Matching heading is a challenging task in the IELTS reading section for many reasons. Not having enough time to read the whole passage is just one of the issues. In our experience, we have come across some common problems faced repeatedly by our students.

They are some of the below:

  • Not having enough time to read the whole passage
  • Locating keywords in the question and mapping them to the passages
  • Not understanding paraphrasing
  • Not following the instructions properly

If you feel that any of the above problems apply to you then this article will help you find solutions to them.

1. How to Find Enough Time to Read the Passages in IELTS reading?

Each passage will have 2 or 3 tasks mapped to them, read the questions before you begin reading the passages. If the tasks include matching heading type then you have to make notes next to the passages. The notes you make while skimming through the passages should describe to you very quickly what the passages contain.


For example, take a look at these passages and the notes below:

Inside a simple computer simulation, a group of self-driving cars are performing a crazy-looking manoeuvre on a four-lane virtual highway. Half are trying to move from the right-hand lanes just as the other half try to merge from the left. It seems like just the sort of tricky thing that might flummox a robot vehicle, but they manage it with precision.

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A. Scenes from a Robot Conference

This is at the biggest artificial-intelligence conference of the year, held in Barcelona in December. What’s most amazing is that the software governing the cars’ behaviour wasn’t programmed in the conventional sense at all. It learned how to merge, slickly and safely, simply by practising.

During training, the control software performed the manoeuvre over and over, altering its instructions a little with each attempt. Most of the time the merging happened way too slowly and cars interfered with each other. But whenever the merge went smoothly, the system would learn to favour the behaviour that led up to it.

B. How Machines are Learning

This approach, known as reinforcement learning, is largely how AlphaGo, a computer developed by a subsidiary of Alphabet called DeepMind, mastered the impossibly complex board game Go and beat one of the best human players in the world in a high-profile match last year. Now reinforcement learning may soon inject greater intelligence into much more than games.

In addition to improving self-driving cars, the technology can get a robot to grasp objects it has never seen before, and it can figure out the optimal configuration for the equipment in a data centre.

C. The Applications of AI

Making these notes should help you limit your scanning to the most relevant passages while trying to match the content to the heading.

2. How do I know that I’ve Picked the Right Option?

There are generally more options to choose from than the passages. Which means that if there are 6 passages in the section, you may have 8 headings to choose from. Having more options is definitely more confusing. Some headings are quite similar to each other as well. Consider the below example and answer options:


That view changed dramatically in March 2016, however. That’s when AlphaGo, a program trained using reinforcement learning, destroyed one of the best Go players of all time, South Korea’s Lee Sedol. The feat was astonishing because it is virtually impossible to build a good Go-playing program with conventional programming.

Not only is the game extremely complex, but even accomplished Go players may struggle to say why certain moves are good or bad, so the principles of the game are difficult to write into code. Most AI researchers had expected that it would take a decade for a computer to play the game as well as an expert human.

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3. How to Select the Best Option?

Well we have two options below and you need to select the correct one, which might seem easy but essentially you need to understand the passage in the IELTS reading section before you do this.

  • Option 1 – The leap of AI into complex problem solving
  • Options 2 – Man vs machines

Both these options may describe the passage but one is more accurate than the other. The IELTS reading passage is essentially describing the leap of AI into problem-solving while using the example of a machine’s performance against man. So, although option 2 is close, option 1 summarizes the content of the paragraph. So in this case, option 1 is the correct answer.

4. How do I Map Keywords and Understand Paraphrasing?

In the test, there will be more options than the right answers as mentioned before. Some but not all answers will have keywords to help you out. The keywords could be exactly the same as the paragraph or it could be a synonym for the keyword, or the whole sentence may be paraphrased. Let’s look at an example here.


There were few successes over the next few decades. In 1992, Gerald Tesauro, a researcher at IBM, demonstrated a program that used the technique to play backgammon. It became skilled enough to rival the best human players, a landmark achievement in AI. But reinforcement learning proved difficult to scale to more complex problems. “People thought it was a cool idea that didn’t really work,” says David Silver, a researcher at DeepMind in the U.K. and a leading proponent of reinforcement learning today.

Answer option – Landmark in AI development

The above-underlined sentence is the phrase that is the same in meaning to the answer option. It also shares a keyword called Landmark. It is essential to underline these in the answers and hunt for these in the paragraphs that contain the information. You earlier made notes should come in handy. Needless to say, a good vocabulary is imperative.

5. The Instructions are Confusing

For matching heading, the general format is – Each paragraph will have an alphabet before or after it which is what you need to write against the heading number. Here’s an example-


  1. That view changed dramatically in March 2016, however. That’s when AlphaGo, a program trained using reinforcement learning, destroyed one of the best Go players of all time, South…
  2. This is at the biggest artificial-intelligence conference of the year, held in Barcelona in December…
  3. This approach, known as reinforcement learning, is largely how AlphaGo, a computer developed…

6. Match the Headings (questions 15-21)

  • How reinforcement learning works – B
  • The probable applications of AI- C
  • Scenes from the biggest artificial-intelligence conference -A

The above example shows you that the right way to follow the instructions is to write the correct alphabet against the question number in the answer sheet.


Hopefully, this article helped enriched with important notes will help you understand how to solve matching heading type questions in IELTS reading. Feel free to contact us, we always look forward to comments and inputs.

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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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