The politics of pessimism, Caveat Scripture, Leisure time – Reading


Reading Passage 1

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14, which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

The politics of pessimism

Newspaper headlines and TV or radio news bulletins would have us believe erroneously that a new age has come upon us, the Age of Cassandra. People arc being assailed not just with contemporary doom, or past gloom, but with prophecies of disasters about to befall. The dawn of the new millennium has now passed; the earth is still intact, and the fin de siècle Jeremiahs have now gone off to configure a new date for the apocalypse.


IELTS Reading Recent Actual Tests April - July 2020 with Answers-Ebook

$18 $37

Written by professional IELTS teachers to help candidates on the big day

4.5 start rating

4.5 rating

It can, I believe, be said with some certainty that the doom-mongers will never run out of business. Human nature has an inclination for pessimism and anxiety, with each age hav­ing its demagogues, foretelling doom or dragging it in their wake. But what makes the modern age so different is that the catastrophes are more “in your face”, Their assault on our senses is relentless. Whether it be subconscious or not, this is a situation not lost on politicians. They play upon people’s propensity for unease, turning it into a very effective political tool.

Deluding the general public

All too often, when politicians want to change the status quo, they take advantage of peo­ple’s fears of the unknown and their uncertainties about the future. For example, details about a new policy may be leaked to the press. Of course, the worst-case scenario is pre­sented in all its depressing detail. When the general public reacts in horror, the government appears to cave in. And then accepting some of the suggestions from their critics, ministers water down their proposals. This allows the government to get what It wants, while at the same time fooling the public into believing that they have got one over on the government. Or even that they have some say in the making of policy.,

There are several principles at play here. And both are rather simple: unsettle people and then play on their fears; and second, people must be given an opportunity to make a con­tribution, however insignificant, in a given situation; otherwise, they become dissatisfied, not fearful or anxious.

A similar ruse, at a local level, will further illustrate how easily people’s base fears are ex­ploited. A common practice is to give people a number of options, say in a housing devel­opment, ranging from no change to a radical transformation of an area. The aim is to per­suade people to agree on significant modifications, which may involve disruption to their lives, and possibly extra expenditure. The individuals, fearful of the worst possible outcome, plump for the middle course. And this, incidentally, Is Invariably the option favoured by the authorities. Everything is achieved under the guise of market research, But It is obviously a blatant exercise in the manipulation of people’s fears.

Fear and survival

Fear and anxieties about the future affect us till. People are wracked with self-doubt and low self-esteem. In the struggle to exist and advance in life, a seemingly endless string, of obstacles is encountered, so ninny, in fact, that any accomplishment seems surprising. liven when people do suicide they are still nagged by uncertainty,

Not surprisingly, feelings like doubt, fear, anxiety and pessimism arc usually associated with failure. Yet, If properly harnessed, they are the driving force behind success, the very engines of genius.

if things turn out well for a long time, there is further anxiety: that of constantly waiting for something to go wrong. People then find themselves propitiating the gods: not walking on lines on the pavements, performing before public performances, wearing a  sort of particu­lar clothes and colours so that they can blame the ritual not themselves when things go wrong,

But surely the real terror comes when success continues uninterrupted for such a long period of time that we forget what failure Is like I

We crave for and are fed a daily diet of anxiety, horror films and disaster movies have an increasing appeal. Nostradamus pops his head up now and again, And other would-be prophets make a brief appearance, predicting the demise of humankind. Perhaps this is all just a vestige of the hardships of early man – our attempt to recreate the struggles of a past age, as it becomes more and more comfortable.

Mankind cannot live by a content mind alone. And so, a world awash with atheism and pes­simism has been created. Being optimistic is a struggle. But survival dictates that mankind remain ever sanguine.

Questions 1-5

Choose one phrase (A-K) from the list of phrases to complete each key point below.

Write the appropriate letters (A-K) in Boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.

The information in the completed sentences should be an accurate summary of the points made by the writer.

NB. There are more phrases (A-K) than sentences, so you wilt not need to use them all. You may use each phrase once only.

Key points

1. Newspaper headlines and TV or radio news bulletins …

  1. Doom-mongers are popular, because of people …
  2. Today, catastrophes …
  3. To politicians, people’s Inclination for fear…
  4. The government…

List of phrases

A. are not as threatening as In the past

B. tell the truth

C. blame them

D. try to make us believe mistakenly that we are In a new era

E. calm people down

F. are uncertain about the future 

G. are less comfortable

H. are natural pessimists and worriers

I. are more Immediate

J. get what they want by deceiving the public

K. is something they can make use of

Questions 6-9

Choose the appropriate letters A-D and write them in Boxes 6-9 on your answer sheet.

