IELTS Reading Tips


Use the time to your advantage for IELTS reading

The first thing you get for the exam is a booklet and an answer sheet. We cannot stress enough how important it is to fill the answers into the answer sheet as you go. Keep in mind, the answer sheet is the most important thing in your hand. You score will be given based on the answers provided in the answer sheet. The answer sheet is also important for the IELTS reading section.

Some examinees try to take notes on the booklet, marking the correct answers there first. We do not recommend doing so, because sometimes you will not have enough time to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. If you think that the exam officials will show mercy to count your notes on the booklet – no, they won’t. The notes on the booklet will not be counted, and won’t be scored.

Another tip for time management is to leave difficult questions to the end. The good thing about this exam is that you can go back and forth and answer to those questions which you want. The advantage of this method is that you can skip some of the questions and concentrate on those which you actually do know. So, you are free to manage your time and choose the questions you want to answer in the first place.

It would help if you never started IELTS reading the passage before looking at the task and the questions. When you start reading, you should have some questions in your mind. When you have already read the task, you will know what kind of answers you are looking for. If you do not start with the tasks, later on, you will have to go back and forth to the text, thus losing your valuable time.

Practise by doing a lot of reading tests. Always remember, practise tests will help you to be ready for the exam. In other words, those tests will help you understand what to expect in the real test. By taking lots of practice tests, you will be able to identify what your strengths and weaknesses are. While doing practice tests, you will get used to the format and will be able to divide your time according to your strengths.

Read the task carefully.

Whenever you start the IELTS reading section, you should definitely take time and attentively read the instructions and examples. Most of the time, you will find the tasks very similar to whatever you have done in your practice tests. Do not let it go and carefully read all of the requirements. Sometimes there are slight differences which make the whole task different. Fast forward, never skip reading the task. 

You might find it beneficial to pay attention to particular tasks such as true/false/not given, matching skills, and gap-filling tasks. Here’s what should pay special attention to:

True/false/not given – Keep in mind, if you select “true” as your answer, the whole sentence should be right. In some cases, there are tricky parts, when most of the sentence is right but one slight detail. In that case, you should pick “false” as your answer.

Matching headings – Don’t miss the choices you’ve used before. This may seem like a quick way of doing the job, but this can lead to errors. Reevaluate all of the options for each question, instead. You should not cross out the options you have already used.

Gap filling tasks – We recommend that you be careful and do not go over the word limit for each gap. 

Get better at scanning.

Well, you might ask what scanning is. We have a simple answer. Scanning is a reading method which helps people to find information much faster. While scanning, you move your eyes in wavelike motion across the text. While doing so, you do not stop for essential details, and you don’t waste your time on unnecessary information. This is a perfect method for understanding the main ideas behind the text and picking out the parts you want to read again and concentrate on. 

Whenever you want to understand the whole essence of the text, you should understand all the paragraphs separately. You will not have time to read all the details in the text. Your goal should be scanning the paragraphs individually. Always remember, each paragraph has one central idea that is reflected in the topic sentence. 

Be good with vocabulary.

Always remember, the IELTS test is not a vocabulary test. You should not panic if you see an unknown word. You are not allowed to use dictionaries in the test, but this should not be a problem. If they even did allow, you would be wasting your valuable time searching for a word. Why do we mention this? Because we think that you should not use them while practising. Always imagine as if you are in a real exam. You should develop the skill of guessing the word. Most of the time, you can easily guess the word because of the context of the sentence or the paragraph.

Improve your IELTS reading speed

We all know that there is one universal way of improving reading speed. You might have already guessed – it is reading. Yes, the more you read, the better and faster you get at IELTS reading. We understand that you might have some favourite books or topics for reading. However, it would be best if you tried to pick some topics and texts which are more or less IELTS style/type.

Last but not least, do not forget about practice tests. Practice tests are always there to simulate what is coming up on the real exam. So, if you do a lot of practice tests, the real test should not surprise you. Don’t be afraid to try. You can do it!

Good Luck!

ALISTAIR BROWN: As a writing and speaking examiner for more than 10 years, I bring a lot of experience. I have seen the frustrations that students have with IELTS from a career where I have actively guided and corrected students’ studies. I am looking for the most effective ways to teach IELTS as I understand students’ needs.