IELTS Reading Practice Test 06 from


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

The history of tea

The story of tea begins in China. According to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water. Shen Nung, a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. The tree was a Camellia sinensis, and the resulting drink was what we now call tea. It is impossible to know whether there is any truth in this story. But tea drinking certainly became established in China many centuries before it had even been heard of in the West. Containers for tea have been found in tombs dating from the Han Dynasty (206 BC—220 AD) but it was under the Tang Dynasty (618—906 AD), that tea became firmly established as the national drink of China.

It became such a favourite that during the late eighth century a writer called Lu Yu wrote the first book entirely about tea, the Ch’a Ching, or Tea Classic. It was shordy after this that tea was first introduced to Japan, by Japanese Buddhist monks who had travelled to China to study. Tea received almost instant imperial sponsorship and spread rapidly from the royal court and monasteries to the other sections of Japanese society.

So at this stage in the history of tea, Europe was rather lagging behind. In the latter half of the sixteenth century there are the first brief mentions of tea as a drink among Europeans. These are mosdy from Portuguese who were living in the East as traders and missionaries. But although some of these individuals may have brought back samples of tea to their native country, it was not the Portuguese who were the first to ship back tea as a commercial import. This was done by the Dutch, who in the last years of the sixteenth century began to encroach on Portuguese trading routes in the East. By the turn of the century they had established a trading post on the island of Java, and it was via Java that in 1606 the first consignment of tea was shipped from China to Holland. Tea soon became a fashionable drink among the Dutch, and from there spread to other countries in continental western Europe, but because of its high price it remained a drink for the wealthy.

Britain, always a little suspicious of continental trends, had yet to become the nation of tea drinkers that it is today. Starting in 1600, the British East India Company had a monopoly on importing goods from outside Europe, and it is likely that sailors on these ships brought tea home as gifts. The first coffee house had been established in London in 1652, and tea was still somewhat unfamiliar to most readers, so it is fair to assume that the drink was still something of a curiosity. Gradually, it became a popular drink in coffee houses, which were as much locations for the transaction of business as they were for relaxation or pleasure. They were though the preserve of middle- and upperclass men; women drank tea in their own homes, and as yet tea was still too expensive to be widespread among the working classes. In part, its high price was due to a punitive system of taxation.

One unforeseen consequence of the taxation of tea was the growth of methods to avoid taxation—smuggling and adulteration. By the eighteenth century many Britons wanted to drink tea but could not afford the high prices, and their enthusiasm for the drink was matched by the enthusiasm of criminal gangs to smuggle it in. What began as a small time illegal trade, selling a few pounds of tea to personal contacts, developed by die late eighteenth century into an astonishing organised crime network, perhaps importing as much as 7 million lbs annually, compared to a legal import of 5 million lbs! Worse for die drinkers was that taxation also encouraged the adulteration of tea, particularly of smuggled tea which was not quality controlled through customs and excise. Leaves from other plants, or leaves which had already been brewed and then dried, were added to tea leaves. By 1784, the government realised that enough was enough, and that heavy taxation was creating more problems than it was wordi. The new Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, slashed the tax from 119 per cent to 12.5 per cent. Suddenly legal tea was affordable, and smuggling stopped virtually overnight.

Another great impetus to tea drinking resulted from the end of the East India Company’s monopoly on trade with China, in 1834. Before that date, China was the country of origin of the vast majority of the tea imported to Britain, but the end of its monopoly stimulated the East India Company to consider growing tea outside China. India had always been the centre of the Company’s operations, which led to the increased cultivation of tea in India, beginning in Assam. There were a few false starts, including the destruction by cattle of one of the earliest tea nurseries, but by 1888 British tea imports from India were for the first time greater than those from China.

The end of the East India Company’s monopoly on trade with China also had another result, which was more dramatic though less important in the long term: it ushered in the era of the tea clippers. While the Company had had the monopoly on trade, there was no rush to bring the tea from China to Britain, but after 1834 the tea trade became a virtual free for all. Individual merchants and sea captains with their own ships raced to bring home the tea and make the most money, using fast new clippers which had sleek lines, tall masts and huge sails. In particular there was competition between British and American merchants, leading to the famous clipper races of the 1860s. But these races soon came to an end with the opening of the Suez canal, which made the trade routes to China viable for steamships for the first time.

Questions 1 – 7

Complete the sentences below with words taken from Reading Passage L Use ONE WORD for each answer.

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

1. Researchers believed the tea containers detected in ……………….. from the Han Dynasty was the first evidence of the use of tea.

