IELTS|Adults|Advanced|Unit 1|1. Information overload


1. Read these statements and discuss their implications for academic work and studying.

  • As much new information will be available in the next decade as has been discovered in the whole of human history.
  • It is estimated that it would take around seven hundred years for ore person to read a single year’s output in the field of chemistry.
  • In 2003, the World Wide Web contained 170 terabytes* of information on its surface; the «deep web» was at that time thought to be up to 540 times larger (91.850 terabytes).

💡 One terabyte of information is roughly equivalent to the amount of text printed on 40.25 million sheets of paper.

2. Based on this information, do you have a terror of terabytes, or do you think they’re terrific? How does «information overload» affect you personally, in your studies or your daily life?


The true modal verbs are will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must. They have these grammatical characteristics:

  • In the negative they are followed by not or n’t, e.g. mustn’t (main verbs need a negative form of to do).
  • In questions they go before the subject, e.g. Can you speak any foreign languages? (main verbs need to do).
  • They have only one form: there is no infinitive, present or past participle, or -s ending.
  • They are followed by an infinitive without to.

There are also some verbs, referred to as semi-modals, which share certain characteristics of modal s. These include have (got) to, used to, ought to and need.

Ability and inability: can, can’t, could, couldn’t

can, can’t — present

  • Helen can speak three languages.
  • I can’t understand what this writer means.

could, couldn’t — past forms

  • If I could plan my essays more efficiently, they wouldn’t take me so long.
  • When I was a child I could remember everything I read.
  • I couldn’t understand why my essay only got a grade C.

To be able/unable to has a similar meaning.

Possibility: may (not), might (not), can, could

may (not), might (not), could

May and might generally used to talk about something specific.

May is usually slightly more sure than might or could.

  • Your computer may/might/could crash, so always back up your files.
  • Don’t worry about the test — it may/might not be very hard.

Note that couldn’t doesn’t mean the same as may/might not.


Can is used for a more general, theoretical possibility.

  • Computers can crash. ( = Computers sometimes crash.)

Strong obligation: must, mustn’t, have to, (informal) have got to


Must refers to strong present and future obligations, imposed, or accepted by the speaker. It also refers to laws and rules.

  • I must go home now and write an assignment.

have to / have got to

Have to/ have got to refer to strong obligations in the present and future that are not imposed by the speaker. The speaker may be distancing him/herself from the obligation.

  • I have to read all these books by the end of the week. (My tutor says so.)

If in doubt whether to use must or have to, use have to.

had to

Had to refers to past and reported obligations.

  • I had to get up very early to go to school.
  • Our tutor said we had to be more careful when choosing topics.

Prohibition: mustn’t

Mustn’t means that something is forbidden, or that the speaker is saying what not to do.

  • When writing essays, mustn’t copy from the Internet.

Lack of obligation: doesn’t/don’t have to

Demi have to means that something isn’t obligatory. Usually it’s optional.

We don’t have to attend the lecture as we’ve finished our essays. At my school we didn’t have to take any tests in the first year.

Note that the meanings of mustn’t and don’t have to are very different.

Weak obligation and weak prohibition: should, shouldn’t, ought to

These are used to give advice, or say what would be a good thing to do, now or in the future.

  • Should and ought to mean the same, but should is used much more often.

You should spend/ ought to spend more time studying and less time playing computer games.

  • Shouldn’t is used to give advice about what not to do. Oughtn’t to is also possible, but is falling out of use.

You shouldn’t spend so much time playing computer games.

Necessity and lack of necessity: need as a main verb

Nowadays, need is mainly used as a main verb, forming the negative and questions with to do.

  • We didn’t need to go to the seminar as it was for new students only.
  • Do you need to read any more hooks before you write your essay?

However need is still occasionally used as a modal verb, mostly in the negative, where the lack of necessity comes from the speaker:

You needn’t come with me if you’d rather carry on studying.

This could also be expressed as

You don’t need to come with me if you’d rather carry on studying.


  • Choose the correct verb in these sentences.

Compound nouns

1. The word overload is a compound noun, formed from a preposition and a verb. Make more compound nouns by combining a word from column A with a word from column В to fill the spaces in sentences 1-5 below.

in come
out kill
over put

2. Select two words from the box that are similar to meaning to each of the words (1-8) below. Most of these words will come up in the listening task, so use a dictionary to check on their meaning if necessary.

There are four extra words that you won’t need. What part of speech are they and what do they mean?

biased confident critical efficiently
evaluate false inundated judge
locate means overwhelmed support
periodical productively resources
retrieve review spine
sure virtually


1. You are going to hear a conversation between a university tutor and two students about studying and research methods. To help you, the recording will be separated in to four parts and you will hear some focus questions at the beginning of each one. Read the Test spot and then concentrate on your listening.

Test spot

In IELTS Listening Section 3, you will hear a conversation between up to four speakers, who will be talking about an aspect of academic work or studying. Work out who the speakers are at the beginning of the recording and remember to check which speaker is focused on in each question. There may be a variety of task types within the section, for example multiple choice and note taking.

2. Read the instructions and questions below, noting which speakers are referred to. Then listen to Parts 2-4 again and answer the questions as you listen.


Recording script

(The highlighted parts refer to answers to exercise 2.)


Who are the three speakers? Why are they having a meeting together?

Mark: Hello, Dr Lucas.

Dr Lucas: Mark, welcome, and thank, for coming along to share your experience with us today as a final-year student. Can I introduce you to Jenny Boylan, who’s in her first term here?

Mark: Hi, Jenny. And how are you enjoying university life?

Jenny: It’s great, though I’m having a few problems on the study side…

Dr Lucas: Well, that’s exactly why I’ve arranged for us all to be here this morning.

The older woman, Dr Lucas, has set up the meeting so that Jenny a new student, can get some advice about studying from Mark, who is in his fiпаl year.


What did Mark find difficult when he started at university? Was it the subject he was studying? Or something else?

Dr Lucas: Well, that’s exactly why I’ve arranged for us all to be here this morning. Now Jenny, the first thing to say is — don’t worry, many students feel a bit at sea with their study techniques to begin with. Isn’t that right, Mark?

Mark: Definitely. When I started here, I found it so different from school. It wasn’t that the subject itself was suddenly more challenging — I’ve always loved history and been confident in my field. But at school I really only had to use a couple of core textbooks to find out what I needed, while here at uni I was presented with huge resources — the library, the Internet — with little idea of how to use them efficiently…

Jenny: Exactly, the main problem I seem to have is time-wasting. I can spend a whole day in the library and come away feeling I haven’t really scratched the surface.

Mark didn’t find his subject, history, any more difficult. His problem at first was learning how to cope with much bigger reference sources than he had had to use at school.


What two things does Mark suggest Jenny should do from now on when she’s in the library?

Dr Lucas: Could you give us a concrete example of what you see as time wasting. Jenny?

Jenny: Well, yesterday I had to do some background reading for an essay. I took down a big book from the shelves thinking it would be useful — the title seemed to fit my essay topic — but it was hopeless! I sat there with it for nearly two hours, reading chapter after chapter, thinking that, eventually, I’d find what I needed. But it never happened.

Mark: OK, Jenny, first piece of advice: don’t wander along the library shelves looking at book spines. Titles can be very misleading! You’ll save time by putting yourself in front of a computer and using the search tools to locate books — or articles — on your topic. Didn’t they explain this to you on the library tour at the start of term?

Jenny: Erm … I forgot to go.

Dr Lucas: OK, well make sure you fix up another tour immediately. They’re still running them once a week, you know.

Mark: And another suggestion. Jenny, don’t just rely on books. You’re likely to find much more up-to-date information in periodicals and journals, you know.

Jenny: Right, I’ll look fur those, then.

Mark advises Jenny to use the library’s electronic search tools. He also advises her to look for relevant articles in periodicals and journals,

instead of only using books.


Why does Dr Lucas warn Jennу about using the Internet as a source?

Jenny: And what do you both think about using the Internet?

Mark: Well, it isn’t always used very productively. Sure, you can get lucky and find something really useful, but other days, you may retrieve virtually nothing. And perhaps even worse, sometimes you’re totally inundated with possible material, and then you don’t know where to start!

Dr Lucas: Mark’s right, I think you have to be extremely careful in this area, especially in assessing the accuracy of the facts themselves. You see, there are no quality control on the Web. Information can become out-of-date, or may be false or biased to start with. Use it by all means, but always evaluate what you find. You must be absolutely certain of all the sources you quote in essays.

Jenny: I’ve got a lot to learn, haven’t I?

Dr Lucas: That’s true, but we’re here to support you. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about asking me fur more help and advice, and Mark is willing to act as your student mentor, too.

Mark: In fact, why don’t we go for a coffee now, then we can get to know each other a bit better…

Jenny: Thanks. I ‘d like that. And. er, thank you, Dr Lucas. It’s been really helpful.

Dr Lucas: I’m pleased. Right, off you go then!

Dr Lucas explains to Jenny information on the Internet isn’t always reliable, because it may be out-of-date, inaccurate or biased.

3. Listen to the whole conversation to check your answers. You can ask your teacher for a copy of the recording script.

Speaking Part

Test spot

In Part 1 of the Speaking Module, the examiner will ask you questions about yourself — for example, your work оr studies, your home, or your family. Make sure you revise relevant vocabulary for these familiar topics and practise ways of extending your answers, to show your language range.

  • Ask and answer the questions below, giving as much detail as you can.


  1. Why are you preparing for IELTS?
  2. How much time do you spend studying each week?
  3. What do you see as essential in your learning of English?
  4. Do you think it’s better to study full-time or part-time?

Complete the sentences with a suitable modal perfect.

listen and write

EXAMPLE: Sally can’t have felt well yesterday because she didn’t attend class.

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