On this page are tips and hints for reading in the IELTS test. If you have a question or a tip that you think would benefit others, let us know using the message form at the bottom of the page.
*Note that there are differences in the first two sections for the General Training and Academic Module test
A common – and very disappointing – error that occasionally happens in the reading test is that candidates do not transfer their answers to the answer sheet before the end of the 60 minutes given. That means that even if you have all the correct answers written on the question paper, you still get a score of zero. One of the most useful tips for the IELTS reading test is to transfer your answers as soon as you finish each section, and as you get closer to the end of the test, transfer your answers as soon as you have completed them.
The best method for sitting the IELTS reading test
There are a number of different theories about the best way of approaching the IELTS, but in our experience as IELTS trainers, the best approach is not fixed – you need to try a few different methods, find out which works best for you then stick to it. Repetition when preparing for the IELTS test is the most important point, so once you find the technique that suits you, stick to it! Here are some of the common (and effective) techniques – try them all and see which works best for you:
Tips for the IELTS reading test: Technique 1
Skim the text before reading any of the questions, making short notes in the margin of the page identifying what each section or paragraph relates to. Don’t spend too much time reading in detail. Once you have an idea what the text relates to, go to the questions. Focus only on one question type (for example, if questions 1 to 4 are multiple choice and 5 to 7 are short answer questions, focus only on questions 1 to 4). Because you have already skimmed the text, you should know the approximate area in which to find the answers.
POSITIVES: when you are focusing on find answers, you already have a clear idea of what the test is about so it should be easier to locate and confirm your answer.
NEGATIVES: the problem with this technique is time – you may find you are up to 10 minutes into the reading test and still have no answers to any of the questions, and this can sometimes cause candidates to panic and rush their answers.
Tips for the IELTS reading test: Technique 2
Look at the first few questions, identifying keywords and qualifying words and getting a clear idea of what you are required to do (word limit in the answer, for example). Then go to the text for the first time, scanning for something that relates to question.
POSITIVES: you will be answering questions within the first two minutes and don’t need to spend time reading sections of the text that don’t relate to any of the questions.
NEGATIVES: even by the end of the test, you may not have a clear idea of everything in the text – only the sections which relate to the answers.
Writing your answers in CAPITAL LETTERS
Write your answers in CAPITAL LETTERS – that way you won’t risk losing points for punctuation (e.g. ‘LONDON’ is better than ‘london’) and your writing will be clearer and easier to read.
Start with the passage that interests you most
It’s often better to start with the section of the reading that interests you most – this will then leave you free to focus on the other sections knowing you have already answered 10 or more questions, relieving some of the pressure.
Use the question paper
You can write, underline and make marks on the question paper – this will not be submitted with your answer sheet (although you are required to hand them in at the end of the test). Underlining, making notes or other markings on your question paper can often help you clearly understand the topic presented in the text and can help you pinpoint or double check answers just before the end of the test.
Use titles, heading and subheadings
Most reading sections will have a title and some will also have illustrations and subheadings – make sure to spend some time looking at them as they will often give you a good idea of what the text is referring to.
Don’t get stuck on an answer
With 60 minutes to answer 40 questions, as well as time to skim and scan the text and locate answers, you have approximately one minute to answer each question. If you find you are spending more time than that, make a clear mark on the question paper to indicate that you haven’t answered that particular question then move on to the next question. If there is time later, then you can go back to that question, but spending time on a difficult answer may mean you lose more points on answers which you may have found easier. Remember that it is one point per correct answer, regardless of how difficult or easy you think it may be.
ALWAYS write an answer
You are not penalised in the IELTS test for an incorrect answer in the listening or reading sections, so even if you are not sure or don’t know, always write something, even if it’s just a guess. You might get lucky, and it certainly won’t harm!
We hope these tips for the IELTS reading test have helped, but if you have any other ideas you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you in the comments area below!