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Unraveling the Myth of Flying Tortoises: IELTS Reading Passage with Questions & Answers

Updated on 06 December, 2023

Akansha Semwal

Akansha Semwal

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert


The IELTS Reading Test challenges learners to demonstrate a strong grasp of comprehension and analytical skills. The following passage, "Flying Tortoises," is designed to engage IELTS candidates with a blend of scientific intrigue and myth-busting narrative. This exercise will not only refine your reading abilities but also prepare you for the types of texts encountered in the IELTS exam.


Once upon a time, in the vast expanse of the natural world, a tale unfolded that captured the imagination of many—a tale of tortoises that could fly. While the image of these shelled creatures soaring through the skies may seem like a figment of fantasy, it roots itself in a fascinating phenomenon where tortoises indeed 'fly,' albeit not through their own volition or winged ability.

The story begins on the remote Galápagos Islands, where the giant tortoises reside. These magnificent creatures, known for their impressive lifespan and slow movement, became the subjects of a peculiar mode of transportation. During the 19th century, sailors discovered that tortoises could survive for long periods without food or water. This discovery led to tortoises being taken aboard ships as a fresh food source for lengthy voyages, inadvertently turning them into voyagers across seas.

As the ships embarked on their journeys, the tortoises would 'fly' from one part of the world to another. Despite the obvious lack of flight capability, the 'flying tortoises' became a nautical reality, symbolizing an era of exploration and exploitation. The impact on the tortoise population was profound, contributing to the endangerment of these ancient reptiles.

It wasn't until the late 20th century that conservation efforts began to turn the tide. Scientists and environmentalists worked tirelessly to protect the remaining tortoises, ensuring that the only flights they took were towards safety and conservation areas. These efforts have seen a gradual but hopeful increase in tortoise numbers, a testament to humanity's ability to correct the mistakes of the past.

Questions & Answers:

Q1. Where do the 'flying tortoises' originate from?

A. The Amazon Rainforest

B. The Galápagos Islands

C. Madagascar

D. The Sahara Desert

A1. B. The Galápagos Islands

The 'flying tortoises' are native to the Galápagos Islands. This unique identifier is crucial in understanding their journey and the human impact on their species.

Q2. Why were tortoises taken on ships by sailors?

A. For navigation purposes

B. As pets

C. For fresh food supply

D. For scientific research

A2. C. For fresh food supply

Sailors utilized the tortoises’ ability to survive without food or water for long periods, making them an ideal food source during extended voyages.

Q3. Fill in the blank: The giant tortoises of the Galápagos Islands are known for their long _______.

A. flights

B. tails

C. lifespan

D. jumps

A3. C. lifespan

Giant tortoises are recognized for their impressively long lifespan, some living over a century.

Q4. True or False: The tortoises had a natural ability to fly.

A4. False

Tortoises do not have the ability to fly; they were transported across seas by humans.

Q5. What led to the endangerment of the giant tortoises?

A. Natural predators

B. Climate change

C. Human exploitation

D. Asteroids

A5. C. Human exploitation

The practice of taking tortoises on ships as a food source significantly reduced their numbers, endangering the species.

Q6. When did conservation efforts for the giant tortoises begin?

A. 18th century

B. 19th century

C. 20th century

D. 21st century

A6. C. 20th century

Conservation initiatives started in the late 20th century, focusing on the protection and recovery of the tortoise population.

Q7. What was the purpose of sailors taking tortoises aboard ships?

A. To trade

B. As a fresh food source

C. For company

D. To sell as exotic pets

A7. B. As a fresh food source

Sailors valued the tortoises primarily as a fresh food source for their ability to survive long voyages without sustenance.

Q8. Fill in the blank: Conservation efforts have led to a(n) ______ in tortoise numbers.

A. decline

B. stagnation

C. increase

D. explosion

A8. C. increase

Thanks to dedicated conservation work, there has been a hopeful increase in the populations of these ancient reptiles.

Q9. True or False: The flying tortoises symbolize an era of exploration and conservation.

A9. False

While the tortoises do symbolize an era of exploration, they also represent exploitation rather than conservation, which came much later.

Q10. What does the narrative of 'flying tortoises' symbolize?

A. The adaptability of tortoises to various climates

B. The evolutionary advancement of reptiles

C. The era of nautical exploration and exploitation

D. The development of aviation

A10. C. The era of nautical exploration and exploitation

The story of tortoises aboard ships symbolizes the era of human exploration and the exploitation of natural resources.

Tips for Cracking the IELTS Reading Exam:

Tip 1: Familiarize Yourself with Different Text Types

Study a range of texts to become accustomed to varying writing styles and topics, from descriptive narratives like the one above to analytical essays.

Tip 2: Enhance Vocabulary Through Context

Learn new words in the context of passages and stories to improve retention and understanding.

Tip 3: Practice Active Reading

While practicing, engage with the text by noting down main ideas, unfamiliar words, and key details.

Tip 4: Hone Your Scanning Skills

Develop the ability to quickly scan for information to find answers efficiently without reading every word.

Tip 5: Focus on Question Types

Become proficient in different types of questions, such as multiple-choice and true/false, by practicing with a variety of samples.

By integrating these strategies into your IELTS preparation, you’ll be better equipped to tackle the Reading section with confidence, enhancing your chances of achieving a high score.

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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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