IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 44

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Origins of Agriculture

Section A

While the use of stone tools began 2.5 million years ago, it wasn’t until about 10,000 BCE that Homo sapiens applied these tools to the deliberate cultivation of plants and animals. The adoption of sustained agriculture – what anthropologists call the “Neolithic revolution” – signifies an important turning point in the development of human societies, as it led directly to population growth, permanent or semi-permanent settlement, as well as technological and social development.

Section B

Neolithic agriculture developed at different times in different parts of the world, beginning with the Levant and Mesopotamia, followed by Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, and Europe. But while we often call it a “revolution,” it would be a mistake to believe that agriculture was a sudden and complete development, an all or nothing proposition that societies adopted wholesale at the first opportunity. Instead, it developed slowly, beginning as a supplement to more traditional hunting and gathering lifestyles in which people relied on plants and animals gathered or hunted in their natural environment. Over time, as people learned more about and relied more greatly on domesticated plants and animals, they settled more permanently and cultivated the land more intensively.

Section C

Neolithic farmers collected and planted seeds that they learned would produce palatable grains, selectively breeding plants that were deemed healthy and delicious, and avoiding those that were not. Early agriculture was restricted to a limited number of plants, namely Emmer wheat, Einkorn wheat, and barley. Later, people learned to cultivate pulses, including lentils, peas, chickpeas, and bitter vetch, as well as the multi-purpose flax plant. Together, these eight plant species are known as the Neolithic founder crops or primary domesticates.

Section D

People’s success in planting, cultivating, and harvesting these plants came about as a result not only of their increased knowledge of the plants themselves but also of the conditions for growth. They explored innovative irrigation techniques, which enabled even greater production and, eventually, food surpluses. Of course, food surpluses are useless unless people have the ability and facilities to store them, which people did in granaries. And food surpluses, in turn, enabled a host of other social developments, like occupational specialization (since not everyone had to be involved in food production), trade, and social stratification.

Section E

These advances in agriculture went hand in hand with technological development. People fashioned stone tools such as hoes for working soil, sickle blades for harvesting the crops, and grinding stones for processing the grains. More important than such agricultural implements, however, was the polished stone axe, which allowed the Neolithic farmers to clear forests on a large scale and open up new lands for cultivation. Along with the adze, the axe also enabled them to work the trees they felled into wood that was usable for building shelter and other structures.

Section F

Besides cultivating plants, these stone age farmers also domesticated animals. At first, it was sheep, goats, and dogs whose temperament, diet, and mating patterns made them good candidates for domestication. Later, cows and pigs were added to the mix. Besides meat, these animals provided people with milk (a renewable source of protein), leather, wool, and fertilizer. Cows became valued for their labor, as they assisted with plowing and towing, and dogs provided protection (not only to humans but also to their crops and livestock) as well as companionship.

Section G

That agriculture enabled hitherto unknown population growth is undeniable. Food surpluses and an agricultural lifestyle brought a security and safety that nomadic hunter-gatherers did not enjoy. And it may be argued that the subsequent advances in all realms of society – not only the aforementioned technology but also knowledge, art, writing, astronomy – would not have emerged without a sedentary lifestyle. But the impact of the Neolithic revolution, often heralded as a giant step forward for humankind, was not all positive.

Sectio H

Sedentary agriculture narrowed the diet of Neolithic peoples: they consumed greater amounts of starch and plant protein and fewer types of food overall. An increasing number of researchers are claiming that human nutrition became worse with the Neolithic revolution. In addition, disease increased, as humans lived in closer contact with each other and with domesticated animals; sanitation didn’t advance quite as quickly as agricultural methods. It also turns out that agriculture required significantly more labor than hunting and gathering. The combined result of these facts was a life expectancy that was most likely shorter than that of the apparently more primitive hunter-gatherers.

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 13-27.
Questions 13-14
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

Write your answers in boxes 13-14 on your answer sheet.

13. According to the author, which of the following was most critical in the development of intensive agriculture?

14. All of the following are mentioned as negative impacts of the Neolithic revolution EXCEPT that

Questions 15-19
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 15-19 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. The “Neolithic Revolution” refers to the point in time when humans developed advanced tools.

16. Agriculture in Neolithic societies was often practiced in combination with hunting and gathering.

17. Pre-agricultural societies tended to have less division of labor than farming peoples.

18. The domestication of plant species predates predates the domestication of animals.

19. Nomadic hunter-gatherer societies are more natural for humans as a species than sedentary agricultural ones.

Questions 20-27
The reading passage has eight sections, A-H.

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

Write the correct number i-xii in boxes 20-27 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings
  1. The move from hunter gathering changes Neolithic man’s relationship with other species
  2. Farming evolves in different ways in different civilizations
  3. The Neolithic revolution leads to less longevity in humans
  4. Farming tools give some early societies a military advantage in conflicts
  5. Improvement in methods of cultivation results in widespread social change
  6. Respite from work leads to greater inventiveness
  7. The growing of flax meant that clothes could be produced by hand
  8. Because of careful rearing a greater diversity of crops emerge
  9. Agriculture leads to improved sanitation
  10. Global migration patterns emerge due to more stable food supplies
  11. A social hierarchy develops as agricultural practices advance
  12. Technology and tools developed alongside agriculture

20. Section A

21. Section B

22. Section C

23. Section D

24. Section E

25. Section F

26. Section G

27. Section H


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
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
Origins of Agriculture

Section A

While the use of stone tools began 2.5 million years ago, it wasn’t until about 10,000 BCE that Homo sapiens applied these tools to the deliberate cultivation of plants and animals. The adoption of sustained agriculture – what anthropologists call the “Neolithic revolution” – signifies an important turning point in the development of human societies, as it led directly to population growth, permanent or semi-permanent settlement, as well as technological and social development.

Section B

Neolithic agriculture developed at different times in different parts of the world, beginning with the Levant and Mesopotamia, followed by Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, and Europe. But while we often call it a “revolution,” it would be a mistake to believe that agriculture was a sudden and complete development, an all or nothing proposition that societies adopted wholesale at the first opportunity. Instead, it developed slowly, beginning as a supplement to more traditional hunting and gathering lifestyles in which people relied on plants and animals gathered or hunted in their natural environment. Over time, as people learned more about and relied more greatly on domesticated plants and animals, they settled more permanently and cultivated the land more intensively.

Section C

Neolithic farmers collected and planted seeds that they learned would produce palatable grains, selectively breeding plants that were deemed healthy and delicious, and avoiding those that were not. Early agriculture was restricted to a limited number of plants, namely Emmer wheat, Einkorn wheat, and barley. Later, people learned to cultivate pulses, including lentils, peas, chickpeas, and bitter vetch, as well as the multi-purpose flax plant. Together, these eight plant species are known as the Neolithic founder crops or primary domesticates.

Section D

People’s success in planting, cultivating, and harvesting these plants came about as a result not only of their increased knowledge of the plants themselves but also of the conditions for growth. They explored innovative irrigation techniques, which enabled even greater production and, eventually, food surpluses. Of course, food surpluses are useless unless people have the ability and facilities to store them, which people did in granaries. And food surpluses, in turn, enabled a host of other social developments, like occupational specialization (since not everyone had to be involved in food production), trade, and social stratification.

Section E

These advances in agriculture went hand in hand with technological development. People fashioned stone tools such as hoes for working soil, sickle blades for harvesting the crops, and grinding stones for processing the grains. More important than such agricultural implements, however, was the polished stone axe, which allowed the Neolithic farmers to clear forests on a large scale and open up new lands for cultivation. Along with the adze, the axe also enabled them to work the trees they felled into wood that was usable for building shelter and other structures.

Section F

Besides cultivating plants, these stone age farmers also domesticated animals. At first, it was sheep, goats, and dogs whose temperament, diet, and mating patterns made them good candidates for domestication. Later, cows and pigs were added to the mix. Besides meat, these animals provided people with milk (a renewable source of protein), leather, wool, and fertilizer. Cows became valued for their labor, as they assisted with plowing and towing, and dogs provided protection (not only to humans but also to their crops and livestock) as well as companionship.

Section G

That agriculture enabled hitherto unknown population growth is undeniable. Food surpluses and an agricultural lifestyle brought a security and safety that nomadic hunter-gatherers did not enjoy. And it may be argued that the subsequent advances in all realms of society – not only the aforementioned technology but also knowledge, art, writing, astronomy – would not have emerged without a sedentary lifestyle. But the impact of the Neolithic revolution, often heralded as a giant step forward for humankind, was not all positive.

Sectio H

Sedentary agriculture narrowed the diet of Neolithic peoples: they consumed greater amounts of starch and plant protein and fewer types of food overall. An increasing number of researchers are claiming that human nutrition became worse with the Neolithic revolution. In addition, disease increased, as humans lived in closer contact with each other and with domesticated animals; sanitation didn’t advance quite as quickly as agricultural methods. It also turns out that agriculture required significantly more labor than hunting and gathering. The combined result of these facts was a life expectancy that was most likely shorter than that of the apparently more primitive hunter-gatherers.

 
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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