IELTS Reading Matching Opinions

Matching opinion questions regularly appear on the IELTS reading paper. They are usually not too challenging if you follow this simple guide.

In these questions, for each ‘question’ you will have the name of a person, organisation  or group (typically between 4 and 6), and opinions. Typically, there are two more opinions than the number of questions (e.g. 4 questions = 6 opinions). You should therefore not need to use all of the opinions, and you shouldn’t be required to use an opinion more than once. If you do need to, this should be stated in the instructions.

Strategy

As with many parts of the IELTS reading test, matching opinion questions can be answered most quickly if you can identify where the answer will appear in the text. To do this we use the skill of scanning which you have practised in earlier lessons.

Step 1: Look at the Questions

The questions will be either a list of people (e.g. Isaac Newton), groups (e.g. the Babylonians) or organisations (e.g. the WHO). These will be your key words to scan for in the text.

Bear in mind how these will appear in the text. The text is likely to refer to the surname of person more than their full name (e.g. Newton). A group might be referred to by a variation of their name (e.g. Babylon). In some cases, organisations may be written in full (e.g. the World Health Organisation) and subsequently shortened to an abbreviation (e.g. WHO).

Step 2: Find the Key Words in the Text

The next step is to scan the text to find the key words (the names) in the text. When scanning we do not read every word, we simply search each line for the key word.

As with many question types that require you to scan, the questions appear in the same order as the text.

When you find the name, underline it. This includes if you find it a few times. These are sentences that you will definitely need to read.

Look at the questions below. Scan the text for these names:

6 Eukarion

7 Rich Miller

8 David Gems

9 John Polkinghorne

Life without death
by Duncan Turner

A Until recently, the thought that there might ever be a cure for ageing seemed preposterous. Growing older and more decrepit appeared to be an inevitable and necessary part of being human. Over the last decade, however, scientists have begun to see ageing differently. Some now believe that the average life-expectancy may soon be pushed up to 160 years; others think that it may be extended to 200 or 300 years. A handful even wonder whether we might one day live for a millennium or more.

B Behind this new excitement is the theory that the primary cause of ageing lies in highly reactive molecules called free radicals, left behind by the oxygen we breathe. Free radicals react with the molecules in our bodies, damaging DNA, proteins and other cell tissues, and are known to be implicated in diseases as diverse as cataracts, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The body does its best to protect itself against free radicals by producing its own chemicals to prevent ageing, such as vitamins E and C, but it is always fighting a losing battle.

C A year ago Gordon Lithgow of the University of Manchester discovered a way to help combat free radicals. Using one of these anti-ageing chemicals, he managed to increase the lifespan of one species of earthworm by 50 per cent. Despite cautionary words from the scientists, many welcomed this as the first step towards a drug which would extend life. Research involving the mutation of genes has also thrown up fascinating results; after identifying two of the genes that appear to control how long the earthworm lives, similar genes were found in organisms as various as fruit-flies, mice and human beings. When one considers the vast evolutionary distances that separate these species, it suggests that we may have discovered a key to how ageing is regulated throughout the entire animal kingdom.

D In June last year, a small American company called Eukarion sought permission to carry out the first trials of an anti-aging drug, SCS, on human beings. Although it will initially be used to treat diseases associated with old age, Eukarion said, that ‘if the effect of treating diseases of old age is to extend life, everyone is going to be happy’.

E Some scientists, however, are quick to discourage extravagant speculation. ‘There is no evidence whatsoever that swallowing any chemical would have an effect on mammals’, says Rich Miller of the University of Michigan. ‘And those people who claim it might need to go out and do some experimenting.’ Some research, moreover, has produced alarming results. As well as controlling ageing, these genes also partly control the hormones which regulate growth. The upshot of this is that although the lives of mutant mice can be extended by up to 80 per cent, they remain smaller than normal.

F Quite apart from these sorts of horrors, the ethical implications of extending human lifespan are likely to worry many people. Even if the falling birth-rates reported in the world’s developed nations were to be repeated throughout the world, would this be sufficient to compensate for massively extended life-expectancy, and would we be willing to see the demographic of our society change out of all recognition? David Gems, the head of the Centre for Research into Ageing at University College London, is enthusiastic about the opportunities opened up by extended life, but even he observes, ‘If people live much longer, the proportion of children would, or course, be very small. It strikes me that it might feel rather claustrophobic; all those middle-aged people and very few children or young people.’

G The philosopher John Polkinghorne emphasises that any discussion of the merits of life-extending therapies must take into account the quality of the life that is lived; ‘One would not wish to prolong life beyond the point it had ceased to be creative and fulfilling and meaningful,’ he says. ‘Presumably, there would have to come a point at which life ceased to be creative and became just repetition. Clearly, there are only so many rounds of golf one would want to play.’

H But Polkinghorne, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, also observes that so far our experience of extended life-expectancy had not resulted in world-weariness. Throughout the last century, life-expectancy rose consistently, thanks to improved diet, better hygiene, continuous medical innovation and the provision of free or subsidised healthcare. In 1952 the Queen sent out 225 telegrams to people on their 100th birthday; in 1996 she sent out 5,218. ‘Consider also, the lives of our Roman and Anglo-Saxon ancestors,’ he says. ‘By and large, the doubling of human lifespan we have seen since then has not been a bad thing. Life has not become frustrating and boring. For example, we now live to see our children’s children, and this is good.’

Source: The Spectator, 9th February 2002

A Until recently, the thought that there might ever be a cure for ageing seemed preposterous. Growing older and more decrepit appeared to be an inevitable and necessary part of being human. Over the last decade, however, scientists have begun to see ageing differently. Some now believe that the average life-expectancy may soon be pushed up to 160 years; others think that it may be extended to 200 or 300 years. A handful even wonder whether we might one day live for a millennium or more.

B Behind this new excitement is the theory that the primary cause of ageing lies in highly reactive molecules called free radicals, left behind by the oxygen we breathe. Free radicals react with the molecules in our bodies, damaging DNA, proteins and other cell tissues, and are known to be implicated in diseases as diverse as cataracts, cancer and Alzheimer’s. The body does its best to protect itself against free radicals by producing its own chemicals to prevent ageing, such as vitamins E and C, but it is always fighting a losing battle.

C A year ago Gordon Lithgow of the University of Manchester discovered a way to help combat free radicals. Using one of these anti-ageing chemicals, he managed to increase the lifespan of one species of earthworm by 50 per cent. Despite cautionary words from the scientists, many welcomed this as the first step towards a drug which would extend life. Research involving the mutation of genes has also thrown up fascinating results; after identifying two of the genes that appear to control how long the earthworm lives, similar genes were found in organisms as various as fruit-flies, mice and human beings. When one considers the vast evolutionary distances that separate these species, it suggests that we may have discovered a key to how ageing is regulated throughout the entire animal kingdom.

D In June last year, a small American company called Eukarion1 sought permission to carry out the first trials of an anti-aging drug, SCS, on human beings. Although it will initially be used to treat diseases associated with old age, Eukarion1 said, that ‘if the effect of treating diseases of old age is to extend life, everyone is going to be happy’.

E Some scientists, however, are quick to discourage extravagant speculation. ‘There is no evidence whatsoever that swallowing any chemical would have an effect on mammals’, says Rich Miller2 of the University of Michigan. ‘And those people who claim it might need to go out and do some experimenting.’ Some research, moreover, has produced alarming results. As well as controlling ageing, these genes also partly control the hormones which regulate growth. The upshot of this is that although the lives of mutant mice can be extended by up to 80 per cent, they remain smaller than normal.

F Quite apart from these sorts of horrors, the ethical implications of extending human lifespan are likely to worry many people. Even if the falling birth-rates reported in the world’s developed nations were to be repeated throughout the world, would this be sufficient to compensate for massively extended life-expectancy, and would we be willing to see the demographic of our society change out of all recognition? David Gems3, the head of the Centre for Research into Ageing at University College London, is enthusiastic about the opportunities opened up by extended life, but even he observes, ‘If people live much longer, the proportion of children would, or course, be very small. It strikes me that it might feel rather claustrophobic; all those middle-aged people and very few children or young people.’

G The philosopher John Polkinghorne4 emphasises that any discussion of the merits of life-extending therapies must take into account the quality of the life that is lived; ‘One would not wish to prolong life beyond the point it had ceased to be creative and fulfilling and meaningful,’ he says. ‘Presumably, there would have to come a point at which life ceased to be creative and became just repetition. Clearly, there are only so many rounds of golf one would want to play.’

H But Polkinghorne4, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, also observes that so far our experience of extended life-expectancy had not resulted in world-weariness. Throughout the last century, life-expectancy rose consistently, thanks to improved diet, better hygiene, continuous medical innovation and the provision of free or subsidised healthcare. In 1952 the Queen sent out 225 telegrams to people on their 100th birthday; in 1996 she sent out 5,218. ‘Consider also, the lives of our Roman and Anglo-Saxon ancestors,’ he says. ‘By and large, the doubling of human lifespan we have seen since then has not been a bad thing. Life has not become frustrating and boring. For example, we now live to see our children’s children, and this is good.’

Source: The Spectator, 9th February 2002

Step 3: Read the Sentences around the Names

Read the sentences in which the names appear. As you are looking for opinions, anything written in direct speech (i.e. in quotation marks like ‘this’ or “this”) will be relevant. However, the text may also use reported speech, or (particularly with groups and organisations) write more generally about their beliefs.

You need to check whether the sentences before and after the name appears are relevant as well.

Read these sentences and try to understand what they are saying. It can be useful to try and summarise what they are saying in your head.

For example, Rich Miller says ‘There is no evidence whatsoever that swallowing any chemical would have an effect on mammals’. We can summarise this in our minds as ‘there is no reason to believe life-extending drugs will work on mammals.’

Step 4: Read the Opinions

Now that you have read the text, you need to read the opinions and decide if any match what you have read. The opinions are paraphrased versions of what the text says and so you should be able to identify parallel expressions or paraphrased words. If you can, this is a good indication you are correct.

When you find an opinion that strongly matches what the text says, write the letter next to the name and cross out that opinion (or the letter for that opinion). This way you will not keep reading the same opinions.

If you don’t know, skip it and come back to it when you have done the others. This will mean you have fewer opinions to choose from and can make an intelligent guess. Do make an intelligent guess if you can’t answer any of the questions – you will not be punished for a wrong answer, but you will definitely not get points if you don’t write any answer.

Read the text and match the opinions to the people:

6 Eukarion

7 Rich Miller

8 David Gems

9 John Polkinghorne

A Increases in longevity may cause unwelcome changes in society.

B People will live longer but become tired of life.

C Past experience shows that people do not lose interest in life as a result of living longer.

D There is no scientific proof that any drug can prolong human life expectancy.

E One medicine we are developing may have a welcome benefit apart from its original purpose.

F Using drugs to treat the diseases of old age is only the beginning

6 E (Eukarion says that the medicine for treating elderly people may also extend their lifespan)

7 D (Miller says that there is no evidence that chemicals can extend the life of mammals, which therefore includes humans)

8 A (Gems suggests that it could feel claustrophobic with a smaller proportion of children around)

9 C (Polkinghorne initially says that people could become bored, but then he notes that this hasn’t happened – he gives an example of seeing our grandchildren grow up as a positive)

Step 5: Write your Answers

Remember to write your answers on the IELTS reading answer sheet. You simply need to write the letter that corresponds to the opinion you have chosen. These should be written as capital letters (A, B, C, etc.).

Acknowledgement

The reading passage and IELTS reading matching opinion questions in this post appear in Instant IELTS. The full book can be purchased here.

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