IELTS Reading: Study Guide, Information & Tips

IELTS Reading test is all about variety. You will find a myriad of questions assessing different skills. Now, you must be thinking...

Indulekha Prabha Written by Indulekha Prabha · 4 min read >
IELTS reading: Study Guide, Information & Tips

IELTS Reading test is all about variety. You will find a myriad of questions assessing different skills. Now, you must be thinking about how to prepare for an exam, that is so greatly variegated. Fear not. We are here with everything you need to know about the IELTS Reading test.

IELTS Reading Format

The Reading section consists of 40 questions, designed to test a wide range of reading skills. These include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.

You will find extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment.

There are three sections:

  • Section 1 may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts. This is called ‘social survival’ and contains texts relevant to basic linguistic survival in English with tasks mainly about retrieving and providing general factual information, for example, notices, advertisements and timetables.
  • Section 2 comprises two texts and is about ‘Workplace survival’. This focuses on the workplace context, for example, job descriptions, contracts and staff development and training materials.
  • In Section 3, there is one long text. This is the ‘general reading’ section that involves reading more extended prose with a more complex structure. Here, the emphasis is on descriptive and instructive rather than argumentative texts, in a general context relevant to the wide range of test takers involved, for example, newspapers, magazines and fictional and non-fictional book extracts.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When you are learning, it is natural that you will be committing mistakes. But it is necessary that you work on your mistakes so that they are never repeated. By “mistakes” we do not only mean spelling or grammar error, there are also methods and tactics which are wrong and you must remember to avoid them. Let us have a look at the mistakes you must avoid:

1. Reading the entire passage

The IELTS reading test consists of three passages of approximately 500-700 words and 13-14 questions each, all in a span of 60 minutes! Now, if you were to read each of these passages, word for word, you’d spend nearly 30 minutes. So how much time are you left with to answer 40 questions in all? Do the math.

Therefore it is better to skim through the passage. Here’s how to do that: 

  • Read the title and the first paragraph. 
  • Then, start reading the first sentence of subsequent paragraphs to understand.
  • Finally read the last two sentences of the concluding paragraph of the passage. 

This should give you an idea of what is being spoken about, in the entire passage, without you having to actually read it!

2. Starting with the questions

Some students, in order to save time, start answering questions directly. Well, this is as bad as reading the entire passage. Of course you might save time, but, quite possibly your answers could be wrong! Especially answers to questions like the ones shown below.

3. Ignoring the instructions

If the question reads: “Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS”, you would rather do just that. Any more than two words and you defeat the very purpose of the question which is to test your vocabulary and paraphrasing ability.

4. Not being familiar with the question types

If you’re not familiar with the types of questions asked in the reading test of IELTS, you might spend a few valuable minutes of your test duration, just to understand them well. If you wish to save those minutes, you must go through the practice papers available online.

5. Not managing time

Completing your reading test within 60 minutes is fairly difficult. If you do not manage your time well, you make it simply impossible. Answer the questions that require less brainstorming before the complex ones. Eliminate options from multiple choice questions before you actually search for the answer. For example: A question about the sun, has options like “Hot”, “Blue”, “Cold”, and “Yellow”; you know the sun is neither “Blue”, nor “Cold”. The answer could be either “Hot” or “Yellow” based on the information provided.

Challenging Question Types:

IELTS reading section comprises of eleven types of questions. Each of them, assess a particular skill set. While some questions are fairly straight forward, others may seem rather challenging. We think the following types of questions require special attention while you prepare:

  • Identifying Writer’s Claims/Views

       These check your ability to identify the ideas and opinions of the writer

  • Matching Information.

        Questions like these are used to see how well you can scan a text to find specific information.

  • Matching Headings.

These check how skilfully you can recognise the main idea or theme of a particular paragraph.

  • Matching Features.

       These assess your ability to determine relationships and connections between facts.

  • Sentence Completion.

Here you are assessed for your ability to locate specific information from the passage and the ability to paraphrase.

  • Summary, Note, Table, Flowchart Completion

       This type of question checks your ability to identify the main idea of the passage and the type of words that fits into the gap.

  • Diagram Label Completion

They check your skill to relate the information in the text to the labels in the diagram

  • Short-Answer Questions

This type of questions assesses how well you understand and locate the information given in the passage.

Study Guide for IELTS Reading

It must be evident by now that IELTS is a very detailed and technical system. Therefore in order to achieve a good score you must have a proper study plan. Look at ours to have an idea:

1. Know your weaknesses

It will be impossible for you to progress if you do not know what your weaknesses are, in the first place. Take help from a personal mentor who can give you regular feedback son your progress.

2. Practice reading fast.

Remember it is a 60 minutes test and you have to read the text and answer 40 questions. If you are a slow reader, speed up. 

3. Develop the skills of each type of question.

Eleven types of questions assess eleven types of skills. While you practice make sure you develop all the skills that are necessary to answer those questions.

4. Focus on developing your vocabulary.

In many ways, the reading test is more of a vocabulary test than a reading test. They will use synonyms and paraphrase sentences to test how wide your vocabulary is. To prepare for this you must read, note, and review.

5. Develop a reading routine. 

Reading routine is a technique where you read in moderation, about 2000 words every day. Time them and make a 30 days Reading plan. 

6. Comprehension is as important as speed.

When you read articles as part of daily reading, write or narrate a summary of the article with your study partner. Evaluate whether you are comprehend the information correctly.

7. Read relevant articles for practice, not everything you get your hand at.

You must take relevant articles from your trainer. Reading Indian newspapers or a random book won’t help.

Recommended Reading

Conclusion

As the saying goes “There is no short-cut to success”, topping IELTS also need plenty of hard work. You must know how you will be tested, what skills you need to develop and have a solid progressive plan. You should also consider getting a personal mentor who can guide you, give you feedbacks and help you achieve a high band score. 

Written by Indulekha Prabha
My name is Indulekha Prabha. I am an English teacher and a content writer by profession. When I'm not working you can find me writing fiction, reading poetry and painting. Profile

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