What is a dinosaur? | IELTS Academic Reading Sample Question

The passage contains the following question types from IELTS Reading Question Types:

  • Matching headings
  • Matching information
  • Sentence completion

What is a dinosaur?

You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1-14, which are based on Reading Passage below.

Although the name dinosaur is derived from I he Crock for “terrible lizard“ dinosaurs were not, in fact, lizards at all. Like lizards, dinosaurs are included in the class Roptilin, or reptiles, one of the five main elasscs of Vertebrata, Einimals with backbones. However, at the next level of classification, within reptiles, significant differences in the skeletal ana­tomy of lizards and dinosaurs have led scientists to place these groups of animals into two different superorders: Lepidosauria, or lepidosaurs, and Archosauria, or archosaurs.

Classified as lepidosaurs are lizards and snakes and their prehistoric ancestors. Included among the archosaurs, or “ruling reptiles”, are prehistoric and modern crocodiles, and the now extinct thecodonts, pterosaurs anti dinosaurs. Palaeontologists believe that both dino­saurs and crocodiles evolved, in the later years of the Triassic Period (c, 248-208 million years ago), front creatures tailed pseudosuchian thecodonts. Lizards, snakes and different types of thecodont are believed lo have evolved earlier in the Triadic Period from reptiles known as eosuchians.

The most important skeletal differences between dinosaurs and other anchosaurs are in the hones of the skull, pelvis and limbs. Dinosaur skulls are found in a great range of shapes and sixes, reflecting the different eating habits anti lifestyles of a large and varied group of animals that dominated life on Earth for an extraordinary 165 million years. However, unlike the skulls of any other known animals, the skulls of dinosaurs had two long bones known as vomers. These bones extended on either side of the head, from the front of the snout to the level of the holes in the skull known as the antorbital fenestra, situated in fro ill of the dinosaur’s orbits or eyesockets.

All dinosaurs, whether large or small, quadrupedal or bipedal, fleet -footed or s low-mov­ing, shared a common body plan. Identification of this plan makes it possible to differenti­ate dinosaurs from any other types of animal, even other archosaurs. Most significantly, in dinosaurs, the pelvis and femur had evolved so that the hind limbs were held vertically be­neath the body, rather than sprawling out to the sides like the limbs of a lizard. The femur of el dinosaur hutl a sharply in-turned ncck and a halt-shaped bead, which slotted into a fully open acetabulum or hip socket. A supra-acetabular crest helped prevent dislocation of the femur. The position of the knee joint, aligned below the acetabulum, made it possi­ble for the whole hind limb to swing backwards and forwards. This unique combination of features gave dinosaurs what is known as a “fully improved gait”. Evolution of this highly efficient method of walking also developed in mammals, but among reptiles it occurred only in dinosaurs.

For the purpose of further classification, dinosaurs are divided into two orders: &iurisehia, or saurischian dinosaurs, and OrnithIschia, or ornithiscluati dinosaurs. This division Is made on the basis of their pelvic anatomy- All dinosaurs bad el pelvic girdle with each side comprised of three hones: the pubis, ilium and ischium. However, ihc orientation of these bones follows one of two patterns In saurischian dinosaurs, also known as lizard-hipped dinosaurs, the pubis points forwards, as is usual In most types of reptile, By contrast, In oruithisehian, or bird-hipped, dinosaurs, the puhls points backwards towards the rear of tEic animal which is also true of birds.

Of the two orders of dinosaurs, the Stiurischia was the larger mid the first to evolve, It is divided into two suborders: Therapoda, or therapods, and Sauropodomorpha, or sauropodomorphs. The therapods, or “beast feet”, were bipedal, predatory carnivores. They ranged in size from the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, 12m long, 5.6m tall and weighing an estimated 6.4 tonnes, to the smallest known dinosaur, Compsognathus, a mere 1,4m long and estimated 3kg in weight when fully grown. The sauropodomorphs, or “lizard feet forms”; included both bipedal and quadrupedal dinosaurs. Some sauropodomorphs were carnivorous or omnivorous but later species were typically herbivorous. They included some of the largest and best-known of all dinosaurs, such as Diplodocus, a huge quadruped with an elephant-like body, a long, thin tail and neck that gave it a total length of 27m, and a tiny head.

Ornithischian dinosaurs were bipedal or quadrupedal herbivores, They are now usu­ally divided into three suborders: Ornithipodu, Thyrcopborii and Margmoccphalia. The ornithopods, or “bird feet1’, both large and small, could walk or run on their lung hind legs, balancing their body by holding their tails stiffly off the ground hchind them. An ex­ample is Iguanodon, up to 9m long, 5m tall and weighing 4.5 tonnes. The thyreophorans, or “shield bearers”, also known as armoured dinosaurs, were quadrupeds with rows of protective bony spikes, studs, or plates along their backs and tails. They included Stego­saurus, 9m long and weighing 2 tonnes.

The margirtucephalians, or “margined heads”j were bipedal Or quadrupedal omithischians with a deep bony frill or narrow shelf at the back of the skull. An example is Triceratops, a rhinoceros-like dinosaur, 9m long, weighing 5,4 tonnes and bearing a prominent neck frill and three large horns.

