Academic Reading

Academic Reading

Read the following information.

IELTS Academic Reading Sample


They play hard, they play often, and they play to win. Australian sports teams win more than  their fair share of titles, demolishing rivals with seeming ease. How do they do it? A big part of  the secret is an extensive and expensive network of sporting academies underpinned by science  and medicine. At the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), hundreds of youngsters and pros live  and train under the eyes of coaches. Another body, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC),  finances programmes of excellence in a total of 96 sports for thousands of sportsmen and  women. Both provide intensive coaching, training facilities and nutritional advice. 

Inside the academies, science takes centre stage. The AIS employs more than 100 sports  scientists and doctors, and collaborates with scores of others in universities and research  centres. AIS scientists work across a number of sports, applying skills learned in one – such as  building muscle strength in golfers – to others, such as swimming and squash. They are backed  up by technicians who design instruments to collect data from athletes. They all focus on one  aim: winning. ‘We can’t waste our time looking at ethereal scientific questions that don’t help  the coach work with an athlete and improve performance.’ says Peter Fricker, chief of science  at AIS. 

A lot of their work comes down to measurement – everything from the exact angle of a  swimmers dive to the second-by-second power output of a cyclist. This data is used to wring  improvements out of athletes. The focus is on individuals, tweaking performances to squeeze  an extra hundredth of a second here, an extra millimetre there. No gain is too slight to bother  with. It’s the tiny, gradual improvements that add up to world-beating results. To demonstrate  how the system works, Bruce Mason at AIS shows off the prototype of a 3D analysis tool for  studying swimmers. A wire-frame model of a champion swimmer slices through the water, her  arms moving in slow motion. Looking side-on, Mason measures the distance between strokes.  From above, he analyses how her spine swivels. When fully developed, this system will enable  him to build a biomechanical profile for coaches to use to help budding swimmers. Mason’s  contribution to sport also includes the development of the SWAN (SWimming ANalysis) system  now used in Australian national competitions. It collects images from digital cameras running at  50 frames a second and breaks down each part of a swimmers performance into factors that  can be analysed individually – stroke length, stroke frequency, average duration of each stroke, 

velocity, start, lap and finish times, and so on. At the end of each race, SWAN spits out data on  each swimmer. 

‘Take a look.’ says Mason, pulling out a sheet of data. He points out the data on the swimmers  in second and third place, which shows that the one who finished third actually swam faster. So  why did he finish 35 hundredths of a second down? ‘His turn times were 44 hundredths of a  second behind the other guy.’ says Mason. ‘If he can improve on his turns, he can do much  better.’ This is the kind of accuracy that AIS scientists’ research is bringing to a range of sports.  With the Cooperative Research Centre for Micro Technology in Melbourne, they are developing  unobtrusive sensors that will be embedded in an athlete’s clothes or running shoes to monitor  heart rate, sweating, heat production or any other factor that might have an impact on an  athlete’s ability to run. There’s more to it than simply measuring performance. Fricker gives the  example of athletes who may be down with coughs and colds 11 or 12 times a year. After years  of experimentation, AIS and the University of Newcastle in New South Wales developed a test  that measures how much of the immune-system protein immunoglobulin A is present in  athletes’ saliva. If IgA levels suddenly fall below a certain level, training is eased or dropped  altogether. Soon, IgA levels start rising again, and the danger passes. Since the tests were  introduced, AIS athletes in all sports have been remarkably successful at staying healthy. 

Using data is a complex business. Well before a championship, sports scientists and coaches  start to prepare the athlete by developing a ‘competition model’, based on what they expect  will be the winning times. ‘You design the model to make that time.’ says Mason. ‘A start of this  much, each free-swimming period has to be this fast, with a certain stroke frequency and stroke  length, with turns done in these times’. All the training is then geared towards making the  athlete hit those targets, both overall and for each segment of the race. Techniques like these  have transformed Australia into arguably the world’s most successful sporting nation. 

