IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14 which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.



‘When I was in school in the I 970s,’ says Tammy Chou, ‘my end-of-term report included Handwriting as a subject alongside Mathematics and Physical Education, yet, by the time my brother started, a decade later, it had been subsumed into English. I learnt two scripts: printing and cursive, *while Chris can only print.’

The 2013 Common Core, a curriculum used throughout most of the US, requires the tuition of legible writing (generally printing) only in the first two years of school; thereafter, teaching keyboard skills is a priority.


‘I work in recruitment,’ continues Chou. ‘Sure, these days, applicants submit a digital CV and cover letter, but there’s still information interviewees need to fill out by hand, and I still judge them by the neatness of their writing when they do so. Plus there’s nothing more disheartening than receiving a birthday greeting or a condolence card with a scrawled message.’


Psychologists and neuroscientists may concur with Chou for different reasons. They believe children learn to read faster when they start to write by hand, and they generate new ideas and retain information better. Karin James conducted an experiment at Indiana University in the US in which children who had not learnt to read were shown a letter on a card and asked to reproduce it by tracing, by drawing it on another piece of paper, or by typing it on a keyboard. Then, their brains were scanned while viewing the original image again. Children who had produced the freehand letter showed increased neural activity in the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus, and the posterior parietal cortex – areas activated when adults read or write, whereas all other children displayed significantly weaker activation of the same areas.

James speculates that in handwriting, there is variation in the production of any letter, so the brain has to learn each personal font – each variant of ‘F’, for example, that is still ‘F’. Recognition of variation may establish the eventual representation more permanently than recognising a uniform letter printed by computer.

Victoria Berninger at the University of Washington studied children in the first two grades of school to demonstrate that printing, cursive, and keyboarding are associated with separate brain patterns. Furthermore, children who wrote by hand did so much faster than the typists, who had not been taught to touch type. Not only did the typists produce fewer words but also the quality of their ideas was consistently lower. Scans from the older children’s brains exhibited enhanced neural activity when their handwriting was neater than average, and, importantly, the parts of their brains activated are those crucial to working memory.

Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer have shown in laboratories and live classrooms that tertiary students learn better when they take notes by hand rather than inputting via keyboard. As a result, some institutions ban laptops and tablets in lectures and prohibit smartphone photography of lecture notes. Mueller and Oppenheimer also believe handwriting aids contemplation as well as memory storage.


Some learners of English whose native script is not the Roman alphabet have difficulty in forming several English letters: the lower case ‘b’ and ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘q’, ‘n’ and ‘u’, ‘m’ and ‘w’ may be confused. This condition affects a tiny minority of first-language learners and sufferers of brain damage. Called dysgraphia, it appears less frequently when writers use cursive instead of printing, which is why cursive has been posited as a cure for dyslexia.


Berninger is of the opinion that cursive, endangered in American schools, promotes self-control, which printing may not, and which typing – especially with the ‘delete’ function – unequivocally does not. In a world saturated with texting, where many have observed that people are losing the ability to filter their thoughts, a little more restraint would be a good thing.

A rare-book and manuscript librarian, Valerie Hotchkiss, worries about the cost to our heritage as knowledge of cursive fades. Her library contains archives from the literary giants Mark Twain, Marcel Proust, HG Wells, and others. If the young generation does not lea cursive, its ability to decipher older documents may be compromised, and culture lost.


Paul Bloom, from Yale University, is less convinced about the long-term benefits of handwriting. In the 1950s – indeed in Tammy Chou’s idyllic 1970s – when children spent hours practising their copperplate, what were they doing with it? Mainly copying mindlessly. For Bloom, education, in the complex digital age, has moved on.

* A style of writing in which letters are joined, and the pen is lifted off the paper at the end of a word.

Questions 1-5

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Passage 1 on the following page has six sections: A-F.

Choose the correct heading for sections B-F from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number, i-ix, in boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings

i           Handwriting and a more active brain

ii          The disgrace of dysgraphia

iii         A school subject

iv         Handwriting has had its day

v          Handwriting raises academic performance

vi         Handwriting reduces typing ability

vii        The medium is the message?

viii       Cursive may treat a reading disorder

ix         The social and cultural advantages of handwriting

Example          Answer
Section A         iii

1   Section B

2   Section C

3   Section D

4   Section E

5   Section F

Questions 6-9

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Look at the following statements and list of people below.

Match each statement with the correct person: A, B, C, or D.

