IELTS® Listening Practice 3

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(Section 3: You will hear a conversation between two students who are discussing their university assignments. First, you will have some time to look at questions 21 to 24 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 21 to 24 )



J: Hi, Martin. Have you finished your biology paper yet?

M: Yep, I’ve just finished it actually.

J: Good for you. I haven’t started yet. I’m still looking for a suitable topic. What subject did you chose?

M: Well, I searched for a topic for ages but finally decided on the history of strawberry growing in the UK.

J: (surprised) Seriously? Strawberry growing?

M: Yes, strawberry growing.

J: (sarcastically) Sounds fascinating!

M: Actually, it’s not as dull as you might be thinking. I’m also studying economics and it links in with lots of the topics I’m for that too. I bet there are lots of things you don’t know about strawberries.

J: Hmm, maybe. Go on then. Like what?

M: Like the fact that strawberries weren’t domesticated until the 14th Century. Before that, they grew wild.

J: Oh really? I didn’t know that.

M: Yep. Plus, they contain many nutrients and are considered to be great for the body.

J: You’re not going to tell me the entire history of strawberries, are you?

M: Well, if you don’t mind listening, it would be good practice for my presentation tomorrow. I’ll listen to yours too when you finish it, if you like.

J: Go on then. Let’s do it. So tell me, where were these strawberries domesticated?

M: According to my research, the garden strawberry, which was the first type of domestic strawberry, was actually cultivated in Brittany, in France. But long before that, the Roman poets Virgil and Ovid mentioned strawberries way back in the first century A.D but they used them as ornaments and as a medicine to treat depression, not as a food.

J: I see. Well, people must have been delighted when they became thought of as food. They would have been a great addition to the diet.

M: Well, apparently King Charles V decided to grow them in his royal garden and by the 16th Century the cultivation of strawberries was quite common throughout Europe and America.

J: So he was the one who was responsible for popularizing the strawberry?

M: I suppose so, yes.

(Before you hear the rest of the conversation, you will have some time to look at questions 25 to 32 [20 seconds]. Now, listen and answer questions 25 to 32.)

J: But isn’t the UK too cold for growing strawberries?

M: Well, it’s true that temperatures here can get quite low so strawberries usually have to be grown under glass otherwise they wouldn’t survive the frosts.

J: Are they hard to grow?

M: Hmm, yes and no, I suppose. If you wanted to grow them for yourself in your own back garden it wouldn’t be hard. But to grow them commercially and make a profit from them you have to do a lot of planning. You see, strawberry plants start to decline in productivity and fruit quality after only 2 years and have to be replaced which can be expensive to the grower.

J: Right, so how many strawberries will grow per plant under good conditions?

M: It depends. On average, maybe 150 grams of strawberries per plant. It could be more if the conditions are perfect – even up to 400 grams.

J: So what are the perfect conditions?

M: Well, strawberries like to grow in sandy soil and they need plenty of sunlight.

J: Ah, I see. So that’s why I always find grains of sand on the strawberries I buy in the supermarket?

M: Ha-ha. Yes, that would explain it.

J: Hmm, that’s interesting.

M: If you plant them in sandy soil and give them plenty of water at the start of spring they should be quite big by the end of the summer. If there’s a particularly cold winter then fruit farmers have to cover the plants with plastic sheets to protect them from the frost. If you ever visit a fruit arm in the UK in the winter you’ll see greenhouses full of strawberry plants covered in plastic.

J: Interesting. But what I always wonder about it how they stop the strawberries from going bad before they reach the supermarkets.

M: Well, the strawberries are usually picked while they are still green before they are ripe and ready to eat. Once you pick a strawberry it stops growing but it continues to ripe so by the time it reaches the supermarket shelves it has usually turned red.

J: Ah, I see. And does the UK export lots of strawberries overseas, to Europe or Asia, for example?

M: Actually no, we import most of our strawberries from Spain and Egypt, and more recently, from China. Most of the strawberries grown in the UK are also sold and eaten here in the UK.

J: Well, thank you for all that information, Martin. I’m sure your presentation will go well. You seem to have done lots of research on strawberries.

M: I really hope so. I need the marks to bring my grades up.

Hi, there!

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