Top Tips for IELTS

IELTS Reading – Matching Information – chili con carne

This lesson gives you advice on how to approach matching information tasks in IELTS reading. This is one of the harder question types and you need different skills to do it well. It is similar to a matching headings task, but perhaps slightly tougher. To do it well, it really helps to skim, so I give you a practice exercise on that. You will also find a practice exercise based on a long form text – the same length as a full IELTS reading.

The task

Normally you are given a list of ideas and a text with paragraphs labelled A-H and the idea is that you need to find which paragraph the information comes in.

The problems and the skills

One problem is that this task normally asks you to read and understand the whole text. This means that it makes sense to skim (read quickly for meaning) the whole text first. If you do that, you can make an intelligent guess about which paragraph might have the right information. It is just quicker that way. If you don’t, you can spend a long time looking an finding nothing.

The other problem is that the information you are looking for in the text may use slightly different words. This means that you should be looking for meanings not words. The question may have the word “dish”, but the word int he text may be “meal”. Be very, very careful of only looking for “key words”.

A skimming exercise

This is the skill that often gets forgotten. The idea is that if you read the text quickly, you will know where to begin looking for the correct information. Skimming does takes time though and so you want to make sure that you skim intelligently. One way to do this is to understand how the text is organised

Your task

Read the text below in 2 minutes. Focus on the main ideas only – don’t worry too much about detail.

How is it organised?

See my answer

You might want to test yourself first with the full text.

See my notes

The text is organised according to time. It tells the story of chile con carne. If you find a question that relates to something in the past, then it is more likely to be in an early paragraph.

Another thing you may want to consider is to make very brief notes. You can just underline words of course but if you write something, you are more likely to remember it. If you don’t make notes, you may just waste your time. These are mine

A – intro

B – first users

C – chile queens 1880

D – hygiene 1930s

E – second world war -spread of chile

F – ingredients

G – the beans

H – modern – food industry


The practice

The passage has 8 paragraphs labelled A-H . Which paragraph contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-H against questions ______

NB You many use any letter more than once

  1.  modern technology affected the variety of chili con carne sold
  2. a misunderstanding about the necessary ingredients
  3. not all versions of chili con carne contain meat
  4. chili was sold alongside fast food
  5. the initial ingredients of chili con carne were dictated by circumstance

A One of the staples of world cuisine is chili con carne, it is one of the most iconic of dishes. Not only does it frequently appear cooking competitions the world over, it has even been designated as the official dish of the American state of Texas. If we go back a century or so though, chili con carne was the most humble of dishes eaten almost exclusively by poor immigrant Mexican communities in the south of Texas. How has that happened? How has a stew of beef, chile peppers and tomatoes risen so far? Well, “chili” has quite a story to tell.

BIt is said that frontiersmen were the pioneers. There were but limited ingredients available on the trail and cooking facilities were likewise restricted and the backwoodsmen needed some food that they could easily boil over a campfire. Their solution was to pound together what ingredients that came to hand and these were  dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers and salt. What they created was in a sense one of the first forms of convenience food, as they carried “bricks” of this chili around with them to be re-heated wherever they made camp.

C That much is uncertain and may be a matter of legend alone, what is much more certain is the next stage in its evolution: the age of chili queen. By the 1880s, chili con carne had become well-established in and around San Antonio, one of the most populous and hispanic cities of Texas. At this time, a common sight on the streets of San Antonio were brightly dressed Mexican women accosting passer-bys with their chili con carne. A whole street culture was born, combining not just the rich aromatic smell of the chili itself, but also the sound of musicians serenading the customers who were drawn to stalls where the food was cooked over charcoal fires.

D The age of the chili queen lasted for almost half a century and was in large measure responsible for the popularisation of chili con carne. The phenomenon which started in San Antonio slowly spread throughout Texas as travellers returned to the native cities having acquired a taste for the dish. 1937, however, brought a temporary halt to street vendors selling chili. The problem was one of hygiene as the standards of the stalls where the dish was sold did not meet the new health regulations of the city and so the chili queens disappeared from the streets. Despite a brief reprieve in 1939, it was not until the 1970s that the queens were seen again as part of a revival of lost street culture.

E Outside of San Antonio, chili con carne was mostly sold in chili parlours, which were normally family-run institutions set up by emigre Texans. Typically, each parlour had its own specific recipe for chili con carne and would claim that its variation on the ingredients was the original and most authentic. In an effort to diversify, these restaurants also began to sell a bewildering array different chili dishes, often taking standard fast food fare such as a cheeseburger and adding chili as a relish. By the time of the Second World War, it is safe to say that there was barely a city in the United States that did not have its own chili joint. And by 1945, American GIs on military service abroad had exported chili con carne the world over.

F As chili con carne spread first though the United States and then the world, so did it begin to change. Indeed, it is now hard to tell just what authentic chili con carne is so many different versions of it are there. Famously, President Johnson, a Texan, decreed that any chili con carne served him should not contain beef suet on the orders of his personal physician. The recipe he favoured featured onions and tomatoes as well as venison and, thanks to his fame, that became a popular variation for a while. Rather more curiously for a dish that means in a literal translation chili with meat, meat is not a compulsory ingredient. There are also several versions of vegetarian chili con carne that are called variously chili sin carne, chili sans carne and chili non carne and usually feature tofu or some other meat substitute alongside vegetables such a squash, mushrooms or beets.

G But what of the chili itself? A popular misconception is that the heat comes from the chili bean and that this bean is an essential ingredient. It is true that many early recipes and most modern recipes do include small red beans – the so-called “chili beans”. But both historically and currently, black-eyed peas, kidney beans and navy beans are all also frequently used and it is likely that the use of beans in chili con carne is simply down to the widespread use of beans in Tex-Mex cuisine. There is in fact no one species of “chili bean” and the beans typically used have no particular flavour: the heat of the dish comes from the sauce in which the beans are served and how hot that sauce is simply depends on the type of chile pepper used.

H Needless to say, as the food industry became increasingly commercial during the latter part of the twentieth century, so did chili con carne become part of the instant food industry. This too had an effect on traditional recipes. Before the days when refrigerators were widely available, the ingredients were pressed into a brick not dissimilar to the recipe of the early pioneer days. Then with the advent of refrigeration and the popularity of canned food, more and more versions became available, some with tomatoes, some without, some with chili beans, some without. The modern supermarket aisle is packed with different brands, all ostensibly offering the same product until one reads the packaging to discover that this type is microwave friendly and that type should be left overnight to mature.

Chili con carne

Congratulations - you have completed Chili con carne. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Shaded items are complete.

more reading practice

How to like it, share it and save it




Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there


Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email

7 Responses to IELTS Reading – Matching Information – chili con carne

  1. sara March 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm #


    first of all I like to thank you for the great efforts to improve the english level of people on the world.You asked as above to read the text in tow minutes;who can i do this? even by scaning reading i feel it is impossible to do this.So if you have any advise to till me about in reading fast that will be very wellcom.

    • Dominic Cole March 27, 2013 at 7:02 am #

      Not easy. It does take practice. i do have some lessons on this. I shall go back and review them to see if there is anything I can add to the site. I would just say this for now. The academic reading paper is strange because it doesn’t have any short questions – all the texts are long. If you are in the 5.5-6.0 range, the texts are probably much longer and more difficult than any other texts you have done so far. At this level, it is very difficult to skim a text well.

      To give you some help: one simple idea is that you don’t need to read every sentence. Focus on the first sentence in each para – they normally give you the main idea and when you are skimming that is all you are looking for.

      • zeinabb March 21, 2014 at 2:17 am #

        Thank you so much for this website.

  2. sara March 27, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    I think that your advice will work i will follow it thank you very much.

  3. amelyia May 22, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you for the greaaaaatt web. Helpful very very much..

  4. ashat June 3, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    hello, our lovely Teacher!! thank you for ALL!!
    and I have noticed, that there is probably a spelling mistake in the sentence “NB You many use any letter more than once” instead of MAny there should be MAy..

  5. sanni June 21, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    My scores aren’t showing…1,2,3,4,5 -h,g,f,e,b dis are my answer.please
    check them if they are correct.I arranged them respectively.Thanks

Leave a Reply