IELTS Reading Tips

Posted by on July 10, 2013

The IELTS Exam is complicated enough as it is, so having a handful of ideas about how to best approach the test will help you do your best. This is important because a lot of test-takers get really nervous before the exam and so have a hard time concentrating during the exam. By using the following suggestions given by IELTS you will understand what is expected of you during the reading exam, how you are graded and how to use the reading and questions to your advantage.

First, it's critical for you to remember that in order for your test to be scored you have to write your answers on the answer sheet. The question paper is not checked or graded so if you mark answers on the question paper they MUST be transfered to the answer sheet. You will not be given time at the end of the test to do this so make sure you either do it in phases or save time at the end of the exam to transfer your answers.

Second, you must use a pencil on IELTS Reading answer sheet - no exceptions.


Use these tips to make the most of your Reading Exam:

  1. look out for the title, headings and any special features such as capital letters, underlining, italics, figures, graphs and tables. These key features will help you understand the passage at a glance as well as give you a reference point for finding your answers or double checking them.
  2. make sure that you understand the questions and follow instructions carefully. This is so important! Read instructions and questions carefully. This is not the time to skim.
  3. pay attention to timing; do not spend too long on one passage or question. You only have a limited time so don't make the fatal mistake of running out before you've had the opportunity to look at and answer all the questions.
  4. do not try and read every word; remember, you are reading for a purpose. This will partly depend on your own skill or ability but if you read every word for 100% understanding you will run out of time!
  5. if you do not know the answer to a question, attempt it but do not waste time; move quickly onto the next one. Hopefully you're starting to see that TIME is a real issue.A blank answer and a wrong answer are scored the same. So if you don't know it - make a guess and then if you have extra time at the end you can come back to the question and try again.
  6. do not panic if you do not know anything about the subject of the text; all the answers can be found in the text. It might actually be better for you because you will have to rely completely on the text on not on your pre-knowledge of the material.
  7. the word(s) you use must be taken from the Reading text; you must not change the form of the word(s) in the text. This is important. I've seen a lot of students make this mistake but you have to use the words from the actual text and not some fancy synonym of your own.
  8. do not worry if there is a word that you do not understand – you may not need to use it. Don't let one word in the text cause you to stop and worry about it. Time is of the essence so use what you know about the context of the passage to understand the sentence and move on.
  9. check your spelling. A wrongly spelled word is a wrong answer on the score card to do it right the first time.
  10. be careful to use singular and plural correctly. This also is a common mistake we see in all areas of the test. Agreement is very important so make sure you are using the right pronouns and verbs in your answers.
  11. focus precisely on what you are asked to do in ‘completion’ type questions. Don't be to wordy - get to the point and move on.
  12. if the question asks you to complete the note ‘in the…’ and the correct answer is ‘evening’, just use ‘evening’ as your answer; note that ‘in the evening’ would be incorrect.  This also is critical. Only answer with the required word or information and use the words from the text to do it. 
  13. pay attention to the word limit; for example, if you are asked to complete a sentence using no more than two words, if the correct answer is ‘silk shirt’, the answer ‘shirt made of silk’ would be incorrect. Similar to some of the earlier suggestions but do what your told in the instruction and nothing more.
  14. attempt all questions; there are no penalties for incorrect answers, so you have nothing to lose.  If the question is empty is wrong so attempt an answer and maybe luck will be on your side.
  15. check your answers. Move quickly through the test so you have time at the end to double check any answers you felt unsure about.


We hope these suggestions and tips help. If you need a more guided approach to preparing for the IELTS you should check out our highly rated IELTS course taught by our director, Ryan Vars who has been trained by Cambridge to prepare students for the IELTS exam.


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