Category Archives: IELTS Reading (lessons)

5 tips to improve your IELTS reading


5 tips to improve your IELTS reading

Are you taking practice test after practice, but not seeing your score improve? Stuck on the same level with your reading for ages? You’re not alone – this is a very common problem, especially when you are studying on your own without a teacher or other students to help you.

The most important factor in improving your result is to spend a considerable amount of time in reflection, analysing practice tests you have taken to identify where your strengths and weakness are. Here are 5 handy tips for how to improve your IELTS reading result – ask yourself each of these questions at the end of every reading practice test you take and you’ll be on your way to a better score!


Tip 1: Am I making mistakes on the same question type?

For many IELTS candidates, Headings style questions and True / False / Not Given style questions cause the most difficulty. If you find that there is one particular question that is causing you to lose more points than any other, then that’s the one you should focus on. We have tips and hints for all the IELTS question types, as well as practice exercises and tests – keep practising, keep reviewing and if needed, ask question on the comments form at the bottom of each page until you improve!

Tip 2: When I see the correct answer, do I realise where I went wrong?

Simply accepting your answer was wrong and moving on will not help you improve. You need to look at the correct answer and consider why your answer was not correct. Did you misunderstand the question? Was there a negative prefix (UNimportant, NONflammable) that meant you misunderstood the question or text? Was there a qualifying word that you overlooked?


Tip 3: Am I taking too long to read the text or questions?

Remember that in the IELTS reading test, you don’t actually have time to read – you need to be able to skim and scan, and use speed reading techniques to absorb the information as fast as possible.You also need to be disciplined – if you are spending 30 minutes on one text and questions, then you will not have time to complete the other 2 sections accurately, so get in the habit of moving on if you can’t find the answer. It’s better to lose one point on a difficult question than to lose two or more points on easy questions because you ran out of time!

Tip 4: Is it the text or the questions that I am misunderstanding?

Depending on your technique, you might first skim the text then turn to the questions, or start with the questions then turn to the text. When you find an incorrect answer, spend some time considering whether you misunderstood the text or the question, and change the amount of time you spend on each part respectively. For example, if your answer is wrong because you misunderstood the question, then allow a little extra time in the next practice test to read the questions a second or third time before deciding on the answer.

Tip 5: Is it a vocabulary, syntax (sentence order) or another reason why I have not understood?

So you have an incorrect answer because you did not understand a section of text. Now look back at the text and decide why you had problems with it. If it was because of some vocabulary you didn’t understand, then did you apply the skills for unknown vocabulary? If it was the sentence structure – perhaps it was a long, academic sentence – did you break it down into smaller pieces? Turning longer, academic sentences into shorter, simple sentences can often help you understand a lot more clearly. This takes practice, so start doing that from today! Or was there another problem – qualifying words, prefixes or indirect sentences? By spending some time analysing your own errors, you will improve your skills not just for IELTS but for your general level of English.

Parallel expressions in IELTS – examples

Before looking at this page, we recommend looking at the parallel expressions page first.

In the IELTS test (especially in the reading), finding the correct answer often depends on understanding that the same sentence can be written in different ways, using different word groups or even different vocabulary. Take a look a look at the sentences below and try to think of another way the same information could be written.

I know it’s tempting to just click the links in red, but try to think of your own sentence first before seeing the possible answer!

Parallel expressions in IELTS - examplesA The environmental impact of the increasing number of cars on the road is devastating.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above The rise in the volume of cars being used is highly destructive to the environment.

B Without a convenient and economical public transport system, most people will continue to use their cars to get to work.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above The majority of commuters will not abandon their own private vehicle until mass transit options become more flexible and better priced.

C The situation is intensified by the rising number of two-car families.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above The problem has been heightened by the increasing number of households that own two vehicles.

D Car-sharing schemes, where people travel together in one vehicle, have not been particularly successful.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above Reducing the number of single occupant cars have not been a great success.

E Although contaminants in petrol have been reduced, they still pose a significant threat.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above Despite now having lower levels of contamination, petrol is still a notable concern.

F The lack of government legislation to control exhaust fumes, especially from older cars, has exacerbated the problem.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above The problem has been heightened, to a large extent from older vehicles, because there are insufficient laws to govern this.

G In addition to environmental damage, increased air pollution has direct health consequences.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above Airborne pollutants can have a clear impact on health as well as the effect on the environment as a whole.

H Respiratory diseases have increased, especially within inner-city areas.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above Those residing in urban areas are increasingly likely to suffer with breathing related conditions.

I Benzene, a by-product of the combustion of petrol, has been linked to birth defects.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above Complications arising from birth have been connected to benzene, a specific secondary result of burning gas.

J Yet while the car retains its image of freedom and individuality, it is unlikely that people will opt to take the bus.
Could be written as:
Show a possible re-write of the sentence above Public transport will probably not be used commonly until the use of private vehicles is no longer considered to represent a feeling of being unique and allowing people to travel freely.




This is a text completion exercise. Before you begin, we recommend you take a look at the Text completion information page.

The home office

A Can you feel your anxiety and stress levels increasing every time you get caught in a traffic jam? Do you find it difficult to control your tongue when your boss points out your shortcomings yet again? Do you just not have the right kind of office attire, hate spending hours shopping for it and, frankly, would feel much better if you only had more independence, more freedom, more flexible hours and fewer people on your back? Do you yearn for state-of-the-art technology in your home, that … wait for it … you haven’t had to pay for? If you are shouting an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ in answer to these questions, then it could be time to make a career and life change that may not even require you to quit your job. Just suggest to your boss that you wish to become one of the new breed of executives whose office is based at home.

B Working from home is a relatively new phenomenon, but is becoming an increasingly popular option with both businesses and employees. The technology available to us now means that we no longer need to be in the same office building as our colleagues to communicate effectively with each other. E-mail, video conferencing, mobile telephones and more, mean that we can do business just as efficiently, regardless of our location.

C Companies may choose to employ a proportion of their staff as home-based workers, as, of course, a workforce set up in such a way requires far less office space and fewer parking facilities. The fixed costs of a business can be dramatically reduced. Employees can enjoy the added benefits of freedom to schedule the day as they choose and freedom to spend more time at home with their families. Working from home can be a particularly valid option for young mothers who wish to pursue their careers but find it impossible to be out of the house for nine or ten hours per day.

D We can even go so far as to say that the working-from-home phenomenon could be one of the answers to the pollution problems which the modern world has inflicted upon itself. Fewer people travelling to work every day equals fewer cars. Fewer cars, of course, equates to lower CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Governments have been trying for years to change how we commute to work, attempting to persuade us to forsake our private car journey to work each day for the hideous experience of a crowded bus or train. Most of us have been resistant, even when parking fees in city areas have been on the rise and unpredictable traffic patterns mean we have to leave our house 30 minutes earlier than necessary anyway. But working from home gives us no excuse whatsoever to emit CO2 into the atmosphere twice a day in our working week.

E But what are the drawbacks to working from home? There must be some or everybody would be doing it. For many of us, work is a means of escaping our nearest and dearest and making our own mark on the world. The relationships we have with our colleagues, be they good or bad, are a significant part of our life – after all, full-time workers spend a third of their day in their workplace. After-hours pursuits of a game of squash or a pint in the pub become part of our daily routine. We cement sound friendships at work and an astounding percentage of us meet our life partner at our place of work. The people there have similar ambitions and business interests and we are, after all, social animals. The majority of us become depressed and withdrawn if we do not have enough interaction with others. Some people who work from home feel that, because they do spend a large proportion of the day at home alone with few distractions, they are actually much more productive and can get tasks done in a much shorter time than in an office environment. Others, however, may be demotivated by the isolation and find it difficult to get down to tasks which have a more intangible deadline.

F As with most aspects of life, a balance is probably the best solution for the majority of workers – a job based at home which requires regular contact with colleagues at regular meetings. Management surveys show that successful business is easier if we operate as a team: brainstorming and sharing ideas and offering support and motivation to each other. After all, we are only human and we need others to complain to if we have a bad day at work!

Complete the sentences below. Use NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS.

1 Working from home has been made possible by advances in .
Show answer TECHNOLOGY

2 With fewer requirements for space, businesses can reduce their .
Show answer (FIXED) COSTS

3 Despite political pressure, most people have not changed how they to work.
Show answer COMMUTE

4 For some people, working at home can have a negative impact as the can cause them to lose motivation.
Show answer ISOLATION


Complete the summary by using words from the box below.

Technology has allowed us to (5) at home instead of the office. For the company, there are (6) incentives and for the employee there is more (7) . There are even (8) for the environment. However, there is a (9) factor to be considered.

benefits flexibility workplace survive conduct business
release psychological financial friendships environment
Show answerTechnology has allowed us to (5) CONDUCT BUSINESS at home instead of the office. For the company, there are (6) FINANCIAL incentives and for the employee there is more (7) FLEXIBILITY. There are even (8) BENEFITS for the environment. However, there is a (9) PSYCHOLOGICAL factor to be considered.

Show All correct answers


Text completion questions practice

This is a text completion exercise. Before you begin, we recommend you take a look at the Text completion information page.

Read the text below and complete the questions that follow.



Every now and again, amid the doom and gloom of war, violence and poverty, our attention is drawn to the achievements of individuals who have overcome substantial difficulties and serve as an inspiration to us all. One such man is New Zealander Mark Inglis.

Until the 1980s, Mr Inglis worked as a Search and Rescue mountaineer in the Mount Cook National Park. He began his career as a professional climber in 1979 and proved himself courageous and determined even then. However, in November 1982, an event occurred which was to change his life forever. Called out on what first appeared to be a routine rescue operation, Mark Inglis and his partner Philip Doole were caught in a storm near the summit of Mount Cook. For the following 14 days, the two men were trapped by some of the worst weather the mountain has, forcing them to seek shelter in an ice cave which has since become known as ‘Middle Peak Hotel’. Incredibly, as the weather cleared, the two men were found still alive in their cave, but two weeks of freezing conditions had taken their toll. Both men had succumbed to frostbite, and, as Inglis recounts in his book No Mean Feat, they both lost their lower legs.

It is not just as an author that Inglis has managed to carve a new life for himself. Since his time in Middle Peak Hotel, he has graduated from Lincoln University with a first class degree in Biochemistry and has also developed a successful career with Montana wines as a Senior Wine Maker. Montana Wines hails from the Marlborough region of New Zealand, as does Inglis himself, and the brands from the company – including Deutz and Lindauer – have achieved international recognition.

An impressive effort for a double amputee, but nowhere near as impressive as Inglis’s contributions to sport. He remains a keen mountaineer, cyclist and skier, having learned to ski using two prosthetic legs. He has been skiing at an international level since the 1990s and won a silver medal in the one kilometre cycling pursuit race in the Sydney Paralympic Games of 2000. In 2002, Inglis faced his biggest challenge to date as he once again went to the Mount Cook National Park and climbed the very mountain that caused his disability. Not content with this one success, Inglis has since gone on to higher peaks and, in August 2004, Inglis reached the summit of Cho Oyo in the Himalayas, an accomplishment worthy of the title ‘no mean feat’ considering that it is the world’s sixth highest mountain.

With so many achievements in the face of what many would consider to have been overwhelming odds, it is perhaps not surprising that Inglis has also made a name for himself as a motivational speaker. He believes that we can all achieve success with a positive attitude, but perhaps his strongest message is that disability is an inaccurate term for people who simply have, in his own words, ‘different opportunities’. In 2003, Inglis was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to the community. It was in the same year that he travelled around the country with his inspirational roadshow ‘INZONE’, speaking to over 50 000 people with words of encouragement and support.

Inglis’s affiliations to charities and societies are endless. He is the National Ambassador for the CCS, and is also the Ambassador for Outward Bound programmes offered to people with special needs. Inglis also devotes time to the Marlborough First Light Programme, which promotes and funds Outward Bound programmes to local youth.

In addition, Inglis is also involved in Work Choice Day (a programme designed to assist school leavers in making career choices), is a patron of the Cambodia Trust Aotearoa and associated with Back-Up New Zealand. With so many demands on his time, it’s little wonder that he likes to get away to the top of a mountain every now and again.

Now complete the text below using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER FROM THE TEXT

Mark Inglis’s challenges first began back in the 1980s when he climbed Mount Cook on a (1). He and his partner, trapped by bad weather, were forced to spend two weeks in what became known as (2) . This resulted in amputation and, for many people, would have been the end of an active life. But Inglis has gone on to countless other successes. He has (3) from Lincoln University, became a well-known winemaker and has even turned his hand to writing. Perhaps more impressive are Inglis’s achievements in sport; with the help of (4), he has won medals for cycling and skiing and, in (5), actually climbed again the mountain that caused his disability, two years later going on to higher altitudes in (6). For Inglis, there is no disability, only (7), an inspirational message he has shared with thousands of others on his travelling tour of the country under the name of (8). He has become an (9) for two associations, and is affiliated to an international organisation, the (10).

