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The Historic Cutty Sark - IELTS Reading Passage with Questions & Answers

Updated on 17 November, 2023

Akansha Semwal

Akansha Semwal

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert


The Cutty Sark, an iconic British clipper ship, has sailed through history to become a cherished maritime relic. For IELTS aspirants, reading passages about such historical vessels offer a challenging yet fascinating opportunity to hone their comprehension skills. As we unfold the story of the Cutty Sark, let's prepare to navigate the waters of the IELTS reading test.


In 1869, a ship slid into the River Leven's waters—a tea clipper named the Cutty Sark. Built for speed, she was destined to race from China to London, with precious cargo of tea leaves. The Cutty Sark's sleek design, with her long, narrow hull and vast canvas of sails, was an architectural marvel, optimized to harness the winds.

During her prime, the Cutty Sark was a symbol of swiftness, competing fiercely with the Thermopylae, her chief rival in the tea trade. However, with the advent of steamships and the opening of the Suez Canal, which was not suitable for sailing ships, her importance in the tea trade diminished. The ship adapted, turning to the trade of wool from Australia, where she again made her mark by setting record passages.

Eventually, the Cutty Sark retired from active service. She underwent restoration and was installed as a museum ship in Greenwich, London. Today, she stands as a testament to the zenith of sail ships, drawing visitors from around the globe, her masts soaring high, a reminder of her glorious past.

Questions & Answers:

Q1. The Cutty Sark was primarily built for:

A. War

B. Fishing

C. Speed

D. Luxury cruises

A1. C. Speed

Explanation: The passage mentions that the Cutty Sark was built for speed, specifically to race from China to London.

Q2. The ship's primary competitor in the tea trade was:

A. The Mayflower

B. The Beagle

C. The Thermopylae

D. The Endeavour

A2. C. The Thermopylae

Explanation: The passage identifies the Thermopylae as the chief rival of the Cutty Sark in the tea trade.

Q3. Fill in the blanks: The Cutty Sark was launched in the year ____.

A3. 1869

Explanation: The first sentence of the passage indicates that the Cutty Sark was launched in 1869.

Q4. True or False: The opening of the Suez Canal had a positive impact on the Cutty Sark’s role in the tea trade.

A4. False

Explanation: The passage specifies that the opening of the Suez Canal, which favored steamships, diminished the Cutty Sark's importance in the tea trade.

Q5. What cargo did the Cutty Sark carry from Australia?

A. Gold

B. Wool

C. Spices

D. Coal

A5. B. Wool

Explanation: It is mentioned that the Cutty Sark turned to the trade of wool from Australia after her significance in the tea trade declined.

Q6. Fill in the blanks: The Cutty Sark is now installed as a museum ship in _______.

A6. Greenwich, London

Explanation: The passage states that the Cutty Sark underwent restoration and was set up as a museum ship in Greenwich, London.

Q7. Multiple choice: The Cutty Sark was known for setting record passages in the trade of:

A. Tea from India

B. Wool from Australia

C. Spices from the Caribbean

D. Silk from China

A7. B. Wool from Australia

Explanation: The passage mentions that the Cutty Sark made her mark in the wool trade from Australia by setting record passages.

Q8. True or False: The Cutty Sark's design was not suited for the conditions of the Suez Canal.

A8. True

Explanation: The passage implies that the Suez Canal was not suitable for sailing ships like the Cutty Sark, which were designed to harness the wind.

Q9. The Cutty Sark's hull was described as:

A. Short and wide

B. Long and narrow

C. Round and deep

D. Flat and broad

A9. B. Long and narrow

Explanation: The passage describes the Cutty Sark's hull as long and narrow, contributing to her speed.

Q10. True or False: The Cutty Sark now sails around the world as a functional ship.

A10. False

Explanation: According to the passage, the Cutty Sark retired from active service and is currently a museum ship.

IELTS Reading Tips:

Tip 1: Always read the passage thoroughly before attempting the questions. Understanding the context is key to selecting the correct answers.

Tip 2: Look out for keywords in the questions that can help you locate the information in the passage quickly.

Tip 3: For fill-in-the-blank questions, be mindful of the tense and part of speech required by the sentence structure.

Tip 4: Don't let true/false questions trick you. Pay close attention to modifiers like 'not,' 'only,' and 'always,' which can change the statement's truth.

Tip 5: Manage your time efficiently. Practice pacing yourself so that you have adequate time to read, comprehend, and answer all questions within the allotted time.

By incorporating these strategies and understanding the passage's content, IELTS candidates can confidently tackle the reading section and provide answers that are accurate and reflective of strong comprehension skills.

Akansha Semwal

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert

Akansha Semwal is a content marketer at upGrad and has also worked as a social media marketer & sub-editor. Experienced in creating impressive Statement of Purpose, Essays, and LOR, she knows how to captivate the attention of Admissions Committee. Her research-driven;study-abroad articles helps aspirants to make the prudent decision. She holds a bachelor's & master's degree in Literature from the University of Delhi.

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