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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  1. Thanks Liz,
    I got it all. I really do appreciate you.

  2. Parmeet Kaur says

    Hi Liz, Thanks for your website and all the help/service you provide.

    I am just wondering if in IELTS reading test, the meaning of most complicated vocabulary will be given, like in this text?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Do you mean the vocabulary list that is given with the answer key? You won’t be given the answers or any vocab list.

  3. Please explain question no: 3. I can’t understand the meaning of this answer.

    • The answer is found in this sentence in the passage:
      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.

  4. I didn’t even glanced at the text, instead, I went straight to the sentences and tried to read them and make sense of the meaning and accordingly made the decision of what could be the possible answer. The result was 4/4. I simply enjoyed working on this exercise.

  5. vaibhav solanki says

    This is very tough for me, I got 1/4 but I learned a lot of new vocab.

  6. I got 3/4…Liz thanks alot

  7. 4/4
    7 minutes (too much time)

  8. Memoona amin says

    Yes I got 3/4….thanks for all practice tests ..

  9. Dear liz,
    Can I ask you a question please?can a student learn only from online materials without attending classes?can he judge his own mistakes through the online practice materials? At the moment I m preparing for Ielts exam but I actually can not attend any classes due to personal problems.what kind of advice can you give me.I m a very dedicated student and I spend 5_6 hours per day by doing practice tests.I m doing general training module.
    Thank you

    • Each student is different. You must judge for yourself. All student should get the IELTS Cambridge tests books into to complete full practice tests at home.

  10. Yeah 4/4 thanks lizz for this great website 🙂

  11. abdulrazak says

    hi liz i am not sure of all the answers and i always have 50% of the answers are wrong, is that mean my band will be always the same or i can do something to improve it.
    i really enjoyed your blog’s way to prepare for my ilets test but i have this problem.

    • If you are getting answers wrong because you don’t understand the vocabulary, then your score is unlikely to increase quickly. However, if you are getting answers wrong because you are using poor techniques, you can improve this quickly by developing the right strategies.

  12. Abdul Fattah says

    you are really helpful Liz . thanks

  13. Sardar ali says

    Hi Liz I am Sardar ali from pakistan i want to take the ielts test in the next month but i have to face some problems in the reading module plz help and guide me thanx and regards

  14. Hi Liz.
    This is my first time am putting a question. I hope very soon i will get an answer. In the above paragraph where is the explanation for the answer of question 2. Means which sentence in the passage explains the answer to question 2?

  15. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for the wonderful tutorials, I actually saw your youtube video about IELTS and found it very good as compared to the others I have checked. I am preparing for my IELTS and hoping that I can get a band 7 or 8 score. I will most likely visit your site a lot this coming days, weeks and maybe months. (Well, as soon as I gain my confidence, I guess 🙂 ).

    Thanks! and keep it up!

  16. Maricel batucan says

    HI LIZ,
    Here in the Philippines its hard to find the complete set of Cambridge book, is there any way i could puchase it online? Thank you

  17. Sharnjeet Singh Jaura says

    Hello Liz,
    I found this practice lesson very useful, but I have a question that is it possible to get a reading more hard than that one you have posted or it can be more simple or of the same level? Thank you for your time.

    • Get the IELTS Cambridge test books from 1 to 10 and judge the level for yourself. They are real exam papers published by IELTS. Or visit the BC website and check one other their practice tests. The level of difficulty depends on your level of English so you must judge for yourself.

      • Sharnjeet Singh Jaura says

        Actually I already have all of the Cambridge IELTS books from 1-10 , and some other practice books also. Yes, you are right that the level of difficulty depends upon my level of English, but sometimes what happen is that the range of vocabulary used in the passage is a kind of very difficult one, which makes it really difficult to find the real meaning of the sentence. What can be done about that? Do you have any tip regarding that?
        Thanks for your time,

        • Unfortunately, that is just part of the test. The better your English is the more answers you get correct. The vocabulary is testing your understanding and knowledge of English. Start keeping paraphrasing word lists and any other useful words lists for reading only. It will help.

  18. hello.I am in want of an increase my reading score.two weeks ago I got 5,5 from reading.however I long to get 7 from reading.I have only 19 can I win?

    • This is an English language test, you must make sure that your level of English is appropriate for the band score you want. Of course you can improve your skills by following tips and practicing but you must have the right level of English.
      All the best

  19. Hi Liz!
    Why the answer of question 3 is c? please provide the statement from passage.
    thanks 🙂

    • The answer is in this sentence “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. ”
      All the best

  20. Tinal Nhep says

    I am preparing the next IELTS exam soon. I had done one already, 5.5 overall band score (listening: 5.0, Writing: 5.5, Reading: 5.5, Speaking: 6.5). Would you all please recommend me on how to reach 6.5 overall band score with no less than 6.0 band score?


    • You will need to improve your level of English. Many students think that there are tips and tricks to improve your score. There are certainly methods of improving answers.But, at the end of the day, if you are making mistakes with your English, you will struggle to get a higher score. You must have band score 6 English to get band score 6. The tips will help secure that. But from your result, it shows your overall English on all skills is around 5.5. Work on producing accurate English and also develop your understand of English further. This means understanding more about vocabulary rather than learning new words.

  21. Dear Liz,
    I’m very happy to have a reply from you. You asked me to get the paraphrasing to find the answer easily. Now my query is, Is there any technique to get paraphrasing? ( Is it a silly question?) YES/ NO / NOT GIVEN is really confusing. What could be the easiest way to choose the right answer? Please help me to improve my reading understanding. NB. If there any grammatical mistake u find in my note, please aware me about that.
    Thank you.

  22. Hello Liz,
    This is Noor. Recenly I’ve gone through your website which contains useful learning for IELTS. You are amazing! I really love your teaching style and techniques. I’m trying to visit your website to practice all four modules. I find my reading skill is very poor. I don’t know how can I improve myself in reading. I’m going to sit for IELTS within short time. Thank you very much to introduce this useful website for the students.
    Noor. Bangladesh.

    • I’m glad my website is useful. One of the keys to successful IELTS reading is your level of English and your range of vocabulary. Paraphrasing is the key to finding many answers so you need to have a good understanding of synonyms and their limitations as well as collocations. Spend time thinking of the deep meaning of each question and the language in the question, before you try to find the answers.
      All the best

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