BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 318

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 318

IELTS ACADEMIC READING TEST – PASSAGE – 2

IELTS Academic Reading Test

IELTS ACADEMIC READING TEST

READING PASSAGE – 2

A SERIES OF TRIALS

A. Prime among basic numerical faculties if the ability to distinguish between a larger and a smaller, says psychologist Elizabeth Brannon. Humans can do this with ease – providing the ratio is big enough – but do other animals share this ability? In one experiment, rhesus monkeys and university students examined two sets of geometrical objects that appeared briefly on a computer monitor. They had to decide which set contained more objects.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Both groups performed successfully but, importantly, Brannon’s team found that monkeys, like humans, make more errors when two sets of objects are close in number. The students’ performance ends up looking just like a monkey’s. It’s practically identical, she says.

B. Humans and monkeys are mammals, in the animal family known as primates. These are not the only animals whose numerical capacities rely on ratio, however. The same seems to apply to some amphibians. Psychologist Claudia Uller’s team tempted salamanders with two sets of fruit flies held in clear tubes. In a series of trials, the researchers noted which tube the salamanders scampered towards, reasoning that if they had a capacity to recognise the number, they would head for the larger number.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The salamanders successfully discriminated between tubes containing 8 and 16 flies respectively, but not between 3 and 4, 4 and 6, or 8 and 12. So it seems that for the salamanders to discriminate between two numbers, the larger must be at least twice as big as the smaller. However, they could differentiate between 2 and 3 flies just as well as between 1 and 2 flies, suggesting they recognise small numbers in a different way from larger numbers.

C. Further support for this theory comes from studies of mosquitofish, which instinctively join the biggest shoal they can. A team at the University of Padova found that while mosquitofish can tell the difference between a group containing 3 shoal-mates and a group containing 4, they did not show a preference between groups of 4 and 5. The team also found that mosquitofish can discriminate between numbers up to 16, but only if the ratio between the fish in each shoal was greater than 2:1. This indicates that the fish, like salamanders, possess both the approximate and precise number systems found in more intelligent animals such as infant humans and other primates.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

D. While these findings are highly suggestive, some critics argue that the animals might be relying on other factors to complete the tasks, without considering the number itself. ‘Any study that’s claiming an animal is capable of representing number should also be controlling for other factors,’ says Brannon. Experiments have confirmed that primates can indeed perform numerical feats without extra clues, but what about the more primitive animals?

E. To consider this possibility, the mosquitofish tests were repeated, this time using varying geometrical shapes in place of fish. The team arranged these shapes so that they had the same overall surface area and luminance even though they contained a different number of objects. Across hundreds of trials on 14 different fish, the team found they consistently discriminated 2 objects from 3. The team is now testing whether mosquitofish can also distinguish 3 geometric objects from 4.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

F. Even more primitive organisms may share this ability. Entomologist Jurgen Tautz sent a group of bees down a corridor, at the end of which lay two chambers – one which contained sugar water, which they like, while the other was empty. To test the bees’ numeracy, the team marked each chamber with a different number of geometrical shapes – between 2 and 6. The bees quickly learned to match the number of shapes with the correct chamber. Like the salamanders and fish, there was a limit to the bees’ mathematical prowess – they could differentiate up to 4 shapes, but failed with 5 or 6 shapes.

G. These studies still do not show whether animals learn to count through training, or whether they are born with the skills already intact. If the latter is true, it would suggest there was a strong evolutionary advantage to a mathematical mind. Proof that this may be the case has emerged from an experiment testing the mathematical ability of three – and four-day-old chicks. Like mosquitofish, chicks prefer to be around as many of their siblings as possible, so they will always head towards a larger number of their kin. If chicks spend their first few days surrounded by certain objects, they become attached to these objects as if they were family.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Researchers placed each chick in the middle of a platform and showed it two groups of balls of paper. Next, they hid the two piles behind screens, changed the quantities and revealed them to the chick. This forced the chick to perform simple computations to decide which side now contained the biggest number of its “brothers”. Without any prior coaching, the chicks scuttled to the larger quantity at a rate well above chance. They were doing some very simple arithmetic, claim the researchers.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

H. Why these skills evolved is not hard to imagine, since it would help almost any animal forage for food. Animals on the prowl for sustenance must constantly decide which tree has the most fruit, or which patch of flowers will contain the most nectar. There are also other, less obvious, advantages of numeracy. In one compelling example, researchers in America found that female coots appear to calculate how many eggs they have laid – and add any in the nest laid by an intruder – before making any decisions about adding to them.

Exactly how ancient these skills are is difficult to determine, however. Only by studying the numerical abilities of more and more creatures using standardised procedures can we hope to understand the basic preconditions for the evolution of number.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 15-21

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

Animal numeracy
SubjectsExperimentsResults
Mammals and birds
rhesus monkeys and humanslooked at two sets of geometrical objects on a computer screenPerformance of the two groups is almost 15………………..
chickschose between two sets of 16……………….. which are alteredchicks can do calculations in order to choose a larger group
cootsbehaviour of female birds was observedA bird seems to have ability to 17………………..
Amphibians, fish and insects
salamandersoffered clear tubes containing different quantities of 18……………….salamanders distinguish between numbers over four if the bigger number is at least two times larger
19………………..shown real shoals and later artificial ones of geometrical shapes; these are used to check the influence of total 20……………… and brightnesssubjects know the difference between two and three and possibly three and four, but not between four and five
beesHad to learn where 21……………. was storedcould soon choose the correct place
IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 22-27

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 2?

In boxes 22-27 on your answer sheet, write

YES                  if the statement is true

NO                   if the statement is false

NOT GIVEN    if the information is not given in the passage

22.   Primates are better at identifying the larger of two numbers if one is much bigger than the other.

23.   Jurgen Tautz trained the insects in his experiment to recognise the shapes of individual numbers.

24.   The research involving young chicks took place over two separate days.

25.   The experiment with chicks suggests that some numerical ability exists in newborn animals.

26.   Researchers have experimented by altering quantities of nectar or fruit available to certain wild animals.

27.   When assessing the number of eggs in their nest, coots take into account those of other birds.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

ANSWERS ARE BELOW

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BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 318
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IELTS Academic Reading Test

ANSWERS

15. IDENTICAL

16. BALLS OF PAPER

17. COUNT/ CALCULATE EGGS

18. FRUITS FLIES

19. MOSQUITOFISH

20. SURFACE AREA

21. SUGAR WATER

22. TRUE

23. FALSE

24. NOT GIVEN

25. TRUE

26. NOT GIVEN

27. TRUE

IELTS Academic Reading Test

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