IELTS Reading: How many words in the IELTS Academic Reading test?

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edited May 2016 in IELTS Test

How many words do you need to read in the IELTS Academic test?

You will be given 3 Passages to read and each of those passages will contain around 900 words.  This means that you need to be ready to read around 2,700+ words in 1 hour.

But don't forget...you also have to answer 40 questions.  Consider that you will need to divide your time like this:

Reading 3 x passages: around 15 minutes (5 minutes per passage)

Answering 40 questions: around 1 minute per question

Checking answers at the end: 1-2 mins

To get ready for the test you will need to do a lot of reading.  Are you comfortable reading an academic text of about 3000 words in 15 minutes?  Try this:

1. Below we have posted an academic text of around 1000 words.
2. Get a countdown timer and set it for 5 minutes.
3. Click 'show' and start reading.  
4. Can you read the whole passage within 5 minutes?  Can you remember the key parts of what you read?

The stylistic distance between the sterile geometry of the new Apple building in New York City and the absurd vulgarity of this year's Jeep Cherokee is a measure of the crisis in American design today.  I would be hard-pressed to find another period in history which presented such aesthetic antitheses.  These two objects do not belong even to the same spectrum of design; one is an aristocratic affectation of sophistication, the other a nouveau riche ostentation of wealth.  One draws its forms from Procrustean concepts of mathematical order, the other seemingly from the paperback literature of space age warfare.  And in between these poles, with no more apparent relation to each other than the constellations of the Milky Way, lie all the other artistic phenomena with which our landscape is littered.

There are, indeed, some odd and contradictory forces at work among us!  One increasingly popular explanation for this parlous state of affairs is simply that of our wealth; our design is quaggy because we are too rich.  Perhaps one should ask the question: If great wealth produced great art in fifth-century Athens, among ninth-century Mayans, or in fifteenth-century Florence, why not in twenty-first century Detroit?  Could it be that our problem is not wealth but the conditions under which it is applied to artistic production?  To ask the question is to answer it.  Modern industrialised civilisations have produced unparalleled social wealth.  It has, at the same time, introduced several new and entirely unprecedented factors in the process of design.  Only consider:

1. Industrial civilisation, through mass production, has robbed all of us of firsthand knowledge of how any object is made or how it works.  It has correspondingly crippled our ability to evaluate critically the practical or aesthetic values of objects.

2. We have, at the same time, been given a more imperious command of tools for making things and materials out of which to make them. These tools, these materials confront us with properties, potentialities, and limitations of almost stupefying complexity.

3. Pre-industrial limits of time and space have been destroyed. We are exposed to the stimuli of the art and artifacts of all times and places. Into our unready laps is hurled a torrent of dazzling images and objects, spanning the globe and the whole product of human history.  Any one of these developments, taken by itself, would have an unsettling effect upon the aesthetic equilibrium of a culture; taken together, their impact threatens disaster.

Aesthetic standards, in any period before our won were strictly conditioned by what one might call ‘the politics of handicraft production’.  The consumer of the item came face to face with its producer.  This producer was, at the same time, the designer of the item.  Under such circumstances, debasement of workmanship or irresponsibility of design was difficult: opportunity for the one and incentive for the other were greatly restricted.

Here was a happy situation for the designer as well.  He knew intimately the limits and potentialities of his tools and material.  He shared the aesthetic standards of the consumer.  Any change or modification in design had to be worked out within these mutually acceptable limits.

With modern mass production, this relationship is radically altered.  Under such circumstances, both consumer and designer suffer: each becomes progressively more ignorant of the other’s requirements and limitations. For the designer, surveys and market analyses replace the give-and-take of personal encounter. Less and less able to comprehend the complexity of modern technology, his design becomes more and more superficial, more vulnerable to the pressures of fad and fancy. And the consumer – removed by the same specialization from any firsthand knowledge of what is being bought – can only rely upon somebody else’s word.  He can only express his contentment (or discontentment) by buying, or refusing to buy, from among the range of items offered by mass production.  In real life, it is difficult for this consumer to refuse forever to buy essentials – a house, a bed, a vehicle – so he is forced ultimately to make his choice from available products, some or all of which may be unsuitable or unworthy. In doing so, he abdicates his power – first his voice in design, then his aesthetic standards for judging design.

One of the characteristics of contemporary taste is its intense interest in the art forms of the pre-industrialised past – folk, primitive, and prehistoric.  The reasons for this interest are clear: these objects display a kind of ‘organic’ unity of form and content, an acute respect for their materials, an integrity of line and colour which is in refreshing contrast to the sleazy eclecticism of so much of contemporary design. These objects are admired for their ‘honesty’ and it is easy to assume that this is a direct expression of a poor and backward culture.  Cub the fact is that any culture which can produce a thrown pot, a woven blanket, or a carved stool is already, by anthropological standards, an advance and wealthy one.

In truly primitive societies, trade and transportation restricted artists and artisans to materials locally available.  The desert peoples build with mud, the Siberians with skin and felted hair, the Melanesians with palm leaf and bamboo, simply because that was all they had.  Their energies and talents were focused on a very narrow range of materials and techniques; the unity and coherence of their designs express this fact.  Though the commerce and technology of the classic world greatly expanded the range of raw materials available in its centers, the employment of imported materials was largely restricted to luxury good by the difficulties of transportation.


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