Language | IELTS Academic Reading Sample Question

The passage contains the following question types from IELTS Reading Question Types:

  • Identifying information
  • Multiple Choice Question
  • Summary Completion
  • Yes No Not Given


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

It is no small intellectual task that a child learns a language. In order to begin to communicate, a young child must first gain an understanding of the internal structure of a system that, in reality, contains tens of thousands of units, all generated from a small set of basic building blocks. In the case of English, these basic building blocks’ are the alphabet and the units’ are words. Although initially, a child may be able to grasp and manipulate the basic letters of a language to form an infinite number of units’, he or she must progress to another higher form of comprehension – the understanding that only a subset of those combinations is correct – what are actual meaningful words. Somehow, a young child must become familiar with the structure of a particular language system such that he or she can use it to communicate with others.

Given the complexity of the process of language acquisition, the question of how infants learn to speak in their native language so rapidly is an interesting one. Among linguists, the answer to this question has been researched and debated for decades. Some researchers think that the answer to the question – if indeed there is one – may unlock a secret to faster language acquisition amongst older people. Over the years, experiments where researchers have devised an artificial language that contained certain aspects of natural language structure have been tried. The artificial language was presented to the infants one ‘piece’ or ‘sample’ at a time. Once they became familiar with one piece of the language, another piece from the same artificial language was introduced. Once the infant appeared comfortable with this process, a piece of real or bona fide language was introduced. The researchers then measured such things as surprise and interest shown in the new language samples to determine whether or not the infant related to them as being completely new or as being more of what had been previously learned. The infant’s reactions to the new stimuli helped linguists to determine what mechanisms underpin the first stages of language acquisition. Experiments like this have uncovered some astonishing facts namely the rate at which an infant, even as young as 7 or 8 months, can take on the new’ information. Some infants demonstrated the ability to process the new information after as little as 3 minutes of exposure. Their young minds were able to structure the linguistic input into relevant and ultimately meaningful units of information.

Much of a child’s future social and intellectual development hinges upon their ability to acquire language. For this reason, language acquisition is one of the key milestones in early childhood development. Many child development experts encourage parents to start talking to their infant from the day of their birth. Some researchers maintain that the best way for a child to learn is to simply hear language as those around them talk. Repetition of structures seems to be a logical and academically defensible method of child language acquisition. Quite a large body of research has shown that optimal language development occurs when the same stories are read over and over again to young children. In one experiment, a mother exposed her son to only one book for nearly two years. The results were that the child spoke much earlier than his other siblings and was able to recite 90% of the text on each page by the age of two. Other studies have revealed that a knowledge of nursery rhymes among three-year-olds has been a significant predictor of later reading skill.

These examples of language learning, processing and producing, represent just a few of the many developments between birth and the eventual linguistic maturity that most children naturally attain. It is during this early period that children discover the raw materials in the sounds of their language, learn how they are assembled into longer strings, and then used in meaningful contexts. These processes unfold simultaneously, requiring children to organise the code of communication that surrounds them. Even though each layer is complex, young children readily solve the linguistic puzzles they encounter.

Regardless of the methods employed, the acquisition of a language is not an automatic process but rather one that occurs as a result of a process of learning. If a child does not take on a new language, then isolation and withdrawal often accompany learning difficulties and poor academic performance.

Questions 1– 5

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.
Write the correct letter in boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.

1) According to the writer, an ‘internal language structure’
A. consists only of the alphabet.
B. is the starting point for communication.
C. comprises an infinite number of words.
D. is another term for linguistic comprehension.

2) The writer states that understanding a language occurs
A. once the learner understands the ‘basic building blocks’.
B. once the learner grasps the ‘units’ of a language.
C. once the alphabet is learned.
D. naturally, as soon as a child is old enough.

3) An ‘artificial language’
A. is a new form of communication amongst young children.
B. was used as a contrast with real language.
C. was devised slowly, over a considerable period of time.
D. is a mixture of real and artificial words.

4) According to the writer, infant surprise and interest
A. indicated infant intelligence.
B. was greater amongst infants exposed to a bona fide language.
C. revealed how language is initially learned.
D. were die most dependable indicators of gauging infant reaction to new stimuli.

5) What greatly surprised researchers of infant language acquisition was
A. how readily participants demonstrated an ability to learn new languages.
B. how quickly the infants learned to verbally communicate.
C. how young the participants in the experiment were.
D. how quickly some infants learned new information.

Questions 6 – 9

Complete the summary.
Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.
Write your answers in boxes 6-9on your answer sheet.

If a child does not 6)………………………in early childhood, he or she will be greatly restricted in both the ability to interact with others and academic growth and development. To teach infants language, some researchers recommend that they 7)………………..…………. it, while others feel that 8)…………….………….is the most effective way for them to learn. Regardless of which method of language acquisition is used, most children reach 9)…………..………………as they grow and develop.

Questions 10 – 13

Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer?
In boxes 10-13 on your answer sheet 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

10)       Understanding how children learn language may help adults learn language.
11)       The reactions of infants to artificial languages were quite similar.
12)       Learning about, organising and then using sounds occurs regularly among children.
13)       Language learning ability impacts upon writing ability.

Question 14

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C, D or E.
Write your answer in box 14 on your answer sheet.
What is the best title for Reading Passage? 

A. Clues for adult language learning.
B. Language acquisition in infants and young children.
C. Measuring speaking ability amongst infants.
D. Acquiring language: The key to future learning.
E. Experiments in infant language acquisition

Answers for IELTS Reading Sample Question

1)    B
The answer is in the 1st paragraph. The internal language structure is listed as being the first step in learning a language
A is not correct because the text clearly states that the internal structure contains the alphabet and words. C is the opposite of what is written in the text – only a subset of those (alphabet) combinations is correct (i. e. not an infinite number of words). D is not in the text at all.

2)    B
The answer is in the 1st paragraph – ‘unit’ are (meaningful) ‘words’
A & C are not suitable because the text states that the ‘basic building blocks’ are the alphabet and a leaner must ‘progress to a higher form of comprehension… understanding…what a meaningful words’. Regarding D the text does not indicate this at all.

3)    B
The answer is in the 2nd paragraph (“Once the infant appeared comfortable…a piece of real or bona fide language was introduced…to determine infant (ration)”
A & C are not suitable as the text does not say anything about this. The passage says artificial language contained certain aspects of natural language structure ( not words) so D is not correct.

4)    C
The answer is in the 2nd paragraph.
A & B are not even mentioned in the text. D is wrong because surprise and interest are given only as examples (‘such things as…’) so clearly, there were other indicators of reaction to new stimuli.

5)    D
The answer is in the 2nd paragraph.
A & B are wrong because although the text says infants learned quickly, it does not say that they learned ‘languages’ or ‘communicated verbally’. C is not mentioned anywhere in the passage.

6)    acquire language OR learn language
The answer is found the 1st sentence of paragraph 3.

7)    hear
The answer is found in the 4th sentence of paragraph 3.

8)    repetition (of structures)
The answer is found in the 5th sentence of paragraph 3.

9)    linguistic maturity
The answer is found in the 1st sentence of paragraph 4

10)    Yes
Paragraph 2 states: “Some researchers think that the answer to the question…may unlock a secret to faster language acquisition amongst older people”.

11)    NG
There is nothing in the passage about this!

12)    Yes
Paragraph 4 states: ‘…during this early period…children discover the raw materials in the sounds of their language, learn how they are assembled into longer strings, and then used in meaningful contexts. ‘

13)    NG
There is nothing in the passage about this!

14)    B
The answer cannot be A because although information about this is mentioned in paragraph 2 it is only a small part of the overall passage.
Although much of the passage is about infants learning to speak, it cannot be C because acquiring language does not mean only speaking. In paragraph 3, reading is also mentioned, ‘The same research showed that knowledge of nursery rhymes among three-year-olds was a significant predictor of later reading skill. ‘
D is also wrong. Although the passage discusses that acquiring language is a key to future learning in the final paragraph, it is not the main topic discussed throughout.
Even though the 2nd paragraph contains quite a lot of information on infant language acquisition experiments, E is also wrong as the rest of the passage does not focus on experimentation.

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