IELTS Reading Matching Headings

Matching headings tend to be one of the trickier task types on the IELTS reading test. These have some similarities with other matching tasks.

In a matching headings task, you will be presented with a text which has lettered paragraphs. You will also have a list of potential headings which exceeds the number of paragraphs. You do not need to use all of the headings, and you must not use each heading more than once.

Strategy

As with all parts of the IELTS reading test, the key to doing well is to identify where the key information will appear.

The purpose of a heading is to sum up what a paragraph is about. It helps us to know therefore that the main topic of a paragraph is likely to appear in the first sentence (or two). In most cases, we will be matching the heading to the first sentence.

Step 1: The First Paragraph

Once you have identified this is a matching headings task, you can go straight to the first paragraph.

Read the first two sentences of the text. Now read the headings carefully. Do any of the headings match?

Try with the first sentence of a text below entitled “Why being bored is stimulating – and useful too.” Click for the potential headings.

We all know how it feels – it’s impossible to keep your mind on anything, time stretches out, and all the things you could do seem equally unlikely to make you feel better. But defining boredom so that it can be studied in the lab has proved difficult.

i The productive outcomes that may result from boredom
ii What teachers can do to prevent boredom
iii A new explanation and a new cure for boredom
iv Problems with a scientific approach to boredom
v A potential danger arising from boredom
vi Creating a system of classification for feelings of boredom
vii Age groups most affected by boredom
viii Identifying those most affected by boredom

At this point you have hopefully identified the correct answer is iv. The text refers to defining boredom for study in the lab. This is clearly a problem with scientific approaches to boredom.

Step 2: Cross Out the Heading

As you are sure that it is the correct answer, you should cross out the number iv from the list of headings. This heading cannot be used again for any other paragraph. If you were unsure, you can circle or underline the number instead.

Crossing out the headings you have used already will help you to narrow down the options.

Step 3: Skip Difficult Paragraphs

Continue to the next paragraph and read the first two sentences. Again read through the remaining headings for any which sound similar.

If you can’t work out the answer, leave this paragraph. You can come back to it once you have worked out the others.

By working out the easier paragraphs first you will reduce the number of headings and limit the number of whole paragraphs you have to read.

Step 4: Go Back to the Difficult Paragraphs

After you have finished with the easier paragraphs, you will need to return to the others.

Read these paragraphs in full. Look at the headings again and try to match them.

Step 5: Write your Answers

Don’t forget to write your answers on the answer sheet. You have to do this during the time allowed for the reading test.

Make sure that you write the roman numeral (e.g. i, ii, iii, etc.) for the heading you have selected. Don’t write the numbers 1-8, a word e.g. seven, or the heading; the marker will not give any points for these.

Practice

Practice this strategy with the remainder of the text we looked at in step 1. Remember:

– Read the first two sentences of the paragraph.

– Read the headings.

– If one heading is obviously correct, write that answer.

– If there is no clear heading, move on to the next paragraph.

– Once you have been through all the paragraphs once, go back to the ones you didn’t get. Read these more fully.

Why being bored is stimulating – and useful, too

This most common of emotions is turning out to be more interesting than we thought

A
We all know how it feels – it’s impossible to keep your mind on anything, time stretches out, and all the things you could do seem equally unlikely to make you feel better. But defining boredom so that it can be studied in the lab has proved difficult. For a start, it can include a lot of other mental states, such as frustration, apathy, depression and indifference. There isn’t even agreement over whether boredom is always a low-energy, flat kind of emotion or whether feeling agitated and restless counts as boredom, too. In his book, Boredom: A Lively History, Peter Toohey at the University of Calgary, Canada, compares it to disgust – an emotion that motivates us to stay away from certain situations. ‘If disgust protects humans from infection, boredom may protect them from “infectious” social situations,’ he suggests.
B
By asking people about their experiences of boredom, Thomas Goetz and his team at the University of Konstanz in Germany have recently identified five distinct types: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant and apathetic. These can be plotted on two axes – one running left to right, which measures low to high arousal, and the other from top to bottom, which measures how positive or negative the feeling is. Intriguingly, Goetz has found that while people experience all kinds of boredom, they tend to specialise in one. Of the five types, the most damaging is ‘reactant’ boredom with its explosive combination of high arousal and negative emotion. The most useful is what Goetz calls ‘indifferent’ boredom: someone isn’t engaged in anything satisfying but still feels relaxed and calm. However, it remains to be seen whether there are any character traits that predict the kind of boredom each of us might be prone to.
C
Psychologist Sandi Mann at the University of Central Lancashire, UK, goes further. ‘All emotions are there for a reason, including boredom,’ she says. Mann has found that being bored makes us more creative. ‘We’re all afraid of being bored but in actual fact it can lead to all kinds of amazing things,’ she says. In experiments published last year, Mann found that people who had been made to feel bored by copying numbers out of the phone book for 15 minutes came up with more creative ideas about how to use a polystyrene cup than a control group. Mann concluded that a passive, boring activity is best for creativity because it allows the mind to wander. In fact, she goes so far as to suggest that we should seek out more boredom in our lives.
D
Psychologist John Eastwood at York University in Toronto, Canada, isn’t convinced. ‘If you are in a state of mind-wandering you are not bored,’ he says. ‘In my view, by definition boredom is an undesirable state.’ That doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t adaptive, he adds. ‘Pain is adaptive – if we didn’t have physical pain, bad things would happen to us. Does that mean that we should actively cause pain? No. But even if boredom has evolved to help us survive, it can still be toxic if allowed to fester.’ For Eastwood, the central feature of boredom is a failure to put our ‘attention system’ into gear. This causes an inability to focus on anything, which makes time seem to go painfully slowly. What’s more, your efforts to improve the situation can end up making you feel worse. ‘People try to connect with the world and if they are not successful there’s that frustration and irritability,’ he says. Perhaps most worryingly, says Eastwood, repeatedly failing to engage attention can lead to a state where we don’t know what to do any more, and no longer care.
E
Eastwood’s team is now trying to explore why the attention system fails. It’s early days but they think that at least some of it comes down to personality. Boredom proneness has been linked with a variety of traits. People who are motivated by pleasure seem to suffer particularly badly. Other personality traits, such as curiosity, are associated with a high boredom threshold. More evidence that boredom has detrimental effects comes from studies of people who are more or less prone to boredom. It seems those who bore easily face poorer prospects in education, their career and even life in general. But of course, boredom itself cannot kill – it’s the things we do to deal with it that may put us in danger. What can we do to alleviate it before it comes to that? Goetz’s group has one suggestion. Working with teenagers, they found that those who ‘approach’ a boring situation – in other words, see that it’s boring and get stuck in anyway – report less boredom than those who try to avoid it by using snacks, TV or social media for distraction.
F
Psychologist Francoise Wemelsfelder speculates that our over-connected lifestyles might even be a new source of boredom. ‘In modern human society there is a lot of overstimulation but still a lot of problems finding meaning,’ she says. So instead of seeking yet more mental stimulation, perhaps we should leave our phones alone, and use boredom to motivate us to engage with the world in a more meaningful way.

i The productive outcomes that may result from boredom
ii What teachers can do to prevent boredom
iii A new explanation and a new cure for boredom
iv Problems with a scientific approach to boredom
v A potential danger arising from boredom
vi Creating a system of classification for feelings of boredom
vii Age groups most affected by boredom
viii Identifying those most affected by boredom

  1. A – iv
  2. B – vi
  3. C – i
  4. D – v
  5. E – viii
  6. F – iii

Acknowledgement

The text and questions used in the post come from Cambridge Academic IELTS 13 which you can purchase here.

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