IELTS Reading Practice Test 16

by | Mar 28, 2020 | IELTS Tests, Academic Reading

IELTS Reading Practice Test 16


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-12, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

Harsh marks ‘put pupils off languages’

(A) Harsh and inconsistent marking is putting pupils in England off studying languages beyond age 14, a report says. The dawn of more rigorous GCSEs will further reduce interest in languages, research by the British Council and Education Development Trust suggests. It says a focus on maths and sciences, as well as perception languages, are a hard option, is also de-motivating pupils and teachers.

(B) Exams watchdog Ofqual said last year’s languages results were “very stable”. From September 2016, new GCSE and A-level modern language syllabuses will be taught in England, and new exams will be taken in the summer of 2018. The Language Trends Survey, in its 14th year of charting the state of language learning in England’s schools, suggests these changes – particularly at A-level – will deter pupils from studying languages. It says: “The exam system is seen as one of the principal barriers to the successful development of language teaching. “The comparative difficulty of exams in languages in relation to other subjects, and widely reported harsh and inconsistent marking, are deeply de-motivating for both pupils and teachers.”

(C) The report says the EBacc, where pupils have to study English, a language, maths, science and history or geography to GCSE, “appears to be having very little impact on the numbers of pupils taking languages post-16”. Uptake after GCSE is found to be a particular concern, with some state schools suggesting the small numbers of students opting to take languages at A-level means the subject is becoming “financially unviable”.

(D) The proportion of the total cohort sitting a GCSE in a language dropped by one percentage point (to 48%) between 2014 and 2015, ending the rise in entries seen from 2012 onward when the EBacc was brought in. Entries for each of the three main languages fell this year compared with 2014, French is down 6%, German is down 10% and Spanish is down 3%. Overall entries for languages at A-level are at 94% of their 2002 level, and they declined by 3% between 2014 and 2015 – French uptake declined by 1% and German by 2.5% while Spanish uptake rose by almost 15%.

(E) The report does note some positive developments, particularly at primary level, saying just over half of England’s primary schools now have access to specialist expertise in the teaching of languages. But primary schools report finding it hard to fit languages into the curriculum time available and to recruit suitably qualified teaching staff. Teresa Tinsley, the co-author of the report, said: “Languages are already one of the harder GCSEs, and teachers fear that with the new exams it will be even tougher for pupils to get a good grade. “Combine this with the expectation that a wider range of pupils will be sitting the exam and it is not surprising that teachers feel embattled. “Improving their morale and confidence in the exam system is crucial if languages are to thrive in our schools.”

(F) A spokesman for the exam regulator, Ofqual, said: “We are committed to ensuring that all GCSEs, AS- and A-levels, including those in modern foreign languages, are sufficiently valid, produce fair and reliable results and have a positive impact on teaching and learning. “Last year’s results in modern foreign languages were very stable, with only small changes in the proportions achieving each grade compared to the previous year. “We have looked into concerns that it is harder for students to achieve the highest grades in A level languages. “We found this is because of the way the exams are designed, rather than the nature of the subject content. “We are keeping this under review and will be further publishing information shortly.”

(G) Referring to the new modern foreign language A-levels and GCSEs being taught from this September, the spokesman added: “Before we accredit a qualification, we check the exams will be designed to allow good differentiation – including that the best students will be able to achieve the highest grades – and whether they are properly based on the new subject content.”

(H) Mark Herbert, head of schools programmes at the British Council, said: “The country’s current shortage of language skills is estimated to be costing the economy tens of billions in missed trade and business opportunities every year. “Parents, schools and businesses can all play their part in encouraging our young people to study languages at school and to ensure that language learning is given back the respect and prominence that it deserves.” Tony McAleavy, director of research and development at the Education Development Trust, said: “The reduction in pupils opting for GCSE and A-level languages is concerning, particularly coupled with teachers’ lack of faith in the exam system. “Solutions are required to give languages a firmer place in the curriculum, to make languages more compelling for pupils who find the examination process a barrier and to boost teacher morale.”

Questions 1-8

Reading Passage 1 has eight paragraphs, A-H.

Choose the most suitable paragraph headings from the list of headings and write the correct letter, A-H, in boxes 1-8 on your answer sheet.

  1. Data about studying
  2. Stable results
  3. Heavy economic losses
  4. Fairness of the exams
  5. A hard option
  6. A-level changings
  7. The most important thing for languages to be able to prosper
  8. Weak influence on pupils


Questions 9-13

Classify the events with the following dates.

