IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Reading Passage 1

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

With rapid urbanisation, more people now live in cities than in the countryside, and this number is set to rise. For all the benefits cities bestow, they are expensive places. In some years, Tokyo records the highest cost of living; in others, Moscow. In 2014, for expatriates, Luanda, the capital of Angola, received the dubious accolade; and, for Angolans themselves, it had also suddenly become pricey with real estate going through the roof, so to speak, and food being prohibitive – even locally sourced mangoes were $5 a kilo.

What can urbanites do to reduce the financial burden of paying for food? Diet? Grow their own? Beg for subsidies? Some economists have proposed that they buy contracts giving rights to a food stream in perpetuity, for example, a kilogram of beef would be delivered weekly from the date the contract started until the end of the owner’s life. In essence, this is what house purchase is – indefinite security of a single commodity. As is the case with buying a house, a loan from a financial institution might be necessary for the beef contract, even if it were merely for Australian blade steak and not Japanese Wagu. The contract could also be sold at the current market price if its owner moved out of delivery range or renounced beef.

In order to maintain or increase the value of their investment, it is likely some owners would support national and international policies to limit food production – a sound idea in a world where 40% of food goes to waste.

But let’s imagine, in this system, a consumer purchased a 25-year contract for beef, which, over time, doubled in value. Naturally, at sale, the owner would make a tidy profit. Conversely, if mad cow disease erupted, and no one dared eat beef, then the vendor would suffer. If the owner had bought ten beef contracts, he or she might even go bankrupt in this scenario.

Let’s also imagine that people bought contracts on items they had no intention of consuming: that the health-conscious purchased, yet eschewed, saturated-fat meat; that shrewd amoral vegetarians speculated in beef, as they already buy share portfolios in which multinational agri-business is represented, or they deposit money into banks that do just that on their behalf.

It is quite plausible that this speculative behaviour could lead to the overheating of the food-stream market. The state may intervene, attempting to cool things down, or it may tolerate such activity. Indeed, a government that proposed a capital gains tax or high death duties on food-stream contracts might be voted out in favour of another that believed in laissez-faire.* Besides which, an investment contract may be a way to realise wealth when there are few other possibilities either because the stock market is highly volatile, or much of the local economy generates little revenue, as is the case in Angola and many developing countries. Indeed, food-stream speculation could become a middle-class prerogative, indulged in by legislative members themselves.

I hope by now, you’ve realised this essay is a spoof. Yet, the fantastic food-stream market is reminiscent of the global housing market, where homeownership and property speculation have become the privilege of a few at great expense to the many, who either cannot participate, or sign their lives away to banks. You may also have realised that when I bring this topic up at a dinner party, for instance, I am usually shouted down, despite what I believe to be its inherent logic, because my friends consider a house as more tangible than a steak, and their identities are bound up with vague but powerful notions of property rights and independence.

I do concede that home-ownership offers security (not having to move, being connected to one particular neighbourhood) and creativity (being able to modify and decorate as you please), but I would prefer people rent rather than buy in an effort to lower property prices and to encourage investment in other sectors of the economy. Economists Moretti and Chang-Tai Hsieh of the University of Chicago have estimated that US output between 1999 and 2009 was 13% lower than it could have been because high housing costs forced so many people to move. Income locked up in housing could otherwise have been spent on local businesses, like restaurants or gyms, and job creation would likely have ensued.

So, next time you toss a steak on the barbecue, ponder whether we should treat food in the same way we treat housing, or whether we should treat housing as we do food.

*French for ‘allow to do’. An economic doctrine advocating that commerce should be free of state controls of any kind.

Questions 1-7

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Complete the notes below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage.

Write your answer in boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet.

A food-stream contract

Would guarantee access to one kind of food stream 1…………………

Due to its expense, a bank 2…………………might be needed to buy one

Could be bought and sold at the current 3…………………

When sold, could result in a decent 4…………………or a considerable loss

Could be purchased on food a person did not plan on 5…………………

May be one of the few legitimate ways to make money when the stock market is very 6…………….or other parts of the economy perform poorly

Would probably be a privilege of the 7………………… and members of parliament

Questions 8-12

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Do the statements below agree with the information given in Passage 1?

In boxes 8-12 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.

8   The writer makes an analogy between the current housing and food markets.

9   The writer rents his or her own home.

10   The writer’s friends share his or her ideas on the property market.

11   The writer thinks people like to own their homes because they can customise them.

12   Because Americans spent so much on housing, other parts of the economy suffered.

Question 13

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

What would be a suitable title for Passage 1?

