Academic Reading Test 1



  • There are 40 questions on this question paper.
  • Each question carries one mark.
  • Dedicate no more than 20 minutes to each section
  • The answers are to be written in lowercase
  • The test duration is 60 minutes
  • Complete answering questions from all 3 Sections before clicking on the Submit button

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Section 1


Yangtze dolphin

The Baiji, or the Yangtze dolphin, evolved to live in zero visibility in the murk of the great river system it is named after. It finds its way by sonar – a strange beast, like an alien life form. The Baiji is also extinct: chemical pollution, noise pollution, propeller strikes and the impossibility of living among so many people came together to finish it off. An expedition in 2006 declared the animal “functionally extinct”.

According to the Living Planet Index, compiled by WWF and the Zoological Society of London, the world’s wild animals will decline in number by two-thirds by 2020. Of the 85,000 species listed by the IUCN, more than 24,000 are in danger, including lions, rhinos and giraffes, whose numbers have fallen by nearly 40 per cent since 1985. A study published in the journal Science Advances in January found that three-quarters of primate species have falling numbers, with 60 per cent threatened with extinction, among them gorillas and chimpanzees.

It is happening in this country, too. In England, the Hen Harrier is close to extinction as a breeding bird: the RSPB says there was “a tiny handful” of nesting attempts last season. In the past 200 years, Britain has lost 8 per cent of its butterfly species. We know that because butterflies are easy to see and to identify. In the same time, we have lost 3 per cent of our beetles, which are harder to catalogue. If you replicate that pattern across all our invertebrate species, between 1,200 and 3,180 species will have become nationally extinct in the past couple of centuries.

 It seems that we are heading for a world without animals. “The blueprint is in place,” said Matt Shardlow, the CEO of the invertebrate conservation charity Buglife. “All we have to do is carry on the way we are.”

But this is a define-your-terms situation. Despite desperate attempts across the millennia, philosophers and theologians have failed to conceal the reality that humans are a species of animal; like the Archbishop of Canterbury, we are primates. We also keep a lot of domestic animals, and there is little sign of cows and chickens going extinct.

The total vertebrate biomass – that is, the combined weight of every living backboned animal on the planet – can be divided into the wild stuff and the rest. So here’s the first killer statistic: 10,000 years ago, the biomass of humans and their domestic animals represented 0.4 per cent of the total. Right now, it’s 96 per cent and is rising.

The planet, then, is going through a significant change. This is not a dire warning: it is a current event. It is not a scare story to persuade you to adopt a dolphin: it’s a plain fact. Palaeontologists agree that there have been five major extinction episodes in the Earth’s history. The most recent did for the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, after a meteor strike. The consensus is that the sixth extinction is happening right now. The dinosaur extinction was literally the end of an era, a geological one: the Mesozoic became the Cenozoic. It is now reckoned that we are entering a new geological period: goodbye Holocene, hello Anthropocene.

We seem to have accepted the idea that the loss of wild animals is the sad but acceptable price of progress – and that progress is an incontrovertibly good thing. We recently passed the point at which more than half of the world’s human population live in cities.

The loss of animal species is not seen as a serious matter – when did you last hear a politician talk about the extinction crisis? That reflects the notion that humans come first, the domestic animals we use for food comes second and everything else is either a pest or a luxury. To care about wild animals is sentimental, childish and unrealistic. They’re expendable.

And yet in alarmingly recent history, white races believed that all other races were expendable. Genocide was wholly acceptable; the killing of Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals were considered perfectly justified. Peter Singer, the ethical philosopher, argues that our “circles of concern” have expanded since those times – beyond tribe, beyond nation and beyond race to all humanity – and should now be expanding further to include non-human species. That is happening to an extent (the worldwide ban on commercial whaling shows such thinking in action), but we are still losing both biodiversity and bio-abundance at a catastrophic rate.