Of course, there’s nothing to stop other countries copying – and many have tried. Some years  ago, the AIS unveiled coolant-lined jackets for endurance athletes. At the Atlanta Olympic  Games in 1996, these sliced as much as two percent off cyclists’ and rowers times. Now  everyone uses them. The same has happened to the altitude tent’, developed by AIS to  replicate the effect of altitude training at sea level. But Australia’s success story is about more  than easily copied technological fixes, and up to now no nation has replicated its all encompassing system. 

Questions 1-7 

Reading Passage 1 has six sections, A-F.

Which paragraph contains the following information? 

Write the correct letter A-F for questions 1-7 . 

NB You may use any letter more than once 

1 a reference to the exchange of expertise between different sports 

2 an explanation of how visual imaging is employed in investigations 

3 a reason for narrowing the scope of research activity 

4 how some AIS ideas have been reproduced 

5 how obstacles to optimum achievement can be investigated 

6 an overview of the funded support of athletes 

7 how performance requirements are calculated before an event 

Questions 8-11 

Classify the following techniques according to whether the writer states they 

A are currently exclusively used by Australians 

B will be used in the future by Australians 

C are currently used by both Australians and their rivals 

Write the correct letter A, B, C or D for questions 8-11. 

8 cameras 

9 sensors 

10 protein tests 

11 altitude tents 

Questions 12 and 13 

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the Reading Passage 1 for  each answer. 

Write your answers for questions 12 and 13 . 

12 What is produced to help an athlete plan their performance in an event? 13 By how much did some cyclists’ performance improve at the 1996 Olympic Games? 


The vast expansion in international trade owes much to a revolution in the business of  moving freight. 

International trade is growing at a startling pace. While the global economy has been expanding  at a bit over 3% a year, the volume of trade has been rising at a compound annual rate of about  twice that. Foreign products, from meat to machinery, play a more important role in almost 

every economy in the world, and foreign markets now tempt businesses that never much  worried about sales beyond their nation’s borders. 

What lies behind this explosion in international commerce? The general worldwide decline in trade barriers, such as customs duties and import quotas, is surely one explanation. The  economic opening of countries that have traditionally been minor players is another. But one  force behind the import-export boom has passed all but unnoticed: the rapidly falling cost of  getting goods to market. Theoretically, in the world of trade, shipping costs do not matter.  Goods, once they have been made, are assumed to move instantly and at no cost from place to  place. The real world, however, is full of frictions. Cheap labour may make Chinese clothing  competitive in America, but if delays in shipment tie up working capital and cause winter coats  to arrive in spring, trade may lose its advantages. 

At the turn of the 20th century, agriculture and manufacturing were the two most important  sectors almost everywhere, accounting for about 70% of total output in Germany, Italy and  France, and 40-50% in America, Britain and Japan. International commerce was therefore  dominated by raw materials, such as wheat, wood and iron ore, or processed commodities,  such as meat and steel. But these sorts of products are heavy and bulky and the cost of  transporting them relatively high. 

Countries still trade disproportionately with their geographic neighbours. Over time, however, world output has shifted into goods whose worth is unrelated to their size and weight. Today, it  is finished manufactured products that dominate the flow of trade, and, thanks to technological  advances such as lightweight components, manufactured goods themselves have tended to  become lighter and less bulky. As a result, less transportation is required for every dollar’s  worth of imports or exports. 

To see how this influences trade, consider the business of making disk drives for computers.  Most of the world’s disk-drive manufacturing is concentrated in South-east Asia. This is possible  only because disk drives, while valuable, are small and light and so cost little to ship. Computer  manufacturers in Japan or Texas will not face hugely bigger freight bills if they import drives  from Singapore rather than purchasing them on the domestic market. Distance therefore poses  no obstacle to the globalisation of the disk-drive industry. 

