What does the IELTS Reading Test include?

You have 60 minutes to answer 40 questions (1 mark each).

Academic

You need to read three long texts from books, journals, magazines or newspapers. The texts include academic and professional English (about 2500 words).

General Training

You need to read six short texts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks or guidelines. The texts include everyday general English (about 2500 words).

You can see examples of IELTS Reading Test questions on the IELTS pages.

How can you improve your score?

Do you want to feel confident when you read in English? You can build this confidence. You need to take responsibility for your learning and develop good study habits.

There are three important things you need to do in order to succeed in the IELTS Reading Test:

1. Firstly, you need to improve your overall English language level and reading skills in English. This includes understanding a wide range of vocabulary and grammar in context. Are you ready for the IELTS Test? Don’t take the IELTS Test before you are ready! Taking the test before you are ready is not useful and the IELTS Test is expensive. How can you improve your English language level and reading skills?

2. Secondly, you need to get to know the IELTS Test and learn how to prepare. What do you need to do in the IELTS Reading Test, and what are the best strategies for you to get a good score?

3. Finally, you need to practise the IELTS Test. How can you practise?

Taking a look at points 1, 2 and 3 in detail:

Point 1 – Improve Your Skills

Are you ready for the IELTS Test? How can you improve your overall English language level and reading skills in English?

First, you must develop your general level of English and then practise strategies for IELTS Test if you really want to improve your IELTS score.

Develop good habits. Do you have good study habits? Read frequently. Minimum 30 minutes a day. Switch off mobile phones and other electronic devices that might distract you.

Read texts which are the right level for you. You can test your general reading level using the tool on the Oxford University Press test online.

When you are reading, there should be some new vocabulary in the text but not too many new words. When you improve your reading skill you can read more difficult texts. Like developing any skill, you need to build on what you can already do by using this step-by-step approach.

Read things that you enjoy and try to make the learning process a pleasure.

Vocabulary

Make notes of useful new vocabulary and phrases. Vocabulary is such an important area in the IELTS Test, you can find a help section here to support you and your vocabulary development.

Don’t worry if you do not understand every word. Sometimes you read things in your own language without understanding every word. If you stop to investigate every word it will make your reading slower and you might lose the meaning of the whole text. When you see a new word, try to decide if the word is important or useful. If it isn’t, do not waste time investigating it.

If the new word does not stop you from understanding the whole text, just underline it or make a quick note of it and come back and investigate the word later.

Read. More. Than. Single. Words. Imagine if you read all of a text like this! It would make it much more difficult for you to get the overall meaning. Increase your fluency by not stopping after every word. You need to look further and read sentences so you can improve your understanding of the meaning. Meaning is communicated by groups of words together, not individual words. You need to use the context of the words before and after each individual word. Let your eyes absorb more than single words. Read phrases not words. This will help your comprehension of texts.

Look for the content words which will help you with understand the meaning. There will be many words you already know well, so don’t spend much time thinking about these. Look at this sentence, for example:

She was wearing a teal shirt.

In this sentence, you would probably only pause to think about the word teal. If you need to know the meaning of the word, the context can help you think that teal could be a colour (Yes! It is a bit like blue or green). So, the context helps you understand the meaning. You should not spend much time thinking about words you already know. Study frequently used words.

Time is important, so you need to increase speed when you are reading, especially when you do not have much time. Look for titles, headings and pictures to help you. In addition, read the first sentences of each paragraph to get an idea of the topic.

You read for a reason. For example, you read fiction for pleasure, or a description in a brochure to get information before you choose something. If you need to get specific information quickly from a text, just look for the information and nothing else. If you don’t need some information, don’t look for it. This a natural thing to do in your language when you do not have much time. Just make sure you do the same when reading in English.

At first you can read as quickly as possible to see if you can get what you need. If you don’t get the information, slow down and go back to try to find it. It is better to start by reading quickly because you may get what you need quickly. Usually, you do not need to read all of the text slowly to get what you want.

If you need to read quickly, do not read with a voice in your head because this makes you read more slowly. You might focus better on the language if you guide your reading by using a pen or finger to follow text. Just make sure this does not slow your speed when reading. Try it and see if it helps you.

Another important point is that you need to push yourself to read more quickly. Challenge yourself. For example, take a newspaper article and read it quickly to see how much information you can get. Then you can go back and read it more slowly to check what you have understood and add more information.

Check your comprehension by asking yourself questions. For example: Who said that? What is the opinion? What is the connection?

You have to read three of many different types of text (news articles, blogs, websites, emails, text messages, books, journal articles etc.) so you can deal with different styles and contexts. Read widely.

In conclusion, the best way to learn and improve is to practise.

Point 2 – The Best Strategies

What do you need to do in the IELTS Reading Test, and what are the best strategies for you to get a good score?

1. Firstly, you need to get to know and practise the different types of tasks in the IELTS Reading Test to find out what you need to do. These are the different types of task that may be included:

multiple choice
‘True’, ‘False’ or ‘Not Given’ – T/F/NG
text, table or diagram completion
summary
matching headings, features, information or sentence endings
identifying writer’s views

2. Train yourself before you test yourself. Spend time preparing and study these tips
carefully before testing yourself. Practising tests is great, but only when you are ready.

3. You don’t need to know about the subject because all the answers are in the texts.
Remember this is a test of your reading skills, not your general knowledge.