But when we talk of extinction, it’s the potential loss of the great beasts – the charismatic megafauna – that reaches people: lions, rhinos, gorillas, elephants, tigers, whales. Their loss wouldn’t affect many humans materially, but the idea of losing them is distressing. We seem to be moving towards the idea of tokenism: the survival of a handful of wild tigers tells us that the world is still OK, and we can watch them whenever we like on the ever-more-dramatic wildlife documentaries. But a world without any wild animals at all is a more complex notion.


1. The following table shows several numbered blanks (each Black is one question) 

2. Complete the table by filling in the corresponding blanks mentioned below the table 

3. Make sure you write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS to answer these questions 

4. All answers should be in small case & should adhere to the general rules of punctuation. 

5. DO NOT USE capital letters to write entire words or sentences.




Endangered with ___________________




_____________of the British butterflies are extinct.

Q.5 ______________




Extinct ________ ago


1. Fill in the blanks to answer the following set of questions. 

2. Make sure you write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS to answer these questions. 

3. All answers should be given in small case and should adhere to the general rules of punctuation. 

4. DO NOT USE capital letters to write entire words or sentences.


________major extinctions have happened before the current one.


The total weight of all the backboned living animals on earth is called _______


Around__________species of animals are facing the fear of becoming extinct.

Q.11 According to the anthropocene time ................ come first.


__________ believes that we must extend our compassion towards non-humans too.

Q.13 Dinosaurs belonged to the_____________ era.

Section 2


Lightning begins high up in the clouds

A. Lightning begins high up in the clouds, sometimes as high as 25,000 feet (7,600 metres) above the earth’s surface. As it descends toward the ground, the electricity is searching, searching, searching for something to connect with. It steps, almost stair-like, in a rapid-fire series of roughly 50-metre increments. Once lightning is 50 metres or so from the ground, it searches again, like a pendulum, in a nearby radius for “the most convenient thing to hit the fastest,” says Ron Holle, a US meteorologist and long-time lightning researcher.

Prime candidates include isolated and pointed objects: trees, utility poles, buildings and occasionally people. The entire cloud-to-ground sequence happens blindingly fast.

B. The popular perception is that the chance of being struck by lightning is one in a million. There’s some truth here, based on US data, if one only looks at deaths and injuries in a single year. But Holle believes that statistic is misleading. If someone lives until 80, their lifetime vulnerability increases to 1 in 13,000. Then consider that every victim knows at least 10 people well, such as friends and family. Thus any individual’s lifetime probability of being personally affected by a lightning strike is even higher: a 1 in 1,300 chance.

C. Holle doesn’t even like the word “struck”, saying it implies that lightning strikes hit the body directly. In fact, direct strikes are surprisingly rare. Holle, Cooper and several other prominent lightning researchers recently pooled their expertise and calculated that direct strikes are responsible for no more than 3-5% of injuries. Justin believes that he experienced what is called a side flash or side splash, in which the lightning jumps from something that has been struck – such as a tree or telephone pole – hopscotching to a nearby object or person. Considered the second most common lightning hazard, side splashes inflict 20-30% of injuries and fatalities. By far the most common cause of injury is ground current, in which the electricity courses along the earth’s surface, ensnaring a herd of cows or a group of people sleeping in a tent or a grass-thatched hut.

D. What should you do if you find yourself stranded a long way from a building or car when a storm kicks up? Some guidance is available: avoid mountain peaks, tall trees or any body of water. Look for a ravine or a depression. Spread out your group, with at least 6 metres (20 feet) between each person, to reduce the risk of multiple injuries. Don’t lie down, which boosts your exposure to ground current. There’s even a recommended lightning position: crouched down, keeping the feet close together.

In his cubicle at the control centre of the US National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) in Tucson – operated by Vaisala, a Finnish environmental observation company – Holle has accumulated stacks and stacks of folders filled with articles and other write-ups detailing a seemingly endless litany of lightning-related scenarios involving people or animals: deaths and injuries that have occurred in tents, or during sports competitions, or to individuals huddled beneath a golf shelter or a picnic shelter or some other type of shelter.

That word whitewashes the reality, as so-called “shelters” can become “death traps” during a lightning storm. They provide protection from getting wet – that’s it.

