IELTS Reading Tips


IELTS Reading seems difficult, but with proper tips and techniques, IELTS Reading becomes easy. Most students don’t know how to approach Reading and that makes it difficult. I have prepared a list of 7 tips. Follow the tips below and improve your Reading skills.

1. Don’t read; Skim, Skim and Skim  

IELTS reading texts are long. You have only 20 minutes for each text. Check the instructions carefully. In all reading tasks, it is always useful to skim the passage first to form some overall impression and purpose of the article. When you skim, CIRCLE important words, and do not worry about the difficult words you don’t know. For Reading passages, don’t waste time reading and enjoying the passage.  The main theme of the paragraph is upon the first sentence of paragraphs. It will save time if you can jump straight to
the paragraph, so try to remember the first sentences. Example: If The first paragraph is about poets; the second is about poetry. If a question asks about poetry, the answer is in The second paragraph.    

2. Don’t understand; Scan, Scan and Scan

Simply scan the passage to get a rough idea of what it is about. You will return to the passage for each question, so there is no need to memorize it. Only spend as much time scanning as is necessary to get a vague impression of its overall subject content. To find the answers to some questions, you have to scan by looking for words or ideas that are connected to the question. 

For Example: 

Which of the following was the psychological effect of the teacher’s childhood upon the rest of his life? 
Key words are ‘childhood‘ or ‘psychology‘.

Skim the passage quickly to find where these words appear. The answer will be close to them. If you cannot find the keywords, be alert for other words or phrases that have similar meanings, such as ’emotional impact’ or ‘mentally’ which could be used in the passage, rather than the exact word ‘psychology’.3. Don’t be confused by MCQs, find relevance In a block of short-answer questions you will find that the answers occur in the text in the same order as the questions, i.e. you will find the answer to question 1 first and so on. Remember that when you move to another block of questions you may have to start reading from the beginning of the text. To make an MCQ guess, scientific-sounding answers are better than slang ones.    In the answer choices below, choice B is much less scientific and is incorrect, while choice A is a scientific analytical choice and is correct.

a. To compare the outcomes of the two different kinds of treatment.
b. Because some subjects insisted on getting one or the other of the treatments.

Multiple-choice questions by giving you incorrect answer choices which are:

a. not mentioned at all in the text.
b. mentioned but are irrelevant.
c. the opposite of something mentioned
d. one that is mentioned and is correct

Look through the questions, underline keywords from the question, and then scan the text for those keywords that you have underlined. The answer should be found close to that word. The answers will be found in the text in the same order as the questions. Remember that there will be synonyms used in the reading. Thus identify the relevant part of the text. Read it carefully and work ‘backward: crossing out the options that are definitely not correct. 

4. Don’t be emotional; Find facts

Let’s say, you are doing True, False, Not Given questions. You cannot answer this type of question unless you find facts. Your answer must not be based on supposition, emotions but only on facts. The facts must come from the text in the case of fact and opinion. You need to understand the difference between ‘Fact’ and ‘Opinion’. Often a factual statement may be set out as a research finding.    Example:  ‘The scientist found that the eye reacts quickly to change in light.’  Opinions may be set out in the context of words like ‘thought’, ‘believed’, ‘understood’, or ‘wished’.    Example:  ‘He thought their team should win the World Series.’  Facts are always based on certain evidence and numerical information.    True/False-Scenario  If the statement clearly appears in the text, it is true. For example: if the text says:  “Smoking is dangerous and can
lead to cancer”. 
  If the text clearly says that “smoking is dangerous and leads to cancer” False-Scenario: then the answer is T (TRUE).  If the text clearly says the opposite of statement – it is False or if the text provides information which conflicts with the statement.

Then choose ‘False’. For example, if the text says that  “No research showed evidence that smoking is dangerous and leads to cancer”  then the answer is F (FALSE). Look out for controlling words such as “only”, “all’, “never” etc. For example, if the fact in the question says ‘some’ and the fact in the text says ‘all’, then it is F.

Not Given-Scenario If you didn’t find the statement to be True or False – it is Not Given.  For example, if the text says  “The research included smoking people of both genders of ages 30 to 45″  and nothing else about smoking – your answer is NG (NOT GIVEN). If the text mentions the exact idea, check the meaning of the whole sentence carefully. It might be a distracter. Check that the precise idea in each statement is mentioned in the text. If the text doesn’t mention the idea or actually mentions something slightly different, choose ‘NOT GIVEN’.