2. Lu Yu wrote a………………..about tea before anyone else in the eighth century.

3. It was………………..from Japan who brought tea to their native country from China.

4. Tea was carried from China to Europe actually by the…………………

5. The British government had to cut down the taxation on tea due to the serious crime of…………………

6. Tea was planted in………………..besides China in the 19th century.

7. In order to compete in shipping speed, traders used………………..for the race.

Questions 8 – 13

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

In boxes 8—13 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. Tea was popular in Britain in the 16th century.

9. Tea was more fashionable than coffee in Europe in the late 16th century.

10. Tea was enjoyed by all classes in Britain in the seventeenth century.

11. The adulteration of tea also prompted William Pitt the Younger to reduce the tax.

12. Initial problems occurred when tea was planted outside China by the East India Company.

13. The fastest vessels were owned by America during the 19th century clipper races.


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 14—26, which are based on Reading Passage 2 below:

How do we find our way?

A. Most modern navigation, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), relies primarily on positions determined electronically by receivers collecting information from satellites. Yet if the satellite service’s digital maps become even slightly outdated, we can become lost. Then we have to rely on the ancient human skill of navigating in three-dimensional space. Luckily, our biological finder has an important advantage over GPS: we can ask questions of people on the sidewalk, or follow a street that looks familiar, or rely on a navigational rubric. The human positioning system is flexible and capable of learning. Anyone who knows the way from point A to point B—and from A to C—can probably figure out how to get from B to C, too.

B. But how does this complex cognitive system really work? Researchers are looking at several strategies people use to orient themselves in space: guidance, path integration and route following. We may use all three or combinations thereof, and as experts learn more about these navigational skills, they are making the case that our abilities may underlie our powers of memory and logical thinking. For example, you come to New York City for the first time and you get off the train at Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan. You have a few hours to see popular spots you have been told about: Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You meander in and out of shops along the way. Suddenly, it is time to get back to the station. But how?

C. If you ask passersby for help, most likely you will receive information in many different forms. A person who orients herself by a prominent landmark would gesture southward: “Look down there. See the tall, broad MetLife Building? Head for that— the station is right below it.” Neurologists call this navigational approach “guidance”, meaning that a landmark visible from a distance serves as the marker for one’s destination.

D. Another city dweller might say: “What places do you remember passing? … Okay. Go toward the end of Central Park, then walk down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A few more blocks, and Grand Central will be off to your left.” In this case, you are pointed toward the most recent place you recall, and you aim for it. Once there you head for the next notable place and so on, retracing your path. Your brain is adding together the individual legs of your trek into a cumulative progress report. Researchers call this strategy “path integration.” Many animals rely primarily on path integration to get around, including insects, spiders, crabs and rodents. The desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis employ this method to return from foraging as far as 100 yards away. They note the general direction they came from and retrace their steps, using the polarization of sunlight to orient themselves even under overcast skies. On their way back they are faithful to this inner homing vector. Even when a scientist picks up an ant and puts it in a totally different spot, the insect stubbornly proceeds in the originally determined direction until it has gone “back” all of the distance it wandered from its nest. Only then does the ant realize it has not succeeded, and it begins to walk in successively larger loops to find its way home.

E. Whether it is trying to get back to the anthill or the train station, any animal using path integration must keep track of its own movements so it knows, while returning, which segments it has already completed. As you move, your brain gathers data from your environment—sights, sounds, smells, lighting, muscle contractions, a sense of time passing—to determine which way your body has gone. The church spire, the sizzling sausages on that vendor’s grill, the open courtyard, and the train station—all represent snapshots of memorable junctures during your journey.

F. In addition to guidance and path integration, we use a third method for finding our way. An office worker you approach for help on a Manhattan street comer might say: “Walk straight down Fifth, turn left on 47th, turn right on Park, go through the walkway under the Helmsley Building, then cross the street to the MetLife Building into Grand Central.” This strategy, called route following, uses landmarks such as buildings and street names, plus directions—straight, turn, go through—for reaching intermediate points. Route following is more precise than guidance or path integration, but if you forget the details and take a wrong turn, the only way to recover is to backtrack until you reach a familiar spot, because you do not know the general direction or have a reference landmark for your goal. The route-following navigation strategy truly challenges the brain. We have to keep all the landmarks and intermediate directions in our head. It is the most detailed and therefore most reliable method, but it can be undone by routine memory lapses. With path integration, our cognitive memory is less burdened; it has to deal with only a few general instructions and the homing vector. Path integration works because it relies most fundamentally on our knowledge of our body’s general direction of movement, and we always have access to these inputs. Nevertheless, people often choose to give route-following directions, in part because saying “Go straight that way!” just does not work in our complex, man-made surroundings.

