IELTS Reading Multiple Choice Questions

In these questions, for each ‘question’ you will have either a question and four possible answers, or the beginning of a sentence and four possible endings. Your goal is to choose the correct answer or ending.

Strategy

As with all IELTS reading questions, when doing multiple choice questions we want to find the answer quickly and accurately. The following strategy will help you with this.

Step 1: Look at the Questions and Find Key Words

This is another reading task type where key words will help us to locate the answers quickly. To do this it is helpful to know that the questions are usually written so that some word or phrase in the question can be found in the text (although not always). On the other hand, the words in the answers will often be paraphrased and since there are four of these, it would take us longer to go through and locate the parts of the text that each answer is taken from.

The final question sometimes asks about the writer’s aim or for an appropriate heading for the text. For this we will not need a key word, but we will need to have a more global understanding of the text. It may therefore be worth saving this question until you have done all the others for this passage so that you have read most of it and have a good understanding of what it is about.

Look at the questions below and decide what the key words are:

  1. Current oxygen levels on Earth
  2. A change in oxygen levels will
  3. Ozaki and Reinhard’s prediction impacts the search for extra-terrestrial life because
  4. The writer’s main point in writing this passage is to
  1. Current oxygen levels on Earth (we can see oxygen levels appears in the next question too, current is easily paraphrased but Earth stands out especially when we consider one question mentions extra-terrestrial life)
  2. A change in oxygen levels will (we may not find the word change, but a synonym such as a reduction or increase)
  3. Ozaki and Reinhard’s prediction impacts the search for extra-terrestrial life because (again this may use different words)
  4. The writer’s main point in writing this passage is to (no key word needed)

Step 2: Find the Key Words in the Text

Once you have found the key words in the questions, the next step is to find them in the text.

Find the key words in the text below:

Complex life’s days are numbered
Earth sustains large oxygen-breathing organisms today, but in a billion years it won’t

ONE billion years from now, Earth’s atmosphere will contain little oxygen, making it unsuitable for complex aerobic life. Today, oxygen makes up around 21 per cent of Earth’s atmosphere. Its oxygen-rich nature is ideal for large and complex organisms, like humans, that require the gas to survive. But early in Earth’s history, oxygen levels were much lower – and they are likely to be low again in the distant future.

Kazumi Ozaki at Toho University in Funabashi, Japan, and Chris Reinhard at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta modelled Earth’s climatic, biological and geological systems to predict how atmospheric conditions on Earth will change. The researchers say that Earth’s atmosphere will maintain high levels of oxygen for the next billion years before dramatically returning to low levels reminiscent of those that existed prior to what is known as the Great Oxidation Event of about 2.4 billion years ago.

One key reason for the shift is that, as our sun ages, it will become hotter and release more energy. The researchers calculate that this will lead to a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as CO2 absorbs heat and then breaks down. Ozaki and Reinhard estimate that, in a billion years, CO2 levels will become so low that photosynthesising organisms – including plants –will be unable to survive and produce oxygen. The mass extinction of these photosynthetic organisms will be the primary cause of the huge reduction in oxygen. “The drop in oxygen is very, very extreme –we’re talking around a million times less oxygen than there is today,” says Reinhard.

Once the changes in Earth’s atmosphere begin to occur, they will progress rapidly: the team’s calculations suggest that the atmosphere could lose its oxygen over the course of just 10,000 years or so. “The biosphere cannot adapt to such a dramatic shift in environmental change,” says Ozaki. Afterwards, life on Earth will be exclusively microbial, says Reinhard.

The research was conducted as part of a NASA project into planet habitability, and the predictions have implications for searching for life on other planets. “Oxygen, in its many forms, is a very important bio signature since it is intertwined with life so fully on Earth,” says Natalie Allen at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. But Ozaki and Reinhard’s new prediction shows that oxygen presence is variable and may not be permanent on a habitable planet. “It suggests that even for planets around other stars that are very similar to Earth, large amounts of oxygen may not be detected in their atmosphere, even if they can support, or have supported, complex life,” says Kevin Ortiz Ceballos at the University of Puerto Rico. Not detecting oxygen around planets doesn’t mean that they are uninhabitable, he says.

ONE billion years from now, Earth’s1 atmosphere will contain little oxygen, making it unsuitable for complex aerobic life. Today, oxygen makes up around 21 per cent of Earth’s atmosphere. Its oxygen-rich nature is ideal for large and complex organisms, like humans, that require the gas to survive. But early in Earth’s history, oxygen levels were much lower – and they are likely to be low again in the distant future.

Kazumi Ozaki at Toho University in Funabashi, Japan, and Chris Reinhard at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta modelled Earth’s climatic, biological and geological systems to predict how atmospheric conditions on Earth will change2. The researchers say that Earth’s atmosphere will maintain high levels of oxygen for the next billion years before dramatically returning to low levels reminiscent of those that existed prior to what is known as the Great Oxidation Event of about 2.4 billion years ago.

One key reason for the shift is that, as our sun ages, it will become hotter and release more energy. The researchers calculate that this will lead to a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as CO2 absorbs heat and then breaks down. Ozaki and Reinhard estimate that, in a billion years, CO2 levels will become so low that photosynthesising organisms – including plants –will be unable to survive and produce oxygen. The mass extinction of these photosynthetic organisms will be the primary cause of the huge reduction in oxygen. “The drop in oxygen is very, very extreme –we’re talking around a million times less oxygen than there is today,” says Reinhard.

Once the changes in Earth’s atmosphere begin to occur, they will progress rapidly: the team’s calculations suggest that the atmosphere could lose its oxygen over the course of just 10,000 years or so. “The biosphere cannot adapt to such a dramatic shift in environmental change,” says Ozaki. Afterwards, life on Earth will be exclusively microbial, says Reinhard.

The research was conducted as part of a NASA project into planet habitability, and the predictions have implications for searching for life on other planets3. “Oxygen, in its many forms, is a very important bio signature since it is intertwined with life so fully on Earth,” says Natalie Allen at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. But Ozaki and Reinhard’s new prediction shows that oxygen presence is variable and may not be permanent on a habitable planet. “It suggests that even for planets around other stars that are very similar to Earth, large amounts of oxygen may not be detected in their atmosphere, even if they can support, or have supported, complex life,” says Kevin Ortiz Ceballos at the University of Puerto Rico. Not detecting oxygen around planets doesn’t mean that they are uninhabitable, he says.

Step 3: Read the Paragraphs and Compare to the Answers

Read the paragraphs that contain the key words. Read each sentence and see if it matches any of the four answers.

You may get lucky and find the answer right away. In this case circle the letter – A, B, C or D. It is also a good idea to write the question number and answer you think it relates to in the margin. You should still read on and try to eliminate the other answers.

If you find an answer that is clearly wrong, cross out the letter that relates to it. This way you will not consider the same bad answers again and again. Instead you will have fewer answers so that if you have to guess, you have at least increased your chances from 25% to 33% or even 50%.

Now read the text fully and try to answer the questions, below:

1. Current oxygen levels on Earth
A are the highest they have ever been
B are expected to become similar to the past
C are necessary for microbial life
D are insufficient to support complex life

2. A change in oxygen levels will
A take 2.4 billion years
B make it impossible for plants to photosynthesise
C be a slight reduction from current levels
D happen relatively quickly

3. Ozaki and Reinhard’s prediction impacts the search for extra-terrestrial life because
A oxygen is necessary for life on Earth
B oxygen in the atmosphere is the only necessary condition for life
C a planet may support life even without detectable oxygen in its atmosphere
D humans have been unable to detect oxygen on other planets

4. The writer’s main point in writing this passage is to
A describe the difficulties of finding life on other planets
B explain why oxygen is necessary to complex lifeforms
C report the implications of a scientific prediction
D show the importance of finding habitable planets

1 B (they are likely to be low again in the distant future)

2 D (dramatically returning)

3 C (large amounts of oxygen may not be detected in their atmosphere, even if they can support, or have supported, complex life)

4 C (the other points are not sufficiently covered in the article to justify being the main point)

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 choice you have selected.

Acknowledgement

The article above was taken from New Scientist magazine, 6-12 March 2021. A digital subscription to New Scientist can be purchased here.

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