Question 1
Show answer(Routine) rescue operation

Question 2
Show answerMiddle Peak Hotel

Question 3
Show answerGraduated

Question 4
Show answer(Two) prosthetic legs

Question 5
Show answer2002

Question 6
Show answer(The) Himalayas

Question 7
Show answerDifferent opportunities

Question 8
Show answerINZONE

Question 9
Show answerAmbassador

Question 10
Show answerCambodia Trust Aotearoa – the question asked specifically about an international organisation

Show All correct answers

Text completion IELTS reading

Text completion IELTS reading

Text completion questions in IELTS are one of the most common question types. You need to be able to complete either a sentence or a short summary of the text, using either words from the text or words provided in a box.

There are two different types of instruction for text-completion questions.

  • Use words from the text
  • Use words from a box

Here’s a short example:

Text: The importance that used to be attached to ‘working in the city’ is slowly becoming less significant. Apart from a few remaining areas like Wall Street in New York, the actual place where most of the work is completed has little or no impact on whether the work is successful. On occasions when appearance is important, many business people often prefer to meet clients in a more neutral environment such as a restaurant or conference room.

Question 1 (use words from the text)

Complete the sentence below with words taken from the passage. Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS.
a Having an office in the city is _____________________.
Show answer(becoming) less significant

Question 2 (use words from a box)

Complete the sentence below. Choose your answer from the box.




b _____________________ is one of the exceptions to this trend.
Show answerWall Street Here are some points that will help with this question type:

  • The text you are completing will not be in the same order as the reading text. For example, the reading text may start by talking about the history of a company, then move on to discuss their products, whereas the completion passage may ask first about products and then about the history.
  • The most useful skill with these questions is the ability to identify synonyms and parallel expressions – that is, the same information but presented using different words or constructions. For example, the text may say ‘This is now known as…’ but the text completion passage ‘This has more recently been referred to as’.
  • Looking for names of people or places, as well as dates and times, will often help you identify the approximate area for the answer. For example, the text may say ‘New Zealand is considered by many to be an ideal tourist destination’ – in that case, it is worth scanning the text for references to New Zealand.
  • Look closely at the instructions – they could range from USE NO MORE THAN ONE WORD FROM THE BOX to USE NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER FROM THE TEXT. Writing too many words than the limit given will mean your answer is automatically wrong! A useful hint though – if the instructions state ‘WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’, then at least one of the answers will be or contain a number.
  • Once you have found what you think is the answer, read the summary with your answer included and check the grammar – obviously the summary you are completing must be accurate or it isn’t the correct answer!

Now try the practice exercises:


TEXT COMPLETION QUESTIONS: Working from home (reading)



If you have not done so already, you should start by reviewing the video lessons on classifying here.

Now practice with a full length example

Read the text then classify the statements that follow.


National airlines

A national airline is not simply the means by which visitors can travel to a given country, it is often perceived as the flagship of that country. Visitors’ perceptions of an airline and the image it creates reflect upon the image and perceptions of the country itself, and it is in realisation of this that governments often subsidise the airline heavily to help ensure it is considered one of the world’s finest.

In Australia, Qantas has produced images attractive to both Australians and international travellers. A notable Qantas advertising campaign, ‘I still call Australia home’ was successful both domestically and internationally. No doubt Qantas officials and the Australian government were pleased with the image boost given to the airline when Dustin Hoffman, in the blockbuster movie Rain Man reminded the world of the enviable crash record of the company. It was indeed true that Qantas had never lost an aircraft until an incident in Bangkok in 1999, particularly impressive given that it had been operating for over three-quarters of a century without any such incident. The company began life as the ‘Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited’ on 16th November, 1920. The initials soon became a well-known word as Qantas, pronounced ‘kwontus’, went from strength to strength. Following the collapse of Ansett airlines in September 2001, the airline operated what was essentially a monopoly on its domestic routes, until the arrival of Virgin Blue, a UK-based company that began offering cut-price alternatives. Offshore, Qantas continues to operate successfully. It is the second-largest airline operating out of Singapore Airport and has also expanded into the domestic New Zealand market. While Qantas shares have been bought by other airlines, primarily British Airways, the company remains 51% Australian owned.

The achievements of New Zealand’s main airline are no less impressive. Air New Zealand began life in April 1940 with the incorporation of Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), although it was not known by its modern name until 25 years later. At the time of its inception, TEAL was jointly owned by the governments of New Zealand and Australia, and it was not until April 1961 that full ownership was assumed by New Zealand. The company operated trans-Tasman services and routes to Asia, the USA, the UK and Europe. As TEAL became Air New Zealand, they continued to operate international flights while domestic routes were served by the New Zealand National Airways Corporation (NAC) until 1978, when the two companies merged. Privatisation occurred in April 1989, when the company was sold for NZ$660 million. Since March 1999, Air New Zealand has been a member of the Star Alliance Group, which includes Air Canada, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines. It is the largest global alliance in the world, and offers significant loyalty rewards to repeat clientele.

