IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

Reading Passage 1

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

In 1979 the Chinese government introduced a policy that no other country had ever introduced before. Each couple was restricted by law to having to only one child. This one-child policy, although highly controversial, is believed to have helped prevent the rapidly growing Chinese population from becoming unsustainable.

In 2015 the one-child policy was finally relaxed, allowing couples to now have two children. According to the Communist Party of China, 400 million births have been prevented since the policy was introduced, and the Chinese population has become sustainable. Meanwhile, other developing countries like India and Nigeria, where such a policy has never been nationally enforced, continue to struggle with population explosions.

On a statistical level, it is easy to suggest that the one-child policy has been rather successful in China. It has lessened the negative environmental impact that rapid industrialisation and population growth have had on China since being implemented. However, there are plenty of grounds for criticism, especially from human rights activists, as well as advocates for freedom of choice. The main question raised by such a move is should a government be allowed to control family size, or is that too much control over individual liberty?

In the poorer rural areas of China, where life has changed very little for hundreds of years, farmers often used to rely on their children to help out on the farm. It was common for couples to have many children because infant mortality was high and the burden of work could not be handled by just a few people. It was generally considered that a girl was bad luck in this case because she would not be able to do as much manual labour. However backwards this way of thinking may seem to many people, the sad reality was that the instances of infanticide of female babies began to rise rapidly in the 1980s in China, as a result of the one-child policy.

Despite this raising other important concerns such as gender inequality in China, the growing problem of infanticide did lead to change; the government relaxed the one-child policy so that a couple could have a second child, but only if their first child was a girl. On the other hand, the government has also faced heavy criticism of its methods of trying to enforce the one-child policy in the past. In rural areas, it was very difficult for the government to enforce the policy, and so only really applied in urban areas of the country.

In extreme cases, the government in China would force pregnant women who already had one child to have an abortion. However, they were also forced to introduce laws in 2005 outlawing sex-selective abortions, which were increasingly common choices being made by couples who knew the sex of their baby to be female before birth.

Whilst true statistics are difficult to obtain from China, it is thought that there are now 60 million more men than women in China. This gender imbalance is almost certainly an indirect result of the one-child policy. Another theory suggests that there are unofficially millions of more women in China who were never registered with local authorities by their parents through fear of being fined or losing their child.

The necessity of having children in some parts of China is something many in the West have trouble understanding. After all, increasing numbers of adults in the West now choose not to have children purely for environmental reasons.

Research by statisticians at Oregon State University in America fund that because of the average American’s huge carbon footprint, having a child in America increased a person’s long-term carbon output by up to 20 times. T put this into greater context, the long-term pollution output of a child born in the U.S. can be up to 160 times higher than that of a child born in Bangladesh.

One of the reasons in China for changing the one-child policy to a two-child policy in 2015 was that the original policy was almost redundant anyway. The original legislation was only aimed at a single generation. Under the ruling, any couple in China who were both sole children to their respective parents were allowed to have two children. Therefore the two-child policy was already in effect for most couples already by 2015.

China has a rapidly developing economy, and with such development comes a higher average carbon output per person. This leads some authorities to worry that the already-strained environment in China will suffer even more in decades to come. Having said that, as China continues to experience such rapid economic development, Chinese people are enjoying increased personal wealth and financial stability. With that may also come the philosophy of choice, such as having the luxury to choose not to have children purely for environmental reasons, just like in the U.S.

Questions 1-7

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?

In boxes 1-7 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

1   China’s one-child policy is believed to have kept population growth in the country at sustainable levels.

2   The negative environmental impact of population growth in China is less because of the one-child policy.

3   The number of cases of infanticide of female babies decreased in China during the 1980s.

4   In India effective population control is becoming an increasingly important concern for the government.

5   Estimates suggest that there are 60 million more men than women living in China.

6   Long-term pollution output of a child born in the U.S. is roughly the same as for a child born in Bangladesh.

7   The original one-child legislation in China was designed to apply to one generation only.

Questions 8-12

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

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

Write your answers in boxes 8-12 on your answer sheet

8   According to the passage, there is a criticism of the one-child policy, particularly from

A   other countries.

B   family planning organisations.

C   Chinese citizens.

D   human rights activists.

9   One other important concern raised by infanticide of female babies is

A   housing prices.

B   gender inequality.

C   the wellbeing of mothers.

D   the loneliness of children in China.

10   Laws passed in 2005 banned

A   parents having three children.

B   sex-selective abortions.

C   all abortion in China.

D   same-sex marriage.

11   The author suggests that increasing numbers of westerners are choosing not to have children

A   before the age of 30.

B   before marriage.

C   for environmental reasons.

D   because it is too expensive.

12   The passage suggests that there is a link between a rapidly developing economy and a higher

A   average carbon output per person.

B   demand for electronic goods.

C   desire for couples to have more children.

D   level of crime in urban areas. 

Question 13

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

Write your answer in box 13 on your answer sheet.

13   Which of the following is the most likely title for the passage?

A   The Environmental Impact of Big Families

B   China Reinstates the One-Child Policy

C   A Brief History of Family Management

D   The End of China’s One-Child Policy

E   The Story of the Chinese Power

Reading Passage 2

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

A New Perspective on Bacteria


Microbes are organisms too small to be seen by the naked eye, including bacteria, blue-green algae, yeasts, fungi, viruses, and viroids.

A large, diverse group, almost all bacteria are between one and ten µ1 (larger ones reach 0.5 mm). Generally single-celled, with a distinctive cellular structure lacking a true nucleus, most bacterial genetic information is carried on a DNA loop in the cytoplasm2 with the membrane possessing some nuclear properties.

There are three main kinds of bacteria – spherical, rod-like, and spiral – known by their Latin names of coccus, bacillus, and spirillum. Bacteria occur alone, in pairs, clusters, chains, or more complex configurations. Some live where oxygen is present; others, where it is absent.

The relationship between bacteria and their hosts is symbiotic, benefitting both organisms, or the hosts may be destroyed by parasitic or disease-causing bacteria.


In general, humans view bacteria suspiciously, yet it is now thought they partly owe their existence to microbes living long, Jong ago.

During photosynthesis, plants produce oxygen that humans need to fuel blood cells. Most geologists believe the early atmosphere on Earth contained very little oxygen until around 2½ billion years ago when microbes bloomed. Ancestral forms of cyanobacteria, for example, evolved into chloroplasts – the cells that carry out photosynthesis. Once plants inhabited the oceans, oxygen levels rose dramatically, so complex life forms could eventually be sustained.

The air humans breathe today is oxygen-rich, and the majority of airborne microbes are harmless, but the air does contain industrial pollutants, allergens, and infectious microbes or pathogens that cause illness


The fact is that scientists barely understand microbes. Bacteria have been proven to exist only in the past 350 years; viruses were discovered just over 100 years ago, but in the past three decades, the ubiquity of microbes has been established with bacteria found kilometres below the Earth’s crust and in the upper atmosphere. Surprisingly, they survive in dry deserts and the frozen reaches of Antarctica; they dwell in rain and snow clouds, as well as inside every living creature.

Air samples taken in 2006 from two cities in Texas contained at least 1,800 distinct species of bacteria, making the air as rich as the soil. These species originated both in Texas and as far away as western China. It now seems that the number of microbe species far exceeds the number of stars.


Inside every human being, there are trillions of bacteria with their weight estimated at 1.36 kg in an average adult, or about as heavy as the brain. Although tiny, 90% of cells in a human are bacterial. With around eight million genes, these bacteria outnumber genes in human cells by 300 times.

The large intestine contains the most bacteria – almost 34,000 species – but the crook of the elbow harbours over 2,000 species. Many bacteria are helpful: digesting food; aiding the immune system; creating moisturiser; and, manufacturing vitamins. Some have highly specialised functions, like Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, which breaks down plant starch, so an infant can make the transition from mother’s milk to a more varied diet.

Undeniably, some bacteria are life-threatening. One, known as golden staph, Staphylococcus aureus, plagues hospitals, where it infects instruments and devours human tissue until patients die from toxic shock. Worse, it is still resistant to antibiotics.


Antibiotics themselves are bacteria. In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered that a mould in his laboratory produced a chemical he named penicillin. In 1951, William Bouw collected soil from the jungles of Borneo that eventually became vancomycin. Pharmaceutical companies still hunt for beneficial bacteria, but Michael Fischbach from the University of California believes that the human body itself is a ready supply.


Scientific ignorance about bacteria is largely due to an inability to cultivate many of them in a laboratory, but recent DNA sequencing has meant populations can be analysed by a computer program without having to grow them.

Fischbach and his team have created and trained a computer program to identify gene clusters in microbial DNA sequences that might produce useful molecules. Having collected microbial DNA from 242 healthy human volunteers, the scientists sequenced the genomes of 2,340 different species of microbes, most of which were completely new discoveries.

