Top Tips for IELTS

Multiple choice reading practice

Try this IELTS multiple choice reading practice. It is a long text and you will need plenty of time to complete it – it may take up to 10 minutes – that isn’t bad if you are still training.

Don’t do it online!

This is a long text. You can print it off by using the print button at the bottom of the page. That way you can get real practice underling and ringing words!

Some tips on dealing with IELTS multiple choice reading questions

tip 1 – decide which paragraph you find the answer in – find words in the text that relate to the question – this will require skimming and scanning

tip 2 – remember that the questions will follow the order of the text – i.e. question 2 will be between questions 1 and 3

tip 3  – read the question closely

tip 4 – look for something specific in the text that matches the whole question

tip 5- beware of simply matching words -you will probably need to look for synonyms

tip 6 – concentrate on the stem of the question – remember that 3 of the options are wrong and may confuse you

You will find more detailed advice in my tutorial on IELTS multiple choice reading questions.

Questions

Concrete in the Ancient World

Nowadays the world’s most commonly used building material is concrete but that has not always been the case. The traditional view is that it was the Romans who pioneered its use in construction. Recent studies raise the possibility though that this can be traced back to the Pharaohs of Egypt, who may have employed concrete in the construction of the Great Pyramids a good two millennia earlier than previously thought and it remains a possibility that the invention of concrete may have acted as a catalyst for the construction of the Great Pyramids. This theory has attracted the attention of academics around the world and is now being tested by Linn Hobbs, professor of material sciences at MIT. Hobbs is examining claims that the Egyptians relied as much on intelligence as brute force in their monumental building programme a. It is not of course being suggested that the Great Pyramids were built of concrete in their entirety. It is generally accepted that a mixture of limestone blocks, granite and special white limestone casing stones were used. Rather the theory goes that the blocks at the top of the pyramids were made in situ. A liquid mixture of crushed limestone and other chemicals were poured into vats or moulds and this subsequently set hard into concrete. It is this process that Hobbs is trying to replicate with his research students in the US, albeit on a much smaller scale. It does seem a likely hypothesis, as we do know that Egyptians did work with a very similar mixture of crushed limestone, mineral additives and water to glaze some of their monumental statues. It does also seem to provide an answer to an engineering challenge that has long puzzled engineers. How did they get vast limestone blocks to the top of what was then the tallest structure in the world?

All this is challenged by the archaeological community, where the mainstream view is that the Pyramids were indeed built in much the same sort of way as the great historical epics from Hollywood would have us believe, with the limestone blocks being dragged on sleds from local quarries and the granite being transported 500 miles down the Nile from far away Aswan. These blocks would then be heaved up ramps made of rubble to the top of the pyramid and carefully manoeuvred into place. A major difficulty with this theory is that there is no archaeological evidence for it and, given the thousands of tonnes of earth involved, it does seem almost unbelievable that there is nothing left to show for these mighty ramps. Equally, the Egyptologist Kathryn Bard says there is just as little evidence that the ancient Egyptians did use concrete and she believes that any concrete that has been found in tests on the Pyramids can be explained by modern repair work over the centuries.
There is far less controversy about the Romans use of concrete. As in other fields, they borrowed something the an earlier civilsation had discovered and found a practical use for it. Indeed the building programmes, which were such a feature of their empire and enabled it to endure for so long, were made possible by the widespread use of concrete. In particular it helped in the construction of that most Roman phenomenon – the aqueduct. Early aqueduct systems that were made solely of stone were limited in size and frequently collapsed but with concrete added the aqueduct systems grew ever more ambitious in scope This in turn improved the network of aqueducts that carried water into cities and was one factor that helped lead to far better sanitation and, ultimately, prosperity and a better style of living. In this sense, concrete was a truly revolutionary material and it is no accident that when we refer to the Roman Architectural Revolution, we think almost immediately of structures that used concrete. Those two symbols of Rome, the Panthoen and the Colloseum, may largely be built of stone but it was concrete that made their construction possible in the first place.

Concrete did not of course displace stone as the major building material, rather the two materials were used in conjunction with one another. Just as in the modern age concrete has been used with glass in skyscrapers the world over. This concrete/stone combination allowed the construction of different forms of structures such as arches and domes that were not rectangular or square. The great example here is the Pantheon in Rome that was built in the first century AD. Its rounded dome made out of concrete contrasts with the sharp angles found on temples from earlier civilisations, such as the Parthenon in Athens where stone was used alone. In these ancient monuments from the classical era we can see that concrete has proved more durable than stone. Magnificently, the Pantheon still stands today in much the same form as the Romans would have seen it; while when we look at the ruins of the Parthenon, we can only imagine what the complete structure would have looked like.
Roman concrete was revolutionary in more ways than one. In order they would add horse hair to prevent their concrete from cracking, volcanic ash to allow it to set under water and blood to make it more resistant to frost. These additives may sound primitive, but in many respects the Romans were well ahead of their times when we consider the modern practice of using similarly environmentally friendly additives such as fly ash. The secret of concrete was then seemingly lost for around thirteen centuries until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. There is some evidence to suggest that concrete was used in building projects in Finland during the 17th century, but it is generally John Smeaton who is credited with the re-invention of concrete in the mid 18th century. The real breakthrough came a hundred years later with the advent of Portland cement. Previously lime had been used to harden concrete but Portland cement was both stronger and hardened more quickly. These properties and the fact that it was so easily manufactured led to its almost universal use in modern day concrete and there are few buildings nowadays that do not have at least some concrete in them.

 

The answers explained

See why the answers are right

1. C

Paragraph 1: “who may have employed concrete in the construction of the Great Pyramids a good two millennia earlier than previously thought and it remains a possibility that the invention of concrete may have acted as a catalyst for the construction of the Great Pyramids. This theory has attracted the attention of academics around the world and is now being tested by Linn Hobbs, professor of material sciences at MIT.”

You should see the name Linn Hobbs and know the answer is somewhere near here.

“Whether the invention of concrete led to the building of the Pyramids” matches “acted a s catalyst for the construction of the Pyramids”. Note how “construction” is a synonym for “construction” and “acted as a catalyst” is for “led to”

2. A

Paragraph 2 ” A major difficulty with this theory is that there is no archaeological evidence for it and, given the thousands of tonnes of earth involved, it does seem almost unbelievable that there is nothing left to show for these mighty ramps.”

You should see ramps and theory tells us that this is the correct passage. “A major difficulty” and “almost unbelievable” gives us the writer’s opinion.

3. D

Paragraph 3 “This in turn improved the network of aqueducts that carried water into cities and was one factor that helped lead to far better sanitation and, ultimately, prosperity and a better style of living.”

You should see that “better style of living” matches “quality of life” and “helped lead to” matches “was partially responsible”

4. C

paragraph 4

“This concrete/stone combination allowed the construction of different forms of structures such as arches and domes that were not rectangular or square. The great example here is the Pantheon in Rome that was built in the first century AD.”and “such as the Parthenon in Athens where stone was used alone.”

You should see the words Pantheon and Parthenon tell us this is the right passage. On wis made out of concrete and stone and the other from stone only.

Where next?

More reading practice More reading advice

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply