Category Archives: IELTS Reading (lessons)

qualifying words

Qualifying word in IELTS reading


Qualifying word in IELTS reading

Qualifying word in IELTS reading

By now, you should be familiar with the idea of looking for key words in the question before looking for the answer in both the IELTS reading and listening test. However, a common reason for IELTS candidates to lose points is by not looking closely enough at qualifying words – words that modify the degree or amount of the main verb or noun.

Compare these two sentences:

  1. Every government believes that education is important.
  2. Most governments believe that education is important.

When you are looking for key words, you should have identified ‘government’, ‘important’ and ‘education’.

However, you should also have identified the qualifying words – in sentence 1, the qualifying word is ‘every’. In sentence 2, this has changed to ‘most’.


Now look at the TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN question below.

All governments feel that being educated is significant. 

If you were answering question 1 above (Every government believes that education is important), then the answer would be TRUE. However, if you were answering question 2 (Most governments believe that education is important) then the answer changes to FALSE, because it is not ALL governments, only MOST.

As you can see from the example above, qualifying words are particular important in TRUE, FALSE NOT GIVEN  questions, but they can also be important with other question types.


Here are some more qualifying words that are commonly used in the IELTS test.

  • virtually nil, an insignificant number, negligible, rarely
  • a few, a minority, a small number, occasionally
  • always, everyone, the entirety
  • all but a few, the majority, most, little doubt
  • nil, zero, nobody, absolutely none
  • roughly half, sometimes, neither one way nor the other, no particular emphasis either way

Now practice by reading the short text below and answer the questions that follow.

For most people, traditional forms of culture have little impact on their daily lives. Opera, fine art, classical literature – these are special events, not the common fare of the average household. Popular culture, on the other hand, dominates almost all of our leisure time. We are becoming a nation with very short attention spans, spending most evenings in front of the TV, with very few people making the effort of actually entertaining themselves.


Are the following statements TRUE (T) or FALSE (F)?

1 Traditional culture has no impact on our daily lives.

2 Popular culture dominates all our leisure time. 

3 Only a minority of people make their own entertainment. 
Check all three answers

1. FALSE – the questions says ‘no impact’, but the text says ‘little’

2. FALSE – the question says ‘all our leisure time’ but the text says ‘almost all’

3. TRUE – the question says ‘only a minority’, which is equal to ‘very few’


USEFUL TIP: In the writing test, using qualifying words to make your opinion less dogmatic (strong, or presented as absolutely 100%) can help improve your result. For example:

People on lower incomes never save money. This is too strong

People on lower incomes rarely save money. This is more academic as it allows for exceptions.




Reference words in IELTS reading

Reference words in IELTS reading

What’s wrong with this sentence?

Some people believe that a university education should be available to everyone as a university education will help with employment.

The problem here is that ‘university education’ has been repeated – the sentence would have been better presented using a reference word like this:

Some people believe that a university education should be available to everyone as this will help with employment.

Reference words (words that refer back to a previous word or phrase but without repeating it) are very common in IELTS reading, and can often cause some confusion. An important part of understanding a text is being able to identify the reference words and their relationship to other words, phrases or sentences in the passage.

Test your skills – what do the underlined words refer to? Choose the correct letter A-C.

Reference words in IELTS readingNew Zealand is becoming an increasingly popular destination for overseas visitors. It attracts tourists and people on business, but the vast majority come as students. Mostly from Asian countries, they stay for anything from a few weeks to a few years or more, studying at language schools, colleges and universities. New Zealand can offer good homestay accommodation, a clean and beautiful environment and a reasonable cost of tuition. These factors attract an ever-increasing number of overseas students, accounting for millions of dollars in revenue for New Zealand.

It refers to

(a) overseas

(b) New Zealand

(c) a popular destination

Show answer(B) – New Zealand


They refers to

(a) Asian countries

(b) tourists and business people

(c) students

Show answer(C) – students


These factors refers to

(a) accommodation, environment and reasonable tuition costs

(b) schools, colleges, universities

(c) increasing overseas students

Show answer(A) – accommodation, environment and reasonable tuition costs


Now try using reference words the other way round. What reference word could replace the underlined words?