6. The housing development example shows that people …

A. are not that easily deceived

B. like market research

C. lead their fears

D. are easy to delude

7. Which one of the following statements is true, according to the passage?

A. Market research uses people’s fears for their own good

B. People are scared by market research techniques

C. Market research techniques are used as a means of taking advantage of people’s fears

D. Market research makes people happy

8. The engines of genius are …

A. properly harnessed

B. the driving force behind the success

C. driven by feelings like fear

D. usually associated with failure

9. Continual success …

A. makes people arrogant

B. worries people

C. does not have any negative effects on people

D. increases people’s self-esteem

Questions 10-14

Do the statements below agree with the information in Reading Passage 1?

In Boxes 10-14, write:

YES, if the statement agrees with the information in the passage

NO, if the statement contradicts the information in the passage

NOṬ GIVEN, if there is no information about the statement in the passage

Example: Politicians pretend things are worse than they are.

Answer: Yes.


10. The complex relationship between failure and success needs to be addressed carefully.

  1. People perform certain rituals to try to avoid failure.
  2. Anxiety in daily life is what we want.
  3. The writer believes that Nostradamus and certain other prophets are right about their predictions for the end of the human race.
  4. Mankind needs to be pessimistic to survive.

Also check: 

Reading passage 2

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 15-28, which are bused on Rending Passage 2 below.

Caveat scripture

Let the would-be writer beware! Anyone foolhardy enough to embark on a career as a writer – whether it be an academic treatise, a novel, or even an article – should first read this!

People think that writing as a profession is glamorous; that it is just about sitting down and churning out words on a page, or more likely these days on a computer screen. If only it were! So what exactly does writing a book entail? Being a writer is about managing a galaxy of contradictory feelings: elation, despair, hope, frustration, satisfaction, and depression – and not all separately! Of course, it also involves carrying out detailed research: first to establish whether there is a market for the planned publication, and second into the content of the book. Sometimes, however, instinct takes the place of market research and the contents are dictated not by plans and exhaustive research but by experience and knowledge.

Once the publication has been embarked upon, there is a long period of turmoil as the text takes shape. A first draft is rarely the final text of the book. Nearly all books are the result of countless hours of altering and reordering chunks of text and deleting the embarrassing bits. While some people might think that with new technology the checking and editing process is speeded up, the experienced writer would hardly agree. Unfortunately, advanced technology now allows the writer the luxury of countless editings; a temptation many of us find hard to resist. So a passage, endlessly reworked may end up nothing remotely like the original, and completely out of place when compared with the rest of the text.

After the trauma of self-editing and looking for howlers, it is time to show the text to other people, friends perhaps, for appraisal. At this stage, it is not wise to send it off to a literary agent or direct to publishers, as it may need further fine-tuning of which the author is unaware. Once an agent has been approached and has rejected a draft publication, it is difficult to go and ask for the revamped text to be considered again. It also helps, at this stage, to offer a synopsis of the book, if it is a novel, or an outline if it is a textbook. This acts as a guide for the author, and a general reference for friends and later for agents.

Although it is tempting to send the draft to every possible agent at one time, it is probably unwise. Some agents may reject the publication out of hand, but others may proffer some invaluable advice, for example about the content or the direction to be taken. Hints like this may be of use in finally being given a contract by an agent or publisher.

The lucky few taken on by publishers or agents, then have their books subjected to a number of readers, whose job it is to vet a book: deciding whether it is worth publishing and whether the text as it stands is acceptable or not. After a book has finally been accepted by a publisher, one of the greatest difficulties for the writer lies in taking on board the publisher’s alterations to the text. Whilst the overall story the thrust of the book may be acceptable, it will probably have to conform to an in-house style, as regards language, spelling or punctuation, etc. More seriously, the integrity of the text may be challenged, and this may require radical redrafting which is unpalatable to the author. A book’s creation period is complex and unnerving, but the publisher’s reworkings and text amputations can also be a tortuous process.

For many writers, the most painful period comes when the text has been accepted, and the writer is waiting for it to be put together for the printer. By this stage, it is not uncommon for the writer to be thoroughly sick of the text.

Abandon writing? Nonsense. Once smitten, it is not easy to escape the compulsion to create and write, despite the roller-coaster ride of contradictory emotions.

Questions 15-22

Complete the text below, which is a summary of the passage.

