Stage IV National Students Olympiad in the English Language
Reading Comprehension Test
For 11th Form Students DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOKLET
UNTIL ADVISED BY THE TEACHER
DICTIONARIES ARE NOT ALLOWED
In this test you will read five texts. Each text is followed by either 10 true/false statements or 5 multiple-choice questions. You should do the tasks that follow a text on the basis of what is stated or implied in that text. For each task you will choose the best possible answer from two symbols (+ or –) or four possible answers (A, B, C, or D), as specified prior to each task. Choose the best answer and circle the symbol or letter of your choice on the answer sheet.
STUDENT NUMBER: ____________
TEXT 1: From “Against Joie de Vivre”, Ploughshares, Phillip Lopate, 1986
I am invited periodically to dinner parties and brunches — and I go, because I like to be with people and oblige them, even if I secretly cannot share their optimism about these events. I go, not believing that I will have fun, but with the intent of observing people who think a dinner party a good time. I eat their fancy food, drink the wine, make my share of entertaining conversation, and often leave having had a pleasant evening. Which does not prevent me from anticipating the next invitation with the same bleak lack of hope. To put it in a nutshell, I am an ingrate.
Although I have traveled a long way from my proletarian origins and, like a perfect little bourgeois, talk, dress, act and spend money, I hold onto my poor-boy's outrage at the "decadence" (meaning, dull entertainment style) of the middle and upper-middle classes; or, like a model Soviet moviegoer watching scenes of pre-revolutionary capitalists gorging caviar, I am appalled, but I dig in with the rest.
Perhaps my uneasiness with dinner parties comes from the simple fact that not a single dinner party was given by my solitudinous parents the whole time I was growing up, and I had to wait until my late twenties before learning the ritual. A spy in the enemy camp, I have made myself a patient observer of strange customs. For the benefit of other late starting social climbers, this is what I have observed:
As everyone should know, the ritual of the dinner party begins away from the table. Usually in the living room, hors d'oeuvres and walnuts are set out, to start the digestive juices flowing. Here introductions between strangers are also made. Most dinner parties contain at least a few guests who have been unknown to each other before that evening, but whom the host and/or hostess envision would enjoy meeting. These novel pairings and their interactions add spice to the post-mortem: who got along with whom? The lack of prior acquaintanceship also ensures that the guests will have to rely on and go through the only people known to everyone, the host and hostess, whose absorption of this helplessly dependent attention is one of the main reasons for throwing dinner parties.
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Statements 1 through 10 (on your answer sheet circle + if the statement is true, - if it is false)
The author dislikes attending dinner parties, but looks forward to receiving invitations to them.
According to the text, dinner parties exist so that the host and the hostess can enjoy being in the center of attention.
The author grew up as a member of the working class.
The author’s parents were gregarious.
The guests at dinner parties are all familiar with one another.
The author is comfortable with attending dinner parties because he attended many in his childhood.
The author sees himself as an outsider, in regards to the ritual of dinner parties.
The purpose of going to dinner parties is to study the guests.
“To dig in” means to enthusiastically begin eating.
The author is not judgmental about the way people act at dinner parties.
TEXT 2: From “The Code of the Woosters”, Chapter 1, P.G. Wodehouse, 1938
No premonition of an impending doom, however, cast a cloud on my serenity as I buzzed in. I was looking forward with bright anticipation to the coming reunion with this Dahlia-she, as I may have mentioned before, being my good and deserving aunt, not to be confused with Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin. Apart from the mere intellectual pleasure of chewing the fat with her, there was the glittering prospect that I might be able to cadge an invitation to lunch. And owing to the outstanding virtuosity of Anatole, her French cook, the browsing at her trough is always of a nature to lure the gourmet.
The door of the morning room was open as I went through the hall, and I caught a glimpse of Uncle Tom messing about with his collection of old silver. For a moment I toyed with the idea of pausing to pip-pip and enquire after his indigestion, a malady to which he is extremely subject, but wiser counsels prevailed. This uncle is a bird who, sighting a nephew, is apt to buttonhole him and become a bit informative on the subject of sconces and foliation, not to mention scrolls, ribbon wreaths in high relief and gadroon borders, and it seemed to that silence was best. I whizzed by, accordingly, with sealed lips, and headed for the library, where I had been informed that Aunt Dahlia was at the moment roosting.
