For which of the two courses below is the following statement true?

The course will provide advice on how to overcome difficult conditions.

Two courses:

Focus On Landscapes

This course is designed for students who are familiar with painting in watercolours, but are having difficulty with some techniques. We will discuss choice of materials, colour mixing and any other areas that may be raised.

The day will start with a demonstration, followed by an opportunity to sketch outdoors. After a light lunch cooked in the studio, there will be a further practical session.

Taking Happy Pictures

The main objective is to introduce you to the skills required to take good photographs of people at special events, such as parties or weddings.

We will discuss camera settings, dealing with varied light or bad weather, and how to get a good atmosphere. Lunch is provided at a nearby hotel, followed by a practical session inside the studio.

To me the landscape painting course matches the description better, since it brings up "difficulty with some techniques". The photography course does not mention anything of the sort. However, the answer key chooses the photography course. Am I missing something here?

Source: Cullen, French, and Jakeman (2014) The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS for Academic & General Training, Cambridge University Press, p. 319-320.

2 Answers 2


This is pretty subtle stuff.

The clue lies in the phrase difficult conditions.

Focus on Landscapes deals with tricky techniques rather than conditions.

Taking Happy Pictures deals with conditions such as varied light or bad weather.

So the examiner is asking you to distinguish between techniques and conditions. The phrase having difficulty serves to mislead students.

It's a mean question testing English comprehension that a great many native English speakers would also be likely to get wrong.


I think the key concept to consider here is "difficult conditions" and how that is synonymous with "adverse conditions" and should be considered distinct from "personal difficulties".

Compare "Walk one mile." versus "Walk one mile in the rain while wearing an 80lb backpack." in terms of what one might expect the average person to consider easy/difficult.

The first situation, although quite feasible for most people, might be quite difficult if not impossible for someone with a broken leg, a paraplegic, or someone with cerebral palsy. And the second situation quite clearly adds difficulty based on the conditions (rain, added weight) that should likely make the task more difficult for anyone/everyone.

So, the first task could be considered a relatively basic task in general (even if some people individually have difficulties overcoming this challenge). Whereas, the second situation has specific additional conditions (rain, weight) that would make the task more challenging for everyone.

The painting example looks like it is supposed to evoke that kind of "We'll cover all the basics - even the basics 'you' have difficulty with." feeling.

Whereas the photography example conveys "We'll cover dealing with the challenges presented by lightning storms and dynamic lighting." that everyone should find more difficult than a 'basic-photography' version of things.

The fact the word "difficulties" is used explicitly in the first example, whereas it is only implied ("bad weather") in the second example, seems to be an intentional misdirect.

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