  1. Professor Edwards has been lecturing for 16 years.
  2. Overseas students often find university courses difficult.
  3. The IELTS test is becoming increasingly popular.
  1. Professor Edwards … Show answerHe
  2. Overseas students … Show answerThey
  3. The IELTS test … Show answerIt


Tip 1: Subject or object reference words

Be careful – reference words can change depending on whether they are the subject or the object of the sentence. For example:

Overseas students often find university courses difficult.

  • They often find university courses difficult.
  • Overseas students often find them difficult.

Mr Smith works with Mr Jones every day.

  • He works with Mr Jones every day.
  • Mr Smith works with him every day.


Tip 2: Singular and plural

When talking generally, you may find that some singular nouns take a plural reference word. For example:

A teacher (singular) should always be prepared. They (plural) should also be punctual.
Tip 3: The dummy subject

Sometimes ‘it’ can appear in a sentence but it is not a true reference word – it doesn’t refer back to anything specific. This is called the dummy subject. For example:

It is commonly accepted that people with a higher education generally work in higher paid jobs.

In the sentence above, ‘it’ does not refer to anything specific, just the general situation.

Practice by reading the sentences below and deciding whether ‘it’ is used as a reference word or a dummy subject.

  1. Look at those clouds. It’s going to rain.
  2. Homework is essential. It allows students to review work they have studied in class.
  3. Admittedly, student depression is hard to investigate as few people are willing to talk openly about it.
  4. It can take up to four years to complete a degree.
  5. Otago is a very popular university. It was the first university in New Zealand.


1.  Show answerThis is a dummy subject

2.  Show answerThis is a reference word

3.  Show answerThis is a reference word

4.  Show answerThis is a dummy subject

5.  Show answerThis is a reference word


Now test yourself. Read the text below and decide what the underlined reference words refer to.

Academic overdrive?

Student life is becoming increasingly difficult. Not only are students expected to perform and compete within the class, but also to devote time and energy to extra-curricular activities as well as struggle with an increasing load of homework. The push to get into the top universities has caused many overachieving students to take on heavier workloads and more challenging classes.

This push, however, doesn’t end once students reach university. In fact, when they reach the top places they have worked so hard to get into, many students are forced to work even harder than they did in high school. Once in the top universities, the pressure is on to secure a place in the top graduate school. But it doesn’t end there. Once students have graduated with the best results, they find that they must continue to overextend themselves in order to secure the top jobs in their particular field. Such is the emphasis on academic success.

There are many who claim that this entire system is wrong because it puts too much emphasis on measuring achievement and not enough on true learning. This in turn has inevitable effects on the students themselves. In such a high-pressure learning environment, those that find the pressure overwhelming have nowhere to turn. In an academic world measured only by academic success, many students begin to feel a low sense of worth, yet they fear to turn to anyone for help as this would be perceived as a signal of failure, an inability to cope with that which other students appear to have no problem. This can be particularly hard for foreign students as they find themselves isolated without familiar cultural or family ties in their new environment and thus they concentrate solely on their work.

Perhaps the main thing to remember is that although it is important to study hard, school life should also be fun.

  1. This push refers to…… Show answerThe push to get into top universities
  2. They refers to…… Show answerOverachieving students (not just ‘students’)
  3. It refers to…… Show answerThe pressure
  4. There refers to…… Show answerAt top universities
  5. This refers to…… Show answerOverachieving / overextending / pressurised (system)
  6. Those refers to…… Show answerStudents who have overextended themselves
  7. This refers to…… Show answerThe situation where students feel depressed, have low self esteem, feel that they cannot talk to anyone

NB: Identifying the meaning of a reference word is not a question you will be directly asked to do in IELTS.

IELTS reading parallel expressions

IELTS reading parallel expressions

One of the skills that you will be tested on in the IELTS test is the ability to identify parallel expressions – that is, two sentences that have the same meaning but are written using a different structure, vocabulary or grammar.

It involves transforming vocabulary into words or phrases which have the same or similar meaning as the original.

This can be done in two ways:

By different word families:

Our cities are becoming increasingly polluted. Pollution is increasing in our cities.

Or with different vocabulary:

Yet the reality is nowhere near as appealing. The truth, however, is far less attractive.


Plocatingractice with parallel expressions

Read the text below and answer the questions.

There is a dark corporate conspiracy at work in the petroleum industry. On television and in the media we are constantly bombarded with images of green trees, promised a fuel that is ’97% cleaner than ever before’ and told we are heading towards ‘a healthier future’. Yet the reality is nowhere near as appealing. Our cities are becoming increasingly polluted as the number of cars continues to rise and petrol emissions show no sign of easing. Much like car manufacturers who market their products under the image of freedom and independence, we are being sold a fantasy which simply does not hold true.

