Section 1 Academic Reading Practice
- Basic information
- Methods to achieve the correct answers
- Exam tips
- Three sections to the test
- 1 hour to complete all three sections (this is a tall order so practicing until you can complete the paper with the allotted time is absolutely crucial)
- Typically for undergraduate or postgraduate study and entry into professional careers
- 40 questions
- Each correct answer receives 1 mark
Methods to achieve the right answers
- Invert the statements into questions
- Write a sentence for each paragraph precisely describing what it it saying
- Look for similar language seen in the statements (this is something I recommend always doing). Shown in answers for questions 1-5.
Example- Statement 3 asks about what Manet was trying to communicate. ‘to depict, Manet seems to be conveying’, and ‘Why would Manet engage in such deceit?’ are reasonable clues to go by that this paragraph deals with Manet was trying to communicate and show in his work.
IELTS SAMPLE PAPER: TEXT
A bar at the folies (Un bar aux folies)
A One of the most critically renowned paintings of the 19th-century modernist movement is the French painter Edouard Manet’s masterwork, A Bar at the Folies. Originally belonging to the composer Emmanuel Chabrier, it is now in the possession of The Courtauld Gallery in London, where it has also become a favourite with the crowds.
Summary: The paintings’ long-standing popularity
B The painting is set late at night in a nineteenth-century Parisian nightclub. A barmaid stands alone behind her bar, fitted out in a black bodice that has a frilly white neckline, and with a spray of flowers sitting across her décolletage. She rests her hands on the bar and gazes out forlornly at a point just below the viewer, not quite making eye contact. Also on the bar are some bottles of liquor and a bowl of oranges, but much of the activity in the room takes place in the reflection of a mirror behind the barmaid. Through this mirror we see an auditorium, bustling with blurred figures and faces: men in top hats, a woman examining the scene below her through binoculars, another in long gloves, even the feet of a trapeze artist demonstrating acrobatic feats above his adoring crowd. In the foreground of the reflection a man with a thick moustache is talking with the barmaid.
Summary: A description of the painting
C Although the Folies (-Bergère) was an actual establishment in late nineteenth-century Paris, and the subject of the painting was a real barmaid who worked there, Manet did not attempt to recapture every detail of the bar in his rendition. The painting was largely completed in a private studio belonging to the painter, where the barmaid posed with a number of bottles, and this was then integrated with quick sketches the artist made at the Folies itself.
Summary: How and where the painting was completed, going against common misconception that he painted it entirely at the Foiles.
D Even more confounding than Manet’s relaxed attention to detail, however, is the relationship in the painting between the activity in the mirrored reflection and that which we see in the unreflected foreground. In a similar vein to Diego Velazquez’ much earlier work Las Meninas, Manet uses the mirror to toy with our ideas about which details are true to life and which are not. In the foreground, for example, the barmaid is positioned upright, her face betraying an expression of lonely detachment, yet in the mirrored reflection she appears to be leaning forward and to the side, apparently engaging in conversation with her moustachioed customer. As a result of this, the customer’s stance is also altered. In the mirror, he should be blocked from view as a result of where the barmaid is standing, yet Manet has re-positioned him to the side. The overall impact on the viewer is one of a dreamlike disjuncture between reality and illusion.
Summary: How Manet creates a contrast between reality and illusion and the viewer’s perception of this
E Why would Manet engage in such deceit? Perhaps for that very reason: to depict two different states of mind or emotion. Manet seems to be conveying his understanding of the modern workplace, a place – from his perspective – of alienation, where workers felt torn from their ‘true’ selves and forced to assume an artificial working identity. What we see in the mirrored reflection is the barmaid’s working self, busy serving a customer. The front-on view, however, bears witness to how the barmaid truly feels at work: hopeless, adrift, and alone.
Summary: Manet’s intentions behind his painting, lead by the beginning rhetorical question
F Ever since its debut at the Paris Salon of 1882, art historians have produced reams of books and journal articles disputing the positioning of the barmaid and patron in A Bar at the Folies. Some have even conducted staged representations of the painting in order to ascertain whether Manet’s seemingly distorted point of view might have been possible after all. Yet while academics are understandably drawn to the compositional enigma of the painting, the layperson is always likely to see the much simpler, more human story beneath. No doubt this is the way Manet would have wanted it.
Summary: Scholars debating the positioning of the barmaid since 1882
Reading Passage 1 has six paragraphs, A–F. Which paragraph contains the following information? Write the correct letter, A–F, in boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet.
- A description of how Manet created the painting- how did Manet create the painting?
- Aspects of the painting that scholars are most interested in- What features of the painting are scholars most interested in?
- The writer’s view of the idea that Manet wants to communicate- in the writer’s opinion, what does Manet want to communicate?
- Examples to show why the bar scene is unrealistic- What examples are used to show the bar scene as unrealistic?
- A statement about the popularity of the painting- What statement depicts the painting’s popularity?
1- C The painting was largely completed in a private studio belonging to the painter, where the barmaid posed with a number of bottles, and this was then integrated with quick sketches the artist made at the Folies itself.
2- F Ever since its debut at the Paris Salon of 1882, art historians have produced reams of books and journal articles disputing the positioning of the barmaid and patron in A Bar at the Folies.
3- E Why would Manet engage in such deceit?, to depict two different states of mind or emotion, Manet seems to be conveying,
4- D the overall impact on the viewer is one of a dreamlike disjuncture between reality and illusion, toy with our ideas, true to life and which are not, yet, apparently, also altered
5- A critically renowned paintings of the 19th-century, also become a favourite with the crowds, Edouard Manet’s masterwork, crowds
Answer the questions below. Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer. Write your answers in boxes 6–10 on your answer sheet.
- Who was the first owner of A Bar at the Folies?
- What is the barmaid wearing?
- Which room is seen at the back of the painting?
- Who is performing for the audience?
- Where did most of the work on the painting take place?
6. Composer Emmanuel Chabrier
7. Black bodice
8. Auditorium blurred figures
9. Trapeze artist
10. Reflection of mirror
Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A–F, below. Write the correct letter, A–F, in boxes 11–13 on your answer sheet.
- Manet misrepresents the images in the mirror because (E) Manet wanted to manipulate our sense of reality
- Manet felt modern workers were alienated because (D) they felt like they had to become different people
- Academics have reconstructed the painting in real life because they (A) wanted to find out if the painting’s perspective was realistic
A. wanted to find out if the painting’s perspective was realistic
B. felt they had to work very hard at boring and difficult jobs
C. wanted to understand the lives of ordinary people at the time
D. felt like they had to become different people
E. wanted to manipulate our sense of reality
F. wanted to focus on the detail in the painting
- Read the question very carefully- scan the questions multiple times to know exactly what you’re looking for
- Make lexical connections. As shown in my answers in questions 1-5, I captured words that have a clear connection and therefore help you to arrive at your answer.
- Summarise the paragraphs. Knowing what each paragraph represents will help you locate the answers quicker.
- Identify where the main ideas are. Each sentence is leading to something. Imagine you had to strip back the paragraphs until you are left with its core messages- what would you isolate?
- Read longer articles as part of your practice. Getting used to absorbing extensive information will help to train your brain in how to intake more information at a speedier pace. If you practice something enough, your responses will be quicker. The BBC and The Guardian are great for practicing this skill.
As a native speaker, ESL tutor and (former) English Literature and Language student, I too had to employ techniques to ensure I was getting the right answer. However good your English might be, the academic paper is challenging. You need to comprehend clearly, track its structural thread, infer its language, make distinctions throughout but also create connections where appropriate.
Keep practicing and working with a tutor to ensure you are meeting the band you are aiming for.