Questions 1-7

The Passage has 8 paragraphs (A-H). Choose the most suitable heading for each paragraph from the List of headings below. Write the appropriate numbers (l-xili) in Boxes 1-7 on your answer sheet.
One of the headings has been done for you as an example.
NB. There are more headings than paragraphs, so you will not use all of them.

1) Paragraph A
2) Paragraph B
3) Paragraph C
4) Paragraph D
5) Paragraph E
6) Paragraph F
7) Paragraph G

Example: Paragraph H Answer: x

List of headings

I. 165 million years
II. The body plan of archosaurs
III. Dinosaurs – terrible lizards
IV. Classification according to pelvic anatomy
V. The suborders of Saurischia
VI. Lizards and dinosaurs – two distinct supcrordcrs
VII. Unique body plan helps identify dinosaurs from other animals
VIII. Herbivore dinosaurs
IX. Lepldosaurs
X. Prills and shelves
XI. The origins of dinosaurs and lizards
XII. Bird-hipped dinosaurs
XIII. Skull bones distinguish dinosaurs from other archosaurs

Questions 8-10

Complete the sentences below.
Use NO MORE THAN THREB WORDS from the passage for each blank space. Write your answers in Boxes 22-24 on your answer sheet.

8)    Lizards and dinosaurs arc classified into two different supejwefors because of the difference in their__________ .
9)   In the Triassic Period, ________________ evolved into thecodonts, for example, lizards and snakes.
10)    Dinosaur skulls differed from those of any other known animals because of the presence of vomers:______________.

Questions 11-14

Choose one phrase (A-H) from the List of features to match with the Dinosaurs listed below. Write the appropriate letters (A-H) In Boxes 25-28 on your answer sheet. 
The information in the completed sentences should be an accurate summary of the points made by the writer.
NB. There are more phrases (A-H) than sentences, so you will not need to use them all. You may use each phrase once only.


11)    Dinosaurs differed from lizards, because…
12)   Saurischian and ornithischian dinosaurs…
13)    Unlike therapods, sauropodomorphs…
14)   Some dinosaurs used their tails to balance, others…

List of features

A. are both divided into two orders.
B. the former had a “fully improved gait”.
C. were not usually very heavy.
D. could walk or run on their back legs.
E. their hind limbs sprawled out to the side.
F. walked or ran on four legs, rather than two.
G. both had a pelvic girdle comprising six bones.
H. did not always eat meat.

Answers for IELTS Reading Sample Question

1) Answer: vi. The paragraph is about the fact that there are two distinct superorders in the classification of Rcptilia. Note heading iii is incorrect; the idea being that they are not terrible lizards. Look at the word although at the start of the paragraph.
2) Answer: xi. The paragraph talks about the origins of both lepidosaurs and archosaurs, In the Triasslc Period. Heading ix is therefore incorrect, as this covers only part of the content of the paragraph.
3) Answer: xill, Heading i Is incorrect, as this is a reference only to a detail In the paragraph.
4) Answer: vil. The second sentence of the paragraph is the topic sentence, which gives the theme of the paragraph. You also need to look at the end of the paragraph for the word unique. Heading ii is incorrect, as the paragraph is talking about features which distinguish dinosaurs from other animals and other archosaurs.
5) Answer: iv. The answer is in the first two sentences of the paragraph, which the rest of the paragraph expands upon. Heading xii Is Incorrect, as this heading covers only part of the paragraph.
6) Answer: v. The paragraph deals with the suborders of Saurischia.
7) Answer: vlii. The answer is In the first sentence of the paragraph.
8) Answer: skeletal anatomy. The answer is in paragraph A. Note how the informa¬tion is presented in a different order in the paragraph. Note how the text as a whole hangs around this key phrase.
9) Answer: eosuchlans, The answer is in the last sentence of paragraph B. Note, again, how the order of the information has been changed, but the meaning of the sentence is the same.
10) Answer: two long bones, The answer is in the second half of paragraph C. The use of the colon is important here. The answer, therefore, needs to be an explanation of the word vomers. It is important to check the word limit, not all of the information about vomers in the passage can be Included here.
11) Answer: B. The answer is at the end of paragraph D. E Is Incorrect as this refers to lizards, and not to dinosaurs. Sec the middle of paragraph D.
12) Answer: G. The answer is In the third sentence of paragraph E: All dinosaurs had a pelvic girdle with each side comprised of three bones, (i.e. six bones). The answer is not A, because in the first sentence it says that dinosaurs are divided into two orders, and In paragraph F that Saurischia was divided Into two suborders, but, In paragraph G, Ornlthischia into three suborders.
13) Answer: H. The answer can bo found in paragraph F. It is important to note the word unlike in the first part of the sentence, C is incorrect, because both could be heavy.
14) Answer: F. The answer is In paragraph G. The first part of the sentence refers to the ornithopods, the second part to the thyreophorans, D is incorrect, because this phrase refers to the dinosaurs mentioned In the first part of the sentence, not the second.

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