In this tutorial, we discuss how to get a high score in IELTS Academic reading with ex-examiner Robert.
We look at:
- What does the average test taker score in IELTS academic reading
- How many correct answers do you need to score 7.0 in academic reading
- What skills do you need to score high in the IELTS academic reading exam
- How to answer a sample IELTS reading question
What does the average test taker score in IELTS Academic Reading?
If we check through the band scores that IELTS test takers obtain, reading comes a very close second to listening. In listening, the average is something like 6.3 whereas in academic reading it’s 6.2, followed by speaking at 6.0 and writing at 5.7.
Of course, there are variations by native language too. Interestingly, in many countries, it’s reading that scores the highest. In Japan, for example, reading averages 6.1 and listening 5.9. Perhaps in countries where students need to read extensively in English at university or in their careers but have less exposure to spoken English, then this trend is not surprising.
Read more IELTS statistics here.
How many correct answers do you need to score 7.0 in Academic Reading?
The IELTS Academic reading test includes a total of 40 questions. Here’s how many correct answers you’ll need per score.
- 30 to 32 correct answers- 7.0
- 33 to 34 correct answers- 7.5
- 35 to 36 correct answers- 8.0
- 37 to 38 correct answers- 8.5
- 39 to 40 correct answers- 9.0
- 23 to 26 correct answers-6.0
- 27 to 29 correct answers- 6.5
In General Training even higher scores are required, probably because the tasks are thought to be easier. You’d need 34 or 35 correct answers for a 7.0, for example.
It’s important to have this clear idea of how many correct answers are required to get the minimum result you’re looking for. It will guide you when you’re doing practice tests.
What skills do you need to score high in the IELTS academic reading exam?
The IELTS academic reading exam is testing certain skills you need if you want to call yourself a “good” or “efficient” reader. Applying these skills helps you to understand what you read at different levels. They include:
- Being able to pick out relevant facts and data in a written text
- Getting a general idea of what a text is about through an initial quick reading
- Ability to differentiate between main and secondary ideas
- Ability to fully comprehend the writer’s position in an argumentative text
How to answer a sample IELTS reading question
Let’s look at an example taken from a part of the online computer based IELTS reading test practice samples provided by the British Council.
It’s a multiple-choice task with one answer out of four given options, A, B, C and D.
The question heading reads: in Paragraph 1, the writer suggests that companies could consider:
- Abolishing pay schemes that are based on age
- Avoiding pay that is based on piece-rates
- Increasing pay for older workers
- Equipping older workers with new skills
The general assumption is that older workers are paid more in spite of, rather than because of their productivity. That might partially explain why, when employers are under pressure to cut costs, they persuade a 55-year-old to take early retirement. Take away seniority-based pay scales and older workers may become a much more attractive employment proposition. But most employers and many workers are uncomfortable with the idea of reducing someone’s pay in later life – although manual workers on piece-rates often earn less as they get older. So, retaining the services of older workers may mean employing them in different ways.
There are 4 things to keep in mind here.
- You must get into the text topic as fast as you can. There’s not much time for reflection. The text may have no title, as in this case. So, use the question statement/s as your way in. Look at it: what are the key words? Companies, pay, older workers, skills. And the verbs? Abolish, avoid, increase, equip. Read the first sentence of the paragraph. Confirmed: the general topic is the issue of older workers and their pay, higher pay and their productivity as they age.
- Read the question heading very carefully. Writer suggests what companies could consider, with regard of course to that issue mentioned in the first sentence of the paragraph. That means I’m looking in this paragraph for what the writer has to say about possible (remember the could) solutions to the issue of pay and age. Start thinking about synonyms we might find in the paragraph: ….could …may? ..consider ….do?
- Start with the 4 options. Read them over and then read the paragraph looking for connections. Are there any verbs in the paragraph that relate to abolish, avoid, increase, equip? What about that could? The paragraph has 2 examples of “may” and one “might”. But which is the one that helps us here?
- Focus on finding the answer, and look for connections between words and their meanings in this context. Do not be distracted. Reading tests contain distractors. An answer that looks attractive for something we find in the text and maybe outside it too, from our knowledge of the world. Look at option D: equip older workers with new skills. Sounds like a great idea but is that mentioned in the paragraph? The last sentence does say “may mean employing them in different ways” but are these different ways the same as giving or equipping or training them new skills? It doesn’t really say that, does it?
So, what is the answer? A, B, C or D?
We’ve discarded B and D. Is it A or C? We are asked to choose the option that corresponds to something mentioned in the paragraph that companies could consider if older workers are paid more for their age and experience anyway, as it says in the first sentence, then C is not the option. Let’s re-read the third sentence of the paragraph. Which verb means something like “abolish”?
Take away seniority-based pay scales and older workers may become a much more attractive employment proposition.
“take away” in this context means something like abolish and we also have the second part of the sentence which confirms the notion of “could consider”.
We cannot answer this question without giving thought to word meanings and synonyms.
Forty questions, three reading passages in sixty minutes is intense. Working hard on vocabulary will help you make it slightly less so.
You can download or listen to the full tutorial here: