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Unmasking Skin IELTS reading Answers

Updated on 13 April, 2023

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

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Students who wish to migrate to a country where English is the native language need to pass the IELTS reading test. Though acing this test is not too difficult, many students discover otherwise if they haven’t prepared well in advance. All it needs to score well in this 60-minute test is regular practice through sample papers. The following is the Unmasking Skin IELTS Reading sample. Answer the IELTS Exam questions and gauge your preparation. 

“Exploring the largest human organ: skin, the marvel of marvels."

What if you could peel off your skin and lay it flat on the ground? The same would cover a distance of approximately 21 square feet! No wonder the skin is the body’s largest organ. The beauty of this organ is that it forms the perfect barrier between the external organs and the internal ones. Not only that, but the skin is also responsible for protecting the body against harmful external forces. All of these functions fade because the skin preserves the sanctity of our person – serving as a haven wherein our most intimate psychological self can reside and rest.

This impervious yet permeable barrier, less than a millimeter thick in places, is composed of three layers. The outermost layer is the bloodless epidermis. The dermis includes collagen, elastin, and nerve endings. The innermost layer, subcutaneous fat, contains tissue that acts as an energy source, cushion and insulator for the body.

From these familiar skin characteristics emerge the profound mysteries of touch, arguably our most essential source of sensory stimulation. We can live without seeing or hearing – in fact, without our other senses. But babies born without effective nerve connections between skin and brain can fail to thrive and may even die.

Laboratory experiments decades ago, now considered unethical and inhumane, kept baby monkeys from being touched by their mothers. It made no difference that the babies could see, hear and smell their mothers; without touching, they became apathetic and failed to progress.

For humans, insufficient touching in the early years can have lifelong results. "In touching cultures, adult aggression is low, whereas, in cultures where touch is limited, adult aggression is high," writes Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Studies of a variety of cultures show a correspondence between high rates of physical affection in childhood and low rates of adult physical violence.


While the effects of touching are easy to understand, the mechanics of it are less so. "Your skin has millions of nerve cells of various shapes at different depths," explains Stanley Bolanowski, a neuroscientist and associate director of the Institute for Sensory Research at Syracuse University. "When the nerve cells are stimulated, physical energy is transformed into energy used by the nervous system and passed from the skin to the spinal cord and brain. It's called transduction, and no one knows exactly how it takes place." Suffice it to say that the process involves the intricate, split-second operation of a complex system of signals between neurons in the skin and brain.

This starts to sound very confusing until Bolanowski says: "In simple terms, people perceive three basic things via skin: pressure, temperature, and pain." And then I'm sure he's wrong. "When I get wet, my skin feels wet," I protest. "Close your eyes and lean back," says Bolanowski.

Something cold and wet is on my forehead – so wet, in fact, that I wait for the water to start dripping down my cheeks. "Open your eyes," Bolanowski says, showing me that the sensation comes from a chilled but dry, metal cylinder. The combination of pressure and cold, he explains, is what makes my skin perceive wetness. He gives me a surgical glove to put on and has me put a finger in a glass of cold water. My finger feels wet, even though I have visual proof that it's not touching the water. My skin, which seemed so reliable, has been deceiving me my entire life. When I shower or wash my hands, I realize my skin feels pressure and temperature. It's my brain that says I feel wet.

Perceptions of pressure, temperature and pain manifest themselves in many different ways. Gentle stimulation of pressure receptors can result in ticklishness; gentle stimulation of pain receptors in itching. Both sensations arise from a neurological transmission, not from something that physically exists. I'm realizing skin is under constant assault, both from within the body and from forces outside. Repairs occur with varying success.

Take the spot where I nicked myself with a knife while slicing fruit. I have a crusty scab surrounded by pink tissue about a quarter inch long on my right palm. Under the scab, epidermal cells migrate into the wound to close it up. When the process is complete, the scab will fall off to reveal a new epidermis. It's only been a few days, but my little self-repair is almost complete. Likewise, we recover quickly from slight burns. If you ever touch a hot burner, just put your finger in cold water. The chances are you will have no blister, little pain and no scar. Severe burns, though, are a different matter.

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Questions 1-4

The passage has 10 paragraphs A-J. Which paragraph contains the following information? Answer the questions below by writing the correct letters, A-J, in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet. 

1. The features of human skin, on and below the surface 

Answer – Paragraph B

Explanation: As per Paragraph B of the Unmasking Skin IELTS Reading Answers, the human skin comprises three layers – the outer epidermis, the middle layer dermis, and the innermost subcutaneous fat layer. It talks about what each layer contains, such as elastin, collagen, nerve endings on the dermis and the subcutaneous fat layer acting as a cushion, insulator, and energy source. Hence, this paragraph talks about the features of human skin, both on and below the surface. 

2. An experiment in which the writer can see what is happening.

Answer – Paragraph H

Explanation: In Paragraph H of the Reading Passage, the writer talks about an experiment that proves that human skin does not feel wetness. It responds to sensations via pressure, pain, and temperature. The writer is asked to close their eyes when they feel a sense of cold water. Expecting water to trickle down, they were shocked to see that the object was a metal cylinder. Then, the writer is asked to wear surgical gloves and insert their finger into a glass of cold water. Despite the visual proof that their finger made no direct contact with the water, they felt like their finger was wet. 

