Listen to KA Wordcast: Listen Up!
LESSON TWENTY-SEVEN HERE!
Entrance exam season is right around the corner, and we’re here to make sure you are 100 percent ready for it. For the next several weeks, we will be providing you with additional listening material that you can use to practice and improve your aural comprehension skills.
Each week, you will listen to a short passage on a different topic—one that is interesting and useful in its own right, but one that is also the type of topic test-makers love to include on their exams. Then, after listening to the passage, you will answer ten comprehension questions. Before we listen to today’s passage, A Hobbit Mystery, here are a few tips:
It goes without saying that you should always listen to the passage carefully. Give it your undivided attention. That means: no outside distractions. (A passage-only track is available on the KA Wordcast website so you can listen to the passage a second or third time.)
You can make brief notes of key points and details, but don’t let your note taking distract you from your listening.
Key vocabulary words are explained in the bonus track. Each key word is clearly defined and accompanied by common synonyms and antonyms as well as sample sentences that show you how the word is used, and how to use it. What better way to augment your active vocabulary!
The comprehension questions “test” three general areas: FACTUAL CONTENT, LOGICAL INFERENCE, and PERSONAL JUDGMENT. (These are explained on the website and are available to download.) The questions come in three different types or formats: MULTIPLE CHOICE, TRUE OR FALSE, and SHORT ANSWER. The question format will vary, so be sure to listen to the instructions carefully before you answer the questions.
A Hobbit Mystery
Listen to Listen Up! Lesson Twenty-Seven PASSAGE ONLY track:
Back in 2003, a team of Australian and Indonesian paleontologists were digging around in a dark cave on Flores, a small Indonesian island east of Bali. Much to their professional surprise and delight, the team discovered the skeletal remains of a previously unknown miniature species of protohumans, which they classified as Homo floresiensis. Judging from the remains, the scientists estimated that even when fully grown, these tiny humans stood barely a meter tall and weighed just 25 kilograms—no bigger than a modern three-year-old child. The team nicknamed their new discovery “hobbits” after the diminutive, humanoid race in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novels. Preliminary evidence suggested that the “hobbits” had shared the remote island with pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons from about 95,000 years ago until as recent as 12,000 years ago. This would make them the last of our ancestors on the human branch of the evolutionary tree to go extinct. Put another way, they were the last surviving human homo species aside from our own. A remarkable discovery, to say the least.
Now, more than a decade later, the hobbits have been taken down an evolutionary peg or two. New findings based on meticulous excavations of the hobbits’ cave home have compelled researchers to revise their original age estimates and to upgrade their timeline for the hobbits. Various dating technologies and tests were applied to the cave’s charcoal, sediments, artifacts, volcanic ash, and even the hobbits’ bones themselves. The findings revealed that the hobbits probably disappeared long before the Neanderthals (another protohuman species) ceased roaming across Europe and Asia. This makes it almost certain that the hobbits inhabited the island of Flores 190,000 to about 50,000 years ago. So evidently they weren’t our last surviving cousins after call. But then, who are they? Where exactly do they sit on the human family tree?
Some scientists have theorized that the hobbits may have descended from taller ancestors who gradually shrunk as an evolutionary adaptation to their smaller island habitat. One candidate for this taller ancestor is Homo erectus, or Upright Man, an extinct species of hominin that lived in Africa and Asia throughout most of the Pleistocene epoch, 1.9 million to 70,000 years ago. The hobbits’ small, chimp-sized brains and skulls resembled those of Homo erectus, and like Homo erectus, the hobbits stood erect and used sophisticated stone implements. Surely these facts verified the theory.
Well, not quite. Homo erectus had limbs that looked more like those of modern humans. The hobbits, on the other hand, had long arms and short legs, traits more prevalent among earlier species of mankind, especially those closer to “ape” than human. Then, when scientists examined the bones and joints of the hobbit’s arms, shoulders, and lower limbs, they found that these body parts were more chimp-like than modern-human-like. It turns out that the hobbit’s short physical stature and skeletal structure most closely resembled the size and build of Australopithecus, the earliest known relative of man that lived between 3.2 and 3.9 million years ago.