This is even more true of the fast-growing information industries. Films and compact discs cost 

little to transport, even by aeroplane. Computer software can be ‘exported’ without ever  loading it onto a ship, simply by transmitting it over telephone lines from one country to  another, so freight rates and cargo-handling schedules become insignificant factors in deciding  where to make the product. Businesses can locate based on other considerations, such as the  availability of labour, while worrying less about the cost of delivering their output. 

In many countries deregulation has helped to drive the process along. But, behind the scenes, a  series of technological innovations known broadly as containerisation and inter-modal  transportation has led to swift productivity improvements in cargo-handling. Forty years ago,  the process of exporting or importing involved a great many stages of handling, which risked  portions of the shipment being damaged or stolen along the way. The invention of the  container crane made it possible to load and unload containers without capsizing the ship and  the adoption of standard container sizes allowed almost any box to be transported on any ship.  By 1967, dual-purpose ships, carrying loose cargo in the hold* and containers on the deck, were  giving way to all-container vessels that moved thousands of boxes at a time. 

The shipping container transformed ocean shipping into a highly efficient, intensely competitive  business. But getting the cargo to and from the dock was a different story. National  governments, by and large, kept a much firmer hand on truck and railroad tariffs than on  charges for ocean freight. This started changing, however, in the mid-1970s, when America  began to deregulate its transportation industry. First airlines, then road haulers and railways,  were freed from restrictions on what they could carry, where they could haul it and what price  they could charge. Big productivity gains resulted. Between 1985 and 1996, for example,  America’s freight railways dramatically reduced their employment, trackage, and their fleets of  locomotives – while increasing the amount of cargo they hauled. Europe’s railways have also  shown marked, albeit smaller, productivity improvements. 

In America the period of huge productivity gains in transportation may be almost over, but in  most countries the process still has far to go. State ownership of railways and airlines,  regulation of freight rates and toleration of anti-competitive practices, such as cargo-handling  monopolies, all keep the cost of shipping unnecessarily high and deter international trade.  Bringing these barriers down would help the world’s economies grow even closer. 

Questions 14-17 

Reading Passage 2 has nine paragraphs, A-I. 

Which paragraph contains the following information? 

Write the correct letter A-I for questions 14-17 .

14 the effects of the introduction of electronic delivery 

15 the similar cost involved in transporting a product from abroad or from a local supplier 16 the weakening relationship between the value of goods and the cost of their delivery 17 the rate of industry growth 

Questions 18-22 

For questions 18-22 , 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 

18 International trade is increasing at a greater rate than the world economy. 19 Cheap labour guarantees effective trade conditions. 

20 Japan imports more meat and steel than France. 

21 Most countries continue to prefer to trade with nearby nations. 

22 Small computer components are manufactured in Germany. 

Questions 23-26 

Complete the summary using the list of words, A-K, below. 

Write the correct letter A-K for questions 23-26 . 


Modern cargo-handling methods have had a significant effect on 23 ______ as the business of  moving freight around the world becomes increasingly streamlined. 

Manufacturers of computers, for instance, are able to import 24 ______ from overseas, rather  than having to rely on a local supplier. The introduction of 25 ______ has meant that bulk cargo  can be safely and efficiently moved over long distances. While international shipping is now  efficient, there is still a need for governments to reduce 26 ______ in order to free up the  domestic cargo sector. 

A tariffs B components C container ships D output E employees F insurance costs G trade H freight I fares J software K international standards


Climate change and the Inuit 

The threat posed by climate change in the Arctic and the problems faced by Canada’s Inuit  people 

Unusual incidents are being reported across the Arctic. Inuit families going off on snowmobiles  to prepare their summer hunting camps have found themselves cut off from home by a sea of  mud, following early thaws. There are reports of igloos losing their insulating properties as the  

snow drips and refreezes, of lakes draining into the sea as permafrost melts, and sea ice  breaking up earlier than usual, carrying seals beyond the reach of hunters. Climate change may  still be a rather abstract idea to most of us, but in the Arctic it is already having dramatic effects  – if summertime ice continues to shrink at its present rate, the Arctic Ocean could soon become  virtually ice-free in summer. The knock-on effects are likely to include more warming, cloudier  skies, increased precipitation and higher sea levels. Scientists are increasingly keen to find out  what’s going on because they consider the Arctic the ‘canary in the mine’ for global warming – a warning of what’s in store for the rest of the world. 

