IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 56

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The History of Barcodes

Section A

Barcodes may seem common enough today that it’s tough to imagine a shopping trip without them. However, barcodes were actually not of much importance until the 1970's. The first product to be barcoded and scanned with the first barcode scanner ever used was in 1974. The idea of barcodes, on the other hand, is not quite as recent. In 1932, Wallace Flint claimed that it might be feasible to create an automated retail checkout system. Even though his idea was ruled out as a possibility in his time, Flint maintained his support for the creation of automated checkouts throughout his working life. It was Flint himself who ended up being a key player in developing UPC code, and went on to become the vice-president of the association of food chains about 40 years later.

Section B

It seems that there is a misunderstanding concerning retail UPC barcode being the very first “barcode.” In fact, the first barcode symbology wasn’t referred to as a barcode when it was first invented. At that time, it resembled a bull’s eye target consisting of a set of concentric circles. This particular design was chosen for its ability to be scanned from any direction, later gaining the apt nickname of the “Bullseye barcode.” Two college students, Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, created this design after they realized that something similar was necessary in order to track huge inventories in rapidly growing supermarkets. The backstory behind this begins when Woodland started working at IBM in 1951. He then persuaded the company to bring in a consultant to learn more barcodes. As he considered the needs of grocery stores in the future, he based his initial idea on Morse Code. But rather than use dots and dashes, he lengthened them into a series of both wide and thin lines, thus creating the first lineal barcode. Developing this further, the vertical pattern of lines were then arranged into a circle.

Section C

Meanwhile, a scanner that could read these codes was also in simultaneous development. Finally in 1952, the Bull’s-Eye code and linear version were patented, along with the mechanical and electrical scanner systems to read them. IBM suggested that they buy out the patent, but did not agree to match their price as they didn’t think the product was marketable enough at that point. However, Philco did match their price, eventually selling the patent to RCA. This event marked the beginning of a new era in automatic identification and electronics as a whole.

Section D

It was not until 1967, when RCA started promoting the Bullseye to the grocery industry, that it was even used. One Kroger Grocery store agreed to be the first to try the Bullseye, as RCA tried to draw attention the amount of potential savings made possible by automating the checkout counter. However, even though the Bullseye didn’t need as much scanner orientation, the code used large quantities of space, and the round design restricted amounts of encoded data. The Bullseye never caught on, as it seems technology at that particular moment in time could not do variable printing, and scanners were still being improved through development.

Section E

At the same time that developers were learning more to increase capabilities of scanning equipment and computer technology, technological progress in auto-identification became focused on the railroad system supporting the retail and manufacturing industries. These freight cars usually go from one end of the country to the other, and are sometimes also borrowed from one rail line by another. Therefore, tracking the freight trains as they move about is extremely challenging.

Section F

Initially, barcodes were applied as part of the American railroad system in the late 1960’s. It was at this time when the Association of American Railroads (AAR) put system called KarTrak in place, which was designed by a railroad employee and MIT graduate named David Collins. The idea was to use blue and red reflective stripes painted on steel plates that were textured with in different combinations along railroad cars’ sides. With 13 horizontal labels on every plate, they very much resembled barcodes. They had “start” labels, “stop” labels and check numbers. The particular placement of these stripes had a 4-digit railroad company identifier encoded, as well as a 6-digit car number. When railcars passed the rail yard scanners, they would be able to identify them by scanning that information.

Section G

Yet around 10 years later, the very same program fell into disuse after an economic downturn, as well as the system being called unreliable and error prone due contamination with dirt. When the 1980’s arrived, radio tags had become the dominant way of tracking railroad cars. Collins still saw different potential uses for barcodes, especially in industrial settings. He went on to found a company that he named Computer Identics Corporation. General Motors became one of the first plants to monitor production and distribution of car parts by using these barcodes, while another early system was used in a distribution facility.

The KarTrack system was put into use in railroad system.
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
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-xi in boxes 13-19 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings
  1. Barcodes take various forms
  2. The problem of how to read the code
  3. Barcodes help companies keep track of rolling stock
  4. How barcode brought about a shopping ‘revolution’
  5. The barcode is brought back into use
  6. Addressing the need for an effective way to create an automated scanning system
  7. Barcodes are used on the first train tickets
  8. How the idea was eventually put into practice
  9. The commercial acceptance of barcodes leads to lower prices
  10. Designing a more economical way to price goods
  11. Barcode technology becomes more widespread

13. Section A

14. Section B

15. Section C

16. Section D

17. Section E

18. Section F

19. Section G

Questions 20-24
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 20-24 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.