A. 2018

B. 2016

C. 2014-2015

D. None of the above

In boxes 9-13 on your answer sheet, write either A, B, C or D.

  1. A Drop of GCSE to 48%.
  2. New syllabus system arrives in England.
  3. The start of the new exams.
  4. The rise in entries.
  5. The decline of French by 1 percent.



You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14-25, which are based on Reading Passage 2 below.

Making sense of scent

With every whiff you take as you walk by a bakery, a cloud of chemicals comes swirling up your nose. Identifying the smell as freshly baked bread is a complicated process. But, compared to the other senses, the sense of smell is often underappreciated.

In a survey of 7,000 young people around the world, about half of those between the age of 16 and 30 said that they would rather lose their sense of smell than give up access to technology like laptops or cell phones.

We’re not that acutely aware of our use of olfaction in daily living. In fact, mammals have about a thousand genes that code for odour reception. And even though humans have far fewer active odour receptor genes, 5 percent of our DNA is devoted to olfaction, a fact that emphasizes how important our sense of smell is.

Smell begins at the back of the nose, where millions of sensory neurons lie in a strip of tissue called the olfactory epithelium. Molecules of odorants pass through the superior nasal concha of the nasal passages and come down on the epithelium. The tips of the epithelium cells contain proteins called receptors that bind odour molecules. The receptors are like locks and the keys to open these locks are the odour molecules that float past, explains Leslie Vosshall, a scientist who studies olfaction.

People have about 450 different types of olfactory receptors. (For comparison, dogs have about two times as many.) Each receptor can be activated by many different odour molecules, and each odour molecule can activate several different types of receptors. However, the forces that bind receptors and odour molecules can vary greatly in strength, so that some interactions are better “fits” than others.

The complexity of receptors and their interactions with odour molecules are what allow us to detect a wide variety of smells. And what we think of as a single smell is actually a combination of many odour molecules acting on a variety of receptors, creating an intricate neural code that we can identify as the scent of a rose or freshly-cut grass.

This neural code begins with the nose’s sensory neurons. Once an odour molecule binds to a receptor, it initiates an electrical signal that travels from the sensory neurons to the olfactory bulb, a structure at the base of the forebrain that relays the signal to other brain areas for additional processing.

One of these areas is the piriform cortex, a collection of neurons located just behind the olfactory bulb that works to identify the smell. Smell information also goes to the thalamus, a structure that serves as a relay station for all of the sensory information coming into the brain. The thalamus transmits some of this smell information to the orbitofrontal cortex, where it can then be integrated with taste information. What we often attribute to the sense of taste is actually the result of this sensory integration.

“The olfactory system is critical when we’re appreciating the foods and beverages we consume,” says Monell Chemical Senses Center scientist Charles Wysocki. This coupling of smell and taste explains why foods seem lacklustre with a head cold.

You’ve probably experienced that a scent can also conjure up emotions and even specific memories, like when a whiff of cologne at a department store reminds you of your favourite uncle who wears the same scent. This happens because the thalamus sends smell information to the hippocampus and amygdala, key brain regions involved in learning and memory.

Although scientists used to think that the human nose could identify about 10,000 different smells, Vosshall and her colleagues have recently shown that people can identify far more scents. Starting with 128 different odour molecules, they made random mixtures of 10, 20, and 30 odour molecules, so many that the smell produced was unrecognizable to participants. The researchers then presented people with three vials, two of which contained identical mixtures while the third contained a different concoction, and asked them to pick out the smell that didn’t belong.

Predictably, the more overlap there was between two types of mixtures, the harder they were to tell apart. After calculating how many of the mixtures the majority of people could tell apart, the researchers were able to predict how people would fare if presented with every possible mixture that could be created from the 128 different odour molecules. They used this data to estimate that the average person can detect at least one trillion different smells, a far cry from the previous estimate of 10,000.

This number is probably an underestimation of the true number of smells we can detect, said Vosshall, because there are far more than 128 different types of odour molecules in the world. And our olfaction is quite powerful compared to other mammals. For example, marine animals can detect only water-soluble odorants.

No longer should humans be considered poor smellers. “It’s time to give our sense of smell the recognition it deserves,” said Vosshall.


Questions 14-19

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 2?

