Question type 6 of 9: Short answer questions in IELTS reading

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Question type 6 of 9: Short answer questions in IELTS readingQuestion type 6 of 9: Short answer questions in IELTS reading. On this page, we will look at the sixth of the 9 types of question used in the IELTS reading test – finding a short answer to a question.

What do I have to do for Short answer questions in IELTS reading?

Hopefully this is obvious, but… you need to find words from the reading passage to answer a short answer. Here’s an example:

Answer the questions below using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 18–19 on your answer sheet.

18. Who was responsible for the study?

19. Which department was responsible for presenting the results?

What is this question type testing my ability to do?

Short answer questions are designed to locate and understand specific information in the reading passage.


What are the best steps for answering Short answer questions in IELTS reading?

There are 5 steps that we recommend following for this question type:

Step 1 – Read: Read the question carefully so you know what you are looking for. Pay special attention to any question words used (who, what, where, when etc).

Step 2 – Keywords: Identify the keywords in the question that will help you locate the relevant area of the reading passage.

Step 3 – Scan: Use your keywords to scan the reading text to find the relevant section.

Step 4 – Details: Once you’ve found the section you think contains the answer, read that section carefully.

Step 5 – Confirm: Once you have found the answer you think is correct, read the question then the answer to make sure they logically fit. For example, if the question was “What was used to create the shelter? and the answer you found was ‘Wooden’, then reading the question then the answer should tell you that this is incorrect – you need a noun (e.g. Wood).

What useful tips are there for this question type?

  • TIP 1: If the instructions state ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’, at least one of the answers is a number
  • TIP 2: Going over the word limit means your answer is instantly wrong
  • TIP 3: The word or words you use MUST come from the reading passage.
  • TIP 4: Wrong spelling means your answer is instantly wrong
  • Tip 5: The answer come in the order of the text. If the answer to question 1 is in the second paragraph, there’s no point in looking for the answer to question 2 in the first paragraph.
  • Tip 6: If time is running out and you don’t know, take a guess. You are not penalised with negative points for a wrong answer.

What are the common errors with this question type?

One of the most common errors with this question type is writing more words than the limit allows. Another common error is using a word that is not in the reading passage. Remember that the exact word must be there. – writing ‘Wooden’ when the text says ‘Made from wood’ is incorrect.

Now practice!

Click the link in the table below to test your skills with short answer questions in IELTS reading


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