Academic Ielts Reading Material

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Reading Passage 1

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

The risks agriculture faces in developing countries

Synthesis of an online debate


Two things distinguish food production from all other productive activities: first, every single person needs food each day and has a right to it; and second, it is hugely dependent on nature. These two unique aspects, one political, the other natural, make food production highly vulnerable and different from any other business. At the same time, cultural values are highly entrenched in food and agricultural systems worldwide.


Farmers everywhere face major risks; including extreme weather, long-term climate change, and price volatility in input and product markets. However, smallholder farmers in developing countries must in addition deal with adverse environments, both natural, in terms of soil quality, rainfall, etc. and human, in terms of infrastructure, financial systems, markets, knowledge and technology. Counter-intuitively, hunger is prevalent among many smallholder farmers in the developing world.


Participants in the online debate argued that our biggest challenge is to address the underlying causes of the agricultural system’s inability to ensure sufficient food for all, and they identified as drivers of this problem our dependency on fossil fuels and unsupportive government policies.


On the question of mitigating the risks farmers face, most essayists called for greater state intervention. In his essay, Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, argued that governments can significantly reduce risks for farmers by providing basic services like roads to get produce more efficiently to markets, or water and food storage facilities to reduce losses. Sophia Murphy, senior advisor to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, suggested that the procurement and holding of stocks by governments can also help mitigate wild swings in food prices by alleviating uncertainties about market supply.


Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, held up social safety nets and public welfare programmes in Ethiopia, Brazil and Mexico as valuable ways to address poverty among farming families and reduce their vulnerability to agriculture shocks.  However, some commentators responded that cash transfers to poor families do not necessarily translate into increased food security, as these programmes do not always strengthen food production or raise incomes.
Regarding state subsidies for agriculture, Rokeya Kabir, Executive Director of Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha, commented in her essay that these ‘have not compensated for the stranglehold exercised by private traders.

In fact, studies show that sixty percent of beneficiaries of subsidies are not poor, but rich landowners and non-farmer traders.


Nwanze, Murphy and Fan argued that private risk management tools, like private insurance, commodity futures markets, and rural finance can help small-scale producers mitigate risk and allow for investment in improvements.  Kabir warned that financial support schemes often encourage the adoption of high-input agricultural practices, which in the medium term may raise production costs beyond the value of their harvests.

Murphy noted that when futures markets become excessively financialised they can contribute to short-term price volatility, which increases farmers’ food insecurity. Many participants and commentators emphasised that greater transparency in markets is needed to mitigate the impact of volatility, and make evident whether adequate stocks and supplies are available. Others contended that agribusiness companies should be held responsible for paying for negative side effects.


Many essayists mentioned climate change and its consequences for small-scale agriculture. Fan explained that in addition to reducing crop yields, climate change increases the magnitude and the frequency of extreme weather events, which increase smallholder vulnerability. The growing unpredictability of weather patterns increases farmers’ difficulty in managing weather-related risks.

According to this author, one solution would be to develop crop varieties that are more resilient to new climate trends and extreme weather patterns. Accordingly, Pat Mooney, co-founder and executive director of the ETC Group, suggested that ‘if we are to survive climate change, we must adopt policies that let peasants diversify the plant and animal species and varieties/breeds that make up our menus.


Some participating authors and commentators argued in favour of community- based and autonomous risk management strategies through collective action groups, co-operatives or producers’ groups. Such groups enhance market opportunities for small-scale producers, reduce marketing costs and synchronise buying and selling with seasonal price conditions.

According to Murphy, ‘collective action offers an important way for farmers to strengthen their political and economic bargaining power, and to reduce their business risks. One commentator, Giel Ton, warned that collective action does not come as a free good. It takes time, effort and money to organise, build trust and to experiment. Others, like Marcel Vernooij and Marcel Beukeboom, suggested that in order to ‘apply what we already know’, all stakeholders, including business, government, scientists and civil society, must work together, starting at the beginning of the value chain.


Some participants explained that market price volatility is often worsened by the presence of intermediary purchasers who, taking advantage of farmers’ vulnerability, dictate prices. One commentator suggested farmers can gain greater control over prices and minimise price volatility by selling directly to consumers.

