The Academic as well as General IELTS Reading section of the exam both last 60 minutes and tests your reading skills. Each has 40 questions. The 60 minutes includes the time you have to fill in the answer sheet.

This tutorial covers IELTS reading tips and advice to help you pass your IELTS exam

Here are the most common types of reading question types you can get on your reading test:

  • Sentence completion
  • True false, not given
  • Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion
  • Multiple choice
  • Short-answer questions
  • Matching sentence endings
  • Diagram label completion
  • Matching information
  • Matching headings

Before preparing for your IELTS exam and learning different strategies and tips, it is VERY important to: change your mindset, focus and understanding of the test.

The IELTS reading tips that you will read in this chapter will work and must be applied with ALL question types, no matter what exam you are taking.

Remember these IELTS Reading Tips to increase your score:

1. It's always paraphrased.

If there were ONE most important IELTS Reading tip that I could give you, it’s this: 

it’s always paraphrased and the text can tell you if your answer is right 100%.

What does it mean and how does it work? 

It means that for ANY correct answer that you will need to choose from the options, there is ALWAYS a paraphrased fragment in the text that says absolutely the same

This is how you know whether that answer is 100% correct. Yes, it works. It got our IELTS candidates Bands 8.0 and 9.0. You will see specific examples for this in each subchapter by type of exam question.

So, in order to assess whether you have a good understanding, reading skills and command of these language complexities, tests are designed this way. IELTS tests assess your ability to understand the same (or similar) ideas hidden behind different wordings and expressions.

 2. Skimming and Scanning.

The IELTS Reading exam is about understanding information and that’s why vocabulary is crucial. But nevertheless, if you read in the usual slow, relaxed way you will not pass the IELTS test. 

What should you do then? Learn about two very particular methods to read. These are skimming and scanning: reading techniques that use rapid eye movement and keywords so that you are able to move fast through text lines for two different purposes. 

Skimming is reading rapidly in order to get a general overview of the material. 

We recommend that to skim in your reading exam, you should follow this process

  1. You should read the first paragraph attentively to get an idea of what the text is about
  2. The first and mostly second sentence of every paragraph closely, this will normally give you the main idea of the text.
  3. Always read the last paragraph thoroughly as this normally contains the summary.

Scanning is reading rapidly in order to find specific facts.

Keyword: rapidly. Remember this. 

The questions in the IELTS reading test will often include dates, names, numbers, new terms that are part of your answers.

When you are scanning the text in your reading test, be sure to :

  1. Always underline important specific information and numbers. You do not need to read every word. Look out for information like names, dates, figure, statistics etc
  2. From the question, identify the keyword and then scan the text for it. This will help you find the answer more quickly.

We will make use of these reading types terms further on, as I explain specific IELTS reading test tips.

It is important to be ready to be fast, focused and alert. You can’t allow yourself to be slow and relaxed.

You should spend no more than 3 minutes skimming the passage for your test. It also advised to underline any important keywords that you see in the text that makes you understand the passage or sums up the context of the reading.

3. The “Discuss it with Yourself” Approach.

In order to understand and remember the most important part of what you are reading say it in your own words in your head. Explain to yourself what you had just read.

This mini-analysis helps you focus not on the words in front of you but on the ideas. 

Why do you need to focus on the ideas? Because (the GOLDEN rule!) you won’t have the same expression in the question and its options, they will be put in OTHER WORDS.

You need ONE CONSCIOUS reading of whatever paragraph or text sentence you are reading and then productive work with the question.

4. Follow the Plan.

Here are detailed tips for EACH and every type of IELTS Reading questions. They will be organised in a certain order and it is VERY IMPORTANT that you follow all the steps of the plan that we give you.

If the plan says #1 Read the paragraph and #2 Read the question, then please do so. 

For example, in most cases it is essential to read the text first because if you do it after reading the question, it will be difficult to focus on the information in the reading passage and the question at the same time. 

Your brain will struggle to keep the question in mind and search for the answer at the same time. 

But if you skim the text part rapidly, discuss what you had just read in your head and THEN go to the question and its options, you will the the answer immediately.

So let’s agree to do it according to the plan. Or the miracle won’t happen.

5. Find proof in the text, Underline and Number.

Now let’s imagine you think you found the right answer. You will make your choice and go on, right? You will want to save time and you won’t care much about making sure that it’s 100% sure. Probably. 

What we suggest is that you remember that GOLDEN rule and go back to the text.  You need to find 100% proof in the text that you are on the right track to the band score you need. 

So what should you do? 

  • Find the exact location of the rephrased answer in the reading passage. Compare it to the key words in your answer and rest assured that it is the ONE. That is the proof
  • Then underline that rephrased line in the passage. 
  • Then write the number on top of the question that is answered by that line. As simple as that.

You should do this to avoid relaxing and guessing during the reading test.This gives you the certainty that you have made the  correct choice. 

And yes, there’s always only ONE correct answer. Despite what many may think, there are no options. This is how the tests are designed. That is precisely why there is a very definite location of the correct answer in the text. 

6. Don’t panic if you don’t know some words. But try to deduce from context.

You may work on your vocabulary every day, and you may still encounter puzzling vocabulary on the test. But don’t panic. Try to look around the new word. Maybe 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. 

Many cues can lead you to deducing the meaning of words, like prefixes (un- means cancel an action, and re- means repeat, or -wise means referring to something) or grammar (oh, it comes before a noun so it might be describing how this noun is). 

Remember to do background work on expanding your vocabulary and understanding of prefixes and suffixes for your reading test.

If this doesn’t help either just don’t panic. Move on to the next question that doesn’t stress you out, and return to review the confusing part.

7. Don't leave any question unanswered

Never leave any box unanswered. When you know there’s no time left, just guess and write something.

Why? You won’t be penalized for incorrect answers. 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 what if you strike lucky and manage to guess it! You will have at least one more point which is totally able to get you from band 6.5 to 7.0 in your reading test. 

That’s why there’s no shame in guessing when there’s no time.

8. Improve Your Reading Speed

To make the best of the 60 minutes you have to complete your IELTS Reading exam, you have to improve your reading speed when you are preparing for the exam.  Do practice tests in your spare time, reading books or the newspaper and try to improve your reading speed as much as possible. Improving your reading speed is a skill you can use for your IELTS Reading test AND in your life after taking the exam!

9. Resources for Practice

As useful as all the IELTS Reading tips are to improving your IELTS score, practice is one of the most important keys to a successful IELTS reading exam. There are many different IELTS practice tests that you can take online to help you prepare, take a look at these resources:

Take a look at some more useful tutorials that will you prepare for your  Reading Test

If you need more help with your exam preparation, have a look at our IELTS Online courses to help you pass IELTS!

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