So that left scientists still pretty much in the dark about who this mysterious hobbit character really was.
But then, in late 2015, new research shed some definitive light on the hobbits’ origins. Forensic dentists compared forty hobbit teeth with 450 teeth of living and extinct human species. They found that the hobbits had “primitive canine-premolar and advanced molar morphologies,” a dental pattern unique among modern humans, extinct human species, and all our immediate ancestors. This dental evidence suggests that the hobbits are descendants of Homo erectus after all. At least for the time being.
Today’s questions are of SHORT ANSWER and based on FACTUAL CONTENT. Listen to each question carefully and write or speak your answer. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
Listening comprehension questions fall into three main types or areas to be tested, as explained below:
The answer is specifically stated as a detail in the text.
If the text reads, “John Birks Gillespie was born in 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina,” you might be asked where Gillespie was born or in which year was he born.
The answer may not be directly stated in the text, but can be understood or inferred from the details given. A direct hint may be given, from which you would have to work out the most logical answer (usually based on a MULTIPLE CHOICE or TRUE OR FALSE question).
For example, if the text describes a “hot and muggy afternoon,” you might be asked what season it is. If the text reads, “In 1872, an abandoned railroad track in the mountains of Pennsylvania became the first roller coaster ride in America,” you may be asked a question like:
“The railroad tracks …
were made of poor quality steel.
had not been used for a while.
were dug up and replaced with roller-coaster tracks.
were too damaged to use.
You must use the hints given in the passage to work out the most likely answer. In this case, the answer, based on “hot and muggy,” to the first question would be “summer,” and the answer to the second question would be B, with the hint being the word “abandoned.”
The answer is not directly stated in the text and you might have to read more deeply or “between the lines.”
You may be asked to describe a character’s feelings, reactions, or intentions. For example, if the question is, “How do you know Joanna felt sad on the last day of school?” you would have to find evidence in the descriptive language the author uses. Perhaps Joanna had tears on her cheeks, or she was walking with her head hanging low, or perhaps she had a frown on her face.
Listen to the question carefully and write your answer. Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.
LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS
1. A previously unknown species of protohumans that was discovered not too long ago on an island in Indonesia was classified as Homo floresiesis. Why was the species given this classification?
2. Why was Homo floresiesis nicknamed “hobbits,” and where does that name come from?
3. What two animal species inhabited Flores island with the hobbits?
4. How do scientists now know for certain that the hobbits inhabited the island of Flores from 190,000 to about 50,000 years ago and not 95,000 to 12,000 years ago?
5. If you wanted to look for Neanderthal bones or artifacts, on which two continents would you be most likely to find what you were looking for?
6. When did Homo erectus become extinct?
7. What traits did the hobbits and Homo erectus, or Upright Man, have in common?
8. Aside from their diminutive size, how were the hobbits fundamentally different from Homo erectus?
9. The hobbits’ short physical stature and skeletal structure most closely resembled the size and build of Australopithecus. Who were they, and how long ago did they live?
10. What evidence proved that the hobbits were actually descendants of Homo erectus?
Now that you have completed today’s listening comprehension exercise, it’s time to check your answers and see how well you did. Answers to today’s listening comprehension questions will follow immediately after the closing jingle , so please stay tuned in.
Listen to the Listening Comprehension Questions and Answers HERE.
You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.
KA WORDCAST: Listen Up! LESSON TWENTY-SEVEN
KEY VOCABULARY WORDS
Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track. This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.
Much to their professional surprise and delight, the team discovered the skeletal REMAINS of a previously unknown miniature species of protohumans, which they classified as Homo floresiesis.