Similarly, Sonali Bisht, founder and advisor to the Institute of Himalayan Environmental Research and Education (INHERE), India, wrote that copipunity-supported agriculture, where consumers invest in local farmers by subscription and guarantee producers a fair price, is a risk-sharing model worth more attention. Direct food distribution systems not only encourage small-scale agriculture but also give consumers more control over the food they consume, she wrote.

Questions 1-3

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Reading Passage 1 has nine paragraphs, A-l.

Which paragraph contains the following information?

Write the correct letter, A-l, in boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.

1.  a reference to characteristics that only apply to food production.
2.  a reference to challenges faced only by farmers in certain parts of the world.
3.  a reference to difficulties in bringing about co-operation between farmers.

Questions 4-9

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Look at the following statements (Questions 4-9) and the list of people below.

Match each statement with the correct person, A-G.

Write the correct letter, A-G, in boxes 4-9 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

4. Financial assistance from the government does not always go to the farmers who most need it.
5. Farmers can benefit from collaborating as a group.
6. Financial assistance from the government can improve the standard of living of farmers.
7. Farmers may be helped if there is financial input by the same individuals who buy
8. Governments can help to reduce variation in pages.
9. Improvements to infrastructure can have a major impact on risk for farmers. from them.

List of People

A.  Kanayo F. Nwanze
B.  Sophia Murphy
C. Shenggen Fan
D.  Rokeya Kabir
E. Pat Mooney
F. Giel Ton
G. Sonali Bisht

Questions 10-11

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Choose TWO letters, A-E.

Write the correct letters in boxes 10-11 on your answer sheet.

Which TWO problems are mentioned which affect farmers with small farms in developing countries?

A. lack of demand for locally produced food
B. lack of irrigation programmes
C. being unable to get insurance
D. the effects of changing weather patterns
E. having to sell their goods to intermediary buyers

Questions 12-13

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Choose TWO letters, A-E.

Write the correct letters in boxes 12-13 on your answer sheet.

Which TWO actions are recommended for improving conditions for farmers?

A. reducing the size of food stocks.
B. attempting to ensure that prices rise at certain times of the year.
C. organising co-operation between a wide range of interested parties.
D. encouraging consumers to take a financial stake in farming.
E. making customers aware of the reasons for changing food prices.

Reading Passage 2

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14-26, which are based on Reading Passage 2 below.

The Lost City

An explorer’s encounter with the ruined city of Machu Picchu, the most famous icon of the Inca civilisation


When the US explorer and academic Hiram Bingham arrived in South America in 1911, he was ready for what was to be the greatest achievement of his life: the exploration of the remote hinterland to the west of Cusco, the old capital of the Inca empire in the Andes mountains of Peru. His goal was to locate the remains of a city called Vitcos, the last capital of the Inca civilisation.

Cusco lies on a high plateau at an elevation of more than 3,000 metres, and Bingham’s plan was to descend from this plateau along the valley of the Urubamba river, which takes a circuitous route down to the Amazon and passes through an area of dramatic canyons and mountain ranges.


When Bingham and his team set off down the Urubamba in late July, they had an advantage over travellers who had preceded them: a track had recently been blasted down the valley canyon to enable rubber to be brought up by mules from the jungle. Almost all previous travellers had left the river at Ollantaytambo and taken a high pass across the mountains to rejoin the river lower down, thereby cutting a substantial corner, but also therefore never passing through the area around Machu Picchu.


On 24 July they were a few days into their descent of the valley. The day began slowly, with Bingham trying to arrange sufficient mules for the next stage of the trek. His companions showed no interest in accompanying him up the nearby hill to see some ruins that a local farmer, Melchor Arteaga, had told them about the night before. The morning was dull and damp, and Bingham also seems to have been less than keen on the prospect of climbing the hill. In his book Lost City of the Incas, he relates that he made the ascent without having the least expectation that he would find anything at the top.


Bingham writes about the approach in vivid style in his book. First, as he climbs up the hill, he describes the ever-present possibility of deadly snakes, ‘capable of making considerable springs when in pursuit of their prey’; not that he sees any. Then there’s a sense of mounting discovery as he comes across great sweeps of terraces, then a mausoleum, followed by monumental staircases and, finally, the grand ceremonial buildings of Machu Picchu. ‘It seemed like an unbelievable dream the sight held me spellbound ’, he wrote.


We should remember, however, that Lost City of the Incas is a work of hindsight, not written until 1948, many years after his journey. His journal entries of the time reveal a much more gradual appreciation of his achievement. He spent the afternoon at the ruins noting down the dimensions of some of the buildings, then descended and rejoined his companions, to whom he seems to have said little about his discovery. At this stage, Bingham didn’t realise the extent or the importance of the site, nor did he realise what use he could make of the discovery.


However, soon after returning it occurred to him that he could make a name for himself from this discovery. When he came to write the National Geographic magazine article that broke the story to the world in April 1913, he knew he had to produce a big idea.

He wondered whether it could have been the birthplace of the very first Inca, Manco the Great, and whether it could also have been what chroniclers described as ‘the last city of the Incas’. This term refers to Vilcabamba the settlement where the Incas had fled from Spanish invaders in the 1530s. Bingham made desperate attempts to prove this belief for nearly 40 years. Sadly, his vision of the site as both the beginning and end of the Inca civilisation, while a magnificent one, is inaccurate. We now know, that Vilcabamba actually lies 65 kilometres away in the depths of the jungle.


One question that has perplexed visitors, historians and archaeologists alike ever since Bingham, is why the site seems to have been abandoned before the Spanish Conquest. There are no references to it by any of the Spanish chroniclers – and if they had known of its existence so close to Cusco they would certainly have come in search of gold.

An idea which has gained wide acceptance over the past few years is that Machu Picchu was a moya, a country estate built by an Inca emperor to escape the cold winters of Cusco, where the elite could enjoy monumental architecture and spectacular views. Furthermore, the particular architecture of Machu Picchu suggests that it was constructed at the time of the greatest of all the Incas, the emperor Pachacuti (1438-71). By custom, Pachacuti’s descendants built other similar estates for their own use, and so Machu Picchu would have been abandoned after his death, some 50 years before the Spanish Conquest.

Questions 14-20

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Reading Passage 2 has seven paragraphs, A-G.

Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number, i-viii, in boxes 14-20 on your answer sheet.

14.  Paragraph A
15.  Paragraph B
16.  Paragraph C
17.  Paragraph D
18.  Paragraph E
19.  Paragraph F
20.  Paragraph G

List of Headings

i.  Different accounts of the same journey
ii.  Bingham gains support
iii.  A common belief
iv.  The aim of the trip
v.  A dramatic description
vi.  A new route
vii.  Bingham publishes his theory
viii.  Bingham’s lack of enthusiasm

Questions 21-24

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 228?

In boxes 21-24 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

21. Bingham went to South America in search of an Inca city.
22. Bingham chose a particular route down the Urubamba valley because it was the most common route used by travellers.
23. Bingham understood the significance of Machu Picchu as soon as he saw it.
24. Bingham returned to Machu Picchu in order to find evidence to support his theory.

Questions 25-26

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Complete the sentences below.

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 25-26 on your answer sheet.

25. The track that took Bingham down the Urubamba valley had been created for the transportation of…………………

26. Bingham found out about the ruins of Machu Picchu from a ………………… in the Urubamba valley.

Reading Passage 3

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 27-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.

UK companies need more effective boards of directors


After a number of serious failures of governance (that is, how they are managed at the highest level), companies in Britain, as well as elsewhere, should consider radical changes to their directors’ roles. It is clear that the role of a board director today is not an easy one. Following the 2008 financial meltdown, which resulted in a deeper and more prolonged period of economic downturn than anyone expected, the search for explanations in the many post-mortems of the crisis has meant blame has been spread far and wide. Governments, regulators, central banks and auditors have all been in the frame. The role of bank directors and management and their widely publicised failures have been extensively picked over and examined in reports, inquiries and commentaries.


The knock-on t of this scrutiny has been to make the governance of companies in general an issue of intense public debate and has significantly increased the pressures on, and the responsibilities of, directors. At the simplest and most practical level, the time involved in fulfilling the demands of a board directorship has increased significantly, calling into question the effectiveness of the classic model of corporate governance by part-time, independent non-executive directors. Where once a board schedule may have consisted of between eight and ten meetings a year, in many companies the number of events requiring board input and decisions has dramatically risen. Furthermore, the amount of reading and preparation required for each meeting is increasing. Agendas can become overloaded and this can mean the time for constructive debate must necessarily be restricted in favour of getting through the business.


