IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 42

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Rapu Nui

Section A

“The moai” is the name given to a group of several hundred mysterious statues found on Easter Island. Easter Island, or Rapu Nui, as it's known by locals, remained isolated for centuries until it was settled by the Polynesians. Construction of the moai, some standing up to ten metres tall and weighing over 7,000 kilos, consumed all the energy and resources found on the island. In 1722, Dutch explorers came upon what could best be described as a culture from the Stone Age. Stone tools were used to carve the shapes of the huge moai, and the statues were then transported to massive stone platforms without the use of any wheel, animal, or vehicle. Throughout the time leading up to the mid-twentieth century, who built the moai remained, for the most part, a mystery. A Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl, believed that the moai were made by Peruvian pre-Inca peoples. Erich von Däniken, a bestselling Swiss author, made claims of the statues having been built by aliens trapped on earth. Today, evidence gained from the fields of linguistics, archaeology and genealogy has effectively shown that Polynesians were the ones who built the moai, but how they moved the statues was still a mystery. The statues walked according to legends of the area. Researchers mostly maintain that people must have used ropes or logs to physically drag the statues themselves.

Section B

Populated by only a few scraggly trees, Rapa Nui was mostly grassland by the time European explorers arrived. However, during 1970s and 1980s, proof was discovered that the island had once been a land of lush palm forests for thousands of years, when researchers uncovered pollen left over in lake sediments. The Polynesians’ arrival on the islands marked the time of these forests’ disappearance. Jared Diamond, an American scientist, claims that the environment was destroyed by the ancestors of Polynesian settlers, or the Rapa Nui people. The delicate island environment was dry, cool, and too remote to be properly fertilised by windblown volcanic ash. Forests cut down by the islanders for firewood or agricultural use never grew back. As trees became harder to find, it was soon impossible to continue building wooden canoes for fishing, and they resorted to eating birds. Crop yields then dropped due to erosion in the soil. Finally, the Rapa Nui society broke down, leading to civil war and even cannibalism. The downfall of their remote civilization came before the time Europeans arrived on the island, Diamond writes, that it is a “worst-case scenario for what may lie ahead of us in our own future.”

Section C

Diamond believes that the creation of the moai only sped up their societies self-inflicted destruction. Diamond has interpreted the true meaning of the moai to be a demonstration of power by rival leaders. Due to the fact that they were trapped on a tiny, isolated island, there were not any other ways to establish their dominance. The leaders competed as they continued to build ever larger figures. To move the moai, Diamond assumes that the statues were placed sideways on wooden sledges, and pulled on log rails. However, to perform such a task, both an abundance of wood and people would have been necessary. Thus, even more land had to be cleared to grow enough food for all the people. After the depletion of wood, when the civil war began, the islanders started angrly knocking down the moai. By the nineteenth century, all of the statues had fallen. 

Section D

Archaeologists Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii and Carl Lipo of California State University concur that an “ecological catastrophe” took place on Easter Island. However, they don’t think that the islanders were the ones at fault, let alone the moai. Archaeological excavations show that the Rapanui undertook extraordinary protection measures to maintain the resources of their windy, barren soil. They constructed windbreaks out of stone in the thousands, and cultivated the soil behind those walls, using chips of volcanic rock to moisten it. Basically, Hunt and Lipo reason that the Rapanui discovered the use of early sustainable farming techniques.

Section E

Hunt and Lipo contend that moai-building was a peaceful, relationship building activity between the islanders. In their minds, a few strong people moved the moai with no wood, because they were moved upright. Hunt and Lipo argue that archaeological evidence found in Rapanui folk stories supports their claim. As few as 18 people could move a similar statue to the moai with three strong ropes and some experience. Experiments done in the last few years have revealed that even a 1,000 kg moai replica could be moved a couple hundred meters in a similar fashion. The moai figures would lean forward by the weight of their fat stomachs,  with a D-shaped base that would allow those carrying them to sway the statues sideways. 

