IELTS Exam: Academic Reading
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You should spend about 20 minutes on each Passage. You have 1 hour to complete the Reading part.
The domestication of horses
1. Horses have been racing across the landscape for around 55 million years – much longer than our own species has existed. However, prehistoric remains show that at the end of the Ice Age, some 10,000 years ago, wild horses died out in the Americas and dwindled in western Europe, for reasons that are not clear. But they continued to thrive on the steppes of eastern Europe and Central Asia, where short grasses and shrubs grow on vast, dry stretches of land. Most scholars believe it was here that people domesticated the horse. However, the DNA of domestic horses is very diverse. This suggests they may be descended from a number of different wild horse populations, in several locations.
2. Once horses and humans encountered each other, our two species became powerfully linked. Humans domesticated horses some 6,000 years ago, and over time, we have created more than 200 breeds. The first domestic horses were likely to have been kept mainly as a source of food, rather than for work or for riding. There is evidence of horses being raised for meat in Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, around 5,500 years ago; later they began to pull chariots, and horseback riding became common in Afghanistan and Iran about 4,000 years ago. As we have shaped horses to suit our needs on battlefields, farms and elsewhere, these animals have shaped human history. The ways we travel, trade, play, work and fight wars have all been profoundly shaped by our use of horses.
3. When people domesticate animals, they control their behavior in many ways. For example, animals that are being domesticated no longer choose their own mates. Instead, people control their breeding. Individuals with traits that humans prefer are more likely to produce offspring and pass on their genes. In the course of several generations, both the body and behavior of the animal are transformed. In the wild, animals that are well adapted to their environment live long and reproduce, while others die young. In this way, nature “chooses” the traits that are passed on to the next generation. This is the process of evolution by natural selection. Domestic animals also evolve, but people do the selecting. Humans seek out qualities like tameness, and help animals with those traits to survive and bear young. This is evolution by artificial selection. Most domestic animals are naturally social. Their wild ancestors lived in groups, with individuals responding to each other – some led, others followed. In domestic animals, the tendency to submit to others is especially strong. Generations of breeding have encouraged them to let people take the lead.
4. For more than 3,000 years, a fighter on horseback or horse-drawn chariot was the ultimate weapon. Time after time, from Asia to Europe to the Americas, the use of horses has changed the balance of power between civilizations. When people with horses clashed with those without, horses provided a huge advantage. When both sides had horses, battles turned on the strength and strategy of their mounted horsemen, or cavalry. Horses continued to define military tactics well into the 1900s, until they finally became outmoded by machine guns, tanks, airplanes and other modern weapons.
5. Horses are built for power. Their muscular bodies are heavier in the front than in the back, making them well balanced to pull heavy loads. Yet they can also be agile and quick – fit to carry out difficult tasks at top speed. So for more than a thousand years, people have called on the power of horses to cultivate the land and manage livestock.
5. For most of human history, there was no faster way to travel over land than on a horse. When it comes to carrying people and their possessions, horses have two important advantages – they can run very fast and very far. Their speed and endurance are unusual for a creature so large, making them the most suitable animals to carry people and goods around the world. Horses offer other advantages as well. Since they eat grass, they can go almost anywhere that humans can, eating as they go. And unlike cows and camels, which must sit and rest to digest food, a horse’s digestive system allows it to graze and walk the whole day without stopping. By carrying people, goods and ideas between civilizations, horses changed history.
6. Today’s horses are not used to carry soldiers into battle, and do not pull plows and stage-coaches as they once did. But horses are still part of our lives.
7. Today the 58 million horses in the world are used more for companionship, sport and recreation than for work and warfare.
Business case study: Rebranding Shopper’s Stop
On April 24, 2008, one of India’s oldest retail chains Shopper’s Stop Ltd unveiled its new logo as a part of its rebranding strategy. The chain undertook the rebranding exercise in a bid to go upmarket, and reposition itself as a ‘bridge to luxury’ store as opposed to its earlier image of a premium retailer. This would mean raising the already high quality of its products, and targeting more affluent consumers. Commenting on the change, B.S. Nagesh, Customer Care Associate and Managing Director, Shopper’s Stop, said, ‘Change is essential. Our consumers are changing; their preferences are constantly evolving. They are getting younger. And so, we have to change along with them. The change in identity is just the beginning of a wave of strategic movements being made in people, practices, introduction of new ways of shopping, technology, investment in customer relationship management, and analytics.’
Shopper’s Stop was founded by K Raheja Corporation in October 1991, with its first store in Mumbai. From selling men’s ready-to-wear clothing it soon evolved into a complete family lifestyle store. As of 2008, Shopper’s Stop had 1.3 million square feet of retail space spread across 24 stores in 11 cities in India, with a retail turnover of over 12.07 billion rupees (approx. US$245m).
According to analysts, in the mid-2000s Shopper’s Stop started to lose its market value as it failed to keep pace with changing customer preferences. It faced competition from several retailers such as Globus, Westside and Lifestyle, who were catering to the same segment of customers. Changing consumer behaviour and the growing demand from youngsters for trendy products made Shopper’s Stop consider the option of rebranding itself.
It conducted a series of workshops called ‘Trial Room’, to understand the preferences of groups of invited consumers. The workshops revealed that what was needed was a change in the look and feel of the brand. For Shopper’s Stop, rebranding meant not just a change of logo, but the execution of new business strategies, with the core principles remaining intact. According to Ravi Deshpande, Chief Creative Officer with Contract Advertising, the agency which designed the new campaign for Shopper’s Stop, ‘The retailer needed its brand idea to change, in order to connect to younger people. The purpose was also to cut the age of the brand, as fresh ideas do help in making people look differently at the brand.’
As a part of the rebranding efforts, Shopper’s Stop introduced a new rectangular logo designed by Ray+Keshavan. Though the logo was changed, the black and white colour scheme was retained. Govind Shrikhande, Customer Care Associate and Chief Executive of Shopper’s Stop, said, ‘It is more classical, rich, and authoritative – something Shopper’s customers connect with. Black and white gives us a strong brand recall value.’ The tagline was also changed from ‘Shopping And Beyond’ to ‘Start Something New’, which implied that customers should try out something different, and upgrade themselves according to the demands of the changing world.
As a part of its new philosophy of providing the customers with a new shopping experience, Shopper’s Stop came up with several initiatives. One plan was to increase the area of each store from around 40,000-45,000 square feet to 75,000-85,000 square feet. It also started a new concept in the retail industry by setting up trial rooms with day and night lighting options, so that consumers could check how garments would look during the day and in the night.
The other initiatives included a new dress code of black and white for the employees, and training sessions to help employees tackle demanding customers with varied tastes. Shopper’s Stop also introduced a company anthem for the staff, penned by renowned lyricist Gulzar, and sung by popular Indian singer Sonu Nigam. It was played every morning across all outlets in the country as a song of celebration. Shopper’s Stop brought out collectible shopping bags with different themes and launched the first in the series based on the theme ‘Fashion for the Age’. To make shopping an enjoyable experience for its customers, it launched an in-store radio station in association with Blue Frog Media, which aired popular melodies across all its stores in India, while radio presenters offered tips on fashion and wellness. It also planned to start its online portal by the end of 2008, to enable customers to shop online.
In addition to these initiatives, Shopper’s Stop also started an environmental awareness campaign called ‘Think Green’. As part of this initiative, it planted more than 500 trees and distributed 1,500,000 seed sachets among its customers. Besides, a series of print and television commercials in black and white, with an environmental message that also conveyed Shopper’s Stop’s repositioning, were launched.
Shopper’s Stop planned to invest around 15 billion rupees to increase the number of outlets to 48 by 2011. It had earmarked 200 million rupees for the rebranding and repositioning exercise. But not everyone favoured the changes. Customers said that from their point of view, there was no major change in terms of price or special offers. Some analysts were of the view that the new logo had nothing unique to offer except for a change in shape. Some even wondered why the retailer had decided to rebrand itself, considering that it was doing reasonably well and had just completed a successful year.
1. Maps vary enormously, from imposing images of the world and its parts to private jottings intended to give an approximate idea of the twentieth-century Antarctic. The materials on which maps are to be found, similarly range from scraps of paper to plaster walls, by way of parchment, copper coins, mosaics, marble, woollen tapestries, silk, gold and more. Attitudes towards maps also vary greatly, and are subject to modification over time.
2. In recent decades, the view that maps should be assessed primarily in terms of their geometrical accuracy has radically changed. At the same time, they have become available to a range of disciplines. This development has been encouraged by the growing popularity of interdisciplinary studies and by the increasing awareness and appreciation of the importance of the visual – which may be a consequence of the spread of television and the internet, and the ease with which images can be created and manipulated in a digital environment. Academic historians of all types – social, political, diplomatic and fine art, literature specialists, and family historians take an interest in maps and find that they sometimes offer perspectives on their subjects that are not possible from other sources.
3. All have contributed to a re-evaluation of the subject. It is accepted that for some purposes, such as administration and terrestrial and maritime navigation, mathematical accuracy still plays a major and even sometimes a paramount role in cartography. In other contexts, such as maps of underground railway systems, or maps used for propaganda purposes, such accuracy is irrelevant, and at times even undesirable. Conversely, the very aspects that tended traditionally to be condemned or disregarded, such as distortions and decoration, become of enormous significance. They can give particularly precious insights into the mentalities of past ages, and the views and lives of their creators, as well as being packed with more general cultural information such as the receptiveness to artistic fashions.
4. For many map enthusiasts the fascination of maps ironically stems from their necessary lack of truth. They can be regarded as the most successful pieces of fiction ever to be created because most users instinctively suspend disbelief until they find that the map they are using does not give truthful information. Yet it has to be that way. Given the impossibility of representing the total reality, with all its complexity, on a flat surface, hard decisions have to be taken as to what features to select for accurate representation, or indeed for representation at all. For most of the time this process of selection is almost instinctive. The mapmaker knows the purpose he intends for his map, and beyond that he is unwittingly guided by the values and assumptions of the time in which he lives – unless these are in conflict with his own value systems, as was the case with Nicholas Philpot Leader in 1827. The map of Ireland (then part of the UK) that Leader commissioned was intended as a strong attack on the then British government.
5. In order to meet the map’s purpose, the information that is represented will be prioritized according to importance as perceived by the mapmaker – and not necessarily in accordance with actual geographical size. Even on modern national topographic mapping, such features as motorways will be shown far larger than they actually are because they are important to drivers and users will expect to see them without difficulty. Conversely, large features that are considered unimportant might be completely ignored or reduced in size, like parks and other public spaces in some town maps. Often maps will show things that are invisible in the real world, such as relative financial affluence, as in Charles Booth’s maps of London in the nineteenth century, or the geology far below the surface of the planet, as in an 1823 map of the land around Bath.
6. Sometimes the purpose of the map is even simpler and has nothing to do with geography. The Hereford World Map proclaims the insignificance of man in the face of the divine and the eternal. The plan of Ostia harbour of AD 64 primarily serves as a demonstration of the Emperor Nero’s benevolence. Sometimes, as in depictions of the imaginary land of Utopia, physical reality is totally absent or so distorted as to be geographically meaningless. Instead the map serves as a commentary on the gap between the aspirations and the feeble achievements of mankind. The quality of a map must be judged by its ability to serve its purpose, and not simply by its scientific precision, and in that context aesthetic and design considerations are every bit as important as the mathematical, and often more so.
7. Plainly, to interpret maps as having followed a path of ever-increasing scientific perfection over time is to miss the main point. In fact they have responded to the mentalities, and met the requirements of the societies in which they have been created. In ancient Greece and Babylon, and in eighteenth- and twentieth-century Europe, the preoccupation with precision and the scientific indeed predominated. In early modern China and nineteenth-century Europe the administrative use of mapping came to the fore. By contrast, for long periods of time and in many civilizations, the major preoccupation was to define and to depict man’s place in relationship to a religious view of the universe. This was particularly evident in medieval Europe and Aztec Mexico. Clearly, maps can only be fully understood in their social context.