Write the correct letter A, B, C, or D, in boxes 6-9 on your answer sheet.

6   According to him/ her/ them, education is now very sophisticated, so handwriting is unimportant.

7   He/ She/ They found children who wrote by hand generated more ideas.

8   Universities have stopped students using electronic devices in class due to his/ her/ their research.

9   He/ She/ They may assess character by handwriting.

List of people

A   Tammy Chou

B   Victoria Berninger

C   Paul Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer

D   Paul Bloom

Questions 10-14

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

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

Write the correct letter, A-H, in boxes 10-14 on your answer sheet.

A   correlation     B   dispute               C   essentially              D   evidence

E   inevitable       F   proponents         G   psychologists         H   teachers

The value of handwriting

Educators in the US have decided that handwriting is no longer worth much curriculum time. Printing, not cursive, is usually taught. Some 10……………….. and neuroscientists 11……………….. this decision as there seems to be a(n) 12……………….. between early reading and handwriting. Children with the best handwriting produce the most neural activity and the most interesting schoolwork. 13……………….. of cursive consider it more useful than printing. However, not all academics believe in the necessity of handwriting. In the digital world, perhaps keyboarding is 14…………………


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 15-27 which are based on Reading Passage 2 below. 

Word lists


As any language learner knows, the acquisition of vocabulary is of critical importance. Grammar is useful, yet communication occurs without it. Consider the utterance: ‘Me station.’ Certainly, ‘I’d like to go to the station’ is preferable, but a taxi driver will probably head to the right place with ‘Me station.’ If the passenger uses the word ‘airport’ instead of ‘station’, however, the journey may wel1 be fraught. Similarly, ‘What time train Glasgow?’ signals to a station clerk that a timetable is needed even though ‘What time does the train go to Glasgow?’ is correct. In both of these requests, nouns – ‘station’, ‘time’, ‘train’, and ‘Glasgow’ – carry most of the meaning; and, generally speaking, foreign-language learners, like infants in their mother tongue, acquire nouns first. Verbs also contain unequivocal meaning; for instance, ‘go’ indicates departure, not the arrival. Furthermore, ‘Go’ is a common word, appearing in both requests above, while ‘the’ and ‘to’ are the other frequent items. Thus, for a language learner, there may be two necessities: to acquire both useful and frequent words, including some that function grammatically. It is a daunting fact that English contains around half a million words, of which a graduate knows 25,000. So how does a language learner decide which ones to learn?


The General Service List (GSL), devised by the American, Michael West, in 1953, was one renowned lexical aid. Consisting of 2,000 headwords, each representing a word family, GSL words were listed alphabetically, with definitions and example sentences, while a number alongside each word showed its number of occurrences per five million words, and a percentage beside each meaning indicated how often that meaning occurred. For 50 years, particularly in the US, the GSL wielded great influence: graded readers and other materials for primary schools were written with reference to it, and American teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) relying heavily upon it.


Understandably, West’s 1953 GSL has been updated several times because, firstly, his list contained archaisms such as ‘shilling’, while lacking words that existed in 1953 but which were popularized later, like ‘drug’, ‘OK’, ‘television’, and ‘victim’. Naturally, his list did not contain neologisms such as ’email’. However, around 80% of West’s original inclusions were still considered valid, according to researchers Billuroğlu and Neufeld (2005). Secondly, what constituted a headword and a word family in the West’s GSL was not entirely logical, and rules for this were formulated by Bauer and Nation (1995). Thirdly, technological advance has meant that billions of words can now be analysed by computer for frequency, context, and regional variation. West’s frequency data was based on a 2.5-million-word corpus drawn from research by Thorndike and Lorge (1944), and some of it was unreliable. A 2013 incarnation of the GSL, called the New General Service List (NGSL), used a 273-million-word subsection of the Cambridge English Corpus (CEC), and research indicates this list provides a higher degree of coverage than West’s.


A partner to the NGSL is the 2013 New Academic Word List (NAL) with 2,818 headwords – a modification of Averill Coxhead’s 2000 AWL. The NAWL excludes NGSL words, focusing on academic language, but, nevertheless, items in it are generally serviceable – they are merely not used often enough to appear in the NGSL. An indication of the difference between the two lists can be seen in just four words: the NGSL begins with ‘a’ and ends with ‘zonings’, whereas ‘abdominal’ and ‘yeasts’ open and close the NAWL.