Choose your answers from the Word List below and write them in Boxes 15-22 on your answer sheet.

There are more words and phrases than spaces, so you will not be able to use them all. You may use each word or phrase only once.

Example: Anyone who wants to be a writer should__________

Answer: beware.

People often associate writing with _______15__________. But being a writer Involves managing conflicting emotions as well as _________16__________ or instinct. Advanced technology, contrary to what might be thought, does not make the________17___________ faster.

When a writer has a draft of the text ready, It is a good idea to have a___________________ 18_______for friends, etc. to look at. If an author Is accepted by a publisher, the draft of the book is given to__________ 19______ for vetting,___________ 20.______ are then often made, which are not easy for the writer to agree. However,_________ 21_______ is compelling, even though there are_____________ 22_______ .


editing process beware  readers
first draft glamour a literary agent
alterations  profession publisher
challenges writing  dictating
research publishing summary
ups and downs roller-coaster  

Questions 23 and 24

Choose the appropriate letters A-D and write them in Boxes 23 and 24 on your answer sheet,

23. In the planning stages of a book, …

A. Instinct can replace market research

B. market research can replace instinct

C. market research is essential

D. instinct frequently replaces market research

24. The problem with the use of advanced technology in editing is that …

A. it becomes different from the original

B. it is unfortunate

C. it is a luxury

D. many writers cannot resist changing the text again and again

Questions 25-28

Complete the sentences below.

Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage to complete each blank space.

25. Once a text is finished, the writer needs to get the______________________ of other people.

  1. Some agents may reject the draft of a book, while others may offer________________________ .
  2. Apart from the need for a draft to conform to an in-house style, a publisher’s changes to a text may Include.
  3. The publisher’s alterations to a book are difficult for a writer, as is the__________________________as the book grows.

Reading Passage 3

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 29-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.

Leisure time

A. A raft of forecasts has been made in the recent decade, predicting the decline in the number of working hours coupled with a consequent increase in leisure time. It was estimated that the leisure revolution would take place by the turn of the last cent my with hours devoted to work railing to 25-30 per week, This reduction hits failed to materialise, but the revolu­tion has, nonetheless, arrived.

B. Over the past 30 to 41 years, spending on leisure has witnessed a strong increase, Accord­ing to the annual family expenditure survey published in 1935 by the Office for National Statistics, the average household in the United Kingdom spent more on leisure than food, housing and transport for the very first time, and the trend is also set to continue up­wards well into the present century.

C. The survey, based on a sample of 6,500 households showed, that the days are long gone when the average family struggled to buy basic foods. As recently as 1969, family spending on food was approximately one third compared to 17% now. Twelve years later, there was a noticeable shift towards leisure with the percentage of household spending on leisure increasing to 9%, and that on food declining to 26%.

D. The average household income in the UK in 1999 was £460 per week before tax, and average spending was £352.20. Of the latter sum, £59.70 was spent on leisure and £58.90 on food. On holidays alone, family expenditure was 6%, while in 1969 the proportion spent on holidays was just 2%. And whereas the richest 10% lashed out 20% of their income in 1999 on leisure, the poorest spent 12%.  

E. Among the professional and managerial classes, working hours have increased and, overall in the economy, record numbers of people are in employment. As people work more, the appetite for leisure activities has grown to compensate for the greater stress in life. The past 5 years alone have seen the leisure business expand by 25% with a change in emphasis to short domestic weekend breaks and long-haul short breaks to exotic destinations in place of long holidays. In the future, it is expected that people will jump from one leisure activity to another in complexes catering for everyone’s needs with gyms, cinemas, cafes, restaurants, bars and internet facilities all under one roof. The leisure complexes of today will expand to house all the leisure facilities required for the leisure age. 

F. Other factors fueling demand for leisure activities are rising prosperity, increasing longevity and a more active elderly population. Hence, at the forefront of leisure spending are not just young or professional classes. The 1999 family expenditure survey showed that the 64 to 75-year-old group spend a higher proportion of their income on leisure than any other age group. The strength of the “grey pound” now means that elderly people are able to command more respect and, thus, attention in the leisure market.

G. And the future? It is anticipated that, in the years to come, leisure spending will account for between a third to a half of all household spending. Whilst it is difficult to give exact figures, the leisure industry will certainly experience a long period of sustained growth. Working hours are not expected to decrease, partly because the 24-hour society will need to be serviced; and secondly, because more people will be needed to keep the service/leisure industries running.   

