IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 86

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Attitudes to language (“Summary completion” Strategy Video Included)

In its most general sense, prescriptivism is the view that one variety of language has an inherently higher value than others, and that this ought to be imposed on the whole of the speech community. The view is propounded especially in relation to grammar and vocabulary, and frequently with reference to pronunciation. The variety which is favoured, in this account, is usually a version of the 'standard' written language, especially as encountered in literature, or in the formal spoken language which most closely reflects this style. Adherents to this variety are said to speak or write 'correctly'; deviations from it are said to be 'incorrect!

All the main languages have been studied prescriptively, especially in the 18th century approach to the writing of grammars and dictionaries. The aims of these early grammarians were threefold: (a) they wanted to codify the principles of their languages, to show that there was a system beneath the apparent chaos of usage, (b) they wanted a means of settling disputes over usage, and (c) they wanted to point out what they felt to be common errors, in order to 'improve' the language. The authoritarian nature of the approach is best characterised by its reliance on 'rules' of grammar. Some usages are 'prescribed,' to be learned and followed accurately; others are 'proscribed,' to be avoided. In this early period, there were no half-measures: usage was either right or wrong, and it was the task of the grammarian not simply to record alternatives, but to pronounce judgement upon them.

These attitudes are still with us, and they motivate a widespread concern that linguistic standards should be maintained. Nevertheless, there is an alternative point of view that is concerned less with standards than with the facts of linguistic usage. This approach is summarised in the statement that it is the task of the grammarian to describe, not prescribe to record the facts of linguistic diversity, and not to attempt the impossible tasks of evaluating language variation or halting language change. In the second half of the 18th century, we already find advocates of this view, such as Joseph Priestiey whose Rudiments of English Grammar (1761) insists that 'the custom of speaking is the original and only just standard of any language! Linguistic issues, it is argued, cannot be solved by logic and legislation. And this view has become the tenet of the modern linguistic approach to grammatical analysis.

In our own time, the opposition between 'descriptivists' and 'prescriptivists' has often become extreme, with both sides painting unreal pictures of the other. Descriptive grammarians have been presented as people who do not care about standards, because of the way they see all forms of usage as equally valid. Prescriptive grammarians have been presented as blind adherents to a historical tradition. The opposition has even been presented in quasi-political terms - of radical liberalism vs elitist conservatism.




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 1-12.
Questions 1-8
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 1-8 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.

1. There are understandable reasons why arguments occur about language.

2. People feel more strongly about language education than about small differences in language usage.

3. Our assessment of a person's intelligence is affected by the way he or she uses language.

4. Prescriptive grammar books cost a lot of money to buy in the 18th century.

5. Prescriptivism still exists today.

6. According to descriptivists, it is pointless to try to stop language change.

7. Descriptivism only appeared after the 18th century.

8. Both descriptivists and prescriptivists have been misrepresented.

Questions 9-12
Complete the summary using the list of words, A-I, below.
  1. descriptivists
  2. language experts
  3. popular speech
  4. formal language
  5. evaluation
  6. rules
  7. modern linguists
  8. prescriptivists
  9. change

According to , there is only one correct form of language. Linguists who take this approach to language place great importance on grammatical . Conversely, the view of , such as Joseph Priestley, is that grammar should be based on .




Answer Sheet
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
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
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
Attitudes to language (“Summary completion” Strategy Video Included)


In its most general sense, prescriptivism is the view that one variety of language has an inherently higher value than others, and that this ought to be imposed on the whole of the speech community. The view is propounded especially in relation to grammar and vocabulary, and frequently with reference to pronunciation. The variety which is favoured, in this account, is usually a version of the 'standard' written language, especially as encountered in literature, or in the formal spoken language which most closely reflects this style. Adherents to this variety are said to speak or write 'correctly'; deviations from it are said to be 'incorrect!

All the main languages have been studied prescriptively, especially in the 18th century approach to the writing of grammars and dictionaries. The aims of these early grammarians were threefold: (a) they wanted to codify the principles of their languages, to show that there was a system beneath the apparent chaos of usage, (b) they wanted a means of settling disputes over usage, and (c) they wanted to point out what they felt to be common errors, in order to 'improve' the language. The authoritarian nature of the approach is best characterised by its reliance on 'rules' of grammar. Some usages are 'prescribed,' to be learned and followed accurately; others are 'proscribed,' to be avoided. In this early period, there were no half-measures: usage was either right or wrong, and it was the task of the grammarian not simply to record alternatives, but to pronounce judgement upon them.

These attitudes are still with us, and they motivate a widespread concern that linguistic standards should be maintained. Nevertheless, there is an alternative point of view that is concerned less with standards than with the facts of linguistic usage. This approach is summarised in the statement that it is the task of the grammarian to describe, not prescribe to record the facts of linguistic diversity, and not to attempt the impossible tasks of evaluating language variation or halting language change. In the second half of the 18th century, we already find advocates of this view, such as Joseph Priestiey whose Rudiments of English Grammar (1761) insists that 'the custom of speaking is the original and only just standard of any language! Linguistic issues, it is argued, cannot be solved by logic and legislation. And this view has become the tenet of the modern linguistic approach to grammatical analysis.

In our own time, the opposition between 'descriptivists' and 'prescriptivists' has often become extreme, with both sides painting unreal pictures of the other. Descriptive grammarians have been presented as people who do not care about standards, because of the way they see all forms of usage as equally valid. Prescriptive grammarians have been presented as blind adherents to a historical tradition. The opposition has even been presented in quasi-political terms - of radical liberalism vs elitist conservatism.

 
Video Answer Explanation

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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