Over time, linguistics and EF have become more dependent upon computerized statistical analysis, and large bodies of words have been collected to aid academics, teachers, and learners. One such body, known by the Latin word for body, ‘corpus’, is the CEC, created at Cambridge University in the UK. This well-known collection has two billion words of written and spoken, formal and informal, British, American, and other Englishes. Continually updated, its sources are very wide indeed – far wider than West’s. Although the CEC is one of many English-language corpora, it is not the largest, but it was the one used by the creators of the NGSL and the NAWL.


Still, a learner cannot easily access corpora, and even though the NGSL and NAL are free online, a learner may not know how best to use them. Linguists have demonstrated that words should be learnt in a context (not singly, not alphabetically); that items in the same lexical set should be learnt together; that it takes at least six different sightings or hearings to lea one item; that written language differs significantly from spoken; and, that concrete language is easier to acquire than abstract. Admittedly, a list of a few thousand words is not so hard to learn, but language learning is not only about frequency and utility, but also about passion and poetry. Who cares if a word you like isn’t in the top 5,000? If you like it or the way it sounds, you’re likely to lea it. And, if you use it correctly, at least your IELTS examiner will be impressed.

Questions 15-19

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Passage 2 has six paragraphs: A-F.

Choose the correct heading for paragraphs B-F from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number, i-ix, in boxes 15-19 on your answer sheet.

List of Headings

i           English vocabulary is hard to lea

ii          Comparison of the NGSL and the NAWL

iii         Description of the GSL

iv         Utility and frequency should guide the choice of new lexis

v          Reservations about lists and corpora

vi         Learning the NAWL raises an IELTS candidate’s score

vii        Reasons for overhauling the GSL

viii       Benefits of the NAWL

ix         Advent of corpora

Example                      Answer
Paragraph A                iv

15   Paragraph B

16   Paragraph C

17   Paragraph D

18   Paragraph E

19   Paragraph F

Questions 20-24

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Look at the following statements and the list of people on the following page.

Match each statement with the correct person or people: A-E.

Write the correct letter, A-E, in boxes 20-24 on your answer sheet.

20   He / She / They created the GSL.

21   He / She / They created the AWL.

22   He / She / They standardised headwords and word families.

23   He/ She/ They reviewed the GSL for content validity.

24   His/ Her/ Their early research was narrow.

List of people

A     West

B     Billuroğlu and Neufeld

C     Bauer and Nation

D     Thorndike and Lorge

E     Coxhead

Questions 25-27

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Answer the questions below.

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

Write your answers in boxes 25-27 on your answer sheet.

25   How many words are there in the complete Cambridge English Corpus?

26   At least how many times must a learner see or hear a new word before it can be learnt?

27   According to the writer, what else must there be a sense of for a person to learn a new word?


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 28-40 which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.


Almost all cultures raise monuments to their own achievements or beliefs, and preserve artefacts and built environments from the past.

There has been considerable interest in saving cultural sites valuable to all humanity since the 1950s. In particular, an international campaign to relocate pharaonic treasures from an area in Egypt where the Aswan Dam would be built was highly successful, with more than half the project costs bore by 50 different countries. Later, similar projects were undertaken to save the ruins of Mohenjoh-daro in Pakistan and the Borobodur Temple complex in Indonesia.

The idea of listing world heritage sites (WHS) that are cultural or natural was proposed jointly by an American politician, Joseph Fisher, and a director of an environmental agency, Russell Train, at a White House conference in 1965. These men suggested a programme of cataloguing, naming, and conserving outstanding sites, under what became the World Heritage Convention, adopted by UNESCO* on November 1972, and effective from December 1975. Today, 191 states and territories have ratified the convention, making it one of the most inclusive international agreements of all time. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of representatives from 21 UNESCO member states and international experts, administers the programme, albeit with a limited budget and few real powers, unlike other international bodies, like the World Trade Organisation or the UN Security Council.

In 2014, there were 1,007 WHS around the world: 779 of them, cultural; 197 naturals; and, 31 mixed properties. Italy, China, and Spain are the top three countries by the number of sites, followed by Germany, Mexico, and India.

Legally, each site is part of the territory of the state in which it is located and maintained by that entity, but as UNESCO hopes sites will be preserved in countries both rich and poor, it provides some financial assistance through the World Heritage Fund. Theoretically, WHS is protected by the Geneva Convention, which prohibits acts of hostility towards historic monuments, works of art, or places of worship.

Certainly, WHS have encouraged appreciation and tolerance globally, as well as proving a boon for local identity and the tourist industry. Moreover, the diversity of plant and animal life has generally been maintained, and degradations associated with mining and logging minimised.

