Practice for Reading Test: True False Not Given

The Saiga Antelope

In 1993 more than a million saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) crowded the steppes of Central Asia. However, by 2004 just 30,000 remained, many of them female. The species had fallen prey to relentless poaching – with motorbikes and automatic weapons – in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. This 97% decline is one of the most dramatic population crashes of a large mammal ever seen. Poachers harvest males for their horns, which are used in fever cures in traditional Chinese medicine. The slaughter is embarrassing for conservationists. In the early 1990s, groups such as WWF actively encouraged the saiga hunt, promoting its horn as an alternative to the horn of the endangered rhino. “The saiga was an important resource, well managed by the Soviet Union,” says John Robinson, at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York City, US. “But with the breakdown of civil society and law and order, that management ceased.”


Questions 1 – 4

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage?


TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

1. In the early nineties Central Asia’s steppes was home to over one million saiga.

2. This 97% decline is the most dramatic population crash of a large mammal ever seen.

3. Traditional medicine uses the poached horns of male members of the group.

4. The WWF managed to save many rhinos because it encouraged the hunting of saiga. 70


Small changes make all the difference

As question two about the saiga antelope shows, you must be careful with sentences that seem to be stating the same thing but might change the meaning in some way. Words like – more than, might, must – can either be left out of or put into a sentence and change the meaning. Question two states that, “This 97% decline is the most …”. But in the text it states, ” one of the most …” and so the answer must be FASLE.

For some questions, the text might not have any information connected to a NOT GIVEN question (not even keywords). In other situations, keywords might be found but not enough information is given in the text for you to say if the statement is TRUE or FALSE. Avoid a situation where you spend too long looking for information. It is possible that the answer is NOT GIVEN.

Now look at the reading passage on creating synthetic life and answer the questions that follow.

Have Researchers Created Synthetic Life at the J. Craig Venter Institute?

Researchers often insert a gene or two into an organism in order to make it do something unique. For example, researchers inserted the insulin gene into bacteria in order to make them produce human insulin. However, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, MD, have now created organisms that contain a completely synthetic genome. This synthetic genome was designed by computer, resulting in the “first self-replicating species … whose parent is a computer,” as stated by Dr. Venter, the lead scientist on this project.

In essence, the JCVI scientists took the genome of one bacterial species, M. mycoides, synthesized it from scratch, and then transplanted it into a different bacterial species, M. capricolum. The DNA was synthesized as a series of cassettes, or pieces, spanning roughly 1,080 bases (the chemical units that make up DNA) each. These cassettes were then painstakingly assembled together and slowly input into the M. capricolum species.

The JVCI researchers also included several “watermarks” in the synthetic genome. Because DNA contains introns, which are non-expressed spans of DNA, as well as exons, which are expressed spans of DNA, much of the code can be altered without affecting the final organism. Also, the four bases of the DNA code – A,C,G, and T – can combine into triplets to code for 20 amino acids (the chemical units of which protein is composed), as well as start and stop instructions for gene expression. These amino acids are designated by single alphabetical letters; for example, tryptophan is designated by the letter W. Thus, by using the amino acid “alphabet,” the JCVI researchers were able to insert sequences of DNA that were specifically designed to spell out the names of study authors, project contributors, web addresses, and even include quotations from James Joyce, and Richard Feynman. Such engineering helped clarify that the M. capricolum genome is completely synthetic and not a product of natural bacterial growth and replication.

Over one million total bases were inserted into M. capricolum. The final result was a bacterial cell that originated from M. capricolum, but behaved like and expressed the proteins of M. mycoides. This synthetic M. mycoides bacterium was also able to self-replicate, a fundamental quality of life. 71


The demonstration that completely synthetic genomes can be used to start synthetic life promises other exciting discoveries and technologies. For example, photosynthetic algae could be transplanted with genomes that would enable these organisms to produce biofuel. In fact, the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company has already worked out an agreement with Synthetic Genomics, the company that helped fund the JCVI research team, to start just such a project.

While some researchers agree that the technical feat of the JCVI team is astounding, detractors point to the difficulty of creating more complicated organisms from scratch. Other researchers point to the fact that some biofuels are already being produced by microorganisms via the genetic engineering of only a handful of genes. And Dr. David Baltimore, a leading geneticist at CalTech, has countered the significance of the work performed by the JCVI research team, stating that its lead researcher, Dr. Venter, “… has not created life, only mimicked it.”

Questions 1 – 7

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage?


TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

1. DNA was also injected into animals.

2. Bacteria have been made to produce insulin.

3. Tryptophan is one example of an amino acid.

4. Bacteria were taught to spell.

5. Fuel is already being produced using genetically altered algae.

6.The research team gave money to ExxonMobil.

7. The synthetic bacteria can only replicate for several generations


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