Crime and Punishment: IELTS Reading Exercise

This IELTS reading exercise is based on the question type of matching sentence endings and covers the topic of crime and punishment. This article is adapted from a UK newspaper discussing the aims of prisons and contains very useful  vocabulary for a common IELTS topic.

The Old Debate: Punish or Rehabilitate

Debates over how to treat prisoners have gone on since imprisonment began: should the prison system leave inmates to fester in cold cells, with punishment and deterrence as the goal of incarceration? Or should it let them wander from classroom to games room, preaching rehabilitation into society as its main aim?

With over 83,000 prisoners currently locked away, England and Wales have a staggering imprisonment rate of 150 per 100,000 of the population. Our prisons have been officially overcrowded since 1994; nearly 14,000 current inmates are serving indeterminate sentences. If lowering the number of criminals is the reason behind imprisonment, recent figures point to a failing system: almost three quarters of under-18s are reconvicted within a year of release. As James Bell, an American lawyer and prison reform activist, said: “As it stands now, justice systems are extremely expensive, do not rehabilitate, but in fact make the people that experience them worse.”

In response to worldwide alarm over the ineffectiveness of how we manage criminals, a growing number of prisons are embracing a new style of incarceration. By giving inmates more responsibility, comfort, and freedom within the prison walls, governors say they are offering prisoners the chance to change. As the Prison Radio Association spokespeople said: “Reducing re-offending is of benefit to everybody. Equipping prisoners with skills and confidence is crucial in bringing down re-offending rates.”

Complete the sentence by choosing the correct ending.

  1. Since prisons were established, it has been considered whether or not …
  2. Putting criminals behind bars to reduce the crime rate is clearly not working…
  3. The new approach to dealing with punishment is  ………
  4. One of the most effective ways to reduce crime figures is to …

Choose the letter (a-g)

  • a) because many under 18’s are criminals.
  • b) the aim of imprisonment should be to put people off committing crime or to rehabilitate them.
  • c) in answer to the lack of success with the way criminals are currently dealt with.
  • d) provide equipment to prisoners.
  • e) the goal should be to provide warmer cells.
  • f) help offenders develop useful skills.
  • g) according to the current crime numbers.


Click below to reveal the answers.

  1. b
  2. g
  3. c
  4. f

Adapted from Telegraph

All reading exercises on have been written by myself to help you prepare for your IELTS test for free.   


Vocab Builder
  • inmates = prisoners
  • deterrent = discouragement / preemption
  • deter = to put people off doing something / dissuade
  • incarceration = imprisonment
  • staggering = overwhelming
  • indeterminate = unknown / unstated
  • convict (noun) = criminal / convict (verb) = to sentence or to condemn
  • re-offending = commit a crime again 



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Matching Sentence Endings: IELTS Reading Practice

In this type of question you need to choose the correct ending for each sentence by selecting the ending from a list given. This is not the most common question type in IELTS reading but it does appear in the test and it is worth practising.

This is one of my tough lessons which I’ve written to challenge the higher level students.

Skim read the passage and then read through the sentences with the possible endings. Pay attention to grammar in order to complete each sentence – the sentence must be grammatically correct. The information contained in a correctly completed sentence can be found in the passage.

NASA’s Orion ‘Mars Ship’ set for test flight

IELTS Space Topic

A US space capsule that could help get humans to Mars is about to make its maiden flight.Orion will be launched on a Delta rocket out of Cape Canaveral in Florida on a short journey above the Earth to test key technologies. The conical vessel is reminiscent of the Apollo command ships that took men to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, but bigger and with cutting-edge systems. Given that this is a first outing, there will be no people aboard.

Nonetheless, the US space agency describes the demonstration as a major event. Nasa has a window in which to launch Orion of about two-and-a-half hours, which began at 07:05 local time (12:05 GMT). The launch preparations had to be stopped shortly before the opening of the window because a boat strayed into the eastern part of the launch range. After that, the countdown had to be held because of strong winds and a technical issue.

Orion is being developed alongside a powerful new rocket that will have its own debut in 2017 or 2018. Together, they will form the core capabilities needed to send humans beyond the International Space Station to destinations such as the Red Planet. For Thursday’s flight, the Delta IV-Heavy rocket – currently the beefiest launcher in the world – is being used as a stand-in. It will send Orion twice around the globe, throwing the ship up to an altitude of almost 6,000km (3,600 miles). This will set up a fast fall back to Earth, with a re-entry speed into the atmosphere close to 30,000km/h (20,000mph) – near what would be expected of a capsule coming back from the Moon. It should give engineers the opportunity to check the performance of Orion’s critical heat shield, which is likely to experience temperatures in excess of 2,000C (4,000F). They will also watch how the parachutes deploy as they gently lower the capsule into Pacific waters off Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. (Passage from BBC News)

Questions 1-4

Complete the sentences by selecting the correct ending, A-G (not all letters will be used).

  1.  The first ever flight of Orion is aimed to ……
  2. Although the shape of Orion is similar to previous ships, it ………..
  3. A new rocket is also being developed which …………
  4. The rocket which will be used as a replacement will ………….
  5. As temperatures reach extreme levels on re-entry, this maiden flight will ……….
    • a. send Orion twice around the world.
    • b. has state of the art technology.
    • c. test the critical heat shield.
    • d. check Orion’s performance.
    • e. test the most important technology.
    • f. will have its first voyage in a few years.
  • g. help humans get to Mars


Click below to reveal the answers.

  1. e
  2. b
  3. f
  4. a
  5. c

All reading exercises on have been written by myself to help you prepare for your IELTS test.   


Vocab Builder
  • reminiscent = similar to / reminding you of (something / someone)
  • maiden flight / maiden voyage = first ever flight / first journey
  • conical = shaped narrowing to a point
  • similar to something in the past
  • cutting-edge = front-line / pioneering / brand-new
  • strayed = drifted
  • debut = first appearance
  • in excess of = more than
  • (parachute) deploys = opens

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