Emigration to the US | IELTS Academic Reading Sample Question

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Emigration to the US

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-13 which are based on Reading Passage

American history has been largely the story of migrations. That of the hundred years or so between the Battle of Waterloo and the outbreak of the First World War must certainly be reckoned the largest peaceful migration in recorded history; probably the largest of any kind, ever. It is reckoned that some thirty-five million persons entered the United States during that period, not to mention the large numbers who were also moving to Argentina and Australia. Historians may come to discern that in the twentieth and later centuries this movement was dwarfed when Africa, Asia and South America began to send out their peoples; but if so, they will be observing a pattern, of a whole continent in motion, that was first laid down in nineteenth-century Europe. Only the French seemed to be substantially immune to the virus. Otherwise, all caught it, and all travelled. English, Irish, Welsh, Scots, Germans, Scandinavians, Spaniards, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Jews, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarians, Czechs, Croats, Slovenes, Serbs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Russians, Basques. There were general and particular causes.

As regards the general causes, the rise in population meant that more and more people were trying to earn their living on the same amount of land; inevitably, some were squeezed off it. The increasing cost of the huge armies and navies, with their need for up-to-date equipment, that every great European power maintained, implied heavier and heavier taxes which many found difficult or impossible to pay, and mass conscription, which quite as many naturally wanted to avoid. The opening up of new, superbly productive lands in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, coupled with the availability of steamers and steam trains to distribute their produce, meant that European peasants could not compete effectively in the world market: they would always be undersold, especially as the arrival of free trade was casting down the old mercantilist barriers everywhere. Steam was important in other ways too. It became a comparatively easy matter to cross land and sea, and to get news from distant parts. The invention of the electric telegraph also speeded up the diffusion of news, especially after a cable was successfully laid across the Atlantic in 1866. New printing and paper­making machines and a rapidly spreading literacy made large-circulation newspapers possible for the first time. In short, horizons widened, even for the stay-at-home. Most important of all, the dislocations in society brought about by the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and the various wars and tumults of nineteenth-century Europe shattered the old ways. New states came into being, old ones disappeared, frontiers were recast, the laws of land- tenure were radically altered, internal customs barriers and feudal dues both disappeared, payment in money replaced payment in kind, new industries stimulated new wants and destroyed the self-sufficiency of peasant households and the saleability of peasant products. The basic structure of rural Europe was transformed.

Bad times pushed, good times pulled American factories were usually clamouring for workers): small wonder that the peoples moved.

Particular reasons were just as important as these general ones. For example: between 1845 and 1 848 -eland suffered the terrible potato famine. A million people died of starvation or disease, a million more emigrated (1846-51). Matters were not much better when the Great Famine was over: it was followed by lesser ones, and the basic weaknesses of the Irish economy made the outlook hopeless anyway. Mass emigration was a natural resort, at first to America, then, in the twentieth century, increasingly, to England and Scotland. Emigration was encouraged, in me Irish case as in many others, by letters sent home and by remittances of money. The first adventurers thus helped to pay the expenses of their successors. Political reasons could sometimes drive Europeans across the Atlantic too. In 1848 some thousands of Germans fled the failure of the liberal revolution of mat year (but many thousands emigrated for purely economic reasons).

If such external stimuli faltered, American enterprise was more than willing to fill the gap. The high cost of labour had been a constant in American history since the first settlements; now, as the Industrial Revolution made itself felt, the need for workers was greater than ever. The supply of Americans was too small to meet the demand: while times were good on the family farm, as they were on the whole until the 1880s, or while there was new land to be taken up in the West, the drift out of agriculture (which was becoming a permanent feature of America, as of all industrialized, society) would not be large enough to fill the factories. So employers looked for the hands they needed in Europe, whether skilled, like Cornish miners, or unskilled, like Irish navvies. Then, the transcontinental railroads badly needed settlers on their Western land grants, as well as labourers: they could not make regular profits until the lands their tracks crossed were regularly producing crops that needed carrying to market. Soon every port in Europe knew the activities of American shipping lines and their agents, competing with each other to offer advantageous terms to possible emigrants. They stuck up posters, they advertised in the press, they patiently asnwered inquiries, and they shepherded their clients from their native villages, by train, to the dockside, and then made sure they were safely stowed in the steerage.

Question 1

Choose the correct fetter A, B, C or D Write it in box 1 on your answer sheer.

1) Which of the following Joes the writer state in the first paragraph?
A. The extent of emigration in the nineteenth century is unlikely to be repeated.
B. Doubts may he cast on how much emigration there really was in the nineteenth century.
C. It is possible that emigration from Europe may be exceeded by emigration from outside Europe
D. Emigration can prove to he a better experience tor some nationalities than for others.