4. Use these three useful techniques for reading:

Firstly: skimming – reading the text quickly to get the general meaning, e.g. the topic area of each part of the text
Secondly: scanning – reading the text quickly to get specific information, e.g. a detail that you need to find
Finally: close reading – reading a part of the text more slowly and carefully to get a better understanding, this will make it possible for you to get the exact answer. Use this close reading technique when you read the questions and after skimming and scanning the text.

To get a good score in the test you need to use all of these three techniques.

First, skim the text to get a general idea of what it is about. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every word – you don’t need to and, anyway, you don’t have enough time to read every word. In the IELTS Reading Test you need to read a lot of text in a short time. One of the reading skills you need is to find information quickly, so use skimming and scanning techniques to do this. If you think about it, this is what you do in your own language if you need to find information quickly and you don’t have much time.

5. Read the questions and the instructions before you skim each section again. Follow the instructions carefully and pay attention to the number of words you can use (e.g. “three words or less”). This is important.

6. Following that, skim the text again quickly and put a note or number next to the area of the text more or less where the answer is. Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph to get an idea of the topic. Remember the questions go in the same order as the texts. Do not try to read every word. You only need to find the answers.

7. Go back and read the question to check you know what information you need. Consequently, this will focus your attention closely on the question. After that, go back and zoom in on the area of the text where the answer is. This is when you need to use the technique of close reading.

8. Look for words with similar or opposite meanings. Do not just look for identical matching words. The answers are often paraphrased, for example, the text might include the words ‘extremely tired’ and the question might say ‘exhausted’. Focus on the context in the text, not just the individual word.

9. Make sure you spell words correctly and be careful with grammar too because if not you will lose marks.

10. Match the headings paragraph by paragraph to save time. Importantly, go in the order of the paragraphs (not the headings) so you only need to look at each paragraph once.

Time!

11. Time is important in the test, so you need to work efficiently and plan your time carefully.
You have 1 hour to complete the test and this includes putting all your answers onto the answer sheet. Therefore, do not spend too much time on one question or section. If you have a problem with a question, just continue and go back to it at the end. Finally, spend more time on Section 3 because it’s more difficult.

12. Leave time to check your answers and look at any gaps, so make sure you leave enough time to transfer your answers at the end. Remember that in the IELTS Reading Test you need to transfer your answers within the hour the time limit.

13. Do not leave any answers blank. If you need to, just guess the answer because you have nothing to lose.

14. Practise complete sections in a time limit. You must be careful with the time and make sure you have enough time to finish. Remember you can only do this by using the skimming and scanning techniques. Train yourself with time.

15. Finally, don’t worry about writing on the exam question paper.

Point 3 – How can you practise the IELTS Reading Test?

First, you can access examples of IELTS Test questions and answers on the IELTS web pages.
Also, there is a wide range of IELTS preparation resources and materials available on the British Council web pages.
Finally, there are numerous websites with materials to find out about and practise for the IELTS Test so you can get the score you need and achieve your goals.

Summary

How can you improve your score?

 

There are three important things you need to do in order to succeed in the IELTS Reading Test:

 

1. Firstly, you need to improve your overall English language level

 

  • develop your general level of English
  • develop good habits
  • read frequently
  • read texts which are the right level for you
  • step-by-step approach
  • read things that you enjoy
  • make notes of useful new vocabulary
  • write more information about words in context
  • so, combinations of words are much more useful than individual words
  • making good vocabulary notes will help you remember new words
  • making good vocabulary notes will also help you to develop your writing skills and improve your score
  • don’t worry if you do not understand every word
  • try to decide if the word is important or useful
  • Read. More. Than. Single. Words.
  • increase your fluency by not stopping after every word
  • look further and read sentences
  • use the context
  • read phrases not words
  • look for the content words which will help you
  • the context helps you understand the meaning
  • you should not spend much time thinking about words you already know.
  • increase your speed when you are reading
  • look for titles, headings and pictures to help you
  • read the first sentences of each paragraph to get an idea of the topic
  • you read for a reason
  • if you need to get specific information quickly from a text, just look for the information
  • you do not need to read all of the text slowly to get what you want
  • do not read with a voice in your head
  • guide your reading by using a pen or finger to follow text
  • push yourself to read more quickly
  • check your comprehension by asking yourself questions
  • read many different types of text
  • the best way to learn and improve is to practise

2. Secondly, you need to know the best strategies for you to get a good score

before the test

  • you need to get to know and practise the different types of tasks
  • train yourself before you test yourself
  • practise complete authentic IELTS tests

during the test

  • all the answers are in the texts
  • use three useful techniques for reading: skimming, scanning and close reading
  • follow the instructions carefully
  • put a note or number next to the area of the text more or less where the answer is
  • read the first and last sentence of each paragraph to get an idea of the topic
  • do not try to read every word
  • go back and read the question to check
  • look for words with similar or opposite meanings
  • spell words correctly and be careful with grammar
  • match the headings paragraph by paragraph to save time
  • plan your time carefully
  • do not spend too much time on one question or section
  • make sure you leave enough time to transfer your answers at the end
  • do not leave any answers blank
  • practise complete sections in a time limit
  • don’t worry about writing on the exam question paper

3. Finally, you need to find materials and resources to practise

examples of the IELTS Test
materials and resources
other websites