In the sentence above, REMAINS is a noun that refers to the body of a dead person or animal. Ancient REMAINS are usually just skeletons, bones, and teeth. When talking about the REMAINS of a recently deceased person or animal, words such as corpse, body, cadaver, and carcass are sometimes used in place of REMAINS.
There are more than 275,000 objects in Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum, 2,000 of which are human REMAINS or cultural artifacts made of human body parts.
Police believe that the human REMAINS found in a field just north of the city are those of the young woman who went missing late last week.
Most Humane Societies and animal control centers will receive and dispose of any animal REMAINS that are brought to their facilities.
The parts of ancient buildings or objects that have survived and are discovered are also called REMAINS. Ruins is the nearest equivalent.
The Roman baths of Bath, England, contain the REMAINS of the original ancient bathhouse as well as other artifacts that date back to 44 AD.
Earlier this year, archeologists discovered the REMAINS of what they believe are previously unknown sections of the Great Wall of China.
In more everyday usage, REMAINS also refers to the parts of something that are left after the other parts have been used, eaten, removed, and so on. Synonyms include the rest, remainder, leftovers, remnants, and debris.
We had a lot of food left over after last night’s school festival, so we encouraged families to take home whatever of the REMAINS they wanted.
I know that my son stayed up late watching movies last night because I found the REMAINS of buttered popcorn all over the coffee table this morning.
It is hoped that the REMAINS of the old castle that was destroyed in the recent earthquake can somehow be used in the castle’s reconstruction.
The team nicknamed their new discovery “hobbits” after the DIMINUTIVE, humanoid race in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy novels.
DIMINUTIVE is a formal and somewhat technical term word for “very small.” When describing a person, you can use small, petite, and compact in place of DIMINUTIVE as a euphemism so you don’t offend a “smaller than average” person who might be sensitive about his or her small stature. For objects, miniature, miniscule, and tiny are some good synonyms.
Through my binoculars, I could see scores of DIMINUTIVE figures flying kites on top of Stanford Hill.
In the photos she showed us, Hanako, who isn’t really that short, looked positively DIMINUTIVE standing next to her Norwegian host family.
Despite its DIMINUTIVE size, the worker-ant-inspired robot can carry up to 50 kilograms.
Compared to his usual 800-page novels, the author’s latest work is a DIMINUTIVE 150 pages.
Kumquats resemble DIMINUTIVE, odd-shaped oranges, but unlike most citrus fruits, they can be eaten whole, skin and all.
As a noun, a DIMINUTIVE is a shortened informal form of a person’s name, as in:
Benny is a common DIMINUTIVE of Benjamin.
Did you know that Jake and Jack are DIMINUTIVES of John?
New findings based on METICULOUS excavations of the hobbits’ cave home have compelled researchers to revise their original age estimates and to upgrade their timeline for the hobbits.
METICULOUS is an adjective that means paying careful attention to every detail. A METICULOUS person is very careful and precise in everything he/she does. Synonyms for METICULOUS include exacting, thorough, fastidious, and (less flattering) pedantic (which means METICULOUS to a fault).
Daphne always takes METICULOUS notes in class, so whenever I miss a lecture, I ask to see hers.
Henry planned the family’s three-week road trip from London to the south of France in METICULOUS detail.
When it comes to getting ready for a role in a play, Fiona is the most METICULOUS actress I know.
Some people are METICULOUS about measuring exact quantities when they cook or bake, but I just toss ingredients together haphazardly and hope for the best.
METICULOUSLY, is the adverb form.
Professor Abrams plans all his lectures METICULOUSLY, leaving little time for class discussion.
Despite having a full-time job and two young boys to look after, Natalie’s front garden is always METICULOUSLY maintained.
We recently visited a METICULOUSLY restored medieval castle in the Scottish highlands.
New findings based on meticulous excavations of the hobbits’ cave home have COMPELLED researchers to revise their original age estimates and to upgrade their timeline for the hobbits.
In the above sentence, COMPEL is a verb that means to force or to make someone do something. Synonyms include obligate, oblige, urge, enforce, and necessitate.
A sense of loyalty COMPELLED Danny to stick up for his best friend Jimmy in the argument, even though he wasn’t entirely sure Jimmy was in the right.
I felt COMPELLED to go for a long walk because it was such a lovely, sunny day.
The prime minister is contemplating a law that would COMPEL all young people to put in two years of national service.
Recent events in the region have COMPELLED the United Nations to send in more troops to enforce the ceasefire.
COMPELLING is an adjective meaning causing interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way. Synonyms include enthralling, fascinating, captivating, gripping, engrossing, riveting, spellbinding, mesmerizing, and absorbing.
Mr. Walters is a great teacher who can make even the driest facts seem COMPELLING and essential.
Untouchable is a COMPELLING French film about a quadriplegic aristocrat who hires a poor young man to be his caregiver.
At a funeral service last week, President Obama delivered one of his most COMPELLING speeches on modern race relations in America.
COMPELLING, when talking about an opinion or argument, can also mean unable to be opposed or refuted. Synonyms include credible, valid, rational, weighty, and irrefutable.
The opinions you expressed in your essay would be more COMPELLING if you had included some quotes from experts to back them up.
There are COMPELLING arguments from both those for and against the proposed construction of a new downtown football stadium.
COMPELLING can also mean not able to be resisted, as a temptation. Synonyms include irresistible, forceful, powerful, and potent.
Halfway up the rock climb, the temptation to give up was COMPELLING, but Hannah was determined to make it to the top.
COMPELLINGLY is an adverb meaning in a persuasive manner.
The principal argued COMPELLINGLY in favor of adopting a strict dress code, citing evidence from other schools where such a code had improved discipline and academic performance.
The hobbits, on the other hand, had long arms and short legs, traits more PREVALENT among earlier species of mankind, especially those closer to “ape” than human.
PREVALENT is an adjective that means existing or common in a particular time or place. Depending on the context or your writing purpose, widespread, frequent, popular, and fashionable can be used in place of PREVALENT.
The most PREVALENT complaint of parents in our school is that their kids are given sweets as a reward for good behavior.
Colds are much more PREVALENT in schools during the winter months than in the spring or fall.
During the holiday season, petty theft and burglaries become more PREVALENT in lower-income neighborhoods.
Disturbingly, the PREVALENT view among many Americans seems to be that the U.S. should close off its borders to all immigrants and all refugees.
But then, in late 2015, new research shed some DEFINITIVE light on the hobbits’ origins.
DEFINITIVE is an adjective that means done or reached conclusively, especially after thorough examination or research. Conclusive, definite, and final are some possible synonyms.
The DNA results should provide the detectives with DEFINITIVE proof of the suspect’s identity.
As soon as the specialist gave a DEFINITIVE diagnosis, the hospital staff began the patient’s treatment.
Without DEFINITIVE proof to back up your statements, the editor probably won’t run your story in the paper.
We haven’t received a DEFINITIVE answer yet as to whether Noah has been accepted into art school.
FYI: People sometimes mistakenly use the word DEFINITIVE when they should actually use DEFINITE, which means sure or certain. Although DEFINITIVE and DEFINITE have an overlap in meaning, when something is DEFINITIVE, it has the additional sense of being backed by an authority or expert. Thus, when a DEFINITIVE decision is made, it means that the decision has been made by some sort of authority or expert. A DEFINITE decision, on the other hand, simply means that a decision has been made clearly and is without doubt.
DEFINITIVE also means considered the best of its kind and almost impossible to improve. Synonyms for this usage include accepted, approved, exhaustive, and most reliable.
Dr. Cohen was nominated for the prestigious prize because she is a highly esteemed, DEFINITIVE expert in the field of quantum physics.
For my birthday, my children gave me just what I wanted, a DEFINITIVE guide to films entitled 1,000 Must-See Movies.