. The Greeks
  5. The Romans
  6. The French

5. Divided the day into two equal halves

6. Spread the idea of temporal hours throughout Europe

7. Created a civil calendar in which the months were equal in length

8. Devised a calendar to organize public events and work schedules

9. Formulated a calendar based on the sequence of star patterns

Questions 10-14
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 10-14 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.

10. The natural units for timekeeping used by the Babylonians are the day, the solar year and the lunation.

11. The need to measure time has led the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to create sundials, water clocks and other early chronometric tools.

12. The decans, 36 groups of small constellations used in ancient Egyptian calendar, rose consecutively on the horizon throughout each earth rotation.

13. The observation of Sirius enables the Egyptians to become the first people to move from a lunar to a solar calendar.

14. The earliest mechanical clocks invented by Western Europeans were too inaccurate and unreliable for scientific application after the pendulum was employed to govern its operation.




Answer Sheet
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
N/A
16
N/A
17
N/A
18
N/A
19
N/A
20
N/A
21
N/A
22
N/A
23
N/A
24
N/A
25
N/A
26
N/A
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
The Development of Chronometric Tools


A  According to archaeological evidence, at least 5,000 years ago, and long before the advent of the Roman Empire, the Babylonians began to measure time. They did this by introducing calendars to coordinate communal activities, to plan the shipment of goods and, in particular, to regulate planting and harvesting. They based their calendars on three natural cycles: the solar day, marked by the successive periods of light and darkness as the earth rotates on its axis; the lunar month, following the phases of the moon as it orbits the earth; and the solar year, defined by the changing seasons that accompany our planet's revolution around the sun.

B   Before the invention of artificial light, the moon carried a greater social impact. Particularly for those living near the equator, the moon’s waxing and waning were more conspicuous than the passing of the seasons. Hence, the calendars that were developed at lower latitudes were influenced more by the lunar cycle than by the solar year. In more northern places, however, where seasonal agriculture was practiced, the solar year became more crucial. As the Roman Empire expanded northward, it organized its activity chart for the most part around the solar year.

C   Centuries before the Roman Empire, the Egyptians had formulated a municipal calendar having 12 months of 30 days, with five days added to approximate the solar year. Each period of ten days was marked by the appearance of special groups of stars called decans. At the rise of the star Sirius just before sunrise, which occurred around the all-important annual flooding of the Nile, 12 decans could be seen spanning the heavens. The cosmic significance the Egyptians placed in the 12 decans led them to develop a system in which each interval of darkness (and later, each interval of daylight) was divided into a dozen equal parts. These periods became known as temporal hours because their duration varied according to the changing length of days and nights with the passing of the seasons. Summer hours were long, winter ones short. It was only during the spring and autumn equinoxes that the hours of daylight and darkness were equal. Temporal hours, which were first adopted by the Greeks and then the Romans, who disseminated them through Europe, remained in use for more than 2, 500 years.

D   In order to track temporal hours during the day, inventors created sundials, which indicate time by the length or direction of the sun's shadow. The sundial's counterpart, the water clock, was designed to measure temporal hours at night. One of the first water clocks was a basin with a small hole near the bottom through which the water dripped out. The falling water level denoted the passing hour as it dipped below hour lines inscribed on the inner surface. Although these devices performed satisfactorily around the Mediterranean, they could not always be depended on in the cloudy and often freezing weather of northern Europe.

E   The advent of the mechanical clock meant that although it could be adjusted to maintain temporal hours, it was naturally suited to keeping equal ones. With these, however, arose the question of when to begin counting, and so, in the early 14th century, a number of systems evolved. The schemes that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied according to the start of the count: Italian hours began at sunset, Babylonian hours at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday and “great clock” hours, used for some large public clocks in Germany, at midnight. Eventually, these were superseded by the French “small clock” hours, which split the day into two 12-hour periods commencing at midnight.

F  The earliest recorded weight-driven mechanical clock was built in 1283 in Bedfordshire in England. The revolutionary aspect of this new timekeeper was neither the descending weight that provided its motive force nor the gear wheels (which had been around for at least 1, 300 years) that transferred the power; it was the part called the escapement. In the early 1400s came the invention of the coiled spring or fusee which maintained a constant force to the gear wheels of the timekeeper despite the changing tension of its mainspring. By the 16th century, a pendulum clock had been devised, but the pendulum swung in a large arc and thus was not very efficient.

G  To address this, a variation on the original escapement was invented in 1670, in England. It was called the anchor escapement, which was a lever-based device shaped like a ship's anchor. The motion of a pendulum rocks this device so that it catches and then releases each tooth of the escape wheel, in turn allowing it to turn a precise amount. Unlike the original form used in early pendulum clocks, the anchor escapement permitted the pendulum to travel in a very small arc. Moreover, this invention allowed the use of a long pendulum which could beat once a second and thus led to the development of a new floor-standing case design, which became known as the grandfather clock.

H  Today, highly accurate timekeeping instruments set the beat for most electronic devices. Nearly all computers contain a quartz-crystal clock to regulate their operation. Moreover, not only do time signals beamed down from Global Positioning System satellites calibrate the functions of precision navigation equipment, they do so as well for mobile phones, instant stock-trading systems, and nationwide power-distribution grids. So integral have these time-based technologies become to day-to-day existence that our dependency on them is recognized only when they fail to work.

 
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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