Academic Reading Passage 1
The coral reefs of Agatti Island
A Agatti is one of the Lakshadweep Islands off the southwest coast of India. These islands are surrounded by lagoons and coral reefs which are in turn surrounded by the open ocean. Coral reefs, which are formed from the skeletons of minute sea creatures, give shelter to a variety of plants and animals, and therefore have the potential to provide a stream of diverse benefits to the inhabitants of Agatti Island.
B In the first place, the reefs provide food and other products for consumption by the islanders themselves. Foods include different types of fish, octopus and molluscs, and in the case of poorer families these constitute as much as 90% of the protein they consume. Reef resources are also used for medicinal purposes. For example, the money cowrie, a shell known locally as Vallakavadi, is commonly made into a paste and used as a home remedy to treat cysts in the eye.
C In addition, the reef contributes to income generation. According to a recent survey, 20% of the households on Agatti report lagoon fishing, or shingle, mollusc, octopus and cowrie collection as their main occupation (Hoon et al, 2002). For poor households, the direct contribution of the reef to their financial resources is significant: 12% of poor households are completely dependent on the reef for their household income, while 59% of poor households rely on the reef for 70% of their household income, and the remaining 29% for 50% of their household income.
D Bartering of reef resources also commonly takes place, both between islanders and between islands. For example, Agatti Island is known for its abundance of octopus, and this is often used to obtain products from nearby Androth Island. Locally, reef products may be given by islanders in return for favours, such as help in constructing a house or net mending, or for other products such as rice, coconuts or fish.
E The investment required to exploit the reefs is minimal. It involves simple, locally available tools and equipment, some of which can be used without a boat, such as the fishing practice known as Kat moodsal. This is carried out in the shallow eastern lagoon of Agatti by children and adults, close to shore at low tide, throughout the year. A small cast net, a leaf bag, and plastic slippers are all that are required, and the activity can yield 10–12 small fish (approximately 1 kg) for household consumption. Cast nets are not expensive, and all the households in Agatti own at least one. Even the boats, which operate in the lagoon and near-shore reef, are constructed locally and have low running costs. They are either small, non-mechanised, traditional wooden rowing boats, known as Thonis, or rafts, known as Tharappam.
F During more than 400 years of occupation and survival, the Agatti islanders have developed an intimate knowledge of the reefs. They have knowledge of numerous different types of fish and where they can be found according to the tide or lunar cycle. They have also developed a local naming system or folk taxonomy, naming fish according to their shape. Sometimes the same species is given different names depending on its size and age. For example, a full grown Emperor fish is called Metti and a juvenile is called Killokam. The abundance of each species at different fishing grounds is also well known. Along with this knowledge of reef resources, the islanders have developed a wide range of skills and techniques for exploiting them. A multitude of different fishing techniques are still used by the islanders, each targeting different areas of the reef and particular species.
G The reef plays an important role in the social lives of the islanders too, being an integral part of traditions and rituals. Most of the island’s folklore revolves around the reef and sea. There is hardly any tale or song which does not mention the traditional sailing crafts, known as Odams, the journeys of enterprising ‘heroes’, the adventures of sea fishing and encounters with sea creatures. Songs that women sing recollect women looking for returning Odams, and requesting the waves to be gentler and the breeze just right for the sails. There are stories of the benevolent sea ghost baluvam, whose coming to shore is considered a harbinger of prosperity for that year, bringing more coconuts, more fish and general well-being.
H The reef is regarded by the islanders as common property, and all the islanders are entitled to use the lagoon and reef resources. In the past, fishing groups would obtain permission from the Amin (island head person) and go fishing in the grounds allotted by him. On their return, the Amin would be given a share of the catch, normally one of the best or biggest fish. This practice no longer exists, but there is still a code of conduct or etiquette for exploiting the reef, and common respect for this is an effective way of avoiding conflict or disputes.
I Exploitation of such vast and diverse resources as the reefs and lagoon surrounding the island has encouraged collaborative efforts, mainly for purposes of safety, but also as a necessity in the operation of many fishing techniques. For example, an indigenous gear and operation known as Bala fadal involves 25–30 men. Reef gleaning for cowrie collection by groups of 6–10 women is also a common activity, and even today, although its economic significance is marginal, it continues as a recreational activity.
Reading Passage 1 has nine paragraphs A–I.
Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.
|List of Phrases|
|i Island legends||vii The social nature of reef occupations|
|ii Resources for exchange||viii Resources for islanders’ own use|
|iii Competition for fishing rights||ix High levels of expertise|
|iv The low cost of equipment||x Alternative sources of employment|
|v Agatti’s favourable location||xi Resources for earning money|
|vi Rising income levels||xii Social rights and obligations|
1) Paragraph A
2) Paragraph B
3) Paragraph C
4) Paragraph D
5) Paragraph E
6) Paragraph F
7) Paragraph G
8) Paragraph H
9) Paragraph I
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IELTS Reading – Passage 3
A Spice plants, such as coriander, cardamom or ginger, contain compounds which, when added to food, give it a distinctive flavour. Spices have been used for centuries in the preparation of both meat dishes for consumption and meat dishes for long-term storage. However, an initial analysis of traditional meat-based recipes indicated that spices are not used equally in different countries and regions, so we set about investigating global patterns of spice use.