Choose the correct letter A, B, C, D, or E.

Write the correct letter in box 13 on your answer sheet.

A     How to make homes affordable

B     Buying a house is a bad investment

C     Rethinking the housing market

D     A new model for buying and selling food

E     The madness of house and food prices

Reading Passage 2

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

Egypt’s beautiful game


It is estimated that over a billion people watched the 2014 World Cup – the biggest TV event in human history – and that football is a trillion-dollar industry.

The fact that a handful of countries dominate the World Cup does not lessen interest in the competition or the sport by people in the remotest of regions. Take the largely inaccessible Omo Valley of southern Ethiopia, where shepherds with few possessions sport Arsenal or AC Milan T-shirts, and where women who may not know of the existence of the UK wear pendants with Wayne Rooney’s face on them. In Qiqihar, in northern China, middle-school children choose ‘English’ names for themselves, like David Beckham or Ronaldo, while in the Sinai, where temperatures soar and there are no other signs of life outdoors, adolescent boys dribble, kick, header, and feint with homemade footballs, dreaming of lifting themselves from abject poverty by playing for a famous team.

Although football generally stimulates the economy, many places grind to a halt when a big match is on – indeed the inhabitants of Cairo quip that the best time to drive across town to shop is during a final between Al Ahly and Zamalek.


As a codified game, football is a modem phenomenon, but the fifth-century-BC Greek historian, Herodotus, noted that young Egyptian males played with a ball made from straw-filled goatskin. The 1882 occupation of Egypt by the British saw the introduction of the game prescribed by the English Football Association in 1863, and almost immediately, football became the national sport and gripped the Egyptian psyche.


Psychologists propose that football appeals to fans for two main reasons: firstly, however vicariously, they participate in a triumphal world greater than their own, especially important when their lives seem mundane or troublesome; secondly, by attaching themselves to one club, they experience a powerful sense of belonging.

In the past 50 years, Egypt’s population has risen exponentially while its quality of life – but for a fortunate few – has deteriorated markedly. Injustice, corruption, and tyranny have borne down upon the average Egyptian, who, for 90 minutes once or twice a week, forgets his woes in a football match. Fans also believe that on the field, there are still some rules, though that is not to say there is no corruption or lawlessness within football: referees are not always fair, and fans, themselves, behave fanatically and dangerously.


In Egypt’s case, a fan’s loyalty to a club is interwoven with class and political allegiances. Al Ahly, for example, founded in 1907, boasted a famous anti-British revolutionary as one of its honorary presidents, and in 1956, the beloved Gamal Abdel Nasser was honorary club president as well as President of the Republic of Egypt. In some ways, Al Ahly remains the people’s club, whereas Zamalek, by contrast, established in 1911, allowed foreigners to play for it, and was associated with affluent Egyptians allied to Kings Fuad and Farouk. In fact, the club was named Farouk in the 1950s.


In more recent times, Hosni Mubarak, president until 2011, was accused of using football as a way to divert the masses from the parlous state of the nation or coerce them into outbursts against teams from other African nations, like Algeria. He, himself, seldom missed a game played by the national team, and his appearance brought on a media frenzy along with patriotic songs and the chanting of slogans. Two of his sons – fabulously wealthy playboys – were frequently photographed socializing with football stars. On the financial side, club owners and managers contributed funds to Mubarak’s campaigns. It is rumoured that, even in disgrace, he is supported by football stars and billionaires.


Egypt has been in turmoil for the last decade. During the 2011 revolution, when Mubarak was deposed, a group of Ahly fans known as the Ultras took an active role in demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In February 2012, during a football match in Port Said, the Ultras were attacked: 74 people died in the brawl. The Ultras claim they were assaulted by both fans from the opposing team and members of the security forces as punishment for their role in Tahrir Square. Other examples of apparently unprovoked violence may signal that even football no longer serves as a fantasy for the frustrated masses. In any case, it is as thorny a game off the field as it is on.


It seems the beautiful game in Egypt may need a radical facelift. Egypt’s poor showing in the 2014 World Cup – it failed to qualify whereas its rival Algeria did – meant that more Egyptians have started following European teams. Match violence and unprecedented social upheaval had already reduced support. Still, as every fan knows, when life is sweeter in Egypt again, there will be magical moments to savour at local stadiums too.

Questions 14-19

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Reading Passage 2 has seven sections, A-G.

Which section contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-G, in boxes 14-19 on your answer sheet.

14   a comparison of football clubs

15   a hope for the future

16   a brief history of Egyptian football

17   a description of the manipulation of football for political ends

18   hypotheses on the allure of football for spectators

19   examples of the global reach of football

Questions 20-24

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 2?

In boxes 20-24 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

20   Egyptian football players are represented in South American teams.

21   FIFA estimates that Egypt’s football economy is worth $2 billion a year.

22   European football stars have great importance in rural Africa.

23   While their own lives may be chaotic, some Egyptians like the rule-bound nature of a football game.

24   The Mubarak family involvement with football was largely sporting.

Questions 23-26

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Choose the correct letter A, B, C, or D.

Write the correct letter in boxes 25-26 on your answer sheet.

25   According to the writer, what has caused the violence at Egyptian football matches?

A   Alcohol consumed by fans

B   Police assaulting fans

C   The very poor standard of play

D   A number of complex issues

26   What does the writer think will happen to Egyptian football teams?

A   They should qualify for the World Cup.

B   They will thrill their fans again.

C   They may continue to suffer losses.

D   They should limit their political affiliations.

Reading Passage 3

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


High coal dependence

Renewable energy is much discussed, but coal still plays the greatest role in the generation of electricity, with recent figures from the International Energy Agency showing that China relies on it for 79% of its power, Australia for 78%, and the US for 45%. Germany has less reliance at 41%, which is also the global average. Furthermore, many countries have large, easily accessible deposits of coal, and numerous highly skilled miners, chemists, and engineers. Meanwhile, 70% of the world’s steel production requires coal, and plastic and rayon are usually coal derivatives.

Currently, coal-fired power plants fed voracious appetites, but they produce carbon dioxide (CO2) in staggering amounts. Urbanites may grumble about an average monthly electricity bill of $113, yet they steadfastly ignore the fact that they are not billed for the 6-7 million metric tons of CO2 their local plant belches out, which contribute to the 44% of global CO2 levels from fossil-fuel emissions. Yet, as skies fill with smog and temperatures soar, people crave clean air and cheap power.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that advises the United Nations has testified that the threshold of serious harm to the Earth’s temperature is a mere 2° Celsius above current levels, so it is essential to reduce carbon emissions by 80% over the next 30 years, even as demand for energy will rise by 50%, and one proposal for this is the adoption of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Underground carbon storage

Currently, CO2 storage, or sequestration as it is known, is practised by the oil and gas industry, where CO2 is pumped into oil fields to maintain pressure and ease extraction – one metric ton dissolves out about three barrels, or separated from natural gas and pumped out of exhausted coal fields or other deep seams. The CO2 remains underground or is channelled into disused sandstone reservoirs. However, the sale of oil and natural gas is profitable, so the $17-per-ton sequestration cost is easily borne. There is also a plan for the injection of CO2 into saline aquifers, 1,000 metres beneath the seabed, to prevent its release into the atmosphere.

Carbon capture

While CO2 storage has been accomplished, its capture from power plants remains largely hypothetical, although CCS plants throughout Western Europe and North America are on the drawing board.

There are three main forms of CCS: pre-combustion, post-combustion, and oxy-firing. In a 2012 paper from the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO), post-combustion capture was viewed most favourably since existing power plants can be retrofitted with it, whereas pre-combustion and oxy-firing mean the construction of entirely new plants. However, pre-combustion and oxy-firing remove more CO2 than post-combustion and generate more electricity.

Post-combustion capture means CO2 is separated from gas after coal is burnt but before electricity is generated, while in oxy-firing, coal is combusted in pure oxygen. In pre-combustion, as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle system (IGCC), oxygen, coal, and water ae burnt together to produce a synthetic gas called Syngas – mainly hydrogen – which drives two sets of turbines, firstly gas-driven ones, then, as the cooling Syngas travel through water, steam-driven ones. Emissions from this process contain around ten percent of the CO2 that burning coal produces.

The pros and cons of CCS

Several countries are keen to scale up CCS as it may reduce carbon emissions quickly, and powerful lobby groups for CCS exist among professionals in mining and engineering. Foundries and refineries that produce steel and emit carbon may also benefit, and the oil and gas industry is interested because power-plant equipment consumes their products. In addition, recent clean energy acts in many countries mandate that a percentage of electricity be generated by renewables or by more energy-efficient systems, like CCS.