3. Advice on how you can avoid damage to the skin 

Answer – Paragraph J

Explanation: The answer is found towards the end of the said paragraph. The writer first discusses a knife-cut scar on the skin developed while slicing fruit. They go on to mention how the skin repairs itself. Though they mention the same is true for slight burns, there is advice on avoiding skin damage by dipping the finger immediately into cold water after a minor burn. 

4. Cruel research methods used in the past 

Answer – Paragraph D 

Explanation: In the Unmasking Skin Reading Passage Answers, the writer talks about inhumane experiments conducted to understand the mysteries of skin-to-skin contact or touch. In the experiments, baby monkeys were kept away from their mothers, who were not allowed to touch them. Though the baby monkeys could hear, smell, and see their mothers, they failed to progress due to lack of touch. 

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Questions 5-6 

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C, or D, from the following questions and write your answers in boxes 5 and 6 on your answer sheet. 

5. How does a lack of affectionate touching affect children?

A – It makes them apathetic 

B – They are more likely to become violent adults 

C – They will be less aggressive when they grow up 

D – We do not really know 

Answer – They are more likely to become violent adults 

Explanation: Unmasking Skin IELTS Reading Answers Paragraph E gives the answer. This paragraph discusses the aftermath of the lack of physical touch in humans. As per Tiffany Field, adult aggression was found to be low in cultures with plenty of childhood skin-to-skin contact. Meaning, adult violence rates were lower. On the other hand, in cultures where physical touch was lacking, the children turned out to be violent or aggressive adults. 

6. After the wetness experiments, the writer says that –

A – His skin is not normal

B – His skin was wet when he felt wet 

C – He knew why it felt wet when it was dry 

D – The experiments taught him nothing new 

Answer – He knew why it felt wet when it was dry 

Explanation: The answer is deduced from Paragraph H of the Unmasking Skin Reading Answers. In this paragraph, the writer talks about two wetness-related experiments. Towards the end, they conclude that they realized why their skin felt wet when it was dry – because the skin responds only to pain, pressure, or temperature. It is the brain that forms the answer that the skin is wet. 

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Questions 7-11 

Complete each sentence with the correct ending A-I from the box below. Write the correct letter A-I in boxes 7-11 on your answer sheet. 

7. Touch is unique among the five senses 

Answer – E - Because we do not the others to survive 

Explanation: Paragraph C of the Unmasking Skin IELTS Reading Answers provides the answer. The paragraph talks about touch being the most vital source of sensory stimulation. It also mentions that babies can survive and grow without a sense of seeing, hearing, or any other sense. But, those born without proper nerve-ending connections between their skin and brain fail to thrive, some even die. 

8. A substance may feel wet 

Answer – H - Because there is a low temperature and pressure

Explanation: The answer to this is found the Paragraph H of the Reading Passage. This paragraph talks about two wetness experiments, one with a dry metal cylinder that gives the sensation of water. The second was the writer dipping their finger into a glass of cold water with surgical gloves. In each case, the writer felt like their skin was wet when it was not. They concluded that the wet sensation may even occur due to pressure or low temperature; direct contact with water was unnecessary. 

9. Something may tickle 

Answer – D - Because there is light pressure on the skin 

Explanation: Paragraph I offers the answer. In this paragraph, the writer says how different perceptions of pain, temperature, and pressure can manifest in different ways. Then, they go on to give examples. The first example talks about gentle pressure on the skin, which imparts a sensation of ticklishness. 

10. The skin may itch 

Answer – G - Because of a small amount of pain

Explanation: The writer talks about this in Paragraph J of the Reading Passage. They talk about an incident when they nicked themselves with a knife while slicing fruit. The aftermath was a crusty scab left by a quarter-of-an-inch-long wound in the right palm. Because epidermal skin cells are migrating beneath the wound, it is closing up and healing. The crusty scab being talked about is usually itchy as the process of skin repair begins almost immediately. 

11. A small cut heals up quickly 

Answer – B - Because the outer layer of skin can mend itself 

Explanation: This answer is again found in Paragraph J of the Unmasking Skin IELTS Reading Answers. In this paragraph, the writer talks about a small knife-cut developing while slicing fruit. They then talk about how a crusty scab surrounded by pink tissue has developed in place of the wound. The explanation for this is given in the following line, which says that new epidermal cells (outermost layer) are migrating into the wound to heal it quickly. The writer concludes that the scab will fall off when the self-repair process is complete. 

Questions 12-14 

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 107?

In boxes 12-14 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 

12. Even scientists need help understanding how our sense of touch works.

Answer – TRUE 

Explanation: As per Paragraph C of the Unmasking Skin IELTS Reading Answers, we understand that despite knowing familiar characteristics or features of the skin, the mysteries of touch are profound. Even scientists are puzzled at how touch (of all our senses) is necessary for survival, without which man may not survive, let alone thrive. 

13. The skin is more sensitive to pressure than to temperature or pain. 

Answer – NOT GIVEN

Explanation: Paragraph G talks about the three basic things we perceive through the skin – pain, pressure, and temperature. Then, the same paragraph and one following talk about experiments that prove this to be true. However, nowhere in the entire Reading Passage is there any mention of the skin being more sensitive to pressure than pain or temperature. 

14. The human skin is always good at repairing itself. 

Answer – FALSE 

Explanation: This answer may be found in Paragraph J of the Unmasking Skin Reading Answers. In this paragraph, the writer talks about the skin repairing itself for minor cuts and burns. This happens immediately after a wound occurs as new epidermal skin cells migrate toward the skin to close it up and heal. However, the writer also mentions towards the end that this is not the case with severe burns, wherein the skin is not able to repair itself. 

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