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Questions 11 through 15 (on your answer sheet circle the correct letter A, B, C, or D)
The narrator is:
12. “Chewing the fat” means:
A. Having a meal with a friend.
B. Working on a project.
C. Going on a diet.
D. Conversing informally.
13. The phrase “browsing at her trough”
A. Eating at her table
B. Reading in her library
C. Working on her farm
D. Helping in her kitchen
14. The narrator does NOT:
Look forward to visiting Aunt Dahlia.
B. Ask after Uncle Tom’s state of
C. Want to have lunch at Aunt Dahlia’s
D. Enjoy Anatole’s cooking.
15. “Toyed with the idea” means:
Suresh Ponnusami sat back on his porch by the road south of the Indian textile town of Tirupur. He was not rich, but for the owner of a two-acre farm in the backwoods of a developing country he was doing rather well. He had a TV, a car, and a maid to bring him drinks and ensure his traditional white Indian robes were freshly laundered every morning.
The source of his wealth, he said, was a large water reservoir beside his house. And as we chatted, a tanker drew up on the road. The driver dropped a large pipe from his vehicle into the reservoir and began sucking up the contents.
Ponnusami explained: "I no longer grow crops, I farm water. The tankers come about ten times a day. I don't have to do anything except keep my reservoir full." To do that, he had drilled boreholes deep into the rocks beneath his fields, and inserted pumps that brought water to the surface 24 hours a day. He sold every tanker load for about four dollars. "It's a good living, and it's risk-free," he said. "While the water lasts."
A neighbor told me she does the same thing. Water mining was the local industry. But, she said, "every day the water is reducing. We drilled two new boreholes a few weeks ago and one has already failed."
Surely this is madness, I suggested. Why not go back to real farming before the wells run dry? "If everybody did that, it would be well and good," she agreed. "But they don't. We are all trying to make as much money as we can before the water runs out."
Ponnusami and his neighbors were selling water to dyeing and bleaching factories in Tirupur. The factories once got their water from a giant reservoir on southern India's biggest river, the Kaveri. But the Kaveri was now being pumped dry by farmers and industry farther upstream. The reservoir was nearly empty most of the year. So the factories had taken to buying up underground water from local farmers.
It is a trade that is growing all over India—and all over the world.
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Questions 16 through 20 (on your answer sheet circle the correct letter A, B, C, or D)
Based on the article, the water farmers could be best described as:
What does Suresh Ponnusami’s neighbor think of water mining?
A) She thinks it’s a good thing for the community.
B) She thinks it would be better if the community went back to farming crops.
C) She thinks farming crops was a useless way to make money.
D) She thinks the money from water mining is irrelevant and everyone should farm crops.
Why won’t people revert to farming the traditional things like crops, and using the water on their land to water them?
A) Because there is too much easy money to be made farming water.
B) Because their neighbors would do it too.
C) Because the water is an easily replenished resource.
D) Because there is no demand for crops to be farmed.
The mention of the Kaveri serves what purpose in this text?
A) To illustrate the conflict between water farmers and crop farmers
B) To form a contrast between two situations with differing consequences
C) To imply future opportunities in the country
D) To suggest impending calamity for the country
How does water farming relate to the title of the text?
A) Water farmers are stealing water so that future generations will not survive.
B) Water farmers are grabbing the profits now, while there are profits to be made, without
considering what the selling of their water will do to the people of the future.
C) Water farmers are greedy and only want what is best for their future grandchildren.
D) Governments should regulate the amount of water farmed.