G. Road Map or Metaphor? On your next visit to Manhattan you will rely on your memory to get present geographic information for convenient visual obviously seductive: maps around. Most likely you will use guidance, path integration and route following in various combinations. But how exactly do these constructs deliver concrete directions? Do we humans have, as an image of the real world, a kind of road map in our heads? Neurobiologists and cognitive psychologists do call the portion of our memory that controls navigation a “cognitive map”. The map metaphor is are the easiest way to inspection. Yet the notion of a literal map in our heads may be misleading; a growing body of research implies that the cognitive map is mostly a metaphor. It may be more like a hierarchical structure of relationships.

Questions 14 – 18

Use the information in the passage to match the category of each navigation method (listed A—C) with correct statement.

Write the appropriate letters A-C in boxes 14-18 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

A. guidance method            B. path integration method             C. route following method

14 Split the route up into several smaller parts.

15 When mistakes are made, a person needs to go back.

16 Find a building that can be seen from far away.

17 Recall all the details along the way.

18 Memorize the buildings that you have passed by.

Questions 19 – 21

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

Write your answers in boxes 19—21 on your answer sheet.

19 According to the passage, how does the Cataglyphis ant respond if it is taken to a different location?

A. changes its orientation sensors to adapt

B. releases biological scent for help from others

C. continues to move according to the original orientation

D. gets completely lost once disturbed

20 What did the author say about the route following method?

A. dependent on directions to move on

B. dependent on memory and reasoning

C. dependent on man-made settings

D. dependent on the homing vector

21 Which of the following is true about the “cognitive map” in this passage?

A. There is no obvious difference between it and a real map.

B. It exists in our heads and is always correct.

C. It only exists in some cultures.

D. It is managed by a portion of our memory.

Questions 22 – 26

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

In boxes 22-26 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

22 Biological navigation is flexible.

23 Insects have many ways to navigate that are in common with many other animals.

24 When someone follows a route, he or she collects comprehensive perceptual information in the mind along the way.

25 The path integration method has a higher requirement of memory compared with the route following method.

26 When people find their way, they have an exact map in their mind.


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

What is meaning?

Why do we respond to words and symbols in the ways we do?

Semantics, in general, is the subdivision of linguistics concerned with meaning. Semantics attempts the systematic study of the assignment of meanings to minimal meaning-bearing elements and the combination of these in the production of more complex meaningful expressions. Elementary word groups may be combined in a relationship of content, forming thematic groups and semantic and lexical “fields”. For example, all the means of expressing the concept of joy in a given language constitute the lexical-semantic field “joy”. Because of the trained patterns of response, people listen more respectfully to the health advice of someone who has “MD” after his name than to that of someone who hasn’t. A “pattern of reactions”, then, is the sum of the ways we act in response to events, to words, and to symbols.

Words and word meanings are one of the most important information cues used in speaking and understanding, as well as in reading. Indeed, a person’s life experience and cultural experience (even reading comic strips) are most relevant to the development of linguistic “meaning making” in any language, which is very important in the communication process. Words from a person’s native language and culture perspective can carry special associations. For instance, the Spanish words for hammock, tobacco, and potato are derived from Tamo words for these items. Therefore, when people’s semantic habits are reasonably similar to those of most people around them, they are regarded as “normal” or perhaps “dull”. If their semantic habits are noticeably different from those of others, they are regarded as “individualistic” or “original”, or, if the differences are disapproved of or viewed with alarm, as “crazy”.

A definition states the meaning of a word using other words. It is clear that to define a word, as a dictionary does, is simply to explain the word with more words. However,defining words with more words usually gets people (especially children) at once into what mathematicians call an “infinite regress”, an infinite series of occurrences or concepts. For example, it can lead people into the kind of run-around that people sometimes encounter when they look up “impertinence” and find it defined as “impudence”, so they look up “impudence” and find it defined as “impertinence”. Yet—and here we come to another common reaction pattern—people often act as if words can be explained fully with more words. To a person who asked for a definition of jazz, Louis Armstrong is said to have replied, “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know”, proving himself to be an intuitive semanticist as well as a great trumpet player.