H. In the coming decades, the pace of change will accelerate, generating greater wealth at a faster rate than ever before. Surveys show that this is already happening in many parts of Europe. The south-east of England, for example, is now supposedly the richest area in the EEC. The “leisure pound” is one of the driving forces behind this surge. But, sadly, it does not look as if we will have the long leisure hours that we had all been promised.

Questions 29-35

Reading Passage 3 has 8 paragraphs (A-H).

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

Write the appropriate numbers (i-xiv) in Boxes 29-35 on your answer sheet.

One of the headings has been done for you as an example.

You may use any heading more than once.

There are more headings than paragraphs, so you will not use all of them,

29. Paragraph A

  1. Paragraph B
  2. Paragraph C
Example: Paragraph D         Answer: iv

32. Paragraph E

  1. Paragraph F
  2. Paragraph G
  3. Paragraph H

List of headings

i. Leisure spending goes up strongly

ii. Decreasing unemployment

iii. False forecasts

iv. Spending trends – leisure v food

v. More affordable food

vi. Leisure as an answer to stress

vii. Looking forward

viii. The leisure revolution – working hours reduced to 25

ix. The “grey pound” soars

x. Rising expenditure

xi. The elderly leisure market

xii. National Statisticians

xiii. Work, stress, and leisure all on the up

xiv. Money yes, leisure time no

Questions 36-40

Do the statements below agree with the information in Reading Passage 3? In Boxes 36-40, write:

YES, if the statement agrees with the information in the passage

NO, if the statement contradicts the information in the passage

NOT GIVEN, if there is no information about the statement in the passage

Example: In recent decades, an increase in working hours was predicted.

Answer: No.

36. At the turn of the last century, weekly work hours dropped to 25.

  1. Spending on leisure has gone up over the past three decades.
  2. Long holidays have taken the place of long-haul short breaks.
  3. In future, people will pay less for the leisure facilities they use than they do today.
  4. 24-hour society will have a negative effect on people’s attitudes to work.


Reading Passage 1

1. Answer: D. The answer is in the first paragraph. The keyword is erroneousB. is incorrect, as it is the opposite of what the passage says.

2. Answer: H. The answer is in the second paragraph, in the first part of the second sentence: Human nature has an inclination for pessimism and anxiety. Notice how the second sentence here explains why doom-mongers will never be out of business. And notice how you anticipate that an explanation is needed as you read the first sentence. This type of question is testing your ability to understand the relationship between information across sentences.

3. Answer: I. The answer is in paragraph 2 where catastrophes in the past and present are compared: … is that the catastrophes are more ” in your face “, i.e. immediate.

4. Answer: K. The answer is in the latter half of the second paragraph.

5. Answer: J. The answer is in paragraph 3. The sentences are in effect a summary of the paragraph. Note how the writer interchanges government, politicians and ministers in the paragraph.

Questions 6 – 9

6. Answer: D. The answer can be found in the first sentence of the fifth paragraph. Note that delude means device; look at the title for this section in the passage. A is not true, because it is the opposite of the correct answer. B is not mentioned and C is not possible, because, in the last sentence of the paragraph, it says people are manipulated by their fears.

7. Answer: C. The answer is in paragraph 5. A is not correct, because it doesn’t say whether market research uses people’s fears to help them; it says that it takes advantage of them, i.e. manipulates/exploits them. B and D are not correct, because the text does not mention any information about either.

8. Answer: C. The answer is in paragraph 7: they are the driving force behind success. The word refers to the feelings mentioned previously. A is incorrect, because the passage talks about ” if ” not ” when “: …if properly harnessedB. is incorrect because it is feelings that are said to be the driving force behind the success ( not the engines of genius). D. is wrong because the writer says it is the feelings listed which are usually associated with failure.

9. Answer: B. The answer is in the eighth paragraph. A and D are obviously wrong and C is the opposite.

Questions 10 – 14

10. Answer: Not Given. The text does not say anything about this.

11. Answer: Yes. The answer is in paragraph 8.

12. Answer: Yes. The answer is in the first sentence of the penultimate paragraph.

13. Answer: Not Given. The answer is in the penultimate paragraph. The text does not tell us what the writer believes about Nostradamus’s predictions or those of the other prophets either.

14. Answer: No. The answer is in the last sentence. The word sanguine means hopeful.

Reading Passage 2

Questions 15 – 22

15. Answer: glamour. The answer is in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

16. Answer: research. The answer is in the second paragraph towards the end.

17. Answer: editing process. The answer is in paragraph 3, the fourth sentence. The phrase the first draft does not fit here, as the sentence would not then reflect the meaning of the passage. Nor is the word writing correctly for the same reason. And it would not fit the grammar of the summary; the article in the summary would have to be omitted, as the writer is talking about all writers writing not specifically himself.

