BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 401

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 401


IELTS Academic Reading Test




A: The word ‘plague’, which is found in a whole variety of written sources from the Ancient World to the early modern period in Europe, just meant a terrible and sudden mass visitation. The modern use of the word ‘plague’ to denote a specific disease affecting human beings generally refers to ‘bubonic plague’, now known to be caused by the bacillus, Yersinia pestis.

This bacterium is noted for the very high death rates to which it leads, normally between a quarter and a half of the population in infected areas, with a morbidity running at twice that level. These very high rates of morbidity and mortality ensured that chroniclers, diarists and officials recorded plague epidemics whenever they occurred, usually describing the symptoms in detail.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

B: People most commonly acquire plague when they are bitten by a flea that is infected with the plague bacterium. People can also become infected from direct contact with infected tissues or fluids while being in contact with people who are sick with or who have died from plague. Finally, people can become infected from inhaling respiratory droplets after close contact with cats and humans with pneumonic plague.

C: Plague started in ancient Egypt and then it divided and moved in one direction towards Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, and in the other direction, to Palestine on the borders of Egypt. From there it moved over the whole world, usually on the rats on boats. Because of this, plague always took its start from the coast of a country, and from there went up into the interior. Plague was especially effective at spreading at times favourable to it.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Climate historians using studies of ice-cores and tree-rings have dated a sharp and serious deterioration in the climate in the years between 536 and 545. This was caused by volcanic eruptions in south-east Asia, covering the globe with a film of dust in the upper atmosphere, leading to poor harvests and bringing people into the towns, particularly Constantinople, in search of food. The conglomeration of people facilitated the spread of the disease. Wetter summers also favoured the growth of rat populations in Africa, which expanded their territory until they reached Europe.

D: By 1348 it was in London and soon in the rest of Europe. By 1353, it had more or less run its course in the rest of Europe, but the devastation was immense: recent estimates have put the number of dead across Europe at 50 million, out of a total European population of 80 million. The local impact was immense: recent estimates have put the number of dead across Europe at 50 million, out of a total European population of 80 million. The local impact was often even more severe, with some villages being wiped out entirely. The disease affected everyone, rich and poor alike, and the countryside as much as towns and cities. No one seemed immune.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

E: Contemporary medicine in the fourteenth century was initially overwhelmed by what was known as the Black Death and doctors usually agreed with popular opinion that it was no more than an expression of God’s wrath. However, it was also recognised that there were intermediate causes too. While some insisted that epidemics occurred when the air was corrupted by a disease-laden ‘miasma’, others observed that it was carried from person to person by infection.

With repeated visitations of the plague, the idea that it was transmitted and infectious gained currency. Still, even in the seventeenth century, it was assumed that infection occurred not so much from contagion by touch or breath, as through contamination from the air.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Physicians developed a special costume with a hollow beak containing aromatic herbs to purify the air before they breathed it. Meanwhile, for many people, flight was an obvious remedy, though in fact it only helped spread the disease more rapidly. Physicians prescribed bloodletting or purgatives to restore the internal balance of humours within the body, or ointments to reduce swellings. None of these treatments had any effect. Pope Clement VI survived by staying in his apartment with constant fires; the heat killed any plague bacilli that came his way, and he survived.

F: Although epidemics recurred in Constantinople in 1778, killing 100,000 people, and in Cairo in 1791, with a death toll of 60,000, this was in effect the end of the plague pandemic in Europe. Why did it retreat? There’s no evidence that it declined in virulence or mutated into a less deadly form. It has been theorised that the westward spread of the brown rat from the Middle East displaced the black rat that carried the fleas that transmitted the plague, but the most likely explanation is that quarantines and controls were eventually effective in keeping plague at bay. In addition, restrictions on shipping became more effective with the growth of state control in the age of mercantilism.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

G: This was not quite the end of the story, however. In the mid-nineteenth century, a pandemic of plague began in China and thence spread with trade across the globe. Approximately 13 million people died worldwide by the end of the major first phase, the vast majority of which were in India. Outbreaks of plague on a small scale have recurred ever since then, but they have been quickly contained.

H. The history of plague raises a number of questions, including the relationship of epidemics to human activity, to war, to trade, to patterns of urban living and to the nature of urban society. It forces people to look at poverty and wealth, sanitary reform, popular prejudice and unrest, and the role of government in society.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 1 – 8

The text on the previous pages has 8 paragraphs (A – H). Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below. Write the correct number (i – xi) in boxes 1 – 8 on your answer sheet.

i. Modern Plague

ii. The Effects

iii. The New Vaccine

iv. The Infection

v. The Lessons to be Learned

vi. The Spread from its Origins

vii. The Economic Costs

viii. The Name

ix. The First Victim

x. The Prevention

xi. The Early Medical Approach

IELTS Academic Reading Test

1. Paragraph A

2. Paragraph B

3. Paragraph C

4. Paragraph D

5. Paragraph E

6. Paragraph F

7. Paragraph G

8. Paragraph H

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 9 – 13

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the text for each answer.

9. What type of plague (Black Death) can be passed on by breathing in other people’s exhalations?

10. Where did new plague outbreaks usually start in a country?

11. What was the stimulus for the higher rat populations in Africa that helped the spread of plague?

12. What did doctors use in their face coverings to help purify the air they breathed while treating patients suffering from plague?

13. In conjunction with quarantines and controls, what other government-organised acts of control helped hinder the spread of plague?

IELTS Academic Reading Test


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BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 401

IELTS Academic Reading Test


1. viii

2. iv

3. vi

4. ii

5. xi

6. x

7. i

8. v






IELTS Academic Reading Test

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