Free IELTS Academic Reading test 4 Section 1

Free IELTS Academic Reading test 3 Section 1This free IELTS reading test (Academic Module) has the same question types, content style, length and difficulty as a standard IELTS test. To get started, simply scroll down to read the texts and answer the questions.

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You should spend about 20 minutes on Questions 1 – 13 which are based on Reading Passage 1 below.

Cryptology – the Art of Secret Communication

Cryptology, cryptography, cryptanalysis and encryption – the history behind the words.

Cryptology is the study of writing in codes, so that only the intended recipient of the message is able to read it. Interestingly, it has been put forward that one of the very first forms of an encrypted message was a basic written text, because most people at that time could not read, and therefore its contents were unknown. Cryptography, from the Greek for hidden and writing, is the creation of codes, while encryption is the actual changing of standard text to coded text. Cryptanalysis is, then, the analytical reading of a coded message to understand its message, often by a third, or unintended, party. All these words are centred around the same basic meaning, a coded message, but with a subtle difference as regards the stage of the equation.

It has been noted that another early version of encryption was around 2000 B.C. in Egypt, with hieroglyphic symbols that adorned the chamber walls of tombs for deceased Pharaohs being interchanged in order to alter the meaning of the text. Further examples abound in other early civilizations, such as India, with a text entitled Arthshastra describing secret writing for agents of the governing bodies, and in ancient Rome, in Julius Caesar’s time, where surreptitious communication was used with Caesar’s army commanders. In fact, the science then was evolving and was referred to as ‘Caesar Cipher’, very basic by today’s terms, but a milestone in the evolution of encrypted writing. Put simply, Caesar’s Cipher involved substituting one letter in the Roman alphabet for another, in a mathematical sequence, a basic algorithm.

Cryptography remained in relatively basic forms for a thousand years, when in the Arab world, more advanced codes were devised, and a mathematician named Al-Kindi authored a book outlining all the known cryptanalysis techniques, including mono- and polyalphabetic ciphers, classifications and introduced the descriptions of frequency analysis, that is, understanding the frequency of certain letters and keys to help decipher codes. These were focused on the Arabic language, but his concepts were then extended to cover other languages as well. By the 15th century, advanced polyalphabetic ciphers were being developed, perhaps the most famous by the Frenchman Blaise de Vigenere, who came up with a working system, named after him, the Vigenere Cipher. At the same time, and advancing Al-Kindi’s earlier work, the Italian Leon Battista Alberti analysed and published information regarding polyalphabetic ciphers, and has since been called the ‘Father of western cryptology’.

During the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, there were two main driving forces behind advances and innovations in cryptography: nationalistic tendencies, that is, competition between countries, and social religious turmoil, where religions were in an upheaval to retain their hold over society. Both England and France had instances in the 16th and 17th centuries of coded messages and political intrigue. In England there was the Babington Plot which resulted in the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, while in France, King Louis XIV had his own chief cryptographer who created a code which remained unsolved for almost 200 years, finally being broken in 1890. Throughout Asia, however, cryptography remained a relatively undeveloped science, perhaps as a result of more harmony amongst nations. At this time, polyalphabetic ciphers relied on what is known as ‘cipher disks’, and one example was Leon Battista Alberti’s use of two copper disks, each enscribed with the alphabet, fitted together and being rotated after a set number of words to alter the encryption logic.

In the 16th century, a different form of encryption had been pioneered by the Frenchman Vigenere, who introduced the idea of an encryption key in a very rudimentary form. In later versions, and in particular with electricity, much more complex key systems were designed, with the key itself being encoded on a rotating disk, thus compounding the complexity of the cipher. With the increased perceived need for coded messages and thus the increased use, more and more mechanical encryption, and also decryption, machines were introduced. In the American Civil War in the mid-19th century, rotor disks were used for secret communication by both sides, and by the start of the 20th century, cryptography had reached a new level globally, with nationhood requiring ever-new levels of sophistication in its quest for protection of its communication.

The 20th century, and latterly the computer age, has seen remarkable advances in the art of cryptography. Both World Wars necessitated innovative approaches to coded communication. World War I saw electromechanical devices employ a new concept, called the ‘one-time pad’, a change whereby the key was now used only once. Interestingly, during America’s Prohibition years, criminals used the latest cryptography methods to keep their communications private. One of the greatest of all encryption devices was the German Enigma machine used during World War II. Years of early work by Polish mathematicians and later by British code-breakers eventually allowed Allied command to decipher the messaging, which proved important in the outcome of the war.

After the Second World War, and with the emergence of globalisation and a competitive commercial environment, businesses also began looking at encryption, which hitherto had been used almost exclusively for military purposes, as a way to protect sensitive commercial information. IBM, the then-computer giant, pioneered encryption systems to be used commercially and their designs were adopted by the U.S. government as a standard. Once the Internet became an integral part of doing business in the 1990s, the need for encryption moved up a gear because of the availability of so much information and transactional Internet business. Ironically, computers helped with creating ever more complex encryption keys, such as the asymmetric key cypher using two mathematical algorithms, but at the same time, they also saw the birth of ‘brute-force’ computer attacks in an attempt to break codes.

