You are not alone if you are appearing for the IELTS more than once. Trust us, we know how many cases of second attempts become a part of our student base every year. The reading section can wrongfully be interpreted as easy by some, given that most of us would’ve had exposure to the language through books. We do, after all, have the second largest English-speaking population in the whole world.
To get a two-band jump, we need a healthy combination of practice and knowledge. Below we list down things that will get you at least a 2-band jump, if done religiously, in the IELTS reading section.
1. Develop a daily reading routine
a. Things to read
As tempted as we are to tell you to read any genre you like, we cannot. Forthe techniques you have to practice for the reading section of IELTS, fiction or entertainment doesn’t work well. The most common articles that you canexpect and should practice reading are articles from academic journals, magazines, books and newspapers. The topics can be on anything related to science, nature, technology and development, history or eminent innovations. Hunt for articles that are more than 500 words to practice reading at length.
List of magazines you can buy or find online –
b. Improving your reading speed
Speed is one extremely important skill in reading that is not given enough attention. The sooner you understand the idea of a passage, the faster you can answer questions. Learn the art of skimming by picking up words that matter in a sentence. For example, in the sentence – ‘The sooner you understand the idea of a passage, the faster you can answer’ The words in bold will more or less tell you the essence of the sentence. Try reading every fifth word to see how if it helps you speed up.
Also,if you read each word with the voice in your head, it will slow you down immensely. Stop the voice in your head to get faster. In the reading test don’t try to deeply understand the meaning of each sentence. Just scan for words that strike you and move on.
c. Using Annotations
Make notes next to paragraphs that you feel are important. This is called annotating. Annotating will help you quickly find the right passage to read for a specific answer. It will almost be like your personal index. Don’t spend more than 3-4 minutes reading and annotating paragraphs. Practice giving the right comments or subheadings next to the right paragraph. For example – A paragraph comparing a previous innovation to a current one can be called a comparison paragraph. Annotating it as such should help you find it faster.
2. Learn to divide your time
40 questions in 60 minutes. If you are any good at math, you know this means that for each question you get 1.5 minutes to write down the correct answer. Include in this the time needed to read 1500 words on 3 different topics.
If you have given the IELTS before, you already know it is very hard to focus every single minute in the test. So, how do you squeeze the most out of 60 minutes?
Here’s how you should broadly divide your time- 5 minutes for reading all the questions,10-minutes for reading, scanning and annotating the passage and 5 minutes for writing and cross checking your answer. This gives you 20 minutes for each passage. This strategy only works well if you time yourself. And to answer your question of what to read first – Always read the questions first.
3. Recognize different types of questions
Here is a list of possible questions and ways how you can tackle all those questions easily.
a. Table completion – A grid of information where certain pieces will be missing. You will have to find the missing information in the sequence that is present in the table.
b. True, false, not given type – These questions look innocent but can leave you scratching your head as you try to understand what’s not given and what is false. There will be an option that will clearly contradict some given piece of information and one where information will be completely absent. Finding the true answers are fairly easy.
c. Flow-chart completion – There will be a flow chart presenting information to you in a sequential manner. You have to correctly identify the piece of information that will complete the sequence.
d. Short-answer questions – In this question, it is crucial to read the word limit and stick to it. Expect that you will have to paraphrase the answer with the help of a good vocabulary.
e. Diagram label completion – In these questions you will be shown a diagram with supporting text to help you find labels to the said diagram. Do not panic if the diagram looks fairly complicated, it is the text that will allow you to find all the answers easily.
f. Multiple choice questions – This type of question requires extra care when being answered as the options presented can be very close to one another. Generally, there will be subtle differences in the options making it difficult for the candidate to pin point the correct one, take a moment before marking the answer.
g. Matching information questions – Here you will find paragraphs labelled numerically or alphabetically. The task is to find the sentence that correctly summarizes, describes or explains the paragraph or information in the paragraph. The correct answer will be the label of the paragraph not the text of it. So make sure your answers are a,b,c,d, or 1,2,3,4.