E. On a series of large screens lining two walls of a room at NLDN’s offices, one can see where cloud-to-ground lightning is flashing in real time, picked up by strategically positioned sensors in the US and elsewhere. Satellite data has shown that certain regions of the world, generally those near the equator, are lightning dense. Venezuela, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan all rank among the top 10 lightning hotspots.

Initially, lightning safety campaigns promoted the 30/30 rule, which relied upon individuals counting off the seconds after lightning flashed. If thunder rumbled before they reached 30, lightning was close enough to pose a threat. But there’s been a move away from that advice, for various reasons. One is practical: it’s not always easy to figure out which rumble of thunder corresponds to which lightning flash. For simplicity’s sake, everyone from schoolchildren to their grandparents these days is advised: “When thunder roars, go indoors.”

Education isn’t the only reason lightning deaths have steadily declined in the US, Australia and other high-income regions. Housing construction has improved. Jobs have moved indoors. In the US alone, annual fatalities have fallen from more than 450 in the early 1990s to fewer than 50 in recent years.

F. There’s always room for improvement, though. Arizona, for example, ranks high in the US when looking at lightning deaths per state population. Holle’s theory is that people stay outside longer in the desert as the rain isn’t necessarily heavy during storms. That’s why casualties can occur, even before the storm arrives, with people dallying on their way to shelter while lightning stretches out in front of the dark clouds.

 G. Still, people in high-income countries have it easy compared with those in regions where people have no choice but to work outside in all conditions, and lightning-safe buildings are scarce. One analysis of agricultural-related lightning deaths outside the US revealed that more than half of them occurred in India, followed by Bangladesh and the Philippines. The victims were young (in their early 20's for the men, early 30's for the women) and were often working in farms and paddy fields.

Some lightning deaths go unreported or are missed entirely. It might appear, for instance, that a fire killed an entire family. But that assumption misses a key piece of the tragedy. Sometimes it is lightning that sets the grass roof ablaze, temporarily paralysing the family members within, so they are unable to escape the flames.


1. Answer the following set of questions. 

2. Make sure you write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS to answer these questions. 

3. All answers need to given in small case using general rules of punctuation. 

4. DO NOT USE Capital letters to write entire words or sentences.


What causes the maximum number of lightning injuries ?


Which word suggests that lightning has hit somebody directly?


What are children advised to do during storms?

Q.17 Which state in the US has faced most lightning deaths per state population?

Q.18 What could standing in a group during a thunderstorm result in?

Q.19 Which country outside US has reported the highest number of lightning related deaths?


What did the lightning safety campaigns promote earlier?


Do the following statements agree with the information given in the passage? Choose: 

TRUE - if the statement agrees with the information 

FALSE - if the statement contradicts the information 

NOT GIVEN - if there is no information on this statement

Q.21 India has a higher percentage of lightning related deaths because of unawareness among people.

Q.22 Any tall object can be struck by lightning

Q.23 Shelters might not always be considered safe during a thunderstorm

Q.24 There's only a one in a million chance of an individual's being affected by lightning

Q.25 A large number of lightning related deaths happen due to direct strikes

Q.26 The countries that are far away from the equator are safe from lightning strikes

Section 3


The Botulinum Toxin

A. Botox is derived from a toxin purified from Clostridium Botulinum, a bacterium that thrives and multiplies in faultily canned food (and sometimes prison-made booze). The Botulinum toxin is so powerful that a tiny amount can suffocate a person by paralyzing the muscles used for breathing. It’s considered one of the world’s most deadly potential agents of bioterrorism and is on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s select agent list of heavily regulated substances that could “pose a severe threat to public, animal or plant health.” Because of that, Allergan must account to the CDC if even a speck of the toxin goes missing, and when it’s sent to Allergan’s manufacturing facility in Ireland, its travels bring to mind a presidential Secret Service operation—minus literally all of the public attention.