Today, encryption of information has moved into a totally new realm. Digital information, from Wi-Fi and cell phone networks to smart card and other digitally stored data all require varying levels of sophisticated coding. But, as history has proven, all codes and encryption systems will eventually be broken, even if, in the case of King Louis XIV, it takes nearly 200 years.

Questions 1 – 5

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?

In boxes 1 – 5 on your answer sheet write

TRUE ​​if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE​​ if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN​ ​if there is no information on this in the passage

1 The very first encrypted message was written in the Greek language.
Show answerNOT GIVEN – Paragraph one mentions that ‘…one of the very first forms of an encrypted message was a basic written text’, but does not mention the language, although there is reference to the Greek language later, in explaining the origins of the word ‘cryptography’.

2 Cryptanalysis is the understanding of encrypted messages, sometimes by a code-breaker.
Show answerTRUE – Para 1 defines the various words connected to cryptology, and states that cryptanalysis is the ‘…analytical reading of a coded message… often by a third, or unintended, party.’

3 The techniques of encryption originally used in the Arabic language eventually found their way to other languages as well.
Show answerTRUE – Para 3 gives information related to the Arab world where ‘…more advanced codes were devised’ and ‘Al-Kindi authored a book…’ and ‘…his concepts were then extended to cover other languages as well.’

4 Blaise de Vigenere came up with a very sophisticated innovation, the encryption key.

Show answerFALSE – The fifth para mentions that ‘…the Frenchman Vigenere …introduced the …encryption key in a very rudimentary form.’

5 Modern computer power has made it possible to have an unbreakable code.

Show answerFALSE – The last para states that ‘…all codes and encryption systems will eventually be broken…’.

Questions 6 – 10

The text contains references to a number of historical figures and facts relating to these people.
Match the fact the fact with the correct person A – F.
NB Not all letters will be used.

6 Used two metal plates to change the coding.
Show answerD – The fourth para mentions ‘…Leon Battista Alberti’s use of two copper disks …[could] alter the encryption logic.’

7 The code named after this person used simple substitution.
Show answerA – Two people had codes named after them, but the Caesar Cipher ‘…involved substituting one letter… for another…’.

8 Introduced theories that explained encryption and the breaking of codes used in many languages.
Show answerB – Para 3 gives information about Al-Kindi and how he explained coding, and that ‘…his concepts were then extended to cover other languages as well.’

9 Employed an encryptor who devised a nearly unbreakable code.
Show answerF – The fourth para states that ‘King Louis XIV had his own chief cryptographer who created a code which remained unsolved for almost 200 years…’.

10 Devised a new coding system which became much more sophisticated in the electromechanical era.
Show answerC – The fifth para mentions that Vigenere came up with the encryption key, and ‘…with electricity, much more complex systems were designed’, and goes on to describe how complex the system became with disks.


Question 11 – 13

Choose the correct letter A – D and write it in boxes 11 – 13 on your answer sheet.

11 Cryptography remained relatively unchanged for a thousand years
A because languages were so different no standard practice could be applied.
B due to one standard code proving to be unbreakable.
C until writings were published containing all known techniques to that date.
D when an Italian writer explained advanced coding techniques.

Show answerC is the answer because para 3 begins ‘Cryptography remained in relatively basic forms for a thousand years…’ and goes on to describe how an Arab writer explained many of the known techniques. A is not correct because there is no mention regarding other languages and a standard practise, and there is no mention of okne code being unbreakable so B is not correct. Finally, D is not correct because although Alberti’s work built on Al-Kindi’s writings, the link is between Al-Kindi’s work and new developments in coding.

12 The Middle Ages, and the Renaissance,
A was a period of upheaval between Asian countries.
B saw England and France at war with one another.
C was a time when cryptography improved because of changes in society and between nations.
D resulted in the overthrow of many kings and queens.

Show answerC – The fourth para begins with a reference to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and mentions the advances in cryptography that were due to ‘…competition between countries, and religious turmoil’. A is not correct because the para suggests there may have been harmony amongst Asian nations, and there is no mention of a war between England and France, so B is not correct, and there is no mention of the overthrow of ‘…many kings and queens’, although there is reference to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

13 The end of the Second World War
A saw IBM become the dominant computer company.
B meant that the U.S. government needed a new encryption system.
C saw a global business environment emerge.
D made people realise that the military needed stronger forms of encryption.

Show answerC – The key words are the Second World War, and the seventh para begins ‘After the Second World War…’, and states there was an emergence of ‘globalisation and a competitive commercial environment’. A is not correct because although there is reference to IBM being ‘…the then-computer giant’, it does not state whether IBM was the dominant computer company. B is not correct because there is mention of the U.S. government, but not that they needed a new encryption system. Finally, D is not correct because, although there is mention of the military, it does not state whether the military needed more secure systems.

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