Don’t assume anything based on your knowledge and experience, skim the text! It is the oldest trick in IELTS. Don’t “overthink” your answer or you could start building long logical sequences that will take you to the wrong answer or at least waste your time. In True, False, Not Given, you may think that a question is true but you MUST FIND FACTS/ EVIDENCE in the passage if you cannot, the answer is most like to be NOT GIVEN. For an answer to be FALSE, the statement must mean the opposite of what is said in the passage. In True, False, Not Given, all the statements follow the order of information in the text. It is best to start with statement 1. Do not spend a long time looking for the answer to one question; it is probably NG, if you cannot find it.

In View-based questions that ask you ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Make sure you use the correct code; ‘Yes’, ‘No’ rather than ‘True’ or ‘False’. If you write TRUE/FALSE, your answers will be technically wrong. If you are running out of time or you don’t understand any question, All you have to do is put “TRUE” for all questions, normally they are 6 questions in which 3 out of 6 are going to be correct. Means 50% is going to be right. 

5. Don’t skim headings first; skim the paragraph first  

Look at the first paragraph. Often only the topic sentence (Usually the first/last sentence) needs to be read carefully because the main idea and answer are there – you may be able to just skim the rest. Sometimes, however, the answer is not in the topic sentence and the whole paragraph needs to be read more carefully. If a match is not immediately obvious, move on to the next one. If you are unsure between two answers at first, put them both in. You may be able to eliminate one answer later if it fits another paragraph better. Do the easiest ones first. Once you’ve chosen a heading, cross it out. If you’re left with one or two paragraphs and you’re really not sure what the answer is, take your best guess. Don’t leave any answers blank. The most common topics in Reading Test are Technology, Natural World, health, and Consumerism.

Watch out for synonyms – often words in the paragraphs and paragraph headings will not be the same; they will be synonyms. A paragraph heading is a summary of part or all of the paragraphs. The idea in the text is often expressed differently in the heading. So pay careful attention to

1. Text: likely, Heading: probable).
2. Text: not fast. Heading: slow.
3. Text: cows, Heading: animals.
4. Text: dangerous, Heading: danger).

6. Don’t attempt summary completion question; read the instructions first

A summary may refer to all of the text or just part of it. Summary often tests your ability to find factual information. There are two types of the summary tasks. In one, you complete a summary using words from the text, given in a box. In the other, you find words in the text. Approach both in the same way. Analyze the notes/ summary to see what part of speech is required. Identify the part of the text, which is relevant to each note. Look for the words similar. Check the number of words required. Never exceed the word limit. Use the words exactly as they appear in the passage. Skim the text quickly to get a general idea of it. You will lose marks if you use more than three words or spell the words incorrectly.

Look at the notes/ summary and decide what kind of information is missing. When you do a summary completion task, check to see whether the word you have used fits grammatically and semantically (by meaning) well in place. Use the correct part of speech. If the word doesn’t grammatically or semantically fit, the answer is certainly wrong.    For example, if you say,  ‘Most people ___their teeth only once a day’,  Most possible word here is VERB and not a NOUN or ADJECTIVE because others will be grammatically and semantically out of place.    

7. Don’t hurry, Manage Time  

Forty questions and sixty minutes, so spend 1-2 minutes for Skimming and 1 minute for Scanning for answers and 1-2 minutes for transferring the answers. Wear a watch to the IELTS Test. At the beginning of the test, check the time (or start a chronometer on your watch to count the minutes), and check the time after each passage or every few questions to make sure you are “on schedule.”   Always write one word if they ask for one and write two or three words if they ask for two or three.

If you are having difficulty with a multiple-choice question, go on to the next one. When you have answered the next questions, you can come back and solve that cause you difficulty. If any question takes you too much time – give up, move to the next one because you might miss the easy ones if the hard ones take all of your time. Another reason to leave hard questions for last is that after you do all the easy ones, you know more about the text, so solving the tricky questions becomes easier. Don’t forget to mark it with some sign (like “?”), so you could identify and come back to it later.

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