In boxes 14-19 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

  1. In general, olfaction and sense of taste are considered equally important.
  2. About 7,000 young people around the world would prefer losing their sense of smell than access to laptops.
  3. Odour reception is an integral function of all mammals.
  4. Superior nasal concha is compared to a lock and odour molecules are like keys that are used to open it.
  5. Cats have two times as many olfactory receptors as humans.
  6. We are able to detect a lot of different scents because of a variety of odour receptors, which translate the impact of molecules into a neural code.


Questions 20-25

Complete the sentences below.

Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 20-25 on your answer sheet.

  1. The part of our brain responsible for identifying the smell is called……………..
  2. The……………. is a region in our brain that serves as a transition station for all sensory information that we receive.
  3. Sense of smell is closely related to……………..
  4. …………….and……………. are involved in arousing memories caused by specific smells.
  5. The experiment proved that the average person can discriminate between at least …………….smells.
  6. Sea mammals can smell only odorants that are……………. in water.



You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 26-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.

Cognitive dissonance

(A) Charles Darwin said, “This not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” So you’ve sold your home, quit your job, shunned your colleagues, abandoned your friends and family. The end of the world is nigh, and you ‘know for a fact’ that you are one of the chosen few who will be swept up from the ‘great flood’ approaching on 21st December at midnight to be flown to safety on a far off-planet. And then midnight on 21st December comes around and there is no flood. No end of the world. No flying saucer to the rescue. What do you do? Admit you were wrong? Acknowledge that you gave up position, money, friends – for nothing? Tell yourself and others you have been a schmuck? Not on your life.


(B) Social psychologist Leon Festinger infiltrated a flying saucer doomsday cult in the late 1950s. The members of this cult had given up everything on the premise that the world was about to self destruct and that they, because of their faith, would be the sole survivors. In the lead up to the fateful day, the cult shunned publicity and shied away from journalists. Festinger posed as a cultist and was present when the space ship failed to show up. He was curious about what would happen. How would the disappointed cultists react to the failure of their prophecy? Would they be embarrassed and humiliated? What actually happened amazed him.


(C) Now, after the non-event, the cultists suddenly wanted publicity. They wanted media attention and coverage. Why? So they could explain how their faith and obedience had helped save the planet from the flood. The aliens had spared planet earth for their sake – and now their new role was to spread the word and make us all listen. This fascinated Festinger. He observed that the real driving force behind the cultists’ apparently inexplicable response was the need, not to face the awkward and uncomfortable truth and ‘change their minds’, but rather to ‘make minds comfortable’ – to smooth over the unacceptable inconsistencies.


(D) Festinger coined the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ to describe the uncomfortable tension we feel when we experience conflicting thoughts or beliefs (cognitions) or engage in behaviour that is apparently opposed to our stated beliefs. What is particularly interesting is the lengths to which people will go to reduce the inner tension without accepting that they might, in fact, be wrong. They will accept almost any form of relief, other than admitting being at fault, or mistaken. Festinger quickly realized that our intolerance for ‘cognitive dissonance’ could explain many mysteries of human behaviour.


(E) In a fascinating experiment, Festinger and his colleagues paid some subjects twenty dollars to tell a specific lie, while they paid another group of subjects only one dollar to do the same. Those who were paid just one dollar were far more likely to claim, after the event, that they had actually believed in the lie they were told to tell. Why? Well, because it’s just so much harder to justify having done something that conflicts with your own sense of being ‘an honest person’ for a mere pittance. If you get more money, you can tell yourself: ‘Yeah, I lied, but I got well paid! It was justified.’ But for one dollar? That’s not a good enough reason to lie, so what you were saying must have been true in the first place, right?


(F) Emotional factors influence how we vote for our politicians much more than our careful and logical appraisal of their policies, according to Drew Westen, a professor of psychiatry and psychology. This may come as a little surprise to you, but what about when we learn that our favoured politician may be dishonest? Do we take the trouble to really find out what they are supposed to have done, and so possibly have to change our opinions (and our vote), or do we experience that nasty cognitive dissonance and so seek to keep our minds comfortable at the possible cost of truth?


(G) Cognitive dissonance is essentially a matter of commitment to the choices one has made, and the ongoing need to satisfactorily justify that commitment, even in the face of convincing but conflicting evidence. This is why it can take a long time to leave a cult or an abusive relationship – or even to stop smoking. Life’s commitments, whether to a job, a social cause, or a romantic partner, require heavy emotional investment, and so carry significant emotional risks. If people didn’t keep to their commitments, they would experience uncomfortable emotional tension. In a way, it makes sense that our brains should be hard-wired for monitoring and justifying our choices and actions – so as to avoid too much truth breaking in at once and overwhelming us.