h. Matching headings questions – As the title says, here you have to match the most appropriate heading to the main idea of each paragraph. This exercise probably requires more practice than the others as you will have to read each paragraph to be able to understand the main idea behind it. Annotation come to your rescue here. Use it well.
i. Matching features questions – You will generally find information that requires you to match a name with a piece of information. If you are aiming for a high score, learn to look at the names first and then find information associated with them. For example: if the question is asking you who the professor of a certain discipline is, look for the name of the discipline in the article to be able to answer quickly.
j. Sentence completion type – You might believe this to be an easy one but the trick here is to be able paraphrase. If the correct answer is more than the word limit given in the instructions then you need to fill it with a grammatically correct answer.
4. Look for patterns and keywords
Answers in the reading tasks will be sequential. Which means that you only have to read forward after finding each answer. Apart from knowing this, it is also important to underline keywords. While reading the questions and passages, don’t hold back from marking it with a pencil. Once you have read the questions, you will know how to find the right answer in the passage with the help of keywords that you underline.
5. Hone your English language skills
a. Build a vocabulary by reading as much as possible and keeping a dictionary with you at all times.
b. Work on your grammar as a correct answer put in the wrong way will cost you points. For example –Swedish households contribute to the process of recycling and reuse by ……………………. their waste. The correct answer is ‘separating’ but the passage could have ‘separate’ as the word. In this case, it’s essential to know the difference between present continuous tense and simple present tense and which to use when in a sentence.
c. Paraphrasing means saying the same thing but with different words. In IELTS this will be a common task. This is essential when you have to write an answer within the word limit provided. For example – You can……………….(see samples) of specimen butterfly craft before ordering. The original passage could have been – ‘you can take a look at the samples of specimen butterfly craft before ordering.’ If the word limit is not more than 2, then the answer needs to be paraphrased to fit the word count.
6. Practice moving on when you get stuck
Remember the time limit, you only get a few seconds per question. It is very easy to get nervous and focus too hard on answering every question. This can drastically affect your overall score. If you find yourself spending more than a minute for answering a question, just move on. It’s the best strategy to not lose marks further. If you build a solid time strategy, you will be able to come back to try and answer the unanswered questions. Even better is the fact that there is no negative marking in the test so don’t leave any blanks. Fill in the best option as per your logic.
7. Practice with exam like conditions
Set a timer, sit alone and dedicate 60 minutes to the section. Answering each question type again and again will help you build confidence. You will also not be taken by surprise if you try all kinds of different questions listed above. Make sure you develop specific skills for each question type. And don’t forget that we have a great compilation of practice tests for IELTS on all skills and sections which you can try from here.
8. Spend time on analysis
Once you are done with your paper, compare how much of your strategy you were able to use. Knowing what works for you can give you that essential 2 band jump needed. Everyone has strengths and weakness. A deep analysis of your own paper will reveal to you areas that need more focus. This will help you feel more confident going into the examination hall.
9. Some important questions to ask yourself while practicing
So when you follow a schedule to improve yourself at one skill, you might have to practice a lot but it does not mean to do it rigorously. And in order to help you understand better you can look at the below question that might help you find solution as to why your practice might not yield perfect results.
- Why am I getting the answer wrong?
- Why couldn’t I locate the answer?
- How can I understand the questions faster?
- How do I manage time better?
- How can I paraphrase to make my answers grammatically correct answer?
10. Identify the purpose of the test
Understand that the idea of a reading comprehension test is to understand the depth of your vocabulary, your ability to grasp concepts and paraphrase. If you work around the test while keeping this in mind, it will lead to a 2-band jump for sure.
Reading section might seem easy or tough to some, but at the end it depends on how you practice and with the help of these IELTS reading tips, I am sure you will find it feasible to score a better band now.