5 tips to improve your English reading skills. Are you preparing for an English exam, but not seeing your score improve? Stuck on the same level with your reading with no improvement? You’re not alone – this is a very common problem, especially when you are studying on your own without a teacher or other students to help you.
The most important factor in improving your result is to spend a considerable amount of time in reflection, analysing practice tests you have taken to identify where your strengths and weakness are. Here are 5 handy tips for how to improve your reading skills – ask yourself each of these questions at the end of every reading practice test you take and you’ll be on your way to a better score!
Tip 1: Am I making mistakes on the same question type?
In this IELTS test, for example, many candidates struggle with headings style questions and True / False / Not Given style questions. If you find that there is one particular question that is causing you to lose more points than any other, then that’s the one you should focus on. We have tips and hints for all the IELTS question types and PTE question types, as well as practice exercises and tests, so keep practising, and keep your answers until you improve!
Tip 2: When I see the correct answer, do I realise where I went wrong?
Simply accepting your answer was wrong and moving on will not help you improve. You need to look at the correct answer and consider why your answer was not correct. Did you misunderstand the question? Was there a negative prefix (UNimportant, NONflammable) that meant you misunderstood the question or text? Was there a qualifying word that you overlooked?
Tip 3: Am I taking too long to read the text or questions?
Remember that in most official reading tests, you don’t actually have time to read – you need to be able to skim and scan, and use speed reading techniques to absorb the information as fast as possible. You also need to be disciplined – if you are spending 30 minutes on one text and questions, then you will not have time to complete the other 2 sections accurately, so get in the habit of moving on if you can’t find the answer. It’s better to lose one point on a difficult question than to lose two or more points on easy questions because you ran out of time!
Tip 4: Is it the text or the questions that I am misunderstanding?
Depending on your technique, you might first skim the text then turn to the questions, or start with the questions then turn to the text. When you find an incorrect answer, spend some time considering whether you misunderstood the text or the question, and change the amount of time you spend on each part respectively. For example, if your answer is wrong because you misunderstood the question, then allow a little extra time in the next practice test to read the questions a second or third time before deciding on the answer.
Tip 5: Is it a vocabulary, syntax (sentence order) or another reason why I have not understood?
So you have an incorrect answer because you did not understand a section of text. Now look back at the text and decide why you had problems with it. If it was because of some vocabulary you didn’t understand, then did you apply the skills for unknown vocabulary? If it was the sentence structure – perhaps it was a long, academic sentence – did you break it down into smaller pieces? Turning longer, academic sentences into shorter, simple sentences can often help you understand a lot more clearly. This takes practice, so start doing that from today! Or was there another problem – qualifying words, prefixes or indirect sentences? By spending some time analysing your own errors, you will improve your skills not just for IELTS but for your general level of English.
We hope these tips to improve your English reading help! Now practice them with the reading tests on on the next page.