In searching the gene clusters, Fischbach et al fund 3,118 common ones that could be used in pharmaceuticals, for example, a gene cluster from the bacterium Lactobacillus gasseri, successfully reared in the lab, produced a molecule they named lactocillin. Later, they discovered the structure of this was very similar to an antibiotic, LFF571, undergoing clinical trials by a major pharmaceutical company. To date, lactocillin has killed harmful bacteria, so it may also be a reliable antibiotic.


Naturally, the path to patenting medicine is strewn with failures, but, since bacteria have been living inside humans for millions of years, they are probably safe to reintroduce in new combinations and in large amounts.

Undoubtedly, the fight against pathogens, like golden staph, must continue, but as scientists learn more about microbes, respect and excitement for them grow, and their positive applications become ever more probable.

1A micron= 10-6 m

2Material inside a cell

Questions 14-18

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

Passage 2 has seven sections, A-G.

Which section contains the following information?

Write the correct letter A-G, in boxes 14-18 on your answer sheet.

NB:  Any section can be chosen more than once.

14   examples of bacteria as a patented medicine

15   a description of bacteria

16   gene cluster detection and culture

17   humans are teeming with bacteria

18   Fischbach’s hypothesis

Questions 19-22

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

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

Write the correct letter in boxes 19-22 on your answer sheet.

19   What do almost all bacteria share?

A   Their simple configurations

B   Their cellular organisation

C   Their survival without oxygen

D   Their parasitic nature

20   From the suffix ‘-bacillus’, what shape would you expect the bacterium Paenibacillus to be?

A   spherical

B   rod-like

C   spiral

D   amorphous

21   Why were ancient bacteria invaluable to humans?

A   They contributed to higher levels of oxygen.

B   They reduced widespread industrial pollution.

C   They protected humans from intestinal ailments.

D   They provided scientists with antibiotics.

22   How prevalent are microbes?

A   Not at all

B   Somewhat

C   Very

D   Extremely

Questions 23-26

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

Answer the questions below.

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

Write your answers in boxes 23-26 on your answer sheet.

23   Which organ does the total weight of bacteria in a human body equal?

24   Roughly how many bacterial species live in a human’s large intestine?

25   In Fischbach’s view, where might useful bacteria come from in the future?

26   What do some scientists now feel towards microbes?

Reading Passage 3

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

In the last century, Vikings have been perceived in numerous different ways – vilified as conquerors and romanticised as adventurers. How Vikings have been employed in nation-building is a topic of some interest.

In English, Vikings are also known as Norse or Norsemen. Their language greatly influenced English, with the nouns, ‘Hell’, ‘husband’, ‘law’, and ‘window’, and the verbs, ‘blunder’, ‘snub’, ‘take’, and ‘want’, all coming from Old Norse. However, the origins of the word ‘Viking’, itself, are obscure: it may mean ‘a Scandinavian pirate’, or it may refer to ‘an inlet’, or a place called Vik, in modem-day Norway, from where the pirates came. These various names – Vikings, Norse, or Norsemen, and doubts about the very word ‘Viking’ suggest historical confusion.

Loosely speaking, the Viking Age endured from the late eighth to the mid-eleventh centuries. Vikings sailed to England in AD 793 to storm coastal monasteries, and subsequently, large swathes of England fell under Viking rule – indeed several Viking kings sat on the English throne. It is generally agreed that the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, when the Norman French invaded, marks the end of the English Viking Age, but the Irish Viking age ended earlier, while Viking colonies in Iceland and Greenland did not dissolve until around AD 1500.

How much territory Vikings controlled is also in dispute – Scandinavia and Western Europe certainly, but their reach east and south is uncertain. They plundered and settled down the Volga and Dnieper rivers, and traded with modem-day Istanbul, but the archaeological record has yet to verify that Vikings raided as far away as Northwest Africa, as some writers claim.

The issue of control and extent is complex because many Vikings did not return to Scandinavia after raiding but assimilated into local populations, often becoming Christian. To some degree, the Viking Age is defined by religion. Initially, Vikings were polytheists, believing in many gods, but by the end of the age, they had permanently accepted a new monotheistic religious system – Christianity.

This transition from so-called pagan plunderers to civilised Christians is significant and is the view promulgated throughout much of recent history. In the UK, in the 1970s for example, schoolchildren were taught that until the Vikings accepted Christianity they were nasty heathens who rampaged throughout Britain. By contrast, today’s children can visit museums where Vikings are celebrated as merchants, pastoralists, and artists with a unique worldview as well as conquerors.

What are some other interpretations of Vikings? In the nineteenth century, historians in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden constructed their own Viking ages for nationalistic reasons. At that time, all three countries were in crisis. Denmark had been beaten in war and ceded territory to what is now Germany. Norway had become independent from Sweden in 1905 but was economically vulnerable, so Norwegians sought to create a separate identity for themselves in the past as well as the present. The Norwegian historian, Gustav Storm, was adamant it was his forebears and not the Swedes’ or Danes’ who had colonised Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland, in what is now Canada. Sweden, meanwhile, had relinquished Norway to the Norwegians and Finland to the Russians; thus, in the late nineteenth century, Sweden was keen to boost its image with rich archaeological finds to show the glory of its Viking past.

In addition to augmenting nationalism, nineteenth-century thinkers were influenced by an Englishman, Herbert Spencer, who described peoples and cultures in evolutionary terms similar to those of Charles Darwin. Spencer coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, which includes the notion that, over time, there is not only technological but also moral progress. Therefore, Viking heathens’ adoption of Christianity was considered an advantageous move. These days, historians do not compare cultures in the same way, especially since, in this case, the archaeological record seems to show that heathen Vikings and Christian Europeans were equally brutal.

Views of Vikings change according to not only to forces affecting historians at the time of their research but also according to the materials they read. Since much knowledge of Vikings comes from literature composed up to 300 years after the events they chronicle, some Danish historians cal1 these sources ‘mere legends’.

Vikings did have a written language carved on large stones, but as few of these survive today, the most reliable contemporary sources on Vikings come from writers from other cultures, like the ninth-century Persian geographer, Ibn Khordadbeh.

In the last four decades, there have been wildly varying interpretations of the Viking influence in Russia. Most non-Russian scholars believe the Vikings created a kingdom in western Russia and modern-day Ukraine led by a man called Rurik. After AD 862, Rurik’s descendants continued to rule. There is considerable evidence of this colonisation: in Sweden, carved stones, still standing, describe the conquerors’ journeys; both Russian and Ukrainian have loan words from Old Norse; and, Scandinavian first names, like Igor and Olga, are still popular. However, during the Soviet period, there was an emphasis on the Slavic origins of most Russians. (Appearing in the historical record around the sixth century AD, the Slavs are thought to have originated in Eastern Europe.) This Slavic identity was promoted to contrast with that of the neighbouring Viking Swedes, who were enemies during the Cold War.

These days, many Russians consider themselves hybrids. Indeed recent genetic studies support a Norse-colonisation theory: western Russian DNA is consistent with that of the inhabitants of a region north of Stockholm in Sweden.

The tools available to modern historians are many and varied, and their findings may seem less open to debate. There are linguistics, numismatics, dendrochronology, archaeozoology, palaeobotany, ice crystallography, climate and DNA analysis to add to the translation of runes and the raising of mighty warships. Despite these, historians remain children of their times.

Questions 27-31

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

Complete the notes below.

Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS OR A NUMBER for each answer

Write your answers in boxes 27-31 on your answer sheet.

Origins:• Word ‘Viking’ is 27……………….. • Vikings came from Scandinavia.
Dates of the Viking Age• In Britain: AD 28………………..-1066 • Length varies elsewhere
Territorial extent:• In doubt – but most of Europe • Possibly raided as far away as 29………………..
End of the Viking Age:• Vikings had assimilated into 30……………….., & adopted a new 31……………….. system.
Questions 32-39

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

Look at the following statements and the list of times and places below.

Match each statement with the correct place or time: A-H.

Write the correct letter, A-H, in boxes 32-39 on your answer sheet.

32   A geographer documents Viking culture as it happens.

33   A philosopher classifies cultures hierarchically.

34   Historians assert that Viking history is based more on legends than facts.

35   Young people learn about Viking cultural and economic activities.

36   People see themselves as unrelated to Vikings.

37   An historian claims Viking colonists to modem-day Canada came from his land.

38   Viking conquests are exaggerated to bolster the country’s ego after a territorial loss.

39   DNA tests show locals are closely related to Swedes.

List of times & places

A     In the UK today

B     In 19th-century Norway

C     In 19th-century Sweden

D     In 19th-century England

E     In Denmark today

F     In 9th-century Persia

G     In mid-20th century Soviet Union

H     In Russia today

Question 40

IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test 176 with Answers

Which might be a suitable title for passage 3?

Choose the correct letter A-E.

Write the correct letter in box 40 on your answer sheet.

A     A brief history of Vikings

B     Recent Viking discoveries

C     A modem fascination with Vikings

D     Interpretations of Viking history

E     Viking history and nationalism

Answer Key
Academic Reading Practice Test 175