Questions 2-9

Complete the sentences below with words taken from Reading Passage 1.Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each.
Write answers, your answers in boxes 2-9 on your answer sheet.


Population increases made it impossible for some to live from agriculture. In Europe, countries kept 2)………………………… that were both big, and this resulted in increases in 3)……………………………… and in 4)……………………………….. , which a lot of people wanted to escape. It became impossible for 5)………………………………….. in Europe to earn a living because of developments in other countries and the introduction of 6)…………………………………… People knew more about the world beyond their own countries because there was greater 7)…………………….  8)…………………………….. had been formed because of major historical events. The creation of 9)……………………………………………………………. caused changes in demand.

Questions 10-13

Complete each sentence with the correct ending A-H from the box below.
Write the correct letter A-H in boxes 10-13 on your answer sheet.

10)  The end of the potato famine in Ireland
11)  People who had emigrated front Ireland
12)  Movement off the land in the US
13)  The arrival of railroad companies in the West of the US

A. made people reluctant to move elsewhere.
B. resulted in a need tor more agricultural workers.
C. provided evidence of the advantages of emigration.
D. created a false impression of the advantages of moving elsewhere.
E. did little to improve the position of much of the population.
F. rook a long time to have any real effect.
G. failed to satisfy employment requirements.
H. created a surplus of people, who had emigrated.

Answers for IELTS Reading Sample Question

1)  Answer: C
Note The answer is located in the sentence beginning ‘Historians may come to discern …The writer is saying that emigration from Africa, Asia and South America in the 20″ and later centuries may be seen to be far greater than emigration from Europe to the US in the period in the past he is describing (the 19th century). Option A is incorrect because he is saying that emigration may be greater in later periods. Option B is incorrect because he does not say that he doubts the figure of 35 million. Option D is incorrect because, although he mentions that the French differed from other nationalities because they didn’t emigrate as much as the others, he doesn’t talk about what happened to different nationalities after they emigrated in the 1st paragraph.

2) Answer: armies; navies
Note: The writer says that every great European power ‘maintained’ (kept) ‘huge armies and navies’, and that these became more expensive because of the ‘increasing cost’ that resulted from the need to have ‘up-to-date equipment’.

3)  Answer: taxes
Note Big armies and navies ‘implied’ (meant, resulted in) bigger and bigger (‘heavier’) taxes to finance them and many people couldn’t pay.

4) Answer: mass conscription
Note Big armies and navies required lots of people to be forced by law to join them, and many people didn’t want to do that.

5) Answer: peasants
Note Agricultural developments in other countries and improvements in the transport of agricultural goods meant that it became too expensive to pay peasants in Europe for agricultural work. Peasants could not ‘compete effectively in the world market’ (they were too expensive to employ in comparison with workers from other countries).

6) Answer: free trade
Note Restrictions on trade were removed and free trade was introduced instead. In this context ‘arrival’ means ‘Introduction’ or ‘establishment’.

7) Answer: literacy
Note One reason why newspapers became much more widely read was that a lot more people could read. Literacy was ‘rapidly spreading’ – there was a much greater amount of it and it was quickly becoming more widespread.

8) Answer: New states
Note A number of major events in Europe resulted in the formation of new states and the disappearance of old ones.In this context, ‘came into being’ means ‘had been formed’.

9) Answer: new industries
Note There were many changes connected with trade and one was that new industries created (‘stimulated’) ‘new wants’ – people began to want the new goods produced by the new industries.

10) Answer: E
Note 3rd paragraph: The writer says that after the Great Famine, the situation was ‘not much better’ because other famines followed and the Irish economy was weak. These problems clearly affected the people living in Ireland.

11) Answer: C
Note 3rd paragraph: The writer says that people who had emigrated sent letters and money back to people in Ireland, and that these things ‘encouraged’ the people receiving them to emigrate, too.

12) Answer: G
Note 4th paragraph: the writer says that there was a ‘drift’ (movement) of American people away from agriculture at the time, but that it was not big enough to supply enough American workers for factories. Because ‘times were good on the family farm’, the ‘supply of Americans’ moving off the land and going to work in factories was ‘too small to meet the demand’, and so employers needed to employ immigrants.

13) Answer: B
Note 4th paragraph: the writer says that the ‘transcontinental’ railroad companies ‘badly needed settlers’ on their land because they couldn’t make profits if people were not producing crops on the land near the railroads which would then be transported on the railroads. The ‘settlers’ were therefore agricultural workers.

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