In IELTS Reading texts, each paragraph usually has one main idea supported by details, examples or evidence. Identifying the main idea of each paragraph will help you understand the text better. In IELTS, this skill is tested in the heading-matching task.
You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13, which are based on IELTS Reading Passage 1.
Reading Passage 1 has seven sections, A-G.
Choose the correct heading for each section from the list of headings below.
Write the correct number, i-x, in boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet.
List of Phrases
i Legislation brings temporary improvements
ii The increasing speed of suburban development
iii A new area of academic interest
iv The impact of environmental extremes on city planning
v The first campaigns for environmental change
vi Building cities in earthquake zones
vii The effect of global warming on cities
viii Adapting areas surrounding cities to provide resources
ix Removing the unwanted by-products of city life
x Providing health information for city dwellers
2) Paragraph B
3) Paragraph C
4) Paragraph D
5) Paragraph E
6) Paragraph F
7) Paragraph G
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1.
In boxes8-13on your answer sheet, write
if the statement is true according to the passage
if the statement is false according to the passage
if the information is not given in the passage
8) In the nineteenth century, water was brought into the desert to create productive farming land.
9) Women were often the strongest campaigners for environmental reform.
10) Reducing urban air and water pollution in the early twentieth century was extremely expensive.
11) The introduction of the car led to increased suburban development.
12) Suburban lifestyles in many western nations fail to take account of environmental protection.
13) Many governments in the developed world are trying to halt the spread of the suburbs.
The US City and the Natural Environment
A) While cities and their metropolitan areas have always interacted with and shaped the natural environment, it is only recently that historians have begun to consider this relationship. During our own time, the tension between natural and urbanized areas has increased, as the spread of metropolitan populations and urban land uses has reshaped and destroyed natural landscapes and environments.
B) The relationship between the city and the natural environment has actually been circular, with cities having massive effects on the natural environment, while the natural environment, in turn, has profoundly shaped urban configurations. Urban history is filled with stories about how city dwellers contended with the forces of nature that threatened their lives. Nature not only caused many of the annoyances of daily urban life, such as bad weather and pests, but it also gave rise to natural disasters and catastrophes such as floods, fires, and earthquakes. In order to protect themselves and their settlements against the forces of nature, cities built many defences including flood walls and dams, earthquake-resistant buildings, and storage places for food and water. At times, such protective steps sheltered urbanites against the worst natural furies, but often their own actions – such as building under the shadow of volcanoes, or in earthquake-prone zones – exposed them to danger from natural hazards.
C) City populations require food, water, fuel, and construction materials, while urban industries need natural materials for production purposes. In order to fulfill these needs, urbanites increasingly had to reach far beyond their boundaries. In the nineteenth century, for instance, the demands of city dwellers for food produced rings of garden farms around cities. In the twentieth century, as urban populations increased, the demand for food drove the rise of large factory farms. Cities also require fresh water supplies in order to exist – engineers built waterworks, dug wells deeper and deeper into the earth looking for groundwater, and dammed and diverted rivers to obtain water supplies for domestic and industrial uses. In the process of obtaining water from distant locales, cities often transformed them, making deserts where there had been fertile agricultural areas.
D) Urbanites had to seek locations to dispose of the wastes they produced. Initially, they placed wastes on sites within the city, polluting the air, land, and water with industrial and domestic effluents. As cities grew larger, they disposed of their wastes by transporting them to more distant locations. Thus, cities constructed sewerage systems for domestic wastes. They usually discharged the sewage into neighbouring waterways, often polluting the water supply of downstream cities.
The air and the land also became dumps for waste disposal. In the late nineteenth century, coal became the preferred fuel for industrial, transportation, and domestic use. But while providing an inexpensive and plentiful energy supply, coal was also very dirty. The cities that used it suffered from air contamination and reduced sunlight, while the cleaning tasks of householders were greatly increased.
E) In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, reformers began demanding urban environmental cleanups and public health improvements. Women's groups often took the lead in agitating for clean air and clean water, showing a greater concern than men in regard to quality of life and health-related issues. The replacement of the horse, first by electric trolleys and then by the car, brought about substantial improvements in street and air sanitation. The movements demanding clean air, however, and reduction of waterway pollution were largely unsuccessful. On balance, urban sanitary conditions were probably somewhat better in the 1920s than in the late nineteenth century, but the cost of improvement often was the exploitation of urban hinterlands for water supplies, increased downstream water pollution, and growing automobile congestion and pollution.
F) In the decades after the 1940s, city environments suffered from heavy pollution as they sought to cope with increased automobile usage, pollution from industrial production, new varieties of chemical pesticides and the wastes of an increasingly consumer-oriented economy. Cleaner fuels and smoke control laws largely freed cities during the 1940s and 1950s of the dense smoke that they had previously suffered from. Improved urban air quality resulted largely from the substitution of natural gas and oil for coal and the replacement of the steam locomotive by the diesel-electric. However, great increases in automobile usage in some larger cities produced the new phenomenon of smog, and air pollution replaced smoke as a major concern.
G) During these decades, the suburban out-migration, which had begun in the nineteenth century with commuter trains and streetcars and accelerated because of the availability and convenience of the automobile, now increased to a torrent, putting major strains on the formerly rural and undeveloped metropolitan fringes. To a great extent, suburban layouts ignored environmental considerations, making little provision for open space, producing endless rows of resource-consuming and fertilizer-dependent lawns, contaminating groundwater through leaking septic tanks, and absorbing excessive amounts of fresh water and energy. The growth of the outer city since the 1970s reflected a continued preference on the part of many people in the western world for space-intensive single-family houses surrounded by lawns, for private automobiles over public transit, and for the development of previously untouched areas. Without better planning for land use and environmental protection, urban life will, as it has in the past, continue to damage and stress the natural environment.
[Note: This is an extract from an Academic Reading passage on the subject of government subsidies to farmers. The text preceding this extract explained how subsidies can lead to activities which cause uneconomical and irreversible changes to the environment.]
All these activities may have damaging environmental impacts. For example, land clearing for agriculture is the largest single cause of deforestation; chemical fertilisers and pesticides may contaminate water supplies; more intensive farming and the abandonment of fallow periods tend to exacerbate soil erosion; and the spread of monoculture and use of high-yielding varieties of crops have been accompanied by the disappearance of old varieties of food plants which might have provided some insurance against pests or diseases in future. Soil erosion threatens the productivity of land in both rich and poor countries. The United States, where the most careful measurements have been done, discovered in 1982 that about one-fifth of its farmland was losing topsoil at a rate likely to diminish the soil's productivity. The country subsequently embarked upon a program to convert 11 per cent of its cropped land to meadow or forest. Topsoil in India and China is vanishing much faster than in America.
Government policies have frequently compounded the environmental damage that farming can cause. In the rich countries, subsidies for growing crops and price supports for farm output drive up the price of land. The annual value of these subsidies is immense: about $250 billion, or more than all World Bank lending in the 1980s. To increase the output of crops per acre, a farmer's easiest option is to use more of the most readily available inputs: fertilisers and pesticides. Fertiliser use doubled in Denmark in the period 1960-1985 and increased in The Netherlands by 150 per cent. The quantity of pesticides applied has risen too: by 69 per cent in 1975-1984 in Denmark, for example, with a rise of 115 per cent in the frequency of application in the three years from 1981.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s some efforts were made to reduce farm subsidies. The most dramatic example was that of New Zealand, which scrapped most farm support in 1984. A study of the environmental effects, conducted in 1993, found that the end of fertiliser subsidies had been followed by a fall in fertiliser use (a fall compounded by the decline in world commodity prices, which cut farm incomes). The removal of subsidies also stopped land-clearing and over-stocking, which in the past had been the principal causes of erosion. Farms began to diversify. The one kind of subsidy whose removal appeared to have been bad for the environment was the subsidy to manage soil erosion.
In less enlightened countries, and in the European Union, the trend has been to reduce rather than eliminate subsidies, and to introduce new payments to encourage farmers to treat their land in environmentally friendlier ways, or to leave it fallow. It may sound strange but such payments need to be higher than the existing incentives for farmers to grow food crops. Farmers, however, dislike being paid to do nothing. In several countries they have become interested in the possibility of using fuel produced from crop residues either as a replacement for petrol (as ethanol) or as fuel for power stations (as biomass). Such fuels produce far less carbon dioxide than coal or oil, and absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. They are therefore less likely to contribute to the greenhouse effect. But they are rarely competitive with fossil fuels unless subsidised - and growing them does no less environmental harm than other crops. Academic Reading sample task – Multiple choice
Questions 10 – 12
Choose the appropriate letters A, B, Cor D.
Write your answers in boxes 10-12 on your answer sheet.
10Research completed in 1982 found that in the United States soil erosion
Areduced the productivity of farmland by 20 per cent.
Bwas almost as severe as in India and China.
Cwas causing significant damage to 20 per cent of farmland.
Dcould be reduced by converting cultivated land to meadow or forest.
11By the mid-1980s, farmers in Denmark
Aused 50 per cent less fertiliser than Dutch farmers.
Bused twice as much fertiliser as they had in 1960.
Capplied fertiliser much more frequently than in 1960.
Dmore than doubled the amount of pesticide they used in just 3 years.
12Which one of the following increased in New Zealand after 1984?