Despite good intentions, significant threats to WHS exist, especially in the form of conflict. The Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is one example, where militias kill white rhinoceros, selling their horns to purchase weapons; and, in 2014, Palmyra – a Roman site in northern Syria – was badly damaged by a road built through it, as well as by shelling and looting. In fact, theft is a common problem at WHS in under-resourced areas, while pollution, nearby construction, or natural disasters present further dangers.

But most destructive of all is mass tourism. The huge ancient city of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, now has over one million visitors a year, and the nearby town of Siem Reap – a village 20 years ago – now boasts an international airport and 300 hotels. Machu Picchu in Peru has been inundated by tourists to the point where it may now be endangered. Commerce has altered some sites irrevocably. Walkers along the Great Wall near Beijing are hassled by vendors flogging every kind of item, many unrelated to the wall itself, and extensive renovation has given the ancient wonder a Disneyland feel.

In order for a place to be listed as a WHS, it must undergo a rigorous application process. Firstly, a state takes an inventory of its significant sites, which is called a Tentative List, from which sites are put into a Nomination File. Two independent international bodies, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, and the World Conservation Union evaluate the Nomination File and make recommendations to the World Heritage Committee. Meeting once a year, this committee determines which sites should be added to the World Heritage List by deciding that a site meets at least one criterion out of ten, of which six are cultural, and four are natural.

In 2003, a second convention, effective from 2008, was added to the first. The Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage has so far been ratified by 139 states – a notable exception being the US. Aiming to protect traditions rather than places, 267 elements have already been enshrined, including Cambodia’s Royal Ballet; the French gastronomic meal; and, watertight-bulkhead technology of Chinese junks.

The World Heritage Committee hopes that the states that agree to list such elements will also promote and support them, although, once again, commercialisation is problematic. For instance, after the French gastronomic meal was listed in 2010, numerous French celebrity chef used the designation in advertising, and UNESCO debated delisting the element. The US has chosen not to sign the second convention due to implications to intellectual property rights. As things stand, with the first treaty, the US has far fewer nominated sites than its neighbour Mexico, partly because some Mexican sites are entire towns or city centres, and the US has no desire for its urban planning to be restricted by world-heritage status. St Petersburg, in Russia, which has its entire historic centre as a WHS, introduced strict planning regulations to maintain its elegant 18th-century appearance, only to discover thousands of minor infringements by owners preferring to do what they pleased with their properties. With intangible elements, changes over time, due to modernisation or globalization, may be greater than those threatening buildings. Opponents of the second convention believe traditions should not be frozen in time, and are equally unconcerned if traditions dwindle or die.

Although the 1972 World Heritage Convention lacks teeth, and many of its sites are suffering, and although the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage has proven less popular, it would seem that the overall performance of these two instruments has been very good.

*The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, based in Paris, France.

Questions 28-31

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Look at the following statements and the list of countries below.

Match each statement with the correct country, A-F, below.

Write the correct letter, A-F, in boxes 28-31 on your answer sheet.

28   It has the most world heritage sites.

29   Mass tourism has seriously threatened one of its sites.

30   Two men from here put forward the idea of a convention.

31   There was international support for a project here prior to the convention.

List of countries

A     Pakistan

B     the US

C     Italy

D     China

E     Peru

F     France

Questions 32-35

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Complete the flowchart below.

Choose ONE WORD OR A NUMBER from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 32-35 on your answer sheet.


Inventor – A state or territory takes an inventory of its important sites, called a 32………………..List.

Nomination File – Sites from the list above are included in a Nomination File, which is assessed by two independent international 33…………………..

External File Evaluation – To be listed as a WHS, a site must meet at least 34…………………..out of ten criteria. Most of these are 35…………………., but there are ‘some natural and mixed ones too.

Questions 36-40

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 172 with Answers

Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A-G, below.

Write the correct letter A-G, in boxes 36-40 on your answer sheet.

36   The Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage is designed to

37   The World Heritage Committee worries about

38   The US refused to sign the 2003 convention due to concerns about

39   Russian property owners have been annoyed by what they see as

40   Critics of the 2003 convention are not disturbed by

A     changes to or disappearance of traditions.

B     price rises due to world-heritage listing.

C     over-regulation connected to the world-heritage listing.

D     protect traditions.

E     protect built environments.

F     intellectual property rights.

G     the commercial exploitation of listed traditions.

Answer Key
Academic Reading Practice Test 171