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IELTS Reading Test: Top Tips

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GENERAL ADVICE

1. Read the instructions carefully. Pay attention to how many words and/or numbers you can include in your answer and don’t forget to look at the examples given.

2. Write your answers on the separate answer sheet as you go through the test. Remember! There is no extra time to transfer them at the end.

3. Write clearly and check your spelling, even if you are copying words from the text. Misspelt words will be marked as INCORRECT.

4. Don’t waste time worrying about how to write numbers, times and dates. There is a lot of flexibility with these answers and they can be written in many different ways, using words or numbers. For example if the answer is 20th May, it could also be written as 20 May / May 20 / 20-05 / 05-20 / 5/20 or 20/5. It’s quicker to use numbers!

5. Don’t worry about using correct punctuation. This is NOT tested in the IELTS reading test so it doesn’t matter if you use UPPER or lower case or a combination of both for any of your answers. Compound nouns can also be written as one word, two words, or hyphenated (sun glasses / sunglasses / sun-glasses).


TECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES

6. Read each text quickly to get the overall idea of the topic/content and purpose of the text. This is called ‘skim reading’. Don’t waste time trying to understand every word and don’t forget to look at the title, sub-headings and any pictures for extra clues about the content of the text.

7. While you’re ‘skimming’ the text for general comprehension, underline key words in the text (names, places, dates etc) so that you can refer back to them easily when you’re answering the questions.

8. Keep a check on the time (20 minutes for each text). If you get stuck on a question, move on! Don’t waste time worrying. You can come back to some questions later if you have spare time at the end.

9. Vary the way you approach the reading test. You can read the questions before you read the text or read the text first. But make sure you practise different strategies before the real test so that you know which one works best for you!

10. Base your answers on the text only. You do not need any specialist knowledge so you shouldn’t try to invent answers based on what you already know about the topic.

SPECIFIC QUESTION TYPES

11. With ‘multiple-choice’ questions try to predict the answer first and then eliminate illogical options. Ask yourself if the information given in the options is mentioned in the text, is it relevant to the text, is it true? If you’re really not sure, take a guess!

12. When matching statements to paragraphs you need to skim and scan the text. Read the first (topic) sentence of each paragraph. Look for synonyms and paraphrasing. In matching ‘sentence halves’ there are more parts than you need, so read the relevant section in detail.

13. With ‘yes, no, not given’ questions you are looking for the writer’s ideas. There are distractors, so read in detail and check the text carefully for ‘evidence’. If the same idea is presented in the text (most likely expressed using synonyms), you know the answer is true. If the opposite idea is stated then the answer is false and if you can’t find any clear mention of the idea in the text, choose ‘not given’.

14. In ‘sentence completion’ questions, the answers come in order of the text. Look at words before and after gaps for linguistic and logical context. The sentence has to be grammatically correct so think about what kind of word you need (adjective/verb/noun/adverb). For example, if there is an article before the gap (a/an/the), you know you need to put a noun.

15. Always mark an answer rather than leave it blank, especially if it’s a multiple choice question. Even if you have to guess the answer, there’s a good chance that your guess could be right!

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Danica - The Philippines

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