In many ways, British Airways could be considered a relatively new entrant to the field. The contemporary British Airways was established in April 1972 as a result of a government-orchestrated merger of BOAC and BEAC, both former state airlines. The beginnings of international commercial aviation in the UK were heavily focused on long-haul routes to former British Empire destinations including Australasia and the Far East. However, back in 1935 a small, independent airline, also known as British Airways (which would later become part of BOAC before re-emerging under its own name) specialised in flights to and from mainland Europe. The 1990s was a period of rapid global expansion for British Airways. Activities included the establishment of the German carrier Deutsche BA and purchase of shares both in Qantas and US Airways. The star of the British Airways fleet was the Concorde, built and operated in conjunction with Air France from 1975. The Air France Concorde crash in Paris in 2000 contributed to the downfall of the aircraft, which is no longer in operation.


Classify the following statements as referring to:

  2. Air New Zealand (ANZ)
  3. British Airways (BA)

Write the correct letter A-C in boxes 1-10 below.

1. This airline is one of the largest airlines operating out of Singapore.
Show answer A (QANTAS) – ‘Offshore, Qantas continues to operate successfully. It is the second-largest airline operating out of Singapore Airport’. The question referred to ‘one of the largest’, so ‘second-largest’ has the same meaning.

2. This airline owns shares in Australian and American airlines.
Show answer C (British Airways) – ‘The 1990s was a period of rapid global expansion for British Airways… purchase of shares both in Qantas and US Airways.’

3. This airline has the youngest origins of the three.
Show answer C (Air New Zealand) – This is a tricky question, as ‘youngest’ refers to the most recent or newest of the three companies – the text states that BA is ‘a relatively new entrant to the field’, but looking at the dates shows a slightly different answer. ‘Air New Zealand began life in April 1940′, QANTAS started on 16th November, 1920 and British Airways has its roots ‘back in 1935′. 1940 is the newest, hence the answer is ‘C’.

4. This airline had a joint venture with a French airline.
Show answer C (British Airways) ‘The star of the British Airways fleet was the Concorde, built and operated in conjunction with Air France from 1975.’

5. This airline is better known under its acronym.
Show answer A (QANTAS) – ‘The initials soon became a well-known word as Qantas, pronounced ‘kwontus’‘ (an acronym is a word made up from the initials of the complete title, such as NASA)

6. This airline is a member of an international group.
Show answer B (Air New Zealand) – ‘Since March 1999, Air New Zealand has been a member of the Star Alliance Group, which includes Air Canada, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.’

7. This airline is the only one of the three that was not the result of a merger.
Show answer A (QANTAS) – ‘Air New Zealand…continued to operate international flights while domestic routes were served by the New Zealand National Airways Corporation (NAC) until 1978, when the two companies merged’ AND ‘The contemporary British Airways was established in April 1972 as a result of a government-orchestrated merger of BOAC and BEAC’

8. This airline was sold to investors by the government
Show answer B (Air New Zealand) – ‘Privatisation occurred in April 1989, when the company was sold for NZ$660 million.’

9. This airline was promoted by a Hollywood film.
Show answer A (QANTAS) – ‘Dustin Hoffman, in the blockbuster movie Rain Man reminded the world of the enviable crash record of the company.’

10. This airline has other interests in Europe.
Show answer C (British Airways) – ‘Activities included the establishment of the German carrier Deutsche BA’

Ready to try another exercise on classifying? Click here.

Classifying questions in IELTS reading (page 5)

Classifying questions in IELTS reading (page 5)

Go back to page 1 | Go back to page 2 | Go back to page 3 | Go back to page 4


In this final page for these question types, we will review some of the useful tips and hints that can help you achieve a better result.

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Here are some tips for completing matching or classifying questions. Tip 1: it is important to  remember that the category, such as a person’s name, may appear multiple times in the passage. Tip 2: You will need to consider reference words. For example, the first time Scott Bradley is mentioned his name is used, but the second reference may be introduced with ‘He’. Tip 3: You may not use all of the categories and may use others more than once. The instructions will tell you if you can use the same category more than once so you will need to read carefully.

Now try some practice exercises for matching and classifying questions.

Click here for exercise 1

Click here for exercise 2