For the Inuit the problem is urgent. They live in precarious balance with one of the toughest  environments on earth. Climate change, whatever its causes, is a direct threat to their way of  life. Nobody knows the Arctic as well as the locals, which is why they are not content simply to  stand back and let outside experts tell them what’s happening. In Canada, where the Inuit  people are jealously guarding their hard-won autonomy in the country’s newest territory,  Nunavut, they believe their best hope of survival in this changing environment lies in combining  their ancestral knowledge with the best of modern science. This is a challenge in itself. 

The Canadian Arctic is a vast, treeless polar desert that’s covered with snow for most of the  year. Venture into this terrain and you get some idea of the hardships facing anyone who calls  this home. Farming is out of the question and nature offers meagre pickings. Humans first  settled in the Arctic a mere 4,500 years ago, surviving by exploiting sea mammals and fish. The  environment tested them to the limits: sometimes the colonists were successful, sometimes  they failed and vanished. But around a thousand years ago, one group emerged that was  uniquely well adapted to cope with the Arctic environment. These Thule people moved in from  Alaska, bringing kayaks, sleds, dogs, pottery and iron tools. They are the ancestors of today’s  Inuit people.

Life for the descendants of the Thule people is still harsh. Nunavut is 1.9 million square  kilometres of rock and ice, and a handful of islands around the North Pole. It’s currently home  to 2,500 people, all but a handful of them indigenous Inuit. Over the past 40 years, most have  abandoned their nomadic ways and settled in the territory’s 28 isolated communities, but they  still rely heavily on nature to provide food and clothing. 

Provisions available in local shops have to be flown into Nunavut on one of the most costly air  networks in the world, or brought by supply ship during the few ice-free weeks of summer. It  would cost a family around £7,000 a year to replace meat they obtained themselves through  hunting with imported meat. Economic opportunities are scarce, and for many people state  benefits are their only income. 

While the Inuit may not actually starve if hunting and trapping are curtailed by climate change,  there has certainly been an impact on people’s health. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are  beginning to appear in a people for whom these have never before been problems. There has  

been a crisis of identity as the traditional skills of hunting, trapping and preparing skins have  begun to disappear. In Nunavut’s ‘igloo and email’ society, where adults who were born in  igloos have children who may never have been out on the land, there’s a high incidence of  depression. 

With so much at stake, the Inuit are determined to play a key role in teasing out the mysteries  of climate change in the Arctic. Having survived there for centuries, they believe their wealth of  traditional knowledge is vital to the task. And Western scientists are starting to draw on this  wisdom, increasingly referred to as ‘Inuit Qaujimajatugangit’, or IQ. ‘In the early days scientists  ignored us when they came up here to study anything. They just figured these people don’t  know very much so we won’t ask them,’ says John Amagoalik, an Inuit leader and politician.  ‘But in recent years IQ has had much more credibility and weight.’ In fact it is now a  requirement for anyone hoping to get permission to do research that they consult the  communities, who are helping to set the research agenda to reflect their most important  concerns. They can turn down applications from scientists they believe will work against their  interests, or research projects that will impinge too much on their daily lives and traditional  activities. 

Some scientists doubt the value of traditional knowledge because the occupation of the Arctic  doesn’t go back far enough. Others, however, point out that the first weather stations in the far  north date back just 50 years. There are still huge gaps in our environmental knowledge, and 

despite the scientific onslaught, many predictions are no more than best guesses. IQ could help  to bridge the gap and resolve the tremendous uncertainty about how much of what we’re  seeing is natural capriciousness and how much is the consequence of human activity. 

Questions 27-32 

Reading Passage 3 has seven paragraphs, A-G. 

Choose the correct heading for paragraphs B-G from the list of headings below. Write the correct number i-ix for questions 27-32 . 

Paragraph A has been done as an example 

List of Headings 

i The reaction of the Inuit community to climate change 

ii Understanding of climate change remains limited 

iii Alternative sources of essential supplies 

iv Respect for Inuit opinion grows 

v A healthier choice of food 

vi A difficult landscape 

vii Negative effects on well-being 

viii Alarm caused by unprecedented events in the Arctic 

ix The benefits of an easier existence 

Example: Paragraph A Answer: viii 

27 Paragraph B 

28 Paragraph C 

29 Paragraph D 

30 Paragraph E 

31 Paragraph F 

32 Paragraph G 

Questions 33-40 

Complete the summary of paragraphs C and D below. 

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from paragraphs C and D for each answer. Write your answers for questions 33-40 . 

If you visit the Canadian Arctic, you immediately appreciate the problems faced by people for  whom this is home. It would clearly be impossible for the people to engage in 33 ______ as a  means of supporting themselves. For thousands of years they have had to rely on  catching 34 ______ and 35 ______ as a means of sustenance. The harsh surroundings saw  many who tried to settle there pushed to their limits, although some were successful. 

The 36 ______ people were an example of the latter and for them the environment did not  prove unmanageable. For the present inhabitants, life continues to be a struggle. The territory  of Nunavut consists of little more than ice, rock and a few 37 ______ . In recent years, many of  them have been obliged to give up their 38 ______ lifestyle, but they continue to depend  mainly on 39 ______ for their food and clothes. 40 ______ produce is particularly expensive.


Section 1  
1. Paragraph B. Third sentence in that paragraph gives a clear example of  transferring knowledge from one sports to another. 
2. Paragraph C. Sentences five and six talk about a 3D model — an image,  as stated by the task. Note that Paragraph D is wrong answer — even  though it is about analysing and investigation, they talk about “sheets  of data” — numbers mostly, without any visuals. 
3. Paragraph B. Remember that you can use any paragraph more than  once, as mentioned in the task. Last sentence, quoting Mr. Fricker. He  states the reason for narrowing the scope of their studies: they aim to  improve athletes’ performance above everything else. They aim to win. 
4. Paragraph F. Sentences two and three talk about coolant-lined  sportswear that proved to be extremely effective. This technology was  then borrowed by other competitors — reproduced by them, as the  task words it. 
5. Paragraph D. Sentences three, four and five examine a swimmer’s  performance in detail and discover the problematic points (obstacles)  that could be improved on. 
6. Paragraph A. Last but one sentence talks about financing, or funding,  of the program. 
7. Paragraph E. Starting with the second sentence the author points out  how goals are set in advance. Paragraph D is a wrong answer — even  though they analyse data there, it happens after the event. *** 
8. A. Paragraph C, the part below middle that talks about SWAN system.  Those cameras are currently used in Australian competitions, other  countries are not mentioned. 
9. B. Paragraph C, sentences six and seven talk about a 3D analysis  prototype. No word “sensor” is used, however it is implied that for such 
analysis you would need them. “When fully developed …” lets us know  that it will be used in the future, it is not finished right now. 10. A. Second part of paragraph D. They are talking about protein  traces in people’s saliva and mention that all of AIS athletes have since  then stayed healthy. AIS is an Australian company and therefore  according to the text used exclusively in Australia. 
11. C. Paragraph F, sentences four and five. Coolant-lined jackets are  now used by everyone and the same happened to altitude tents. *** 
12. (a) competition model. Paragraph E, second sentence. According  to the following sentences it help an athlete to reach their goals. 13. (by) 2 percent. Paragraph F, sentence three. Number 1996 is an  easy keyword to find, just like any other digit in the text. 