B. A baby-aspirin-size amount of powdered toxin is enough to make the global supply of Botox for a year. That little bit is derived from a larger primary source, which is locked down somewhere in the continental U.S.—no one who isn’t on a carefully guarded list of government and company officials knows exactly where. Occasionally (the company won’t say how frequently), some of the toxin (the company won’t say how much) is shipped in secrecy to the lab in Irvine for research. Even less frequently, a bit of the toxin is transported by private jet, with guards aboard, to the plant in Ireland.

C - Scientists differ over how much of the toxin would be required to inflict massive damage. Data on the topic is scarce, and that may be intentional. But a study published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that a single gram in crystallized form, “evenly dispersed and inhaled, would kill more than 1 million people.” Experts are divided over what it would take to effectively weaponize the toxin, but the mere possibility of a botulism bomb has the U.S. government on edge. That puts Allergan in a remarkable position. The government’s vigilance enhances the company’s own secrecy, and together they give Botox a near-monopoly that is almost unassailable. There are hundreds of botulism poisonings annually in the U.S. alone, and a couple of times a year someone dies. In a typically random case, a man passed away earlier this year after eating tainted nachos at a gas station outside of Sacramento. It was the cheese sauce.

D - Around 1820, Justinus Kerner, a German doctor and poet famous for his supernatural and melancholy romantic verse, published the first accurate description of the symptoms of what he termed "Wurstgift", or “sausage poisoning”: drooping eyelids, accompanied by difficulty swallowing and breathing. Near the end of the century, a group of musicians playing at a funeral developed double-vision and muscle paralysis after eating a ham. At least three died. From that tragedy, Emile Van Ermengem, a microbiology professor in Belgium, identified C. botulinum. He is credited with giving the pathogen its name, deriving it from the Latin word for sausage, “botulus.”

E - Botox is largely the brainchild of two scientists, Alan Scott and Ed Schantz, who approached the toxin with completely different goals. In the 1960s and ’70s, Scott, an ophthalmologist, was looking for a treatment for people with strabismus, or crossed eyes. Schantz’s focus was more military than medical; he’d done work purifying the botulinum toxin in the Chemical Corps at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., home of the U.S. biological weapons program, before moving to the University of Wisconsin, where he perfected the process. Schantz became a supplier of the toxin to Scott after a colleague put the two in touch.

F - Back then, controls for shipping botulinum were next to nonexistent. Schantz sent the stuff, in crystalline form, to Scott via the U.S. Postal Service in a metal tube slipped inside another metal tube. It was Scott who turned the toxin into a pharmaceutical. He then formed a company around his breakthrough, called Oculinum Inc. The drug, also called Oculinum, was approved in 1989 for strabismus and blepharospasm, or twitchy eyelid. Allergan licensed it from Scott, then bought it outright in 1991. (The name was changed to Botox the next year.)

G -The drug works like this: A person’s muscles are controlled by motor nerves, which release a chemical that instructs the muscles to contract. Botox blocks the release of that chemical. Today it’s approved for nine different medical uses—including treatment for chronic migraines, overactive bladders, and severe muscle spasms—and is in trials for use in treating depression and is being studied for atrial fibrillation, or AFib. Cosmetic uses are likewise expanding: The next frontier is the saggy neck and the too-square jaw. Herbert says that when Allergan first acquired Botox, he thought it could do $10 million in annual sales. Now it’s on track to grow to almost $4 billion by 2020.


1. The reading passage has paragraphs labelled as A, B, C, D and so on. 

2. Choose the most suitable paragraph heading for each paragraph from the list of headings.
















1. Fill in the blanks to answer the following set of questions. 2. Make sure you write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS to answer these questions. 3. All answers need to given in small case using general rules of punctuation. 4. DO NOT USE Capital letters to write entire words or sentences.


Produces a dangerous toxin  _______


Considered highly toxic - a tiny amount can paralyze the breathing muscles and _________

Q.36 Discovered by _______


Name derived from a Latin word


A very tiny quantity is adequate for yearly production of __________


A _________ with guards secretly delivers an unknown quantity.


Very rarely, botulinum is transported to a plant in__________