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Here is Question 24 in Listening Test 2 of Cambridge IELTS 14:
Q24: According to Martin, what is unusual about the date of the mammoths’ extinction on the island?
A. how exact it is
B. how early it is
C. how it was established

The answer is A, based on what's said in their conversation: "Anyway, next we'll explain how Graham and his team identified the date when the mammoths became extinct on the island. They concluded that the extinction happened 5,600 years ago, which is a very precise time for a prehistoric extinction."

It seems to me that their conclusion was completely correct, according to what I read about mammoths in Wikipedia: "They lived from the Pliocene epoch (from around 5 million years ago) into the Holocene at about 4,000 years ago, and various species existed in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America."

So why is it unusual? I have to ask this question because when I tried this test, I focused on hearing what was wrong, incorrect, but I found nothing.

Thanks in advance!

Full transcript: Anyway, next we'll explain how Graham and his team identified the date when the mammoths became extinct on the island. They concluded that the extinction happened 5,600 years ago, which is a very precise time for a prehistoric extinction. It's based on samples they took from mud at the bottom of a lake on the island. They analysed it to find out what had fallen in over time -bits of plants, volcanic ash and even DNA from the mammoths themselves. It's standard procedure, but it took nearly two years to do.

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    What do you understand by "which is a very precise time for a prehistoric extinction"? What relation might that phrase have to "unusual"?
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 23, 2020 at 17:47
  • I think that clause means the conclusion totally matches what we know about mammoths. That's why I thought it doesn't have any relation with "unusual". Mar 23, 2020 at 17:55
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    Right. I see what you don't get. "very precise" here has the connotation of "unusually precise". It's not saying "at some time up to 4000 years ago" like the Wikipedia article, but "at 5600 years ago". But I think you are misunderstanding the problem. This is not about the accuracy of the sample sentence: checking it in Wikipedia is irrelevant. If the sample sentence said "556 000" years ago, it would no longer be true, but the linguistic question and its answer would not change.
    – Colin Fine
    Mar 23, 2020 at 17:59
  • @ColinFine yeah thanks to your comments and an answer below now i get it. Thank you so much! Mar 23, 2020 at 18:09
  • @MinhNguyen - Imagine if the piece said "the extinction happened 5,600 years, 3 months, 2 days, five hours and six minutes ago". Mar 23, 2020 at 18:17

1 Answer 1

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The phrase "very precise time for a prehistoric extinction" means that by comparison with other times determined for such extinctions, it is unusually precise.

Here are similar usages of "for":

American Heritage "for"

  1. Notwithstanding; despite: "For all the problems, it was a valuable experience."

Collins Dictionary "for"

  1. preposition; You use for when you say that an aspect of something or someone is surprising in relation to other aspects of them.
    "He was tall for an eight-year-old."
    "He had too much money for a young man."
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  • I didn't realize the meaning of "for" in that sentence, thank you! Mar 23, 2020 at 18:10
  • I dislike your American Heritage example, as I don't think the meaning is exactly the same. Mar 23, 2020 at 20:27
  • The Collins example is more apt. But just using the word "despite" from AHD, you can add "being" to it to fit into the example sentence: "very precise time, despite being a time for a prehistoric extinction". I did check a couple of other dictionaries and didn't find an exactly parallel use. Mar 23, 2020 at 20:55

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