18. Answer: summary. The answer is at the end of the fourth paragraph. Note the word summary is a synonym for synopsis/outline.

19. Answer: readers. At the start of the sixth paragraph, it says that readers ( not publishers ) vet books.

20. Answer: Alterations. The answer is in the sixth paragraph.

21. Answer: writing. The answer is in the last paragraph. The word publishing is not correct, because the writer is talking about writing throughout the passage; publishing comes afterwards.

22. Answer: ups and downs. The answer is in the last paragraph. Note the word roller-coaster is not possible here. It does not make sense. The word does not carry the meaning of the latter part of the last sentence on its own. Nor is it grammatically possible: the summary has a plural verb and the word roller-coaster is singular.

Questions 23 and 24

23. Answer: A. The answer is a paraphrase of the last sentence of paragraph 2: Sometimes, instinct takes the place of market research … B. is the opposite. As for  C., the text does not say whether it is essential. D is not correct, because the text says sometimes – therefore, note the word can in A.

24. Answer: D. The answer is a paraphrase of the penultimate sentence of the third paragraph. A is not correct, because although the text says that a passage may end up nothing remotely like the original, the writer does not say that this is a problem. B is not possible, because the writer does not say the use is unfortunate; he is expressing an opinion when he says, unfortunately. C is incorrect because the problem is not a luxury.

Questions 25 – 28

25. Answer: the appraisal. The answer is at the beginning of paragraph 4.

26. Answer: some invaluable advice/ invaluable advice/ some advice/ advice/ hints. The answer is in the fifth paragraph. Note you cannot give the examples here as there would be too many words. You can use the word hints from the last sentence of the paragraph as it is a synonym, which summarises the advice and the examples.

27. Answer: radical redrafting/ redrafting/ reworkings/ text amputations. The answer is at the end of paragraph 6.

28. Answer: creation period. The answer is in the last sentence of paragraph 6.

Reading Passage 3

29. Answer: iii. The predictions made did not happen, i.e. … failed to materialise. The answer is not heading viii, as the text does not say that working hours have been reduced to 25 hours – it was an estimate of 25 to 30 hours.

30. Answer: i. The first sentence is the topic sentence and the rest of the paragraph expands the theme. Note heading iv is not the answer. The focus of the paragraph is on the increase in leisure spending. The writer compares it briefly to other areas, i.e. food, housing and transport, but this is not part of the main focus of the paragraph. In any case, the heading would have to include housing and transport as well as food. Note that this paragraph contains general information about leisure in relation to the more specific comparison in the next two paragraphs. Note also the word strongly in heading i.

31. Answer: iv. The paragraph explains that spending on food has decreased, while that for leisure has increased. Heading x is not the correct answer as this is too general. Nor is heading possible. See the explanation for 30 above. Some students may be tempted to put heading v as the answer, but this relates only to the first part of the paragraph and does not cover the contrast between leisure and food.

The correct heading here is the same as that for the next paragraph, i.e. the example. Read the instructions at the beginning of the exercise.

32. Answer: xiii. The paragraph talks about all three going up and gives an example of leisure in the future. Heading vi is not correct as this relates only to part of the paragraph.

33. Answer: xi. Heading ix is not the answer as the text does not say whether the “grey pound” is becoming stronger or not.

34. Answer: vii. The first sentence is the topic sentence. The answer is not iii as the paragraph does not say that the forecasts are false.

35. Answer: xiv. The paragraph deals with the two aspects, wealth and leisure hours.

Questions 36 – 40

36. Answer: No. The answer is in paragraph A. The predicted reduction in working hours did not happen.

37. Answer: Yes. The answer is in the first sentence of paragraph B.

38. Answer: No. The answer is in the middle of paragraph E, the opposite is true.

39. Answer: Not Given. It does not mention this anywhere in the passage. You just have to look at the sections of the text relating to the future, i.e. the end of paragraph E and all of G.

40. Answer: Not Given. The answer is in paragraph G. The writer does not say whether the 24-hour society will affect people’s attitudes.

Continue with…Practice Test 4

Written By

Sowmya is a content writer and is passionate about her job. She currently works on editing and writing engaging content for IELTS Material. She also has experience in the Software Testing Industry and has worked with Wipro for five and a half years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *