IELTS|Adults|Advanced|Unit 11|1. In your dreams


  • How often do you have dreams? What do you dream about?
  • Why do some people have more nightmares than others? Is dreaming important to our health and well-being? Why, or why not?

1. Read the headings below and discuss the likely topic of the reading passage. Then read the passage as quickly as you can and check if you were right.

* about 650 words

Demystifying our dreamworld


As a teenager, Brenda Giguere went ice skating with her friends every week, but they improved much faster than she did. She could only go round in circles and got fed up with watching her friends effortlessly switching from backward skating to forward. Lying in bed one night, she thought she would try to practice those backward moves in her sleep. ‘Before long I was dreaming I was skating, and I got very excited. It was so realistic. I felt the sensation of skating backward — the movement of my legs, the cool air, the feeling of propelling myself this way. Suddenly it all made sense as a set of logical, fluid, sequential body movements.’


Brenda later found out she had experienced what is called a ‘lucid dream’. Lucid dreaming is one of the most controversial areas of dream research, partly because of misperceptions over how much individuals can influence their dreams — or indeed, whether they should. Those in favor say that lucidity is an important step in understanding dreams and argue that lucid dreams can take the horror out of nightmares. inspire new ideas, promote self-healing of physical ailments and unravel mysteries of the psyche that can improve a person’s well-being.


Lucid dreaming is a technique that has been practiced by Tibetan Buddhist priests for more than a millennium. Writings by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle also refer to the conscious exploration of dreams. And when the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep 50 years ago opened up new avenues of sleep research, it also strengthened the argument for lucidity. Today, the leading guru in this field is Stephen LaBerge, who founded the Lucidity Institute in 1987.


LaBerge believes that the state of awareness reached during lucid dreaming is akin to that of being awake. With colleagues, he has developed electronic devices that give the dreamer a reminder during REM sleep to try to become lucid. The ‘NovaDreamer’ is a sleep mask that emits a flashing light or sound cues when the user is dreaming (detected by eye movement). LaBerge claims that this increases the dreamer’s chances of becoming lucid threefold, as evidenced by research he has carried out. Ed Wirth, who has used the NovaDreamer, says the flashing light becomes incorporated into his dreams, like the flickering image of a TV screen. Of the 600 or so dreams a year that Wirth recalls, only five or six are lucid, but their effect is powerful and overwhelming. He flies in his dreams, and walks through walls: ‘You can turn a threatening situation into a funny situation. It eliminates the whole nightmare. They, in effect, have changed my life. For me, it’s an exploration.’


Not everyone shares this enthusiasm. Rosalind Cartwright, the grande dame of sleep medicine research, believes the whole concept has been overblown. Cartwright, director of the Sleep Disorders Senice and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says: It’s a wish to control things out of their usual function and time. It is trying to redesign the mind in a way I don’t think is necessarily helpful. It gives people false hope.’


LaBerge admits he doesn’t have all the answers yet, but feels lucky to be able to work in such a fascinating field. His goals are simple: to learn more about lucid dreaming and to make it more accessible to the public. At the moment, he’s experimenting with chemical inducements to increase the release of acetylcholine, the main neurotransmitter in REM sleep, in order to encourage seasoned lucid dreamers to have more of them. He’s also testing herbal supplements such as galantamine, which is extracted from daffodil bulbs, to promote a similar effect. But LaBerge laments that more isn’t being done. Research fluids are not exactly pouring in for lucid dreaming, and Iris business operates on a shoestring with a six-member staff, lots of volunteers and funding from giants, donations and sales.

Now do the headings task.

Test spot

If you are asked to choose the correct heading for paragraphs, first read the paragraph carefully, then read all the headings before deciding on your answer. Do this for each paragraph in turn.

Questions 1-6

The reading passage has six paragraphs A-F. Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.

List of Headings

i Interacting with others in your dreams ii A competitor exploiting the commercial side iii Scepticism within the specialist field
iv Dream to improve your technique! v Not just a modern-day phenomenon vi The product to enhance your dreamtime
vii Undermining rumours in the press viii A bridge between sleeping and waking ix Current research priorities

Questions 7-13

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the passage?


TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this


1. The verbs below occur frequently in the Cambridge Academic Corpus. Find phrases containing these verbs in the passage (see Reading). For each verb, cross through any word or phrase (a-c) that does not collocate with the verb. For two verbs, all three options collocate.

1. inspire (paragraph B)
a confidence b an ailment c admiration
2. promote (paragraphs B and F)
a a product b unity c its own interests
3. strengthen (paragraph C)
a connections b a relationship c an error
4. develop (paragraph D)
a links b results c strategies
5. share (paragraph E)
a a view b power c concerns
6. operate (paragraph F)
a potentially b independently c effectively


  • inspire new ideasb does not collocate
  • promote self-healing(paragraph 8), promote a similar effect (paragraph F) — all collocate
  • strengthened the argumentc does not collocate
  • developed electronic devicesb does not collocate
  • Not everyone shares this enthusiasm— all three collocate
  • operates on a shoestringa does not collocate

Style extra

2. The reading passage comes from an American newspaper, and its style is generally less suited to academic writing. Take, for example, the terms the leading guru in this fieldand the grande dame of sleep research. Both are used in journalism to mean ‘expert’. The main collocates for guru are to do with lifestyle (fitness guru, exercise guru, diet guru) or business (management guru, PR guru).

Decide which of the following terms for people would be more appropriate in academic writing. If you are unsure, check in a dictionary first.

1. Look at pictures A-H and decide what each one might represent in a dream. Compare your ideas.

The pictures show

A the painting Tom Thumb and the Sleeping Giant by Gustave Dore;
B a blured image of people rushing to work;
C an Andean condor;
D a rusty padlock on an old wooden door;
E a road through the desert in Nevada, USA;
F a set of clock faces;
G an aerial view of a small island;
H a fish called Lined Sweetlips in the Banda Sea, Indonesia.

2. You are going to hear a conversation between a university tutor and three psychology students. The conversation is in two parts.

Questions 1-4

Questions 1-4

Tutor: Right, first of all let’s do a quick practical activity together. As you know, metaphor and symbols are important in the interpretation of dreams. Both Jung and Freud referred to symbolization in their analysis. Now, there’s not necessarily one right answer – these pictures are meant to act as a springboard for your own interpretations. So I’d like you to take turns to talk about a picture and suggest what each might represent in a dream. OK?

Carla: Fine. Shall I start?

Jason: Go for it, Carla.

Carla: Right, with this one, I know Jung saw the sea as representing the unconscious, so perhaps something living in water like this exists in the unconscious. As it can move, it could be an insight or a new idea?

Tutor: Well done. OK, Jason?

Jason: I had a dream a bit like this one! I was following behind a group, trying to keep up. I remember feeling rather anxious about that. I guess it could represent today’s competitive world…or moving forward along life’s path…growing older, maybe? What’s really interesting is that my dream had the same burnt colours as this. Well, enough about me! Helen, your turn.

Helen: This one is classic Jung, isn’t it? A larger-than-life character, who might be seen as threatening because of his size? It might be some kind of problem that you have to deal with, a big one that you’re really concerned about.

Tutor: He couldn’t be seen as friendly, could he?

Helen: Protective! Maybe…no, I don’t think so. Are you going to do one too?

Tutor: All right…well, here we have another classic symbol, don’t we? The image has actually been used in the dream sequences of films by Bergman and Pasolini, two great directors. In both films, there were no hands, maybe suggesting that time had run out. So this one must be all about limits, pressure of deadlines, appointments, that sort of thing.

Which picture (A-H) is each person talking about? Write the letters A-H next to questions 1-4.

Questions 5-7

Questions 5-7

Tutor: OK, can you get out your notes about the case studies now? Helen, can you start? Summarise the dream and give us your interpretation. And, please, challenge each others’ views, raise your own ideas.

Helen: Right, this dream is about climbing. A small group of people is trying to reach the top of a mountain – they’re nearly at the summit – but the dreamer gets separated from the others when the mist comes down. He stumbles around for a bit and then goes back down to the bottom, where the sun comes out and he finds himself in the middle of a field of enormous white flowers.

Jason: A happy ending then?

Helen: Mm, not so sure. As I see it, getting split up from the rest of the party could be seen as exclusion, but it’s his own decision to retrace his steps, isn’t it? Then he’s surrounded by the flowers, which could mean that there’s pressure on him to conform. But I think he rejects that.

Jason: Yeah but the flower is basically a thing of beauty, a positive symbol. I think he’s back in a comfort zone.

Tutor: OK, thanks Helen. Carla, let’s hear yours next.

Carla: Well, it’s the face-in-the-mirror dream. Woman looks into a mirror and sees a different face staring back at her. She’s youthful and confident, but it’s not a younger version of herself, it’s another person. She starts rubbing at the glass, and the face is still there, laughing now. This is a crisis of identity — the dreamer may have experienced some problems recently, or could be full of regrets about her own life! The lace in the mirror is young and happy — this could represent envy of others, perhaps.

Tutor: And you all agree with that?

Jason: Well, mightn’t it be something to do with a dual life — you know, presenting a different, more outgoing face to the outside world?

Tutor: Good. OK, Jason let’s hear you now.

Jason: Er, I’m afraid I haven’t done it.

Carla/Helen: Typical!

Choose the correct answer.


Modal verbs of speculation and deduction

1. How certain is the speaker in these examples?

a This one must be all about limits.

b It could be an insight or a new idea.

c The dreamer may/might be experiencing some problems at work.

Modal verbs are used in this way in academic discussion and argument. How would example a be expressed in the negative, to mean the opposite? How does the meaning change if we say couldn’t instead of could in example b?


a certain (must be)
b and c less certain, suggesting rather than affirming (could/may/might)

a expressed to mean the opposite: can’t be
b with couldn’t, the statement becomes certain — a refutation

2. Complete these sentences with must, may/might/ could or can’t/couldn’t.

3. How certain is the speaker in these two question forms? Could these forms be used in written English? Why, or why not?

a Mightn’t it be something to do with a dual life? b He couldn’t be seen as friendly, could he?


The speaker is fairly confident of being right in both examples, but wants to soften/hedge. Tag questions like these are a feature of spoken English and are too informal to be used in academic writing.

Modal verbs of speculation and deduction

Certainty must, cant and couldn’t

The interpretation of dreams must be one of the oldest human activities. ( = I am sure that the interpretation of dreams is one of the oldest human activities.)

The certainty may be based on evidence, that is, the speaker may have reached that conclusion by a process of deduction.

Cant and couldn’t mean the speaker is certain that something isn’t true, maybe having considered evidence:

Dreaming about a forest can’t/couldn’t mean that I want to escape, because I’m very content with my life.

When speculating, we can use may (not), might (not) and could to talk about a specific possibility, and can for a more general, theoretical possibility.

4. Talk about dreams 1-4 below using modal verbs and the verb in brackets. Show your level of certainty in what each symbol represents. Add your own ideas too.

EXAMPLE: Dreaming about a fire that is out of control = excessive ambition, (indicate)

Dreaming about a fire that is out of control could indicate that the dreamer has excessive ambition. Mightn’t it also indicate anger or another strong emotion?

  1. A dream about a forest = the need to escape from everyday life, (display)
  2. Books in dreams = wisdom and knowledge, (symbolise)
  3. Being involved in some form of accident in a dream = a state of anxiety, (suggest)
  4. Sitting on the wrong train = making a wrong choice in life, (represent)

Possible answers

1. A dream about a forest could display a negative emotion, such as depression, and the need to escape from everyday life.
2. Books in dreams must symbolise wisdom and knowledge.
3. Might being involved in some form of accident in a dream suggest a state of anxiety?
4. Sitting on a wrong train couldn’t represent making a wrong choice in life, could it?

5. Rewrite these sentences as questions, using modal verbs.

EXAMPLE: The recurring images of snow might indicate your uncertainty.

Might recurring images of snow indicate your uncertainty?

The recurring images of snow might indicate your uncertainty, mightn’t they?


undermine /ˌʌn.dəˈmaɪn/ /-dɚ-/ verb [ T ]

to make someone less confident, less powerful or less likely to succeed, or to make something weaker, often gradually

The President has accused two cabinet ministers of working secretly to undermine his position/him.

Criticism just undermines their confidence.

propel /prəˈpel/ verb [ T ] -ll-

  1. to push or move something somewhere, often with a lot of force

a rocket propelled through space

The Kon-Tiki sailed across the Pacific Ocean propelled by wind power.

lucid /ˈluː.sɪd/ adjective

clearly expressed and easy to understand or (of a person) thinking or speaking clearly

She gave a clear and lucid account of her plans for the company’s future.

The drugs she’s taking make her drowsy and confused, but there are times when she’s quite lucid.

ailment /ˈeɪl.mənt/ noun [ C ]

an illness

Treat minor ailments yourself.

unravel /ʌnˈræv. ə l/ verb -ll- or US USUALLY -I- DESTROY

  1. [ I T usually passive ] If a process or achievement that was slow and complicated unravels or is unravelled, it is destroyed

As talks between the leaders broke down, several months of careful diplomacy were unravelled.

akin /əˈkɪn/ adjective [ after verb ]

similar; having some of the same qualities

They speak a language akin to French.

enhance /ɪnˈhɑːn t  s/ /-ˈhæn t  s/ verb [ T ]

to improve the quality, amount or strength of something

These scandals will not enhance the organization’s reputation.

grande dame /ˌgrɑːndˈdɑːm/ noun [ C usually singular ]

a woman who is respected because of her experience and knowledge of a particular subject

Vivienne Westwood is the grande dame of British fashion.

inducement /ɪnˈdjuːs.m ə nt/ /-ˈduːs-/ noun [ C or U ]

an act or thing that is intended to persuade someone or something

financial / cash inducements

Those tenants are not going to swap life-time security for shorter-term leases without some inducement.