(H) I guess we can’t really develop unless we start to get a grip and have some personal honesty about what really motivates us. This is part of genuine maturity. If I know I am being lazy and can admit it to myself, that at least is a first step to correcting it. If, however, I tell myself it’s more sensible to wait before vacuuming, then I can go around with a comfortable self-concept of ‘being sensible’ while my filthy carpets and laziness remain unchanged. Cognitive dissonance can actually help me mature, if I can bring myself, first, to notice it (making it conscious) and second, to be more open to the message it brings me, in spite of the discomfort. As dissonance increases, providing I do not run away into self-justification, I can get a clearer and clearer sense of what has changed, and what I need to do about it.
And then I can remember what Darwin had to say about who will survive…


Questions 26-33

Reading Passage 3 has eight paragraphs, A–H.

Choose the most suitable headings for these paragraphs from the list of ten headings below.

Write the appropriate number i-x in the text boxes 26-33. There are more paragraph headings than paragraphs, so you will not use them all.

List of headings:

i. Leon Festinger: On being stood up by the aliens.
ii. Dishonest politicians? Never!
iii. Mind manipulation: the true reason for strange behaviour.
iv. You can’t handle the truth!
v. The catastrophe of 21st December.
vi. Grow up – make cognitive dissonance work for you.
vii. How many dollars would you take to tell a lie?
viii. Revealing mysteries: Darwin was right.
ix. Cognitive dissonance: who are you kidding?
x. The high cost of commitment exposes us to cognitive dissonance

26. Passage A

27. Passage B

28. Passage C

29. Passage D

30. Passage E

31. Passage F

32. Passage G

33. Passage H


Questions 34-40

Choose the correct letter A, B, or C.

Write the correct letter in boxes 34-40 on your answer sheet.

34. After the space ship didn’t show up on a fateful day, the members of flying saucer doomsday cult

A. didn’t want to admit the uncomfortable truth and still believed that the world would self destruct.

B. were embarrassed and humiliated because of their failure.

C. wanted media attention to say that they saved the planet.


35. The main reason why people fight cognitive dissonance is

A. a desire to reduce the inner tension.

B. people’s unwillingness to accept their mistakes.

C. wish to avoid the awkward feeling of lying for not a good reason.


36 During the experiment, people who were telling lies were more likely to claim that they believed in the lie if

A. they were paid less.

B. they were paid more.

C. they felt uncomfortable because of lying


37. Commitment to the choices someone has made, and the ongoing need to justify that commitment, despite the conflicting evidence can be explained by the fact that

A. it causes uncomfortable emotional tension.

B. commitments require heavy emotional investment.

C. our brain always justifies our choices.


38. The big part of genuine maturity is the ability of

A. sensible reasoning.

B. disregarding cognitive dissonance.

C. being honest with yourself.


39. According to the text, which of the situations below is NOT an example of cognitive dissonance?

A. A man learns that his favoured politician is dishonest, but continues to vote for him.

B. A woman doesn’t want to do the vacuuming, but convinces herself that otherwise, her carpet will remain filthy and finally does it.

C. A woman has been dating with her boyfriend for five years. Everyone tells her that it’s an abusive relationship because he often beats and humiliates her, but she doesn’t want to leave her romantic partner.


40. Charles Darwin quote from the beginning of the text implies that

A.  cognitive dissonance helps us to change and therefore makes us more enduring species

B. people often accept almost any form of relief, rather than admitting being at fault, to survive.

C. fighting the discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance is a survival mechanism developed during evolution.


View Answers


  1. D
  2. F
  3. H
  4. G
  5. A
  6. B
  7. E
  8. C
  9. C
  10. B
  11. A
  12. D
  13. C
  14. Not Given
  15. False
  16. True
  17. False
  18. Not Given
  19. True
  20. Piriform cortex
  21. Thalamus
  22. Sense of taste
  23. Hippocampus, Amygdala
  24. One trillion
  25. Soluble
  26. v
  27. i
  28. ix
  29. iv
  30. vii
  31. ii
  32. x
  33. vi
  34. C
  35. A
  36. A
  37. B
  38. C
  39. B
  40. A

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