Often, board business is devolved to committees in order to cope with the workload, which may be more efficient but can mean that the board as a whole is less involved in fully addressing some of the most important issues. It is not uncommon for the audit committee meeting to last longer than the main board meeting itself. The process may take the place of discussion and be at the expense of real collaboration, so that boxes are ticked rather than issues tackled.


A radical solution, which may work for some very large companies whose businesses are extensive and complex, is the professional board, whose members would work up to three or four days a week, supported by their own dedicated staff and advisers. There are obvious risks to this and it would be important to establish clear guidelines for such a board to ensure that it did not step on the toes of management by becoming too engaged in the day-to-day running of the company. Problems of recruitment, remuneration and independence could also arise and this structure would not be appropriate for all companies. However, more professional and better-informed boards would have been particularly appropriate for banks where the executives had access to information that part-time non-executive directors lacked, leaving the latter unable to comprehend or anticipate the 2008 crash.


One of the main criticisms of boards and their directors is that they do not focus sufficiently on longer-term matters of strategy, sustainability and governance, but instead concentrate too much on short-term financial metrics. Regulatory requirements and the structure of the market encourage this behaviour. The tyranny of quarterly reporting can distort board decision-making, as directors have to ‘make the numbers’ every four months to meet the insatiable appetite of the market for more data.

This serves to encourage the trading methodology of a certain kind of investor who moves in and out of a stock without engaging in constructive dialogue with the company about strategy or performance, and is simply seeking a short¬ term financial gain. This effect has been made worse by the changing profile of investors due to the globalisation of capital and the increasing use of automated trading systems. Corporate culture adapts and management teams are largely incentivised to meet financial goals.


Compensation for chief executives has become a combat zone where pitched battles between investors, management and board members are fought, often behind closed doors but increasingly frequently in the full glare of press attention. Many would argue that this is in the interest of transparency and good governance as shareholders use their muscle in the area of pay to pressure boards to remove underperforming chief executives. Their powers to vote down executive remuneration policies increased when binding votes came into force. The chair of the remuneration committee can be an exposed and lonely role, as Alison Carnwath, chair of Barclays Bank’s remuneration committee, found when she had to resign, having been roundly criticised for trying to defend the enormous bonus to be paid to the chief executive; the irony being that she was widely understood to have spoken out against it in the privacy of the committee.


The financial crisis stimulated a debate about the role and purpose of the company and a heightened awareness of corporate ethics. Trust in the corporation has been eroded and academics such as Michael Sandel, in his thoughtful and bestselling book What Money Can’t Buy, are questioning the morality of capitalism and the market economy. Boards of companies in all sectors will need to widen their perspective to encompass these issues and this may involve a realignment of corporate goals. We live in challenging times.

Questions 27-33

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Reading Passage 3 has seven paragraphs, A-G.

Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number, i-viii, in boxes 27-33 on your answer sheet.

27  Paragraph A
28  Paragraph B
29  Paragraph C
30  Paragraph D
31  Paragraph E
32  Paragraph F
33  Paragraph G

List of Headings

i. Disputes over financial arrangements regarding senior managers
ii. The impact on companies of being subjected to close examination
iii. The possible need for fundamental change in every area of business
iv. Many external bodies being held responsible for problems
v. The falling number of board members with broad enough experience
vi. A risk that not all directors take part in solving major problems
vii. Boards not looking far enough ahead
viii. A proposal to change the way the board operates

Question 34-37

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3?
In boxes 34-37 on your answer sheet, write

YES    if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer
NO    if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

34. Close scrutiny of the behaviour of boards has increased since the economic downturn.
35. Banks have been mismanaged to a greater extent than other businesses.
36. Board meetings normally continue for as long as necessary to debate matters in full.
37. Using a committee structure would ensure that board members are fully informed about significant issues.

Questions 38-40

 IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 128 With Answers

Complete the sentences below.

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 38-40 on your answer sheet.

38.  Before 2008, non-executive directors were at a disadvantage because of their lack of ………………………….
39.  Boards tend to place too much emphasis on ………………………… considerations that are only of short-term relevance.
40.  On certain matters, such as pay, the board may have to accept the views of …………………………

Answer Key
Academic Reading Test 127

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