[ + to infinitive ] They offered voters a massive inducement to oust the president by announcing that sanctions would be lifted if there was ‘democratic change’.

lament /ləˈment/ verb [ I or T ]

to express sadness and feeling sorry about something

The poem opens by lamenting (over) the death of a young man.

My grandmother, as usual, lamented the decline in moral standards in today’s society.

The late lamented (= dead and remembered with love) Frank Giotto used to live here

pundit /ˈpʌn.dɪt/ noun [ C ]

a person who knows a lot about a particular subject and is therefore often asked to give an opinion about it

a political/foreign-policy/sports pundit

punter /ˈpʌn.tə r / /-t̬ɚ/ noun [ C ] GAMBLER

  1. UK SPECIALIZED a person who makes a risks money guessing the result of something

Bookmakers are offering punters odds of 6-1 on the horse Red Devil winning the race.

padlock /ˈpæd.lɒk/ /-lɑːk/ noun [ C ]


a small metal lock with a U-shaped bar

springboard /ˈsprɪŋ.bɔːd/ /-bɔːrd/ noun [ C ] SPORT

  1. a board that can bend which helps you to jump higher when jumping or diving into a swimming pool or when doing gymnastics

insight /ˈɪn.saɪt/ noun [ C or U ]

(the ability to have) a clear, deep and sometimes sudden understanding of a complicated problem or situation

It was an interesting book, full of fascinating insights into human relationships.

conform /kənˈfɔːm/ /-ˈfɔːrm/ verb [ I ]

to behave according to the usual standards of behaviour which are expected by a group or society

At our school, you were required to conform, and there was no place for originality.

refute /rɪˈfjuːt/ verb [ T ] FORMAL

to say or prove that a person, statement, opinion, etc. is wrong or false

to refute a person/theory/argument/claim

intact /ɪnˈtækt/ adjective

  1. complete and in the original state

The church was destroyed in the bombing but the altar survived intact.

  1. not damaged

It’s difficult to emerge from such a scandal with your reputation still intact.

scrupulously /ˈskruː.pjʊ.lə.sli/ adverb

She is always scrupulously honest/fair.

A hospital must be kept scrupulously clean.

hallowed /ˈhæl.əʊd/ /-oʊd/ adjective

  1. very respected and praised because of great importance or great age

hallowed icons such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean

  1. holy

Can atheists be buried in hallowed ground?

vehemently /ˈviː.ə.mə adverb

in a strong and emotional way

The president has vehemently denied having an extra-marital affair.

oblivion /əˈblɪv.i.ən/ noun [ U ] NO MEMORY

  1. the state of being completely forgotten

He was another minor poet, perhaps unfairly consigned to oblivion.

These toys will be around for a year or two, then fade/slide/sink into oblivion.

  1. the state of being completely destroyed

The planes bombed the city into oblivion.

lore /lɔː r / /lɔːr/ noun [ U ]

traditional knowledge and stories about a subject

According to local lore, the water has healing properties.

omen /ˈəʊ.mən/ /ˈoʊ-/ noun [ C ]

something that is considered to be a sign of how a future event will take place

England‘s victory over France is a good omen for next week’s match against Germany.

a bad omen

credence /ˈkriː.d ə n t  s/ noun [ U ] FORMAL

the belief that something is true

I’m not prepared to give credence to anonymous complaints.

His bruises added/lent credence to his statement that he had been beaten.

coercion /kəʊˈɜː.ʃ ə n/ /koʊˈɝː-/ noun [ U ] FORMAL

the use of force to persuade someone to do something which they are unwilling to do

He claimed the police had used coercion, threats and promises to illegally obtain the statement.

abhor /əˈbɔː r / /æbˈhɔːr/ verb [ T not continuous ] -rr- FORMAL

to hate a way of behaving or thinking, often because you think it is not moral

I abhor all forms of racism.

boggle /ˈbɒg.l ̩/ /ˈbɑː.gl ̩/ verb

  1. [ I or T ] to (cause something or someone to) have difficulty imagining or understanding something

My mind boggles at the amount of money they spend on food.

It boggles the imagination, doesn’t it?

in the pipeline

being planned

The theatre company has several new productions in the pipeline for next season.

1. IELTS Reading: True/False/Not Given Questions

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