Viewpoint Questions Tips, Tricks, and Strategies

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First, let’s understand what is factual information?

Information is factual if:

  • it can be checked, tested or measured, or
  • it has resulted from collective experience and/or observation (i.e., from many people or groups of people over a period of time).

Factual information can tell us:

  • what actually happened, such as an historical event or something that took place in the past. For example,The Sydney Harbour Bridge was first opened in 1932.
    In 1998, a tidal wave hit the northern coast of Papua New Guinea.
  • what is known to be true, such as scientific facts or something that often happens. For example,Air is primarily made up of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide.
    Travellers often suffer from jet lag after long flights.

Look at the following examples of factual information.

1 Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.

This information is known to be true and can be measured. Therefore, it is factual.

 

2 Babies cry when they are hungry.

This information has resulted from collective experience and observation. Although not every baby cries when it is hungry, many parents, doctors and other people have observed that this often happens, so we can say this statement is generally true. Therefore, it is factual.

 

3 Since 1896, the Olympic Games have been staged every four years, except during World War I and World War II (1916, 1940 and 1944).

This information contains historical data (dates) about what actually happened. Therefore, this information is factual.

 

4 The analysis of annual growth layers in tree trunks, a science known as dendro-climatology, provides a historical record of the climate.

The information, ‘Annual growth layers in tree trunks provide a historical record of the climate.’ can be scientifically tested and measured. The information, ‘This analysis is a science called dendro-climatology’, tells us what this science is called. This is a fact. Therefore, both parts of this statement are factual.

Identifying text types that present factual information

Another way of identifying factual information is to identify the type of text you are reading. For example, text types known as descriptive texts frequently present information that is factual. Descriptive texts include reportsprocesses and explanations. Let’s look at some examples of these.

A. Reports

The following extract from an IELTS reading passage is an article based on a report. Read the extract and note the factual information that is given.

Research carried out by McDonnell Douglas, the US aircraft manufacturer, has found that almost 75 per cent of the 850 major airline crashes in the period 1980-90 were caused by pilot error. In 1989 alone, five crashes resulted from the flight crew ignoring on-board electronic systems which warn that a crash is imminent. The Boeing report recommended that those airlines which did not possess the $30,000 electronic warning units, should install them immediately and adequately train pilots to use them.

Although the final approach and landing phases of flights accounts for only 4% of flying time, 40 per cent of the crashes studied occurred during these phases……

Reports present factual information in data such as numberspercentagesdatesamounts of moneyand names.

Click on examples of this kind of data (numberspercentagesdatesamounts of money and names) in the following sentences from the research. Then click on the feedback button to check your answers.

The first one has been highlighted for you as an example.

  • Research was carried out by McDonnell Douglas.
  • Almost 75 per cent of the 850 major airline crashes in the period 1980-90 were caused by pilot error.
  • In 1989, five crashes resulted from the flight crew ignoring on-board electronic systems.
  • Electronic warning units cost $30,000.
  • The final approach and landing phases of flights accounts for only 4% of flying time.
  • 40 per cent of the crashes studied occurred during these phases.

 

 

From this we can see that reports often contain factual information.

B. Processes

The following extract from an IELTS reading passage describes the stages involved in recycling waste from industrial and domestic areas. Read the extract and note the factual information that is given.

Effluent is removed on a weekly basis from homes and factories. It is transported to a processing refinery to begin the process of recycling. In this process, the effluent is passed through a fine filter screen. Large suspended particles, which are trapped by the screen, are transferred to an incinerator.

In the second stage, the effluent, which has passed through the filter screen, is put into a bacteria digestion tank. In this process starter culture is added before the bacteria-free sludge is put into a sludge lagoon. The bacteria-free sludge is then dried by liquid evaporation and used as land fill. The remaining liquid waste that has passed through all the screens is then transferred to a disinfection tank. Chlorine is added to produce clean water, which is finally released into rivers and seas.

The information in this extract describes a process. Although the stages involved in this process may change slightly (depending on factors such as where the process takes place, or how the process is organised), the general process remains the same. Therefore, we say that this information is factual.

Note that the passive verb form is often used to present facts in formal English such as in reports. The passive is used to focus on or emphasise the action rather than the subject, who is performing the action.

Example
Effluent is removed on a weekly basis from homes and factories. It is transported to a processing refinery to begin the process of recycling.

C. Explanations

The following extract from an IELTS reading passage explains how a particular virus affects the body. Read the extract and note the factual information that is given.

