IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 62

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Optimism and Health

A Mindset is all. How you start the year will set the template for the rest, and two scientifically backed character traits hold the key: optimism and resilience (if the prospect leaves you feeling pessimistically spineless, the good news is that you can significantly boost both of these qualities).

B Faced with 12 months of plummeting economics and rising human distress, staunchly maintaining a rosy view might seem deludedly Pollyannaish. But here we encounter the optimism paradox. As Brice Pitt, an emeritus professor of the psychiatry of old age at Imperial College, London, told me, “Optimists are unrealistic. Depressive people see things as they really are, but that is a disadvantage from an evolutionary point of view. Optimism is a piece of evolutionary equipment that carried us through millennia of setbacks.”

C Optimists have plenty to be happy about. In other words, if you can convince yourself that things will get better, the odds of it happening will improve because you keep on playing the game. In this light, optimism “is a habitual way of explaining your setbacks to yourself,” reports Martin Seligman, the psychology professor and author of “Learned Optimism.” The research shows that when times get tough, optimists do better than pessimists. They succeed better at work, respond better to stress, suffer fewer depressive episodes, and achieve more personal goals.

D Studies also show that belief can help through times of financial difficulties. Chad Wallens, a social forecaster at the Henley Centre who surveyed middle-class Britons’ beliefs about income, has found that “the people who feel wealthiest, and those who feel poorest, actually have almost the same amount of money at their disposal. Their attitudes and behavior patterns, however, are different from one another.”

E Optimists have something else to be cheerful about; in general, they have greater longevity. For example, a study of 660 volunteers by the Yale University psychologist Dr. Becca Levy found that thinking positively adds an average of seven years to your life. Other American research claims to have identified a physical mechanism behind this. A Harvard Medical School study of 670 men found that the optimists have significantly better lung function. The lead author, Dr. Rosalind Wright, believes that attitude somehow strengthens the immune system. “Preliminary studies on heart patients suggest that, by changing a person’s outlook, you can improve their mortality risk,” she says.

G Few studies have tried to ascertain the proportion of optimists in the world. But a 1995 nationwide survey conducted by the American magazine Adweek found that about half the population counted themselves as optimists, with women slightly more optimistic than men (53 percent versus 48 percent) to see the sunny side.

H Of course, there is no guarantee that optimism will insulate you from hard times, but the best strategy is still to keep smiling and thank your lucky stars. Because (as every good sports coach knows) adversity is character-forming, so long as you practice the skills of resilience. Research among tycoons and business leaders shows that the path to success is often littered with failure, such as a record of sackings, bankruptcies and blistering castigation. But instead of curling into a ball beneath the coffee table, they resiliently pick themselves up, learn from their pratfalls and march boldly towards the next opportunity.

I The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the ability to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma or tragedy. A resilient person may go through difficulty and uncertainty, but he or she will doggedly bounce back. Optimism is one of the central traits required in building resilience. Resilient people learn to hold on to their sense of humor and this can help them to keep a flexible attitude when big changes of plan are warranted. The ability to accept your lot with equanimity also plays an important role.

J One of the best ways to acquire resilience is through experiencing a difficult childhood, the sociologist Steven Stack reports in the Journal of Social Psychology. For example, short men are less likely to commit suicide than tall guys, he says, because shorties develop psychological defense skills to handle the bullies and social stigma that their lack of stature attracts. By contrast, those who enjoyed adversity-free youths can get derailed by setbacks later on because they’ve never learned any coping strategies.  If you are handicapped by having had a happy childhood, then practicing proactive optimism can help you to become more resilient. Studies of resilient people show that they take more risks. They court failure and learn not to fear it. And despite being insensitive to criticism, resilient types are also more open than average to other people. Bouncing through knock-backs is all part of the process.

K It’s about optimistic risk-taking - being confident that people will like you. Simply smiling and being warm to people can help. It’s an altruistic path to self-interest - and if it achieves nothing else, it will reinforce an age-old adage: hard times can bring out the best in you.

The text does not mention that optimists have better relationships with people than pessimists.



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 14-27.
Questions 14-18
Look at the following Statements (Questions 14-18) and List of people below.

Match each statement with the correct person

Write the correct number A-G in boxes Questions 14-18 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.
List of people
  1. Brice Pitt
  2. Chad Wallens
  3. Adweek
  4. Steven Stack
  5. Dr. Becca
  6. Dr. Rosalind Wright
  7. Martin Seligman

14. Optimism can increase one’s life length

15. Feelings of optimism differ according to gender

16. Adversity is the breeding ground of resilience.

17. Material wealth doesn't necessarily bring happiness.

18. Optimism is beneficial to human evolution

Questions 19-23
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 19-23 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

19. Optimists have better relationships with people than pessimists.

20. The positive influences of optimism on health have been long known.

21. A biological basis for optimists’ improved lung function is due to increased to immune system.

22. Resilient people are often open, and thick-skinned.

23. Good humour means good flexibility

Questions 24-27
The reading passage has ten paragraphs labelled A-J.

Which paragraph contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-J in boxes 24-27 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

24. An explanation of a realistic point of view being disadvantageous

25. A situation where optimism can enhance a person’s perception of personal affluence

26. Reference to determination and the ability to deal with personal setbacks being the keys to success

27. A case of a difficult time growing up leading to greater fortitude in later life




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
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
Optimism and Health


A Mindset is all. How you start the year will set the template for the rest, and two scientifically backed character traits hold the key: optimism and resilience (if the prospect leaves you feeling pessimistically spineless, the good news is that you can significantly boost both of these qualities).

B Faced with 12 months of plummeting economics and rising human distress, staunchly maintaining a rosy view might seem deludedly Pollyannaish. But here we encounter the optimism paradox. As Brice Pitt, an emeritus professor of the psychiatry of old age at Imperial College, London, told me, “Optimists are unrealistic. Depressive people see things as they really are, but that is a disadvantage from an evolutionary point of view. Optimism is a piece of evolutionary equipment that carried us through millennia of setbacks.”

C Optimists have plenty to be happy about. In other words, if you can convince yourself that things will get better, the odds of it happening will improve because you keep on playing the game. In this light, optimism “is a habitual way of explaining your setbacks to yourself,” reports Martin Seligman, the psychology professor and author of “Learned Optimism.” The research shows that when times get tough, optimists do better than pessimists. They succeed better at work, respond better to stress, suffer fewer depressive episodes, and achieve more personal goals.

D Studies also show that belief can help through times of financial difficulties. Chad Wallens, a social forecaster at the Henley Centre who surveyed middle-class Britons’ beliefs about income, has found that “the people who feel wealthiest, and those who feel poorest, actually have almost the same amount of money at their disposal. Their attitudes and behavior patterns, however, are different from one another.”

E Optimists have something else to be cheerful about; in general, they have greater longevity. For example, a study of 660 volunteers by the Yale University psychologist Dr. Becca Levy found that thinking positively adds an average of seven years to your life. Other American research claims to have identified a physical mechanism behind this. A Harvard Medical School study of 670 men found that the optimists have significantly better lung function. The lead author, Dr. Rosalind Wright, believes that attitude somehow strengthens the immune system. “Preliminary studies on heart patients suggest that, by changing a person’s outlook, you can improve their mortality risk,” she says.

G Few studies have tried to ascertain the proportion of optimists in the world. But a 1995 nationwide survey conducted by the American magazine Adweek found that about half the population counted themselves as optimists, with women slightly more optimistic than men (53 percent versus 48 percent) to see the sunny side.

H Of course, there is no guarantee that optimism will insulate you from hard times, but the best strategy is still to keep smiling and thank your lucky stars. Because (as every good sports coach knows) adversity is character-forming, so long as you practice the skills of resilience. Research among tycoons and business leaders shows that the path to success is often littered with failure, such as a record of sackings, bankruptcies and blistering castigation. But instead of curling into a ball beneath the coffee table, they resiliently pick themselves up, learn from their pratfalls and march boldly towards the next opportunity.

I The American Psychological Association defines resilience as the ability to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma or tragedy. A resilient person may go through difficulty and uncertainty, but he or she will doggedly bounce back. Optimism is one of the central traits required in building resilience. Resilient people learn to hold on to their sense of humor and this can help them to keep a flexible attitude when big changes of plan are warranted. The ability to accept your lot with equanimity also plays an important role.

J One of the best ways to acquire resilience is through experiencing a difficult childhood, the sociologist Steven Stack reports in the Journal of Social Psychology. For example, short men are less likely to commit suicide than tall guys, he says, because shorties develop psychological defense skills to handle the bullies and social stigma that their lack of stature attracts. By contrast, those who enjoyed adversity-free youths can get derailed by setbacks later on because they’ve never learned any coping strategies.  If you are handicapped by having had a happy childhood, then practicing proactive optimism can help you to become more resilient. Studies of resilient people show that they take more risks. They court failure and learn not to fear it. And despite being insensitive to criticism, resilient types are also more open than average to other people. Bouncing through knock-backs is all part of the process.

K It’s about optimistic risk-taking - being confident that people will like you. Simply smiling and being warm to people can help. It’s an altruistic path to self-interest - and if it achieves nothing else, it will reinforce an age-old adage: hard times can bring out the best in you.

The text does not mention that optimists have better relationships with people than pessimists.
 
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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