As with desalination, where powerful lobbies wield influence, states sometimes find it easier to engage in large projects involving a few players rather than change behaviours on a more scattered household scale. Furthermore, replacing coal with zero-emission photovoltaic (PV) cells to produce solar energy would require covering an area nearly 20,720 square kilometres, roughly twice the size of Lebanon or half of Denmark.

Still, there are many reservations about CCS. Principally, it is enormously expensive: conservative estimates put the electricity it generates at more than five times the current retail price. As consumers are unlikely to want to bear this price hike, massive state subsidies would be necessary for CCS to work.

The capital outlay of purchasing equipment for retrofitting existing power plants is high enough, but the energy needed to capture CO2 means one third more coal must be burnt, and building new CCS plants is at least 75% more expensive than retro-fitting.

Some CCS technology is untried, for example, the Syngas-driven turbines in an IGCC system have not been used on an industrial scale. Post capture, CO2 must be compressed into a supercritical liquid for transport and storage, which is also costly. The Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre predicts 700 million barrels per day of this liquid would be produced if CCS were adopted modestly. It is worth noting that current oil production is around 85 million barrels per day, so CCS would produce eleven times more waste for burial than oil that was simultaneously being extracted.

Sequestration has been used successfully, but there are limited coal and oil fields where optimal conditions exist. In rock that is too brittle, earthquakes could release the CO2. Moreover, proposals to store CO2 in saline aquifers are just that – proposals: sequestration has never been attempted in aquifers.

Most problematic of all, CCS reduces carbon emissions but does not end them, rendering it a medium-term solution.


There are at least four reasonably-priced alternatives to CCS. Firstly, conventional pulverised coal power plants are undergoing redesign so more electricity can be produced from less coal. Before coal is phased out – as ultimately it will have to be – these plants could be more cost-effective. Secondly, hybrid plants using natural gas and coal could be built. Thirdly, natural gas could be used on its own. Lastly, solar power is fast gaining credibility.

In all this, an agreed measure of cost for electricity generation must be used. This is called a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) – an average cost of producing electricity over the lifetime of a power plant, including construction, financing, and operation, although pollution is not counted. In 2012, the CBO demonstrated that a new CCS plant had an LCOE of about $0.09-0.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), but according to the US Energy Information Administration, the LCOE from a conventional natural gas power plant without CCS is $0.0686/kWh, making it the cheapest way to produce clean energy.

Solar power costs are falling rapidly. In 2013, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported that energy via a purchase agreement from a large solar plant was $0.095/kWh, and Greentech Media, a company that reviews environmental projects, found a 2014 New Mexico solar project that generates power for $0.0849/kWh.

Still, while so much coal and so many coal-fired plants exist, decommissioning them all may not be realistic. Whatever happens, the conundrum of cheap power and clean air may remain unsolved for some time.

Questions 27-28

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Choose the correct letter A, B, C, or D.

Write the correct letter in boxes 27-28 on your answer sheet.

27   What is the global average for electricity generated from coal?

A   41%

B   44%

C   49%

D   70%

28   What does the average American pay each month for CO2 produced by a local power plant?

A   $17

B   $80

C   $113

D   Nothing

Questions 29-34

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Label the diagrams on the following page.

Write the correct letter, A-H, in boxes 29-34 on your answer sheet.

A   CO2            B   Coal                         C   Natural gas            

D   Oil               E   Saline aquifer         F   Steam-driven turbines

G   Syngas        H   Syngas-driven turbines

Carbon dioxide sequestration

Questions 35-40

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 174 with Answers

Complete the table below.

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

Write your answer in boxes 35-40 on your answer sheet.

Advantages of CCSDisadvantages of CCS
Sequestration is already used in the oil and gas sector.
CCS may cut 35………………..  in a short time.
36……………….. in labour,
industry, and states already support CCS.
Alternatives, like
37……………….energy, take up vast amounts of space.
The construction of new and the conversion of existing power plants and the liquefaction and transport of CO2 are very costly. While sequestration is possible, the scale would be enormous. Therefore, CCS would need 38………………..
Some CCS technology is 39.……………….. Gas-driven
turbines for IGCC have not been used on an industrial scale.
Shallow underground storage may be limited; deep ocean storage is currently impossible. Geologists fear leaks in quake-prone regions.
Natural gas and solar PVs are cheaper. LCOE estimates for
CCS = $0.09-15/kWh; for natural gas= 40………………..;
and, for solar PV = $0.0849/kWh.
Answer Key
Academic Reading Practice Test 173