After entering the body, the virus can lie dormant for up to six weeks. When it becomes activated, the body’s immune system responds and triggers symptoms such as a rise in temperature, which may result in a fever and associated aching muscles and debilitation. Glands may become enlarged while the upper respiratory tract becomes inflamed.

Let’s look at some of the factual information presented in this extract more closely.

  • The virus can lie dormant for up to six weeks.
  • When the virus becomes activated, the body’s immune system responds by triggering symptoms.
  • Symptoms include a rise in temperature (which may result in a fever and associated aching muscles and debilitation), enlarged glands and inflamed upper respiratory tract.

The information in this extract is factual because it can be scientifically and medically tested and has resulted from years of collective medical research and observation.

Note that in this extract the writer has used the modal verbs can and may to indicate that the effects of the virus are not always the same on every body (eg, a rise in temperature which may result in a fever and associated aching muscles and debilitation). However, the information is still factual.

You are now ready to practise identifying data and other types of factual information in an IELTS reading passage.

Now, What is Viewpoint?

A viewpoint is an opinion that someone has about a particular issue. Other people can agree or disagree with someone’s viewpoint. Unlike factual information, viewpoints contain information that we cannot measure or test. Look at the following example.

Example 1
I think that sky diving, which is now classified as an ‘extreme sport’, is one of the most dangerous recreational activities available today.

This statement presents the viewpoint that ‘sky diving is one of the most dangerous recreational activities available today’.

  • Some people may agree with this viewpoint (e.g., doctors may agree that sky-diving is dangerous because it could cause heart problems and damage to bones and joints when landing.
  • Other people may disagree (e.g., sky divers may argue that it is a safe sport if the sky diving equipment is regularly checked and maintained, and the safety rules are followed.

In this example, the viewpoint belongs to the writer, because they use the expression “‘I think’”, which is like a signpost, telling the reader that what follows is the writer’s opinion.

Let’s look at another example of a viewpoint.

 

Example 2
Some members of the local council believe that taxes should be raised to pay for the new subway system in the city.

This statement also presents a viewpoint that ‘taxes should be raised to pay for the new subway system’.

  • Some people may agree with this viewpoint (e.g., taxes should be raised to pay for it.
  • Other people may disagree(e.g., taxes should not be raised to pay for it and perhaps other forms of funding should be found.

In this example, the viewpoint does not belong to the writer but to a group of people (some members of the local council). We know it is a viewpoint because of the expression ‘believe that’: this is also a signpost, telling us that what follows is an opinion. Also, modals like ‘should be’ and ‘should not be’ are common when presenting viewpoints. We will look more closely at the language of viewpoints later in this step.

 

Identifying viewpoints

The above examples contain the viewpoint of the writer (Example 1) and the viewpoint of a group of people (Example 2). In the IELTS Reading test, you must be able to identify the owner of each viewpoint. Let’s look at identifying the viewpoints of other people.

Identifying the viewpoints of others

In a passage where arguments are presented, the writer may present the viewpoint of another person or a group of people. Let’s look at some examples of this.

Example 1 – Introducing the viewpoint of another person
According to Frank Holloway, the first child is often less open to innovation, more conforming and traditional, and often has a closer relationship with his or her parents than other children within the family.

In this example, the writer has presented the viewpoint of an individual person‘Frank Holloway’. The viewpoint is presented, using the words ‘According to’.

 

Example 2 – Introducing the viewpoint of a group of people
Opponents of the wood-chipping operations argued that the flora and fauna of the forests would suffer irreparable damage as a result of the wood-chipping itself and the construction of roads. They claimed that the clear-cutting would lead to soil erosion and conditions of increased salinity.

In this example, the writer has presented the viewpoints of a group of people: Opponents of the wood-chipping operations, using the words ‘argued that’ and ‘[They] claimed that’.

Below are some words and phrases that are commonly used to introduce viewpoints of others. They act as signposts to the reader, that a viewpoint will follow.

Historian Frank Holloway says that
finds that
claims that
believes that
argues that
concludes that
…the first child is often less open to innovation…
Example 3 – Quoting people

Quotation marks are used if the writer presents the exact words written or said by someone else. Look at the following example.

In a major article on crime in suburban areas, J. Dickson states ‘the increasing incidences of burglary, robbery and assault can be directly attributed to a lack of employment opportunities in those areas!’