B We hypothesized initially that the benefit of spices might lie in their anti-microbial properties. Those compounds in spice plants which give them their distinctive flavours probably first evolved to fight enemies such as plant-eating insects, fungi, and bacteria. Many of the organisms which afflict spice plants attack humans too, in particular the bacteria and fungi that live on and in dead plant and animal matter. So if spices kill these organisms, or inhibit their production of toxins1, spice use in food might reduce our own chances of contracting food poisoning.
C The results of our investigation supported this hypothesis. In common with other researchers, we found that all spices for which we could locate appropriate information have some antibacterial effects: half inhibit more than 75% of bacteria, and four (garlic, onion, allspice and oregano) inhibit 100% of those bacteria tested. In addition, many spices are powerful fungicides.
D Studies also show that when combined, spices exhibit even greater anti-bacterial properties than when each is used alone. This is interesting because the food recipes we used in our sample specify an average of four different spices. Some spices are so frequently combined that the blends have acquired special names, such as ‘chili powder’ (typically a mixture of red pepper, onion, paprika, garlic, cumin and oregano) and ‘oriental five spice’ (pepper, cinnamon, anise, fennel and cloves). One intriguing example is the French ‘quatre epices’ (pepper, cloves, ginger and nutmeg) which is often used in making sausages. Sausages are a rich medium for bacterial growth, and have frequently been implicated as the source of death from the botulism toxin, so the value of the anti-bacterial compounds in spices used for sausage preparation is obvious.
E A second hypothesis we made was that spice use would be heaviest in areas where foods spoil most quickly. Studies indicate that rates of bacterial growth increase dramatically with air temperature. Meat dishes that are prepared in advance and stored at room temperatures for more than a few hours, especially in tropical climates, typically show massive increases in bacterial counts. Of course temperatures within houses, particularly in areas where food is prepared and stored, may differ from those of the outside air, but usually it is even hotter in the kitchen.
F Our survey of recipes from around the world confirmed this hypothesis: we found that countries with higher than average temperatures used more spices. Indeed, in hot countries nearly every meat-based recipe calls for at least one spice, and most include many spices, whereas in cooler ones, substantial proportions of dishes are prepared without spices, or with just a few. In other words, there is a significant positive correlation between mean temperature and the average quantity of spices used in cooking.
G But if the main function of spices is to make food safer to eat, how did our ancestors know which ones to use in the first place? It seems likely that people who happened to add spice plants to meat during preparation, especially in hot climates, would have been less likely to suffer from food poisoning than those who did not. Spice users may also have been able to store foods for longer before they spoiled, enabling them to tolerate longer periods of scarcity. Observation and imitation of the eating habits of these healthier individuals by others could spread spice use rapidly through a society. Also, families that used appropriate spices would rear a greater number of more healthy offspring, to whom spice-use traditions had been demonstrated, and who possessed appropriate taste receptors.
H Another question which arises is why did people develop a taste for spicy foods? One possibility involves learned taste aversions. It is known that when people eat something that makes them ill, they tend to avoid that taste subsequently. The adaptive value of such learning is obvious. Adding a spice to a food that caused sickness might alter its taste enough to make it palatable again (i.e. it tastes like a different food), as well as kill the micro-organisms that caused the illness, thus rendering it safe for consumption. By this process, food aversions would more often be associated with unspiced (and therefore unsafe) foods, and food likings would be associated with spicy foods, especially in places where foods spoil rapidly. Over time people would have developed a natural preference for spicy food.
I Of course, spice use is not the only way to avoid food poisoning. Cooking, and completely consuming wild game immediately after slaughter reduces opportunities for the growth of micro-organisms. However, this is practical only where fresh meat is abundant year-round. In areas where fresh meat is not consistently available, preservation may be accomplished by thoroughly cooking, salting, smoking, drying, and spicing meats. Indeed, salt has been used worldwide for centuries to preserve food. We suggest that all these practices have been adopted for essentially the same reason: to minimize the effects of harmful, food-borne organisms.
1 poisons produced by living organisms, especially bacteria
Reading Passage 3 has nine paragraphs, labelled A–I.
Which paragraphs contain the following information?
27) an example of a food which particularly benefits from the addition of spices.
28) a range of methods for making food safer to eat.
29) a comparison between countries with different climate types.
30) an explanation of how people first learned to select appropriate spices.
31) a method of enhancing the effectiveness of individual spices.
32) the relative effectiveness of certain spices against harmful organisms.
33) the possible origins of a dislike for unspiced foods.
English Reading Tip
Some of you may have difficulty keeping within the word limit. Try to focus on using noun phrases. If you find yourself getting stuck, you can write longer responses initially and edit them down to three or two words once you have answered all of the questions.
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- Not Given
- Not Given
- Food poisoning
- 100 / hundered % / percent
- Cooler ones
- Unspiced foods