The IELTS exam comprises of four main sections, the reading is the second part. In this section of the test you are given a question booklet and an answer sheet, both of which you will return at the end of the test.
Your timing is an important factor for the test as you’ll be allocated one hour. During this time you need to complete 40 questions from the three required sections.
There are a few differences between the paper-based and computer-based versions of the IELTS Reading test. It is more a matter of the advantages or disadvantages of the two formats.
There you will find official samples of all question types for both the Academic and the General Training tests and answer keys for them.
Now have a look at the detailed comparison between the paper-based and computer-based Reading tests below and choose the best format for you.
What are you given at the start of the test? Paper-Based Test:
- You are given the IELTS Reading examination booklet that contains the reading passages and questions, and an answer sheet to be completed.
- You are sitting in front of the computer on which the test will be running the test.
Where will I write my answers? Paper-Based Test:
- Your answers must be written in pencil on the answer sheet in clear and legible handwriting.
- You may take notes on the examination booklet, but you must write your final answers on the reading answer sheet, as the examination booklet will not be looked at and graded.
- You answer all the questions on the screen. There is no text on paper as there is no answer sheet whatsoever.
Will I get additional time to transfer my answers onto the answer sheet? Paper-Based Test:
- There is no transfer time in the paper-based IELTS Reading test. When 60 minutes are over, the test is over as well and you must hand in your answer sheet.
- You don’t need to bother about transferring your answers onto the answer sheet as there is NO answer sheet.
What can (and should) I do while I’m working on the test? Paper-Based Test:
- You can take notes on the examination booklet. This helps you to understand the main ideas in the text paragraphs and reduces the time you need while to answering questions.
- You can also underline key words and ideas. This is very useful to mark the location of correct answers in the reading passages.
- If you select some text in the reading passage on the screen you can right click it and select either Highlight or Notes.
- You can Highlight any section of the text on the screen if you want to focus on it or mark the location of the answer to a question. This works the same way as underlining on paper.
- You can select Notes and type whatever you need on the post-it note that appears. This is similar to taking real notes in the margins of your examination booklet.
- You can also mark a question by ticking the Review box (in the lower left corner of the screen) so that you have a look at it later and not forget it
Before you know how to improve your IELTS reading you need to establish whether you need to do the Academic or General test.
The IELTS academic test will evaluate if your level of English is good enough for an academic environment like studying at an English university or college whereas the General test will determine your English proficiency in everyday situations.
The academic passages that you will need to read in your exam are a maximum of 2750 words whereas the general test has a maximum of 2350 words. Let’s look at how you can improve your reading in your IELTS Exam!
- Skimming and Scanning
This reading technique will help you save time in your exam. It means that you will read over the passage to just get a general idea. Underline any keywords that are important to the context of the reading piece. Don’t spend too much time trying to understand every little detail of the reading passage. It is important for you to be fast, focused and alert so that you do waste time.
- Follow the instructions!
Don’t assume that you know what you need to do in a question. Always make sure that you read the instructions carefully so circle or underline the key words before you start looking for the answer.
- The “Discuss it with yourself” approach
To understand and remember the most important part of what you’re reading, you should say it in your own words. Explain to yourself what you have just read. This will help you focus not only on the words in front of you, but also the ideas.
- Find proof in the text
You need to find 100% proof in the text that you are on the right track to the band score you need.
- Find the exact location of the rephrased answer in the reading passage.
- Then underline that rephrased line in the passage.
- There is only one correct answer for the question, so it is important to find proof to support your choice. This will give you certainty about your answer.
- Don’t panic if you don’t know some words.
It is possible that you won’t understand all the words in the passage, but don’t panic. Try to conclude the meaning from the context. The content of the sentence where you found it can help you deduce whether it’s positive or negative, a person or a job, an animal or a feature.
- Never leave an answer blank
When you know there’s no time left, instead of leaving it blank, guess the answer. If you leave the cell in your answer sheet blank because you don’t know AND have no time for it, you will get zero points. For sure. But if you strike it lucky and manage to guess it correctly, you will have at least one more point which is totally able to get you from band 6.5 to 7.0.
- Understand your weakness
An important factor to improving your IELTS reading, is to understand where you’re going wrong. If you’re losing points because you don’t understand the question, you need to work on your vocabulary and language skills.
If you’re losing points because you run out of time, you need to look at your technique and try to improve it. Bonus advice on How to Get a Band 8 or Higher in IELTS Reading
- Learn the formula to improve your vocabulary
There’s one simple secret to learning vocabulary well.
- Define and/or give synonyms.
- Find a good example of the word in context.
- Write your own example with it.
- Summarize and paraphrase the main ideas in paragraphs as you read.
Write your notes in the margins of paragraphs in note form and don’t forget to “discuss the idea with yourself” and always put it in your own words. This will help you prepare for the same restated idea in the question and answer options.
- Spell check your answers. Being overconfident and NOT checking the spelling of your answers can cost you your desired score in IELTS. Be sure to check!
- Try doing timed tests twice as fast as you typically could.
If you can do things the right way and it brings you great practise scores, then try challenging yourself and doing the same even faster.
- Keep track of your practise performance. Compile a table in which you would keep detailed track of the tests you practised, keeping track of your scores. This will help you grow and learn from your mistakes.
If you want to improve your IELTS reading, you have to prepare! Make sure that you do practice tests and try different types of questions to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. Once you identify what you need to work on, you’ll be able to better your IELTS score. You can download or listen to the audio version here: