The IELTS reading is widely considered to be one of the most difficult parts of the test, and this is mostly due to the time limit. The test lasts only an hour, but this includes the time it takes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet – you aren’t given any extra time!
There are 3 different reading passages for the academic exam, and the questions can vary widely in type: true/false/not given, heading match etc.
Practice Every Question Type
As mentioned, there is a wide variety of question types. These include:
- Sentence completion
- Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion
- Short-answer questions
- Diagram label completion
- Multiple choice
- Matching information
- Matching headings
- Matching sentence endings
- True, false, not given
One of the key aspects to passing the IELTS reading is to practice every single type of question. If you’re great at multiple choice but struggle when labelling diagrams, you won’t get full marks! Even if you hate the question, it is necessary to practice it as much as possible. This leads me on to my next point…
Know Your Weaknesses
While you’re practising with sample tests, make sure you record which questions you are getting wrong. Otherwise, how can you know in which areas you need to improve?
If you’re frequently getting False/Not given answers mixed up, make sure you understand that False answers are directly contradicted in the text, whereas Not Given answers are not mentioned at all or there is not enough information in the text to determine whether or not it is true/false. This will most of the time come down to paraphrasing. You need to be ready to find synonyms and different formats to be used within the text and answer.
Even if the exact same word is used, make sure you understand the meaning of the whole sentence, and the whole paragraph if necessary! And talking about comprehension…
You Can’t Understand the Entire Text!
Make sure not to concentrate on understanding absolutely everything that’s mentioned in the text. Not only will you waste a lot of time trying to comprehend the meaning, you also might send yourself into a panic about your comprehension of the text as a whole. If you can’t gather the meaning from the context or sentences around it, just move on! This can, however, be avoided a lot of the time if you…
Improve your Vocabulary
One of the main things the IELTS tests is your ability to understand concepts written in different structures and with different synonyms. One of the best ways to prepare for this is to review everything you read in detail. If you come across a word you don’t understand, then work on your ability to guess its meaning from context. If this doesn’t bring any results, write down the word and its definition.
The best way to retain words in another language is to use it! So, if you have someone to speak English with, try out your new words. Otherwise, try associating the word with something strange that you can remember, or write some sentences and read them out loud. And while we’re on the subject of reading…
Skimming, Scanning, or Reading in Detail?
If you’re really struggling with the time limit, improving your reading skills will be the biggest help. First of all, you need to understand the different types of reading.
Skimming: This is the process of reading a text very quickly all the way through, and retaining as much of the content as possible. This takes a lot of practise to do and is obviously much easier in your native language, but practise makes perfect!
Scanning: The method of scan reading is extremely important in the IELTS reading, as many of the questions require you to find specific words and understand the context based off of those words. Every question type can benefit from this skill, and you can practise by choosing specific words from sample test questions and trying to find them (or their synonyms) in the text.
Detail: If you need to read something in detail, it means you have to answer a question like multiple choice. The multiple choice questions will usually include every key word in the text, but only one of them is true. This can be very confusing, therefore you need to read the question, the answer choices, and the paragraph in detail. Many people think that the multiple choice questions will be the easiest, but don’t get too comfortable until you’ve practised and perfected them!
Even though there are many different facets to the IELTS reading, you can get a great score by simply improving your vocabulary and making sure you stay within the time limit. Completing practise tests while timing yourself is a great way to do this, and make sure you also record the questions you get wrong for future studying!
When you’re in the exam, double check to ensure you haven’t left anything blank, as a guess is always a lot better than no answer at all!