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Cambridge English IELTS 15 Reading: Key & Explanation

Cambridge English IELTS 15 Reading: Key & Explanation


Nutmeg – a valuable spice

Questions 1 – 4 

Complete the notes below. 

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer. 

Write your answers on boxes 1 – 4 on your answer sheet. 

The nutmeg tree and fruit 

  • the leaves of the tree are 1 …………………………………….in shape 
  • the 2 …………………………………….surrounds the fruit and breaks open when the fruit  is ripe 
  • the 3 …………………………………….is used to produce the spice nutmeg ● the covering known as the arilis used to produce 4 ……………………………………. ● the tree has yellow flowers and fruit 
the leaves of the tree are ______ in shape 

Key words: leaves, shape 

Using the scanning skill, we can see that the first paragraph describes the characteristics  of the tree in detail, including the leaves, so we would pay attention to this paragraph. It  can be seen in the 2nd sentence: “The tree is thickly branched with […], dark green oval  leaves, […]” referring first to the colour, and then to the shape of the leaves, stating that  the leaves are oval. Therefore, “oval” is the answer. 

→ Answer: oval 

the ______ surrounds the fruit and breaks open when the fruit is ripe Key words: surrounds, fruit, open, ripe 

Similarly, fruit is another feature of the tree, so we would still look in paragraph 1. There  are two sentences mentioning fruit: “The fruit is encased in a fleshy husk. When the fruit  is ripe, this husk splits into two halves along a ridge running the length of the fruit.” To  be “encased” in something” is to be covered completely by something, so it can be  understood that a “fleshy husk” surrounds the fruit. Moreover, “splitting into two halves”  is a simple image of “breaking open”, so it is once again confirmed that “husk” is the  answer.

 to surround = to encase 

 to break = to split 

→ Answer: husk

the ____ is used to produce the spice nutmeg 

Key words: produce, spice nutmeg 

Although nutmeg is mentioned in both paragraph 1 and 2, paragraph 2 is focused on the  historical application of the nutmeg, not the different parts of the plant, so we would once  again pay attention to paragraph 1. The spice nutmeg is brought up in the last sentence: “These are the sources of the two spices nutmeg and mace, the former being produced  from the dried seed and the latter from the aril.” As “the former” refers to the subject that  was mentioned first, which, in this case, is the “spice nutmeg”, it can be inferred that the  spice nutmeg is produced from the dried seed, revealing the answer to be the “seed”. → Answer: seed 

the covering known as the aril is used to produce ______ 

Key words: covering, aril, produce 

We find the answer to this question in the same final sentence of paragraph 1 in which we  found the answer to question 3. “The latter” refers to the spice that is mentioned after nutmeg, which is “mace”. The previous sentence explains the meaning of the word ‘aril’,  which is the red covering surrounding the seed. Note that the key word ‘covering’ is  mentioned here. Therefore, it can be understood that mace is produced from the aril,  confirming that our answer is “mace”. 

→ Answer: mace 

  Completing diagrams - Completing diagrams

Questions 5 – 7 

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1? In boxes 5 – 7 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. 

In the Middle Ages, most Europeans knew where nutmeg was grown. Key words: Middle Ages, Europeans, knew, grown 

Through scanning, we can see that the Middle Ages period is mentioned in paragraph 2,  so we would look in this one. “Arabs were the exclusive importers of the spice to  Europe”, so it can be understood that they were the only people having access to the source of the nutmeg. Moreover, “they never revealed the exact location of the source”, which means that no Europeans knew the source of the nutmeg, which is where it was  grown. Therefore, this statement is false. 

→ Answer: FALSE 

The VOC was the world’s first major trading company. 

Key words: VOC, first, major trading 

As the VOC is mentioned only in paragraph 4, this paragraph would be investigated. In  this statement, the word “first” refers to the idea that there was no major trading company  before the VOC. However, there is no sentence mentioning this; the only sentence  describing the VOC is that it was the “richest commercial operation in the world”. We do not know if it was the first trading company, only that it was rich. Therefore, we have no information to confirm if the statement is true or false. 

trading company = commercial operation 

→ Answer: NOT GIVEN 

Following the Treaty of Breda, the Dutch had control of all the islands where  nutmeg grew. 

Key words: following, Treaty of Breda, Dutch, control, all, nutmeg grew By using the scanning technique, we can see that the Treaty of Breda is referred to in  paragraph 5, which mentions how the Dutch and British arrived at the settlement and  what happened afterwards. The paragraph shows that the Dutch managed to be “securely  in control of the Bandas”, where all nutmeg production was concentrated into easily  guarded areas, and “there was no chance a fertile seed which could be grown elsewhere  would leave the islands”. This means that the Banda Islands were the sole islands where  nutmeg grew, and the Dutch were fully in control of those, except for only the island of Run. After the Treaty of Breda, it is true that all the islands  where nutmeg grew were under the control of the Dutch. 

→ Answer: TRUE 

Questions 8 – 13 

Complete the table below. 

Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer.

Middle Ages Nutmeg was brought to Europe by the  

8 ………………………………….

16th century European nations took control of the nutmeg trade
17th century Demand for nutmeg grew, as it was believed to be effective  against the disease known as the 9 ………………………………….. 

The Dutch 

– took control of the Banda Islands 

– restricted nutmeg production to a few areas 

– put 10 ……………………………………. on nutmeg to avoid it  being cultivated outside the islands 

– finally obtained the island of  

11 …………………………………….from the British

Late 18th  


1770 – nutmeg plants were secretly taken to  

12 ………………………………….. 

1778 – half the Banda Islands’ nutmeg plantations were  destroyed by a 13 …………………………………….

Middle Ages – Nutmeg was brought to Europe by the ______ 

Key words: Middle Ages, brought to, Europe 

We would look in paragraph 2 where the Middle Ages period is mentioned. Here, it is  stated that “throughout this period, the Arabs were the exclusive importers of the spice to  Europe”, which means that the Arabs were the only people that brought nutmeg to  Europe in the Middle Ages. Therefore, “Arabs” is the answer here. 

→ Answer: Arabs 

17th century – Demand for nutmeg grew, as it was believed to be effective against  the disease known as the ______ 

Key words: 17th century, disease 

The 17th century starts from 1600, so we would look into where this period was first  mentioned – (1602) paragraph 4. In this paragraph, a disease that was called “the plague”  is mentioned, which doctors decided could be cured by nutmeg, making everyone want it  at the time. Therefore, “plague” is the answer for question 9. 

→ Answer: plague 

17th century – The Dutch 

put ______ on nutmeg to avoid it being cultivated outside the islands finally obtained the island of ______ from the British 

Key words: 17th century, Dutch, avoid, outside, obtained, British

The information on the Dutch protecting its monopoly position is given in paragraph 5. It  mentions that “all exported nutmeg was covered with lime to make sure there was no  chance a fertile seed which could be grown elsewhere would leave the islands”. It could  then be understood that to avoid fertile seed being grown – or cultivated – outside the  islands, the Dutch used lime to cover nutmeg, or in other words, put lime on nutmeg.  Therefore, “lime” is the answer to question 10.

We can now find the answer to question  11. It is mentioned that although the Dutch were in control of the Banda Islands, one of  the islands – called Run – was under the control of the British. After the exchange  offered by the Dutch, the British gave the island of Run to them. It can therefore be said  that the Dutch finally obtained the island of Run from the British. 

cultivated = grown 

→ Answers: lime – Run 

1770 – nutmeg plants were secretly taken to ______ 

Key words: 1770, secretly taken 

As 1770 is mentioned in paragraph 6, we would investigate this paragraph. It states that:  “a Frenchman … smuggled nutmeg plants to safety in Mauritius”. “Smuggle” means to  steal or to take something secretly, so this is the piece of information we are looking for.  Therefore, Mauritius is our answer to question 12. 

secretly take = smuggle 

→ Answer: Mauritius 

1778 – half the Banda Islands’ nutmeg plantations were destroyed by a ______ Key words: 1778, half, Banda Islands, destroyed 

An event in 1778 is mentioned in paragraph 6: “a volcanic eruption in the Banda region  caused a tsunami that wiped out half the nutmeg groves”. “Wipe out” has the same  meaning as “destroy”, and it can be understood that the tsunami was the direct cause of  this event. Therefore, tsunami is the missing word here. 

destroy = wipe out 

→ Answer: tsunami 

Cambridge English IELTS 15 Reading: Key & Explanation.

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