Studying in the UK




Preparing for the IELTS Academic Reading Test

Blog Image: 

If you are planning to take the IELTS exam, it is important to know exactly what the test consists of and how you are going to be evaluated. In this blog post, we take a good look at how the Academic Reading paper is structured and what is expected of candidates. This part of the exam aims to assess a range of reading skills including: understanding the gist and main ideas of a text, identifying specific information and details, making inferences and grasping the writer’s attitude.

Each reading sub-skill requires a slightly different approach and you should try to learn strategies that will help you manage various question types. For example, you should learn about when it is better to skim-read rather than scan. This is where it can be very useful to have a professional IELTS teacher to guide your preparation.  Although the texts included in the exam cover academic themes, they are written for a non-specialist audience and may be taken from journals, books, newspapers and magazines. You should also be prepared to read texts that cover a wide range of topics.

Below we have outlined more key information you will need to know before taking the exam.

How many sections are there?

The Academic Reading Test consists of three long texts, each with accompanying questions.


How many questions are there?

There are 40 questions in total and each question is worth 1 mark. 

You will have to answer various types of question which may include the following: sentence completion, matching headings to paragraphs, labelling diagrams, multiple choice, gap-fills and short-answer questions.  Do make sure you’ve had plenty of practice in all these types before the exam. 


Where do I write my answers?

You must write all your answers on the answer sheet during the test as you will not get extra time at the end to transfer your answers. 

Remember to check the instructions carefully so you know exactly what kind of answer is expected; in some cases it will be a simple letter or number, but in others that require a phrase, make sure you know the word limit.

Always check you have written your answers down correctly, without spelling mistakes.


How long does the test take?

You will have 60 minutes to complete the test.  Unlike the Listening section, you don’t have extra time to transfer your answers, so once again, make sure you fill in your answer sheet as you go along. 

It is up to you how you divide up your time across the three texts during the text – you will not be told by the invigilator when to move from one section to the next. 

Time management is something you will need to factor into your exam practice. 


Do I need to understand everything in the texts?

You are unlikely to have to need to understand every single word of the texts; if the text contains highly technical terms, these will be defined in an accompanying glossary.   

Don’t overlook useful information and clues in titles, sub-headings, images, diagrams, charts and footnotes. 

Working with a teacher can help you develop strategies for locating answers in the texts quickly.


BONUS! Download reading passage sample (pdf format)


SGI IELTS Preparation Course

Here at SGI, we have a team of highly-qualified and experienced teachers who can support you as you prepare for the Academic English Courses.

Blog Category: 
Academic English

Share this page:

Relevant English Courses designed to improve your English