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Unveiling the Mystery of Ambergris: IELTS Reading Passage with Questions & Answers

Updated on 11 November, 2023

Kanika Pruthi

Kanika Pruthi

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert

Unveiling the Mystery of Ambergris Reading Passage:

The allure of ambergris has captivated humanity for centuries, often shrouded in mystery and valued as much as gold. This rare substance, produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, has a history as intriguing as its unique fragrance, which has been coveted by perfumers across generations.

Ambergris forms around sharp objects in a whale’s intestines, serving as a protective agent. Over time, it binds with fecal matter and other stomach secretions, hardening as it ages. The exact process of ambergris formation remains a guarded secret of nature, but it is believed to be a response to the irritation caused by the beaks of giant squids, a primary prey of sperm whales.

Initially, fresh ambergris has a marine, fecal odor. However, as it ages, particularly after being expelled by the whale and left to cure in the ocean, it acquires a sweet, earthy scent that has been the cornerstone of many luxury perfumes. It is this transformative journey from foul to fragrant that has made ambergris a substance of legend.

Despite its value and the allure it holds in the fragrance industry, the ethical and legal implications of using ambergris are complex. Given the endangered status of sperm whales, trade in ambergris is controversial and even illegal in some countries, although it continues to be found washed up on beaches around the world.

The tale of ambergris is a testament to nature’s alchemy and the lengths to which humans will go for the pursuit of beauty.


Q1. What is ambergris commonly compared to in terms of its value?

A. Silver

B. Gold

C. Platinum

D. Bronze

Q2. Ambergris is produced in the _________ system of sperm whales.

(Fill in the blank)

Q3. True or False: Ambergris is primarily used in the culinary industry.


Q4. The scent of ambergris changes from _________ to _________ as it ages.

(Fill in the blanks)

Q5. Which animal's beaks are thought to contribute to the formation of ambergris?

A. Blue whales

B. Giant squids

C. Dolphins

D. Octopuses

Q6. True or False: Fresh ambergris has a sweet and pleasant smell.


Q7. The trade of ambergris is considered controversial because:

A. It is a synthetic chemical.

B. Sperm whales are endangered.

C. It has an unpleasant smell.

D. It is too expensive.

Q8. True or False: Ambergris is found in freshwater lakes.


Q9. Ambergris can be legally traded in all countries.


Q10. What aspect of ambergris is most prized by perfumers?

A. Its color

B. Its texture

C. Its scent

D. Its rarity



A1. B. Gold

Ambergris is as valuable as gold due to its rarity and demand in perfume making.

A2. Digestive

Ambergris forms in the digestive system of sperm whales.

A3. False

Ambergris is primarily used in the perfume industry, not the culinary industry.

A4. Foul; fragrant

Ambergris undergoes a transformation from a foul odor to a fragrant scent over time.

A5. B. Giant squids

Giant squid beaks are thought to irritate the whale's intestines, leading to the formation of ambergris.

A6. False

Fresh ambergris has a marine, fecal odor, which is not pleasant.

A7. B. Sperm whales are endangered.

The endangered status of sperm whales makes the trade of ambergris controversial.

A8. False

Ambergris is found in the ocean, not freshwater lakes.

A9. False

The legality of trading ambergris varies by country.

A10. C. Its scent

The unique scent of ambergris is what makes it highly valued by perfumers.

This article, tailored for IELTS reading test preparation, offers a glimpse into the fascinating subject of ambergris. The passage, questions, and explanatory answers provide a multi-dimensional learning experience. Not only does it help IELTS candidates hone their reading skills, but it also encourages them to engage with diverse and complex topics, preparing them for the array of subjects they may encounter in the exam. Understanding such intricate topics and practicing with various question types is crucial for students aiming to achieve a high band score in their IELTS reading test.

Kanika Pruthi

Sr. Content Writer & Study Abroad Expert

Kanika has 5+ years of experience as a writer and content developer. She has written for a wide range of industry verticals, including hospitality, restaurants, non-profits, finance, IT, HR, technology, payroll, and education. She has worked as a creator for a few leading companies and has also helped brands grow through her creative writing.

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