Academic Reading Test 4.3


You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 28-40, which are based on Reading Passage 3 below.


The History of Paper

A.   When we think of the origins of paper, our minds might wander back over 5000 years ago to the Nile river valley in Egypt. It was there that a marsh grass called Cyperous Papyrus flourished. The Egyptians cut thin strips from the plant’s stem and softened them in the muddy waters of the Nile. These strips were then layered in right angles to form a kind of mat. [Crack IELTS with Rob] The mat was then pounded into a thin sheet and left in the sun to dry. The resulting sheets were ideal for writing on. Since they were also lightweight and portable they became the writing medium of choice of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for record keeping, spiritual texts and works of art.

B.   Paper as we know it today comes from another source, China. It wasn’t until the 3rd century that the secret art of papermaking began to creep out of China, first to Vietnam and later to India. It made its true push westward in 751AD when the Tang Dynasty was at war with the Islamic world. During a battle on the banks of the Tarus River, Islamic warriors captured a Chinese caravan which happened to include several papermakers. They spirited them away to Samarkand, which soon became a great centre for paper production. [Crack IELTS with Rob] Finally, when the Moors from North Africa invaded Spain and Portugal they brought the technology with them and so it was that papermaking entered Europe in the 12th century.

C.   In Europe, the use of papyrus had dropped out in the 9th century. The preferred medium for the artists and literati of the time was the smooth and lustrous parchment. However, parchment - made from animal skin - was extremely expensive. The notion of paper being used as a practical everyday item did not occur until the 15th Century when Johann Gutenburg perfected movable type and sparked off a revolution in mass communication. The birth of the modern paper and printing industry is commonly marked from this time.

D.   Printing technology rapidly developed and created an ever increasing demand for paper. Early european paper was made from recycled cotton and linen - and a huge trade quickly developed around the trading of old rags. [Crack IELTS with Rob] It is said that the black plague entered England from Europe on these old rags. Others experimented with fibres such as straw, cabbage, wasp nests and finally wood. This resulted in inexpensive - and replaceable - materials for paper making. Today, the long soft fibres of softwoods such as spruce have become the most suitable source of pulp for mass production.


E.   The demand for paper also created the need for greater efficiency in production. In the late 18th century the labours of Nicholas Luis Robert resulted in the creation of a machine that could produce a seamless length of paper on an endless wire mesh with squeeze rollers at one end. Perfected and marketed by the Fourdrinier brothers, the new machine made papers that soon replaced traditional single sheets made by hand. [Crack IELTS with Rob] In Europe and America, the mass-production of paper became a thriving industry supplying huge volumes of paper for a huge variety of purposes.

F.   Papermaking in essence is a simple process. Whether using recycled materials or fresh organic matter, the process starts as the material is shredded into small strips and soaked overnight to loosen the fibres. Next, the fibres are boiled for 2 to 6 hours, being turned every so often. When finished, the fibres are washed with fresh water to remove impurities and then small particles or specks are removed by hand. The fibres are beaten in a blender creating a creamy pulp. At this stage, dyes can be added to create coloured papers. [Crack IELTS with Rob] The pulp is then poured into a large tub and the fibres are suspended in the water. Framed screens are lowered into the water and then lifted to the surface catching the fibres onto the screen. The screens are then dried, pressed and smoothed.

G.   In the west, as industrial paper production boomed, the art of hand paper-making has been driven nearly to extinction - being practiced only by a few fine artists and crafts people. However, in small areas throughout Asia, the tradition has lived on through regular and rice paper made by hand. Incidentally, the traditional Asian paper which is often referred to as “rice paper” is not made from rice fibres at all. More commonly it is made from the versatile mulberry tree - varieties of which are also used for feeding silkworms and in medicine. [Crack IELTS with Rob] In contrast to the cold precision and standardisation which industrial production demands, the soft, subtle textures and natural feeling of handmade paper is said to echo the warm heart of the papermaker who makes each sheet with devotion.

H.   The new Millennium will be dominated by the tremendous progress that has been made in computer science, thus triggering a complete change in our commercial and private communication and information behaviour. Does this mean that the paper era will come to an end? The answer is most definitely “No”. Clearly there will be a huge amount of data being generated electronically, but the issue is how to preserve it. The difficulties of data storage over a long period of time are well known (for example, the durability of disks; frequent changes of hardware and software, electronic breakdowns etc.). [Crack IELTS with Rob] Once again, paper offers the most convenient and durable storage option.


Questions 28 - 34

The reading passage on The History of Paper has 8 paragraphs A – H.
From the list of headings below choose the most suitable headings for paragraphs B – H.
Write the appropriate number (i – xi) in boxes 28 – 34 on your answer sheet.

NB    There are more headings than paragraphs, so you will not use them all.


List of headings

i        Arabian Expertise
ii       Traditional Paper Producers
iii      Superstition
iv      The Origins of Paper
v       The Development of Mass Production
vi      The Journey to the West
vii     The Prospects for Paper
viii    The Age of Experimentation
ix      The Father of Modern Paper
x       The Modern Process
xi      A Change of Material


Example                Answer
Paragraph A              iv


  • 28.  Paragraph B

  • 29.  Paragraph C

  • 30.  Paragraph D

  • 31.  Paragraph E

  • 32.  Paragraph F

  • 33.  Paragraph G

  • 34.  Paragraph H


Questions 35 - 38

Look at the following 8 statements A - H.

According to Reading Passage 3, which FOUR statements are TRUE?

Choose from the appropriate letters, A - H, and write them on your answer sheet for questions 35 - 38. 


  • Today’s style of paper originated in Egypt.
  • Papyrus style paper was employed up to the 18th century.
  • There is a story that disease was spread due to the great demand for paper.


  • The author cites reasons why computer technology is not dependable.
  • Rice Paper has been used in medicine.


  • Paper was not used extensively until movable type was commonly used.


  • Robert’s invention led to the redundancy of the hand made paper industry.
  • Today paper is no longer hand made.

Questions 39 - 40

Using the information in the passage, complete the flow chart below.
Write your answers in boxes 39 and 40 on your answer sheet.
Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.


                                        The Paper Production Process


  • Stage 1: The paper raw material is shredded and then saturated in water.
    Stage 2: The sodden material is then boiled while being turned periodically.
    Stage 3: Material fibres are washed and checked manually.
    Stage 4: Fibres are then blended to (39.
  • Stage 5: Colouring added if desired and mixed with water.
    Stage 6: (40 are dipped into the liquid.
    Stage 7: Liquid paper is then pressed, smoothed and dried.
    Stage 8: Dried paper is cut packaged and distributed.


Result: / Exit

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