Answer the following questions using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS FROM THE TEXT

1. Who is responsible for the shadowy scheme of selling dreams, not the truth?    Show answerThe petroleum industry. Consider how the language has changed – ‘dark > ‘shadowy’. ‘sold a fantasy’ > ‘selling dreams’, ‘does not hold true’ > ‘not the truth’


2. Who sells their product as a symbol of independence?

Show answerCar manufacturers. This is a little easier as the question uses the word family of one of the words in the question (independent). However, ‘symbol’ has changed to ‘image of”.


3. What images are we constantly bombarded with?

Show answerGreen trees. This should be the easiest of the three answers as you can match complete phrases in the text.

In the IELTS reading test, there are three ways you can find answers to questions:

1. matching exact phrases in the text Question: What images are we constantly bombarded with? Text: we are constantly bombarded with images of
2. scanning for matching words Question: Who sells their product as a symbol of independence? Text: car manufacturers who market their products under the image of freedom and independence
3. looking for parallel expressions Question: Who is responsible for the shadowy scheme of selling dreams, not the truth? Text: a dark corporate conspiracy at work we are being sold a fantasy which simply does not hold true

As with any useful tip or hint, you need to practice by applying these techniques to an authentic IELTS reading test – take a look at our complete practice tests to try out your new skills.

Understand meaning in IELTS reading

Understand meaning in IELTS reading

As you’ve probably experienced, it can sometimes be difficult to understand meaning in IELTS reading, and this can sometimes be caused by indirect sentences, where the meaning is (intentionally) not immediately clear.

Consider this sentence – what does it mean?

Understand meaning in IELTS reading“Public healthcare, on the other hand, has nothing like the resources available to those with private healthcare.”

Public healthcare has

a) more resources than private healthcare

b) very different resources to private healthcare

c) fewer resources than private healthcare

The correct answer is  C. Hopefully the context helped you find the answer, but this is not always the case in the IELTS test, so test you skills with the sentences below:


Which option A-C means the same as the sentence in bold?

  • One thing that isn’t true about X is that the weather is always bad.
    1. The weather in X is never bad.
    2. The weather in X is always bad.
    3. The weather in X is sometimes good.

      Show answer 3

  • Y is a multicultural city. It’s the biggest city in Z. Most people think it’s the capital. This, however, is a common mistake.
    1. Y is the capital.
    2. Y is not the capital.
    3. Y is not the biggest city.

    Show answer 2

  • It’s highly unlikely that the government will reduce taxes.
    1. Taxes are likely to increase.
    2. The government will reduce taxes.
    3. Taxes probably won’t be reduced.

    Show answer 3

  • It’s a popular misconception that chocolate gives you spots.
    1. Spots are caused by eating chocolate.
    2. Most people are unaware that chocolate gives you spots.
    3. Spots are not caused by chocolate.

    Show answer 3

  • The number of private cars on the roads is getting bigger.
    1. There are more cars being driven than before.
    2. More and more private cars are getting bigger.
    3. Bigger roads are becoming more common.

    Show answer 1

  • It’s not unusual for most Japanese to clean themselves before having a bath.
    1. Most Japanese don’t clean themselves before having a bath.
    2. Most Japanese clean themselves before having a bath.
    3. Most Japanese find cleaning themselves before a bath very unusual.

    Show answer 2

  • Dr Johnson is not unlike his brother Dr Kerr.
    1. Dr Johnson looks similar to Dr Kerr.
    2. Dr Johnson doesn’t like Dr Kerr.
    3. Dr Johnson likes Dr Kerr.

    Show answer 1

  • Peter doesn’t think you should think the worst of people.
  1. Peter thinks you should think the best of people.
  2. Peter thinks you should think the worst of people.
  3. Peter doesn’t think about the worst people.