TEXT 4: From “No Obstacles” by Alec Wilkinson, newyorker.com, April 2007
Parkour, a made-up word, cousin to the French parcours, which means “route,” is a quasi-commando system of leaps, vaults, rolls, and landings designed to help a person avoid or surmount whatever lies in his path—a vocabulary, that is, to be employed in finding one’s way among obstacles. Parkour goes over walls, not around them; it takes the stair rail, not the stairs. Spread mainly by videos on the Internet, it has been embraced in Europe and the United States by thrill seekers and martial-arts adepts, who regard it as part extreme sport—its founder would like to see it included in the Olympics—and part grueling meditative pursuit. Movies like its daredevil qualities. A bracing parkour chase begins “Casino Royale,” the recent James Bond movie. It includes jumps from the boom of one tower crane to that of another, but parkour’s customary obstacles are walls, stairwells, fences, railings, and gaps between roofs—it is an urban rather than a pastoral pursuit. The movements are performed at a dead run. The more efficient and fluid the path they define, and the more difficult and harrowing the terrain they cross, the more elegant the performance is considered by the discipline’s practitioners.
Parkour was created in Lisses, a medium prosperous suburb of Paris, in the early nineteen-nineties, by a reserved and restless teen-age boy named David Belle. His father, Raymond, who died in 1999, was an acrobat and a hero fireman. In 1969, he appeared in newspaper photographs hanging from a cable attached to a helicopter above Notre Dame. The night before, someone had hung a Vietcong flag on the cathedral’s tower. Raymond was lowered like a spider on a thread, and he grabbed the flag. David Belle is now thirty-three. He has an older brother, Jeff, who is also a fireman; they have the same father but different mothers. (A third brother died a few years ago, of an overdose.) David was raised by his mother’s father. On the few occasions when he tried to live with Raymond, their temperaments clashed. David’s grandfather told him stories about Raymond that revolved around his exploits—“Spider-Man stories and Tarzan stories,” David says—and left him wishing to emulate him. He wanted to be Spider-Man when he grew up.
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Questions 21 through 25 (on your answer sheet circle the correct letter A, B, C, or D)
21. Which of the following would not be used in parkour:
In which of these places are you most likely to see parkour?
A. A field.
B. A national park.
C. An apartment building
D. An equestrian competition
You could replace the phrase “dead run” with:
A. Death march
C. Measured pace
TEXT 5: From “Babies Recognize Mother Tongue From Birth”by Breanna Draxler, Discover Magazine, 2013.
Infants are known for their impressive ability to learn language, which most scientists say kicks in somewhere around the six-month mark. But a new study indicates that language recognition may begin even earlier, while the baby is still in the womb. Using a creative means of measurement, researchers found that babies could already recognize their mother tongue by the time they left their mothers’ bodies.
The researchers tested American and Swedish newborns between seven hours and three days old. Each baby was given a pacifier hooked up to a computer. When the baby sucked on the pacifier, it triggered the computer to produce a vowel sound—sometimes in English and sometimes in Swedish. The vowel sound was repeated until the baby stopped sucking. When the baby resumed sucking, a new vowel sound would start.
The sucking was used as a metric to determine the babies’ interest in each vowel sound. More interest meant more sucks, according to the study soon to be published in Acta Paediatrica. In both countries, babies sucked on the pacifier longer when they heard foreign vowel sounds as compared to those of their mom’s native language. The researchers suggest that this is because the babies already recognize the vowels from their mothers and were keen to learn new ones.
Hearing develops in a baby’s brain at around the 30th week of pregnancy, which leaves the last 10 weeks of gestation for babies to put that newfound ability to work. Baby brains are quick to learn, so a better understanding of these mechanisms may help researchers figure out how to improve the learning process for the rest of us.
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Questions 26 through 30 (on your answer sheet circle the correct letter A, B, C, or D)
According to the article, scientists have new evidence that suggests that infants begin to recognize language:
About three months before birth.
About seven hours to three days after birth.
About three months after birth.
About 6 months after birth.
For what purpose were Swedish and American babies most likely chosen for use in the study:
Swedish and American babies learn differently
Swedish and American parents treat their children differently
Swedish and English vowel sounds are different
Swedish and English languages are similar
When hearing a vowel from a foreign language, activity on the pacifier increased for both groups of infants which indicates:
What does “gestation” most nearly mean?
The process of hearing
Aside from learning about a baby’s profound ability to rapidly recognize and acquire language, why else is this study important, according to this author?
It’s an effective test of a modern pacifier product.
Studying accelerated learning in infants may shine light on advancing learning for adults.
It illustrates that all infants have the inclination to learn new languages.
It demonstrates that linguistics and cognitive science are linked.