Semantics, then, seeks the “operational” definition instead of the dictionary Bridgman, the 1946 Nobel Prize winner and physicist, once wrote, “The true meaning of a term is to be found by observing what a man does with it, not by what he says about it.” He made an enormous contribution to science by showing that the meaning of a scientific term lies in the operations, the things done, that establish its validity, rather than in verbal definitions. An example of operational definition of the term “weight” of an object, operationalized to a degree, would be the following: “weight is the numbers that appear when that object is placed on a weighing scale”. According to it, when one starts reading the numbers on the scale, it would more fully make an operational definition. But if people say—and revolutionists have started uprisings with just this statement “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains!”—what operations could we perform to demonstrate its accuracy or inaccuracy?

Next, if this suggestion of “operationalism” is pulled outside the physical sciences where Bridgman applied it, what “operations” are people expected to perform as the result of both the language they use and the language other people use in communicating to them? Here is a personnel manager studying an application form. He comes to the words “Education: Harvard University”, and drops the application form in the wastebasket (that’s the “operation”) because, as he would say if you asked him, “I don’t like Harvard men”. This is an instance of “meaning” at work—but it is not a meaning that can be found in dictionaries.

So far as we know, human beings are the only creatures that have, over and above that biological equipment which we have in common with other creatures, the additional capacity for manufacturing symbols and systems of symbols. When we react to a flag, we are not reacting simply to a piece of cloth, but to the meaning with which it has been symbolically endowed. When we react to a word, we are not reacting to a set of sounds, but to the meaning with which that set of sounds has been symbolically endowed. As a matter of fact, how sound symbolism is processed in our brains has not yet been fully explained in the field.

Simply put, the key point of semantics lies in, not the words definition, but our own semantic reactions, which occur when we respond to things the way they “should” be, rather than to the way they are. If a person was to tell a shockingly obscene story in Arabic or Hindustani or Swahili before an audience that understood only English, no one would blush or be angry; the story would be neither shocking nor obscene— indeed, it would not even be a story. Likewise, the value of a dollar bill is not in the bill, but in our social agreement to accept it as a symbol of value. If that agreement were to break down through the collapse of our government, the dollar bill would become only a scrap of paper. We do not understand a dollar bill by staring at it long and hard. We understand it by observing how people act with respect to it. We understand it by understanding the social mechanisms and the loyalties that keep it meaningful. Therefore, semantics belongs to social studies and potentially underpins the integrity of the social sciences.

Questions 27 – 31

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

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

27 What point is made in the first paragraph?

A. The aim of education is to teach people to read.

B. Semantics focuses on the definition of words.

C. Printed words only carry meaning to those who have received appropriate ways to respond.

D. Writers should ensure their works satisfy a variety of readers.

28 According to the second paragraph, people are judged by

A. their level of education.

B. the closely-related people around them.

C. how conventional their responses are.

D. complex situations.

29 What point is made in the third paragraph?

A. Standard ways are incapable of defining words precisely.

B. A dictionary often provides clear definitions of words.

C. Infinite regress is a common occurrence in a dictionary.

D. Mathematicians could define words accurately.

30 What does the writer suggest about Louis Armstrong?

A. He is a language expert.

B. He demonstrated there are similarities between music and language.

C. He provided insights into how words are defined.

D. His good skill in music helped him do research in other fields.

31 What does the writer intend to show with the example of the “personnel manager”?

A. The manager hates applicants from Harvard University.

B. Meaning can be unique to one person.

C. The manager has a bad memory of Harvard University.

D. People’s behaviour usually doesn’t agree with their words.

Questions 32-35

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in Reading Passage In boxes 32-35 on your answer sheet, write

YES if the statement agrees with the views of the writer

NO if the statement contradicts the views of the writer

NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say that the writer thinks about this

32 Some statements are incapable of being proved or disproved.

33 Meaning that is unique to an individual is less worthy of study than shared meanings.

34 Flags and words are both elicited responses.

35 A story can be entertaining without being understood.

Questions 36 – 40

Complete each sentence with the correct ending, below.

Write the correct letter, A-H, in boxes 36-40 on your answer sheet.

36 A comic strip

37 A dictionary

38 Bridgman

39 A story in a language the audience cannot understand

40 A dollar bill without public acceptance

A. is meaningless.

B. can have a lasting effect on human behaviour.

C. is a symbol that has lost its meaning.

D. can be understood only in its social context.

E. can provide only an inadequate definition of meaning.

F. reflects the variability of human behaviours.

G. emphasizes the importance of analyzing how words were used .

H. suggests that certain types of behaviour carry more meaning than others.