IELTS Reading: Top Tips for the Exam

In all my experience as an IELTS teacher I have to say that the reading part of the IELTS exam is often the one which causes the most difficulty. Obviously there is not just one correct way of doing it but why not try to follow these tips and see if they help.

Tip 1 – Don’t read every word!

You don’t have time to read the text carefully and intensively as you only have about 15 minutes per text. Instead try these steps:

  1. Use the heading, subheading, excerpt and pictures to imagine what the text is about and then skim read to get a global understanding of the text. Don’t get stuck on vocabulary you don’t know- it may not be important – and don’t spend more than a minute or two on this. Do, however, try to identify the text type: is it a newspaper article, extract from a book or a journal?
  2. Now look at the questions. In each set of questions, the answers will appear in the text in the order in which they are asked. Use this to identify where in the text you need you read.

Tip 2 – Learn about the different question types!

There are four different types of question.

  1. You have to decide if the answer to the question is Yes/True, No/False or Not given:
    • Identify and underline the key words in the questions: this will help you to identify synonyms and parallel phrases in the text.
    • Look for evidence to support whether the statement is true or false. If there is no evidence, choose ‘not given’. Even if you know the information is true, you must choose ‘not given’ if there is no evidence in the passage.
    • If the question states ‘write true/ false’, do not write ‘yes / no’ (and vice versa).
  2. Short Answer Questions – you need to write a short answer to each question:
    • Check in the question how many words you are expected to write (e.g. ‘choose no more than 3 words’.)
    • Skim read to find the section of text you need to read in more detail and scan read to locate the information you need.
  3. Multiple Choice Questions – choose the correct answer from options given:
    • Predict the answer you think will most likely be true.
    • Use topic sentences (the first sentence in each paragraph) to help you identify where to find the answers in the text.
  4. Sentence Completion – complete the statements so that they mean the same as parts of the text:
    • Again underline key phrases in the questions. Find parallel expressions in the text.
    • Think about the grammar of the words as not every word/ phrase can complete each sentence. Think about dependent prepositions (e.g. ‘it depends on’), countable/ uncountable nouns and collocation (words which go together e.g. ‘take a photo’).

Tip 3 – Be careful of your grammar and spelling!

As in the listening test, double check your spelling in the answers as you will lose a point if your answer is misspelled or not in correct English. Good luck and if you are interested in practising IELTS reading there are plenty of practice tests online, or alternatively take an IELTS course with SGI!

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