Section F 

In addition, Hunt and Lipo speculate that the settlers were also not completely to blame for the disappearance of the island's trees. Archaeologists have discovered that nuts from the extinct Easter Island palm show tiny cuts from teeth marks of Polynesian rats. Hunt and Lipo estimate that the rats would have taken over the island in just a few short years after they arrived along with settlers. Even without taking the settlers’ actions of cutting down trees into account, reseeding of the slow-growing palm trees would have been prevented by the spread of the rat population, a death-sentence for Rapa Nui's forest. And of course, the rats ate the eggs of local birds as well. According to Hunt and Lipo, there is no proof that the civilization of the Rapanui fell when the palm forest died. Instead, they insist that their growing population stabilized until the arriving Europeans exposed them to lethal diseases from faraway lands. Later, the population which remained were taken into slavery by slave traders in 1877, reducing the number of islanders to only 111 people. 

 

Section G 

Hunt and Lipo visualize an island where amicable and creative moai builders lived as caretakers of the fragile land, and not as a place populated by war-driven people, careless about their surroundings. “Rather than a case of abject failure, Rapu Nui is an unlikely story of success,” they say. Either way, it seems that the rest of the world could stand to learn a lesson from the story of Rapu Nui and Easter Island. 




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 27-40.
Questions 27-33
The reading passage has seven sections, A-G.

Choose the correct heading for sections A-G from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number i-ix in boxes 27-33 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings
  1. Creative ways to farm in the harsh environment
  2. Other factors besides the people may have destroyed the forest
  3. An accepted answer to a question about the moai
  4. What can we learn from the story of Easter Island?
  5. A theory which supports a local belief
  6. A historical description of the barren island that was once lush
  7. How the statues may have worsened conditions on the island
  8. The future of the Easter Island
  9. The future of the moai statues

27. Section A

28. Section B

29. Section C

30. Section D

31. Section E

32. Section F

33. Section G

Questions 34-37
Complete the summary below.

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

Write your answers in 34-37 on your answer sheet.

According to Jared Diamond, settlers who came to the island of Rapa Nui used trees for fuel.  However, pollen preserves found by researchers indicate that once covered the island. Diamond suggests that when there was no wood left to build boats, the islanders resorted to eating . In his view, the mighty moai statues were built to be a display of  .

Questions 38-40
Choose three letters A-F.

Write your answers in boxes 38-40 on your answer sheet.

In what points do Hunt and Lipo differ from Jared Diamond’s view?
  1. the loss of the island’s trees
  2. the influence of the moai on Rapa Nui’s society
  3. how the moai were carved
  4. the origins of the people who made the moai
  5. how the moai were transported
  6. who built the moai

38

39

40




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
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
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40


Reading Passage Vocabulary
Rapu Nui


Section A

“The moai” is the name given to a group of several hundred mysterious statues found on Easter Island. Easter Island, or Rapu Nui, as it's known by locals, remained isolated for centuries until it was settled by the Polynesians. Construction of the moai, some standing up to ten metres tall and weighing over 7,000 kilos, consumed all the energy and resources found on the island. In 1722, Dutch explorers came upon what could best be described as a culture from the Stone Age. Stone tools were used to carve the shapes of the huge moai, and the statues were then transported to massive stone platforms without the use of any wheel, animal, or vehicle. Throughout the time leading up to the mid-twentieth century, who built the moai remained, for the most part, a mystery. A Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer, Thor Heyerdahl, believed that the moai were made by Peruvian pre-Inca peoples. Erich von Däniken, a bestselling Swiss author, made claims of the statues having been built by aliens trapped on earth. Today, evidence gained from the fields of linguistics, archaeology and genealogy has effectively shown that Polynesians were the ones who built the moai, but how they moved the statues was still a mystery. The statues walked according to legends of the area. Researchers mostly maintain that people must have used ropes or logs to physically drag the statues themselves.

Section B

Populated by only a few scraggly trees, Rapa Nui was mostly grassland by the time European explorers arrived. However, during 1970s and 1980s, proof was discovered that the island had once been a land of lush palm forests for thousands of years, when researchers uncovered pollen left over in lake sediments. The Polynesians’ arrival on the islands marked the time of these forests’ disappearance. Jared Diamond, an American scientist, claims that the environment was destroyed by the ancestors of Polynesian settlers, or the Rapa Nui people. The delicate island environment was dry, cool, and too remote to be properly fertilised by windblown volcanic ash. Forests cut down by the islanders for firewood or agricultural use never grew back. As trees became harder to find, it was soon impossible to continue building wooden canoes for fishing, and they resorted to eating birds. Crop yields then dropped due to erosion in the soil. Finally, the Rapa Nui society broke down, leading to civil war and even cannibalism. The downfall of their remote civilization came before the time Europeans arrived on the island, Diamond writes, that it is a “worst-case scenario for what may lie ahead of us in our own future.”

Section C

Diamond believes that the creation of the moai only sped up their societies self-inflicted destruction. Diamond has interpreted the true meaning of the moai to be a demonstration of power by rival leaders. Due to the fact that they were trapped on a tiny, isolated island, there were not any other ways to establish their dominance. The leaders competed as they continued to build ever larger figures. To move the moai, Diamond assumes that the statues were placed sideways on wooden sledges, and pulled on log rails. However, to perform such a task, both an abundance of wood and people would have been necessary. Thus, even more land had to be cleared to grow enough food for all the people. After the depletion of wood, when the civil war began, the islanders started angrly knocking down the moai. By the nineteenth century, all of the statues had fallen. 

Section D

Archaeologists Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii and Carl Lipo of California State University concur that an “ecological catastrophe” took place on Easter Island. However, they don’t think that the islanders were the ones at fault, let alone the moai. Archaeological excavations show that the Rapanui undertook extraordinary protection measures to maintain the resources of their windy, barren soil. They constructed windbreaks out of stone in the thousands, and cultivated the soil behind those walls, using chips of volcanic rock to moisten it. Basically, Hunt and Lipo reason that the Rapanui discovered the use of early sustainable farming techniques.

Section E

Hunt and Lipo contend that moai-building was a peaceful, relationship building activity between the islanders. In their minds, a few strong people moved the moai with no wood, because they were moved upright. Hunt and Lipo argue that archaeological evidence found in Rapanui folk stories supports their claim. As few as 18 people could move a similar statue to the moai with three strong ropes and some experience. Experiments done in the last few years have revealed that even a 1,000 kg moai replica could be moved a couple hundred meters in a similar fashion. The moai figures would lean forward by the weight of their fat stomachs,  with a D-shaped base that would allow those carrying them to sway the statues sideways. 

Section F 

In addition, Hunt and Lipo speculate that the settlers were also not completely to blame for the disappearance of the island's trees. Archaeologists have discovered that nuts from the extinct Easter Island palm show tiny cuts from teeth marks of Polynesian rats. Hunt and Lipo estimate that the rats would have taken over the island in just a few short years after they arrived along with settlers. Even without taking the settlers’ actions of cutting down trees into account, reseeding of the slow-growing palm trees would have been prevented by the spread of the rat population, a death-sentence for Rapa Nui's forest. And of course, the rats ate the eggs of local birds as well. According to Hunt and Lipo, there is no proof that the civilization of the Rapanui fell when the palm forest died. Instead, they insist that their growing population stabilized until the arriving Europeans exposed them to lethal diseases from faraway lands. Later, the population which remained were taken into slavery by slave traders in 1877, reducing the number of islanders to only 111 people. 

 

Section G 

Hunt and Lipo visualize an island where amicable and creative moai builders lived as caretakers of the fragile land, and not as a place populated by war-driven people, careless about their surroundings. “Rather than a case of abject failure, Rapu Nui is an unlikely story of success,” they say. Either way, it seems that the rest of the world could stand to learn a lesson from the story of Rapu Nui and Easter Island. 

 
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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