In this example, we can see that the writer has presented the viewpoint of J. Dickson that ‘the increasing incidences of burglary, robbery and assault can be directly attributed to a lack of employment opportunities in those areas! This viewpoint is presented using quotation marks (‘ ’) as the writer has taken the sentence directly from an article written by J. Dickson.

Locating quotation marks in a reading passage is another way of helping you to locate the viewpoint of another person or group of people.

 

Activity – Identifying whose viewpoint it is

 

Read the following sentences and identify which person or group of people each viewpoint belongs to. Click on the correct letter A-C. The first one has been done for you as an example.

Question 1

The judge believed that the recommendations she had made regarding certain aspects of the criminal justice system had resulted in changes to trial procedures involving minor offenders.

The writer has presented the viewpoint of:

A the judge
B the criminal justice system
C minor offenders

The answer is A. In this example the writer has presented the viewpoint of an individual person, the judge, by using the words, The judge believed that… followed by the judge’s viewpoint: the recommendations she had made regarding certain aspects of the criminal justice system had resulted in changes to trial procedures involving minor offenders.

Identifying the writer’s viewpoint

There are many ways in which writers can present their viewpoint. They can present it either:

  • directly
  • indirectly.

Let’s now look at a series of examples which demonstrate these two styles.

Presenting a viewpoint directly

When a writer presents their viewpoint in a direct way, it is obvious and clear to the reader. Let’s look at two different ways the writer can do this:

Example 1 – Using a signpost
I believe that sky diving, now classified as an ‘extreme sport’, is one of the most dangerous recreational activities available today.

Here, the writer has stated their viewpoint directly, using the signpost words “I believe that…

 

Example 2 – Presenting a viewpoint as fact
Sky diving, now classified as an ‘extreme sport’, is one of the most dangerous recreational activities available today.

This writer has also stated their viewpoint directly. It sounds like a fact but it is an opinion because we can agree or disagree with it.

Presenting a viewpoint like a fact makes the argument more convincing; people can’t argue with facts. We know it is the writer’s view because they do not indicate that it belongs to another person.

Stating viewpoints this directly is not common in IELTS Reading passages. Instead, you are more likely to find the viewpoint presented in one of the following indirect ways.

 

Presenting a viewpoint indirectly

Presenting a viewpoint indirectly means that the viewpoint is implied or suggested, not directly stated.

In order to improve your ability to answer Viewpoint questions, you must learn to identify viewpoints presented less directly. You must learn to understand the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence or idea, even if the viewpoint is not directly stated. Let’s look at the following paragraph and consider how the writer’s viewpoint is indirect.

Example
Wind stations have been introduced as an environmentally friendly source of energy. However, environmentalists are concerned about the visual impact wind stations have on the landscape. In order to generate commercially viable quantities of electricity it is necessary to install an extremely large number of wind towers. In the Los Remos scheme alone there are more than 150 steel wind towers, each around 30 metres high, covering a total area of 80 hectares. Although they are silent and safe, they make the majestic Los Remos Range look like a dense concrete jungle emerging from the peaceful countryside.

In this example the writer states their viewpoint indirectly. They use different methods to convince the reader that they are correct.

To support their opinion, they:

  • present the viewpoint of others
  • present facts
  • use persuasive adjectives
  • make comparisons

 

Let’s look more closely at each of these to find out how and why the writer has presented the information about wind stations.

1. Presenting the viewpoint of others to support a viewpoint

One way writers can support their viewpoint is to present the viewpoint of another person or group of people. How does this work?

Let’s look at our example passage again:

Wind stations have been introduced as an environmentally friendly source of energy. However, environmentalists are concerned about the visual impact wind stations have on the landscape. In order to generate commercially viable quantities of electricity it is necessary to install…

Here, the writer has chosen to present the viewpoint of environmentalists: they are concerned about the visual impact wind stations have on the landscape.

We know that this is also the viewpoint of the writer because he does not disagree with this viewpoint. Therefore, the writer is indirectly saying that he agrees with the viewpoint of the environmentalists.

Why does the writer give their opinion?

Environmentalists care about the environment. Some of them are scientists who study it, as well. Therefore we might believe that they know what is best for the environment.

3. Choosing adjectives to support a viewpoint

Adjectives are words that describe nouns and they can create a strong positive or negative feeling about the key nouns or subjects they are describing. A writer will often use adjectives which support their viewpoint.

How does the writer of our example passage feel about wind stations? Does he think they have a positive or negative effect on the landscape? Read the whole passage again, paying particular attention to the highlighted adjectives and adjectival phrases.

Wind stations have been introduced as an environmentally friendly source of energy. However, environmentalists are concerned about the visual impact wind stations have on the landscape. In order to generate commercially viable quantities of electricity it is necessary to install an extremely large number of wind towers. In the Los Remos scheme alone there are more than 150 steel wind towers, each around 30 metres high, covering a total area of 80 hectares. Although they are silent and safe, they make the majestic Los Remos Range look like a dense concrete jungle emerging from the peaceful countryside.

The adjectives used in the passage above are used to create

a positive viewpoint about wind stations

a negative viewpoint about wind stations

By identifying and understanding the adjectives the writer has used in a passage, the reader can determine whether the writer feels positively or negatively about a particular idea or issue. Let’s look at how this works in more detail.

In our example passage on wind stations, the writer has used adjectives to give a negative meaning to support his viewpoint that wind stations have an unpleasant visual impact on the environment.

How did the writer do this?

Think about the questions below the passage, then click on the feedback button to find out.

Wind stations have been introduced as an environmentally friendly source of energy. However, environmentalists are concerned about the visual impact wind stations have on the landscape. In order to generate commercially viable quantities of electricity it is necessary to install an extremely large number of wind towers. In the Los Remos scheme alone there are more than 150 steel wind towers, each around 30 metres high, covering a total area of 80 hectares. Although they are silentand safe, they make the majestic Los Remos Range look like a dense concrete jungle emerging from the peaceful countryside.

 

1 Wind stations have been introduced as an environmentally friendly source of energy…

‘Environmentally friendly’ sounds like a good thing.
Which words change this positive feeling to a negative one?

‘Environmentally friendly’ sounds positive but this quickly changes with the words ‘However, environmentalists are concerned

2 …it is necessary to install an extremely large number of wind towers…

What effect does the word ‘necessaryhave here?

3 …it is necessary to install an extremely large number of wind towers…

What effect does the adjectival phrase ‘extremely large’ have here?

The word ‘extremely’ is used here to emphasise ‘large’ (number of wind towers). In the context of the reading passage, this emphasis helps the writer to imply that such a large number of wind towers is a negative thing.

 

4 In the Los Remos scheme alone……

What effect does the word ‘alone’ have here?

5 …there are more than 150 steel wind towers,…

What is the effect of ‘more than’here?

 

6 …they also make the majestic Los Remos Range look like a dense concrete jungle emerging from the peaceful countryside.

majestic’ sounds positive. Why has the writer used it here?

7 … make the majestic Los Remos Range look like a dense concrete jungle emerging from the peaceful countryside.

What is the effect of comparing these two images, a dense concrete jungle and the peaceful countryside?

 

From these examples we can see how writers use adjectives to convey indirectly their viewpoint. If you find this difficult, let’s look at an example where the writer uses adjectives to convey the opposite viewpoint.

Below are two different viewpoints on wind stations. Both passages present the same information but notice how the language creates a positive or negative view about the wind towers’ impact on the landscape.

For wind stations (Positive View) Against wind stations (Negative View)
Environmentalists are concerned about the visual impact wind stations have on the landscape. However, in order to generate commercially viable quantities of electricity it is simply a matter ofinstalling a small, discrete numberof wind towers. In the Los Remos scheme there are no more than150 wind towers, each less than30 metres high, covering a modest area of 80 hectares. Environmentalists are concerned about the visual impact wind stations have on the landscape. In order to generate commercially viable quantities of electricity it is necessary to install a large number of wind towers. In the Los Remos scheme there are 150 steel wind towers, each around 30 metres high, covering a total area of 80 hectares.

Can you identify the language the writer has used to create a positive view? Use your mouse to click on the words the writer has used to persuade us that wind stations are not a problem in the Positive view above.

4. Making a comparison to support the writer’s viewpoint

Writers may also make positive or negative comparisons to support their view. Identifying comparisons may also help you to identify the writer’s viewpoint.

Here is another example of a comparison being used to support the writer’s opinion of the wind towers in the Los Remos scheme:

In the Los Remos scheme there are 150 steel wind towers, each around 30 metres high, covering a total area of 80 hectares. Although they are silent and safe, they make the majestic Los Remos Range look like Manhattan in miniature.

What is the writer’s opinion here?

a positive viewpoint about wind stations

a negative viewpoint about wind stations

What is the effect of comparing these two images, the majestic Los Remos Range and Manhattan in miniature?

 

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