How to ace the IELTS reading


How to ace the IELTS reading section

Before we move on to the open secret of how to ace the IELTS reading section, let’s get introduced to two important reading techniques.

Skimming & Scanning

Skimming is to read a text rapidly to get a general overview of the material (i.e) to know the main theme or idea behind the passage. Scanning is to read a text rapidly to find specific information such as figures, names, etc. Moving on to the next section, here are the steps to help you get the high band you’re aiming for in reading:

  1. Skim the passage – Skim the passage to know what the general idea behind the passage is.
  2. Read the question and identify the type of question – Each question falls under a question type (this is elaborated further down the page). Read the question and identify which question type it belongs to.
  3.  Remember the technique behind the question type – Each question type follows a strategy which helps us find the answers easily ( also explained further down). Recall the technique and find the answer according to it.
  4. Find the keyword – Each question would have a keyword that can be found somewhere in the passage. Discover this keyword and locate the keyword in the passage.
  5. Read around the keyword – Once you’ve located the keyword, read around the keyword (i.e) read a few sentences before and after the keyword to find the answer.
  6. Learn to guess the meaning – Know how to guess the meaning from the context given in the passage.
  7. Write the answer – Find the answer and write it down. Move on to the next question quickly, as we don’t have much time.
  8. REPEAT!

What else can I do to improve my reading skills?

You can prepare for your IELTS reading test by reading English texts such as newspapers, books or journals regularly. This will help you improve your vocabulary as well as your grammar. You can start practising by reading IELTS reading materials and then with time, also create a habit of reading English newspapers, magazines, journals on a day-to-day basis. You can further prepare yourself by learning about the type of questions that could be posed in the test.Difference between Academic Reading and General Training Reading

Even though the time, question types and number of questions given for both the sections remain the same, these sections do differ according to the tests taken.

Academic ReadingGeneral Training Reading
There are 3 sections.
  • Section 1 has two or three factual texts which are about everyday life in an English speaking country.
  • Each section contains one long text with questions below it.
  • Section 2 has factual texts relating to work.
  • Texts are taken from books, journals, magazines, newspapers. The texts are on academic topics of general interest.
  • Section 3 has one complex text on a general topic.

The IELTS Academic Reading section is divided into 3 parts with each of these parts consisting of a long paragraph text. The difficulty level increases from part 1 to part 3. These texts are usually related to subjects like science, sociology and can even be some form of illustration. The IELTS General Training section is also divided into three parts. Part 1 and 2 of this section will have one or two texts and Part 3 will contain a long difficult passage on a general topic of interest. Part 1 of this section has texts related to everyday life, courses or some kind of service provided. Part 2 of this section has texts related to jobs, application procedures, etc. As IELTS General Training Reading section is easier than the IELTS Academic Reading section, the scores vary accordingly too. More questions need to be answered correctly on a General Training section to receive the same grade as an Academic Reading section. The band scores are calculated as follows for the Academic and General training sections respectively:

Academic Grading scores – Reading

Correct AnswersBand scores

General Training Grading scores – Reading

 Correct AnswersBand scores

Types of questions in IELTS Reading

There are different kinds of questions for each of the passages that appear in the IELTS reading examination.

1. Multiple Choice Questions:

IELTS reading multiple choice questions have about 3-4 options from which we have to choose our answer. This might be in the form of a question & answer type or a choose a correct ending to a sentence type. These answers appear in chronological order according to the passage. Here is a sample of a multiple-choice question:

 1. In paragraph one, the writer suggests that companies could consider ———.

  1. abolishing pay schemes that are based on age.
  2. avoiding pay that is based on piece-rates.
  3. increasing pay for older workers.
  4. equipping older workers with new skills.

2. True/False/Not given Questions:

These questions are very tricky. This question consists of several statements:

  • If the statement is present in the article as it is then you need to mark it as true.
  • If the statement is found to be the opposite of the sentence which is there then it should be marked as false.
  •  If the statement given in the question is not at all present in the article then it should be marked as not given. Do not spend a lot of time finding the sentence which is not there.

Here is a sample of a true/false/not given question:

In boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information FALSE if the statement contradicts the information NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

  1. Marie Curie’s husband was a joint winner of both Marie’s Nobel Prizes.
  2. Marie became interested in science when she was a child.
  3. Marie was able to attend the Sorbonne because of her sister’s financial contribution.

3. Yes/No/Not given Questions:

Similar to the True/False/Not given questions, Yes/No/Not given questions also have various statements. But here you are asked to agree or disagree with the statement based on the opinion of the author. Here is a sample of a Yes/No/Not given question:

Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer in Part A of Reading Passage 1?

In boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet write:

YES if the statement agrees with the writer NO if the statement contradicts the writer NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

  1. Scientists are interested in the effect of forestry on native animals.
  2. PVA has been used in Australia for many years.
  3. A species is said to be extinct when only one individual exists.
  4. Extinction is a naturally occurring phenomenon.

4. Matching Questions:

There are various types of matching questions in IELTS reading tests and each one is different from another.

4(a) Matching Headings:

In this type of question, a list of headings will be given and you are asked to match these headings with a paragraph in the passage. You should read the headings before you begin reading the text. To get the correct answer, you have to read the complete paragraph and not just stop with the first few lines of the paragraph. There will also be many other headings that are not related to any of the paragraphs given in the passage, in such cases, try to identify those types of headings too. Here is a sample matching headings question:

Choose the correct heading for each section from the list of headings below. Write the correct number, i-viii, in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet. List of Headings

  1. Dramatic effects can result from small changes in traffic just as in nature
  2. How a maths experiment reduced traffic congestion
  3. How a concept from one field of study was applied in another
  4. A lack of investment in driver training
  5. Areas of doubt and disagreement between experts
  6. How different countries have dealt with traffic congestion
  7. The impact of driver behaviour on traffic speed
  8. A proposal to take control away from the driver
  1. Section A
  2. Section B
  3. Section C
  4. Section D
  5. Section E

4 (b) Matching information:

Matching Information questions have a list which contains information taken from the paragraphs. You are asked to find out the paragraph from which the information is taken. Sometimes the question may be tricky because the information given might not be in exact words as given in the paragraph instead it will be paraphrased so you need to read the paragraph to understand the meaning/idea behind it to answer these questions. Here is a sample matching information question:

Answer the following questions by choosing the correct responses A–P. Write your answers in boxes 9–13 on your answer sheet.
  1. What was the children’s most frequent response when asked where the rain forests were?
  2. What was the most common response to the question about the importance of rain forests?
  3. What did most children give as the reason for the loss of the rain forests?
  4. Why did most children think it important for the rain forests to be protected?
  5. Which of the responses is cited as unexpectedly uncommon, given the amount of time spent on the issue by the newspapers and television?

There is a complicated combination of reasons for the loss of the rain forests.

  1. The rain forests are being destroyed by the same things that are destroying the forests of Western Europe.
  2. Rain forests are located near the Equator.
  3. Brazil is home to the rain forests.
  4. Without rain forests, some animals would have nowhere to live.
  5. Rain forests are important habitats for a lot of plants.
  6. People are responsible for the loss of the rain forests.
  7. The rain forests are a source of oxygen.
  8. Rain forests are of consequence for a number of different reasons.
  9. As the rain forests are destroyed, the world gets warmer.
  10. Without rain forests, there would not be enough oxygen in the air.
  11. There are people for whom the rain forests are home.
  12. Rain forests are found in Africa.
  13. Rain forests are not important to human life.
  14. The destruction of the rain forests is the direct result of logging activity.
  15. Humans depend on the rain forests for their continuing existence.

4 (c) Matching Features:

In this type of question, there will be a list of items in the box and you need to match these items by reading and understanding some sentences in the passages. The list may be of the name of people or cities. For example, If there is a name of a person in the box of items then the question may be to match the sentence with the person who said them. Like other types of match questions, some of the items mentioned may not be available in the passage. So, to save time read the passage before answering each question. Here is a sample matching features question:

From the information in the text, indicate who FIRST invented or used the items in the list below. Write the appropriate letters A-E in boxes 7-10 on your answer sheet.
  1. black powder
  2. rocket-propelled arrows for fighting
  3. rockets as war weapons
  4. the rocket launcher

FIRST invented or used by

  1. the Chinese
  2. the Indians
  3. the British
  4. the Arabs
  5. the Americans

4 (d) Matching sentence endings:

In this type of question, you need to connect two halves of the sentences. The first half of the sentence will be already given you need to find out which is the appropriate ending for the sentence from the list given. While choosing from the list you need to keep the following things in mind:

  • There should not be any grammatical errors in the sentence.
  • The ending sentence chosen by you should make sense
  •  The sentence should have the same meaning as the sentence in the passage.
Complete each of the following statements with the best ending from the box below. Write the appropriate letters A-G in boxes 38—40 on your answer sheet.
  1. It has been established that social tension increases significantly in the United States during …….
  2. Research has shown that a hamster’s body-weight increases according to its exposure to…….
  3. Animals cope with changing weather and food availability because they are influenced by…….
  1. daylight
  2. hot weather
  3. melatonin
  4. moderate temperatures
  5. poor co-ordination
  6. time cues
  7. impaired performance

5. Sentence completion and Short-answer Questions

IELTS Reading Sentence completion and Short answer questions are almost similar. In sentence completion, you’ll be asked to fill in the blank spaces using the words given in the text. Whereas, in short answers, you’ll have to take words from the given text to write the short answers. It is important to pay close attention to the instructions that are given in the question because in some instructions there will be a word limit mentioned and you may lose marks if you don’t follow it. Here is a sample sentence completion question:

Complete the sentences below. Choose ONE WORD ONLY from the passage for each answer. Write your answers in boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.

  1. Huxley formulated his theory while studying a dinosaur belonging to a group called ………….
  2. Heilmann rejected Huxley’s theory because of the apparent absence of ………… in dinosaurs.
  3. Feduccia and Martin believe that the ancestor of today’s birds was a kind of early ………….

Here is a sample short answer question:

You are advised to spend about 5 minutes on Questions 21-23. Refer to Reading Passage 2, and look at Questions 21-23 below. Write your answers in boxes 21 – 23 on your Answer Sheet.

  1. How many medical drug discoveries does the article mention?
  2. What two shortages are given as the reason for the writer’s pessimistic outlook?
  3. Who will most likely benefit from the bioprospecting of developing countries’ rainforests?

6. Note, Table, Diagram and Summary Completion Questions

In Note, Table, Summary and Diagram completion questions, you will be asked to complete a set of notes, tables, diagram or a summary based on the information given in the text. Sometimes the question will be to write a short answer and sometimes you’ll have to choose from the list of answers given. Usually, these kinds of questions will only be based on one part of the passage, so you won’t have to read the whole passage to fill in the important information.

Practice IELTS Reading based on question types

Short Answer

Sentence Complation

Diagram Complation

Summary Complation

Table Complation

Yes/No/Not Given

Matching Heading

Matching Features

Matching Sentence Endings

Matching Information