20. Barcodes were invented by Wallace Flint to use in automated checkout systems.

21. The idea for using extended dots and lines for a barcode’s design was inspired by Morse code.

22. The circular design was better than a linear design as it allows scanners to read a barcode from any direction.

23. IBM bought the original patent for the Bullseye barcode, but found it difficult promote it in the market of that time.

24. The KarTrak system was never put into use because due to the unreliability of dirty strips

Questions 25-26
Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

Write your answers in boxes 25-26 on your answer sheet.

25. Which of the following is NOT mentioned as being a characteristic of early barcode designs?

26. What was one of the causes mentioned for KarTrak becoming obsolete?


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
The History of Barcodes

Section A

Barcodes may seem common enough today that it’s tough to imagine a shopping trip without them. However, barcodes were actually not of much importance until the 1970's. The first product to be barcoded and scanned with the first barcode scanner ever used was in 1974. The idea of barcodes, on the other hand, is not quite as recent. In 1932, Wallace Flint claimed that it might be feasible to create an automated retail checkout system. Even though his idea was ruled out as a possibility in his time, Flint maintained his support for the creation of automated checkouts throughout his working life. It was Flint himself who ended up being a key player in developing UPC code, and went on to become the vice-president of the association of food chains about 40 years later.

Section B

It seems that there is a misunderstanding concerning retail UPC barcode being the very first “barcode.” In fact, the first barcode symbology wasn’t referred to as a barcode when it was first invented. At that time, it resembled a bull’s eye target consisting of a set of concentric circles. This particular design was chosen for its ability to be scanned from any direction, later gaining the apt nickname of the “Bullseye barcode.” Two college students, Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, created this design after they realized that something similar was necessary in order to track huge inventories in rapidly growing supermarkets. The backstory behind this begins when Woodland started working at IBM in 1951. He then persuaded the company to bring in a consultant to learn more barcodes. As he considered the needs of grocery stores in the future, he based his initial idea on Morse Code. But rather than use dots and dashes, he lengthened them into a series of both wide and thin lines, thus creating the first lineal barcode. Developing this further, the vertical pattern of lines were then arranged into a circle.

Section C

Meanwhile, a scanner that could read these codes was also in simultaneous development. Finally in 1952, the Bull’s-Eye code and linear version were patented, along with the mechanical and electrical scanner systems to read them. IBM suggested that they buy out the patent, but did not agree to match their price as they didn’t think the product was marketable enough at that point. However, Philco did match their price, eventually selling the patent to RCA. This event marked the beginning of a new era in automatic identification and electronics as a whole.

Section D

It was not until 1967, when RCA started promoting the Bullseye to the grocery industry, that it was even used. One Kroger Grocery store agreed to be the first to try the Bullseye, as RCA tried to draw attention the amount of potential savings made possible by automating the checkout counter. However, even though the Bullseye didn’t need as much scanner orientation, the code used large quantities of space, and the round design restricted amounts of encoded data. The Bullseye never caught on, as it seems technology at that particular moment in time could not do variable printing, and scanners were still being improved through development.

Section E

At the same time that developers were learning more to increase capabilities of scanning equipment and computer technology, technological progress in auto-identification became focused on the railroad system supporting the retail and manufacturing industries. These freight cars usually go from one end of the country to the other, and are sometimes also borrowed from one rail line by another. Therefore, tracking the freight trains as they move about is extremely challenging.

Section F

Initially, barcodes were applied as part of the American railroad system in the late 1960’s. It was at this time when the Association of American Railroads (AAR) put system called KarTrak in place, which was designed by a railroad employee and MIT graduate named David Collins. The idea was to use blue and red reflective stripes painted on steel plates that were textured with in different combinations along railroad cars’ sides. With 13 horizontal labels on every plate, they very much resembled barcodes. They had “start” labels, “stop” labels and check numbers. The particular placement of these stripes had a 4-digit railroad company identifier encoded, as well as a 6-digit car number. When railcars passed the rail yard scanners, they would be able to identify them by scanning that information.

Section G

Yet around 10 years later, the very same program fell into disuse after an economic downturn, as well as the system being called unreliable and error prone due contamination with dirt. When the 1980’s arrived, radio tags had become the dominant way of tracking railroad cars. Collins still saw different potential uses for barcodes, especially in industrial settings. He went on to found a company that he named Computer Identics Corporation. General Motors became one of the first plants to monitor production and distribution of car parts by using these barcodes, while another early system was used in a distribution facility.

The KarTrack system was put into use in railroad system.
 
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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