Section 2 

14. Paragraph F. Sentence number three suggest “transporting”  software by means of telephone line, effectively bringing the total costs  to zero. 
15. Paragraph E. Sentence four compares shipping costs from  abroad and producing similar goods within the country. 
16. Paragraph D. Sentence two clearly states relation between cost  of goods and transportation growing weaker. Most of the paragraph  emphasises the progress made in making the transportation more  affordable by implementing new materials into production of goods. 
17. Paragraph A. Sentences one and two give factual growth figures. *** 
18. True. Paragraph A, second sentence. It is stated there that the  trade is growing at a double rate of economy. 
19. False. Paragraph B, last sentence. The opposite is stated — cheap  labour means nothing without other factors such as appropriate  delivery time.
20. Not given. Even though Paragraph C tells us about steel and  meat imports, there is no direct comparison between countries. No  such information is present in the text. 
21. True. Paragraph two, sentence one and two. First sentence  mentions disproportion in trade between “close” and “far”  
neighbouring countries. It becomes more clear that most of the trading  is between neighbours after you read sentence two. Sentence two  implies that because of the size and weight of goods it is more  profitable to reduce shipping distance. 
22. Not given. Paragraph E talks about disk-drives manufacturing  that is mostly found in Asia. You are tempted to answer “False”, but this  answer is wrong. The question states “small computer components” in  general, not disk-drives. Therefore we should ask “not given”, as the  text has no information regarding computer components in general. *** 
23. Trade. As a general idea of the text, this fits the introductory  paragraph the best. 
24. Components. As mentioned in paragraph E — a disk-drive is a  common example of a computer component. 
25. Container ships. Paragraph G talks about sea transportation that  made shipments safe and cost-efficient. Even though there is no  mentioning of “container ships”, this is the right answer. 
26. Tariffs. This should not be confused with fares. Tariffs are custom  duties while fares are payments for shipping. Since government is  mentioned then it means that the word is tariffs — only government  can regulate them. 

Section 3 

27. I. The paragraph is about how seriously the locals have taken the  news. They are full of resolve to handle the situation themselves rather  than leaving it to be taken care of by “outside experts”. 
28. VI. The paragraph describes the features of territory inhabited by  the Inuit and the hardships they have to endure living there.
29. III. The paragraph focuses on difficulty in obtaining the essentials  that the nature can’t provide. Note that title VI doesn’t fit — even  though there is some description of stern conditions they live in, it is  not the main idea of the paragraph. 
30. VII. This paragraph names the many difficulties the indigenous  population have faced because of the changes in climate. Namely  hunting becoming less popular as a result of rising temperatures. 
31. IV. Sentences four to six of paragraph F talk about how the locals’  opinion gradually became more valued by the scientists. 32. II. In the last paragraph the author acknowledges that there are  “gaps” in our understanding of the Arctic. 
33. Farming. Paragraph C, third sentence states that “farming is out  of the question”. Means of supporting themselves is another way of  saying “to make one’s living”. 
34. Sea mammals. This and the next questions are answered in the  next, fourth sentence of paragraph C. 
35. Fish. See previous question. It is important to give answers in this  order — the order of the original text. 
36. Thule. Paragraph C, sentence number five. By “latter” the author  means “successful”. Spelled with capital T, will be counted as a mistake  otherwise. 
37. Islands. Paragraph D, second sentence. “Few” in the task  is synonymized as “a handful” in the text. Note that the answer has to  be in plural because of the adjective “few” before the gap. 
38. Nomadic. Paragraph D, sentence four. “Lifestyle” is a synonym of  “way”. 
39. Nature. Paragraph D, sentence four. “Depends” in the task is a  synonym for “rely” in the text. 
40. Imported. “Produce” here means food, or meat specifically if we  are talking about the text. “Imported meat” can be found in paragraph  D, sentence beginning with “It would cost …”.

Did you know this about IELTS?

Even in IELTS Reading and Listening, you have to write the first letter of an answer in capital if the answer is a proper noun.