BEST IELTS General Reading Test 441

BEST IELTS General Reading Test 441

IELTS General Reading Test

CAN THE PAST PROVIDE USEFUL LESSONS?

A. Many past societies collapsed or vanished, leaving behind monumental ruins such as those that the poet Shelley imagined in his sonnet, Ozymandias. By collapse, I mean a drastic decrease in human population size and/or political/economic/social complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time.

By those standards, most people would consider the following past societies to  have  been famous  victims of  full-fledged  collapses rather than  of just  minor declines:  the  Anasazi  and  Cahokia  within  the  boundaries  of  the  modern  US,  the Maya cities  in  Central America,  Moche  and  Tiwanaku  societies  in  South  America,  Norse  Greenland,  Mycenean  Greece  and Minoan Crete in Europe, Great Zimbabwe in Africa, Angkor Wat and the Harappan Indus Valley cities in Asia, and Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.

IELTS General Reading Test

B. The monumental ruins left behind by those past societies hold a fascination for all of us. We marvel at them when as children we first learn of them through pictures. When we grow up, many of us plan vacations in order to experience them at first hand. We feel drawn to their often spectacular and haunting beauty, and also to the mysteries that they pose. The scales of the ruins testify to the former wealth and power of their builders. Yet these builders vanished, abandoning the great structures that they had created at such effort. How could a society that was once so mighty end up collapsing?

C. It has long been suspected that many of those mysterious abandonments were at least partly triggered by ecological problems: people inadvertently destroying the environmental resources on which their societies depended. This  suspicion of  unintended  ecological suicide (ecocide)  has been confirmed by discoveries made  in  recent  decades  by  archaeologists,  climatologists,  historians,  paleontologists, and palynologists (pollen scientists).

IELTS General Reading Test

The processes through which past societies have undermined themselves by damaging their  environments  fall  into  eight  categories,  whose  relative  importance  differs  from  case  to  case: deforestation  and  habitat  destruction,  soil  problems,  water  management  problems,  overhunting, overfishing,  effects  of  introduced  species  on  native  species,  human  population  growth,  and  increased impact of people.

D. Those past collapses tended to follow somewhat similar courses constituting variations on a theme. Writers find it tempting to draw analogies between the course of human societies and the course of individual human lives – to talk of a society9s birth, growth, peak, old age and eventual death. But that metaphor proves erroneous for many past societies: they declined rapidly after reaching peak numbers and power, and those rapid declines must have come as a surprise and  shock to their citizens. Obviously, too, this trajectory is not one that all past societies followed unvaryingly to completion: different societies collapsed to different degrees and in somewhat different ways, while many societies did not collapse at all.

E. Today  many  people  feel  that  environmental  problems  overshadow  all  the  other  threats  to  global civilisation. These environmental problems include the same eight that undermined past societies, plus four  new  ones:  human-caused  climate change,  build up  of  toxic  chemicals  in  the  environment,  energy shortages, and full human utilisation of the Earth9s photosynthetic capacity. But the seriousness of these current environmental problems is vigorously debated.

IELTS General Reading Test

Are the risks greatly exaggerated, or conversely are they underestimated? Will modern technology solve our problems, or is it creating new problems faster than it solves old ones? When we deplete one resource (e.g. wood, oil, or ocean fish), can we count on being able to substitute some new resource (e.g. plastics, wind and solar energy, or farmed fish)? Isn9t the rate of human population growth declining, such that we9re already on course for the world9s population to level off at some manageable number of people?

F. Questions like this illustrate why those famous collapses of past civilisations have taken on more meaning than just that of a romantic mystery. Perhaps there are some practical lessons that we could learn from all those past collapses. But there are also differences between the modern world and its problems, and those past societies and their problems. We shouldn9t be so naive as to think that study of the past will yield simple solutions, directly transferable to our societies today.

IELTS General Reading Test

We differ from past societies in some respects that  put  us  at  lower  risk  than  them;  some  of  those  respects  often  mentioned  include  our  powerful technology  (i.e.  its  beneficial  effects),  globalisation,  modern  medicine,  and  greater  knowledge  of  past societies and of distant modern societies.

We also differ from past societies in some respects that put us at greater risk than them: again, our potent technology (i.e. its unintended destructive effects), globalisation (such that now a problem in one part of the world affects all the rest), the dependence of millions of us on modern medicine for our survival, and our much larger human population. Perhaps we can still learn from the past, but only if we think carefully about its lessons.

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BEST IELTS General Reading Test 441

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IELTS General Reading Test

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

27. When the writer describes the impact of monumental ruins today, he emphasises

A. the income they generate from tourism.

B. the area of land they occupy.

C. their archaeological value.

D. their romantic appeal.

28. Recent findings concerning vanished civilisations

A. have overturned long-held beliefs.

B. caused controversy amongst scientists.

C. come from a variety of disciplines.

D. identified one main cause of environmental damage.

IELTS General Reading Test

29. What does the writer say about ways in which former societies collapsed?

A. The pace of decline was usually similar.

B. The likelihood of collapse would have been foreseeable.

C. Deterioration invariably led to total collapse.

D. Individual citizens could sometimes influence the course of events.

IELTS General Reading Test

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

30. It is widely believed that environmental problems represent the main danger faced by the modern world. 

31. The accumulation of poisonous substances is a relatively modern problem. 

32. There is general agreement that the threats posed by environmental problems are very serious. 

33. Some past societies resembled present-day societies more closely than others. 

34. We should be careful when drawing comparisons between past and present.

IELTS General Reading Test

Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A-F, below. Write the correct letter, A-F.

35. Evidence of the greatness of some former civilisations

36. The parallel between an individual9s life and the life of a society

37. The number of environmental problems that societies face

38. The power of technology

39. A consideration of historical events and trends

IELTS General Reading Test

A. is not necessarily valid.

B. provides grounds for an optimistic outlook,

C. exists in the form of physical structures. 

D. is potentially both positive and negative.

E. will not provide direct solution for present problems.

F. is greater now than in the past 

IELTS General Reading Test

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

40. What is the main argument of Reading Passage 3?

A. We can learn from the past but only after carefully analyzing the lessons.

B. More should be done to preserve the physical remains of earlier civilisations.

C. Some historical accounts of great civilisations are inaccurate.

D. Modern societies are dependent on each other for their continuing survival.

IELTS General Reading Test

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IELTS General Reading Test

27. D

28. C

29. A

30. YES

31. YES

32. NO

33. NOT GIVEN

34. YES

35. C

36. A

37. F

38. D

39. E

40. A

IELTS General Reading Test

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