How to prepare for IELTS Reading Test

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Understand the objective of testing Reading skills in IELTS

Do you have the ability to comprehend, paraphrase and interpret the information that you read? Do you have the ability to differentiate between necessary and supportive information? Can you skim read the text given to you and scan it for detail? You will have to answer 40 questions in 60 minutes. While doing so, you should be able to understand the overall purpose and opinion of the author, and extract information from the given text to complete notes, diagrams, tables, etc. Reading without comprehension of WHO, WHICH, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW is just reading.You must understand what you read and to understand what you read, you must have answers to these in your mind as you continue reading. So, read articles, journals, newspapers, magazines keeping this in your mind.

How is the Reading Score calculated in the IELTS Reading Test?

Reading score is calculated according to the correct answers. If 50% – 55% of the answers are correct, the band awarded is between 5 and 5.5. So, how do we move beyond a Band of 5.5? In IELTS reading passage, focus on the words that give you answers for WHO, WHICH, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE.

Do Active reading, not Passive.

Active reading happens when you read between the lines – you understand why a point has been given or why an example has been included or what the opinion of the author is. Whereas, in Passive reading, you just read everything without understanding the meaning in reference to context or the objective behind giving a particular detail.

Paraphrase what you read

There are different types of questions in the reading section. They can be answered well if you start paraphrasing what you skim read – this means that you explain it in simple words to yourself. While paraphrasing, you use synonyms and at times you may even change the structure of the sentence.

Hence while paraphrasing, you might find it difficult to replace some words. For this, work on your vocabulary. It is easier when someone gives you a feedback for your paraphrase. The skill of paraphrasing will help you to answer different types of questions such as those in which you are supposed to fill in the blanks or the ones in which the sentence structure is changed in the questions.

So, whether you read a newspaper or an article from any magazine, work on the skill of paraphrasing what you read.

What to paraphrase in IELTS Reading passages?

You get three passages in IELTS Reading and within one hour you are required to answer 40 questions based on these passages. Hence, Time Management plays a crucial role. You should know what to read and how to read to answer the questions correctly.

If you can read faster, you can read the same content twice. This can be achieved only with right practice. Don’t read word by word, instead read groups of words together. Paraphrase impact words, but do not lose track of time.

The first step is to understand that there are different types of passages and different types of questions on those passages. Skim read fast – around 250 words per minute. Always leave around 25 minutes for the last passage. Remember, a question carries only one mark – do not spend too much time to find the answer to each question.

TIPS for understanding different types of IELTS passages to answer questions

Factual passages

These are related to advertisements, official documents, newspapers etc. These facts are not debatable. Read the questions first and focus only on the information required while skim reading. Verify the information by reading the sentence before it and after it.

Descriptive passages

An issue or a particular situation is explained without any subjective opinion. Skim read the complete passage before reading the questions. This type of passages may have facts and figures as a lot of details about the subject described are given. You must verify the facts by matching information while answering the questions.

Argumentative Passages

The author presents his opinion about an issue and expresses his own viewpoint related to that issue. He may have an opinion for or against the issue presented in the passage.

Skim read the passage. Paraphrase the words used by the author to present his opinion about the issue. Identify the words that express an opinion in favour or against the issue.

Analytical Passages

In analytical passages, the author presents an issue and discusses the pros and cons of that issue.

Skim read the passage. Understand the scope of each paragraph separately. Make a note of points in favour and against. Pay attention to what is written before and after the words of contradiction.

Discursive Passages

Discursive passages may present arguments for or against a particular theory.

Skim read the passage. Look for the words of contradiction to understand different opinions and views.

Understand the tone of the author through the words the author uses. The choice of positive, negative or neutral words that a writer uses indicates the writer’s overall tone.

Paraphrase the words in the questions and the matching information in the passage.

Sections in IELTS General Reading

IELTS General Reading consists of three different sections and there are 40 questions based on the passages given in the three sections. The difficulty level increases with each section, so you should keep more time for the last section.

Section 1: It has two or three short texts or several shorter ones on everyday life. Section 2: It has two texts related to the workplace. Section 3: There is one long discursive text. This is the most difficult of all.

Types of passages in IELTS Academic Reading Test

The IELTS Academic Reading test consists of three sections – each section has one text. They are authentic texts and are taken from newspapers, books, journals and magazines. Therefore, if you are in the habit of reading newspapers and magazines, you will be able to comprehend the passages without much difficulty. These texts may also contain non-verbal material such as diagrams and graphs. For such questions, a glossary is provided for technical jargon.

IELTS Reading Practice Test

1. Match the headings

The paragraph is always about one idea. There is a topic sentence for that idea and the other sentences support that topic sentence. The last sentence concludes the idea. For this type of question, first, skim read the paragraph, second, read the headings given and then match the heading with the idea of the paragraph.

IELTS Reading Sample Test

Tiger – 1

2. True, False, Not given’ or ‘Yes, No and Not given’ questions

You are supposed to identify the information given in the passage. For this type of questions, focus on Affirmative and Negative information. When we read about a process or a description of any kind, we find the sentences either in affirmative or in negative. Separate such information under two headings in your mind or on a piece of paper. This helps in answering questions that ask you to tell whether the given statements are “True, False or Not Given.

3. Sentence completion questions

Such questions paraphrase the words and ideas given in the passage. You must read the text that is given before and after the words you identify while scanning the passage for your answer.

4. Notes/ Flow-chart or diagram completion questions

You must highlight different points while reading the passage. You can be asked to complete the flow-chart/ notes or diagram based on the information given in one or two paragraphs of the passage. The information for this type of questions is located in just one or two paragraphs, but the answers do not mostly come in order. Identify the paragraphs where the information is given. You must use the correct form of the word to answer such questions.

5. Multiple choice questions

You must paraphrase the information given in the question. You have to choose the correct answer from three or four options given to you. Hence, if you paraphrase the question and options correctly, you can match quickly.

6. Matching Paragraph information questions

You must remember that all paragraphs may not be used. Therefore, paraphrase the information in the question and scan the passage for the matching paragraph.

7. Summary completion questions

Answers are usually in order. Therefore, scan the passage for the information and choose the right word. Sometimes, the words are given in a box. The word must be grammatically correct – noun, adjective, adverb, etc.

8. Choosing the title question

You can choose the correct answer if you have understood what the passage is about. While skim reading the passage, always conjecture the main idea of the passage.

9. Table completion questions

For this type of questions, you must read the column headings in the table and scan the passage for information. Understand the details and also how many words you can use to complete the table.

10. Short Answer questions

For this type of questions, you must paraphrase the vocabulary used in the question. Answers come in a sequential order. Identify the words from the passage and also the type of words you need – noun, verb, adjective etc.

11. Matching sentence endings questions

In such questions, you have to complete the sentence by matching the two parts of the same sentence. For this, you must read both parts and paraphrase them. The completed sentence should be grammatically correct.

12. List selection questions

Read through the list and scan the passage for information. Read through the questions and identify keywords. Paraphrase and verify the answer from the passage. The answers come in order.

How are these questions assessed? Each question is worth one mark.

Take practice tests on different types of questions to master all.


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Overall, you get 40 questions in the IELTS Reading test.
You will get 1 hour for this test. The IELTS Reading test starts immediately after the IELTS Listening test.
No, you don’t get extra time to transfer your answers to an answer sheet.
You get three passages in the IELTS Academic Reading test and they are longer. They are authentic passages and are taken from books, magazines and newspapers. The last passage is the most difficult. In the IELTS General Reading test, you get three sections with one or two texts in each section. The first section has texts on everyday life. The second has texts on work issues. The last section is the most difficult. It has text on general interest.
No, each question carries 1 mark.
No, there is no negative marking in the IELTS test.
You should use a pencil so that you can change your answer if needed. You must carry an eraser with you.
No, you will not get any sheet to write down your points. You should write your points on the question paper.
Yes, you can underline the main points in the passage.
You will have your Writing, Listening and Reading tests on the same day with no break in between. The IELTS Speaking test will be on a different day.
Yes, it does as sometimes you may have to use a different form of the word in your answer than what is given in the question. For instance, you may have to use a verb for a noun or noun for a verb.
You must not spend more than 35 minutes on the first two passages in the IELTS Academic Reading Test and the first two sections in the IELTS Reading Test. The last passage in the Academic and the last section in the General are the most difficult. You should be left with 25 minutes to attempt these.
No, you will not be awarded marks if the words are wrongly spelt.
Yes, each question is for 1 mark.
The IELTS Reading test has different types of questions. You must practise them all. Read the article on “How to Prepare for IELTS Reading test to know more.
No, it may vary according to the type of question. Take Practice tests to understand which type of questions have information in order.
To get a band score of 6 and above, more than 26 questions should be correctly answered.
You can write your answers in capital or small letters. It will not make any difference.
Focus on important information. Don’t read word by word. Read groups of words together – phrases/ clauses.
Take as many IELTS Reading Practice tests as possible.