Show answer 1


Using prefixes

Prefixes are also very important when trying to understand more complex sentences. Here are some examples:

  • Miscommunication, even amongst speakers of the same language, can often lead to arguments.
  • Before going to war, governments should carefully consider the possible impact of anti-war protesters.
  • The Olympic Games first began in pre-Christian times, nearly 3000 years ago.
  • After completing university courses, some postgraduates find themselves unable to get a good job.
  • Very few people can maintain a good relationship with their ex-husband or ex-wife


Here are some explanations of common prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example word
Mis- badly or incorrectly Miscommunication
Anti- Opposite, opposed to, against anti-war
Pre- Before pre-Christian
Post- After postgraduates
Ex A state which is no longer true ex-husband
inter- between/among interdepartmental
micro- too small to see with the naked eye microwave
pseudo- false, not true, a pretence pseudoscience
psycho- connected to the mind psychological
quasi- partly, in part quasi-success
eco- connected with the environment ecological
narco- connected with numbness narcotic

 Now try this complete example exercise to practice your skills!

Skimming and scanning in the IELTS test VIDEO LESSON

Skimming and scanning in the IELTS test

Video lesson

Skimming and scanning in the IELTS testThis video will help you improve your skimming and scanning skills for the IELTS reading test.

When watching our learning videos, it’s a good idea to take notes of anything you think that is worth remembering – writing down useful tips is a more effective way of remembering them than just listening, reading or watching!

Video 1 of 1 for skimming and scanning in the IELTS test

See below the video for the narration



One of the biggest problems in the IELTS reading test is time. You have one hour to answer 40 questions, which means that you will have to be able to get the information you need quickly. There are three different skills you will need in the test -skimming, scanning and reading in detail.

Skimming means looking quickly at the passage to get a general idea of what it is about. Scanning means looking at the passage for specific information. Reading in detail requires you to carefully read the section of the passage you are looking for the answer in.

Here are some common situations in which you have probably already used these skills. You might skim a newspaper article to see if you think it is interesting enough to read. If you were looking for a telephone number in a directory, you would scan, looking for the specific information you need. If you are assembling a complicated product, you would need to read the instruction manual carefully to make sure you understand all the details of what you have to do.

Skimming and scanning skills will help you find the right section of the reading passage to answer the question. Most questions will then require you to read the section you have found in detail in order to get the correct answer. You should not try to read the entire passage in detail or you will run out of time.




IELTS reading improving your result

IELTS reading improving your result

IELTS reading improving your resultSo you’ve practiced, you’ve read a lot of different articles and journals, you’ve even taken the IELTS test – often a number of times – and you’re still not getting the result you’re looking for in the IELTS reading test. What’s going wrong?

Here’s a handy 5 point checklist to work through when taking practice tests to help you identify your weakness and strengths.

1. Timing

Did you run out of time and not manage to cover all of the texts? This is one of the most common issues candidates face when taking the IELTS reading test. The key here is to focus on your technique, and keep in mind that 60 minutes to answer 40 questions from three different sections is not long enough to read in a leisurely way. You need to be able to read at speed, even if that means you don’t understand 100% of what you read. Often, answering the questions relies on you being able to identify the area where you can find your answer and doesn’t require you to read everything in depth. Also keep in mind that there may well be one or two questions in each section that are causing problems for you – accept that you may not have time to answer them and move on to the next question.

DO: practice speed reading, skimming and scanning, understand that you will not have time to read leisurely, accept that you may not understand 100% of the text you scan.

DON’T: slowly and carefully read the texts, spend more than 20 minutes on each section, get stuck on a question and spend more than 2 minutes trying to find the answer.

2. Did you answer all of the questions?

Although Point 1 in the checklist advises you to skip questions if you can’t find the answer, that doesn’t mean you should leave the answer blank on your answer sheet. In the final minutes before the end of the reading test, put an answer that (a) seems logical (b) suits the requirements of the question – e.g. if the instructions say NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS, your answer isn’t three words (c) very often is a word or words from the text. Remember that you do not lose points for giving the wrong answer, so there’s no harm in taking an educated guess!

DO: Put an answer for EVERY question

DON’T: leave an answer key blank

3. Is there one particular question type that is causing more difficulty than others?

By looking at your answers, check if there is a particular question type that you seem to make more errors with more often than others. For the majority of people, headings style questions and True, False, Not Given questions are the most complicated and result in the most wrong answers, but check for yourself to find your specific areas of improvement. Then go to that section of our our website, or use any other reliable resource, and make sure you study all the subtle nuances of that question type. For example, did you know that True, False, Not Given questions always come in the order of the text? Knowing some tips and hints for each question type can definitely help.

DO: identify question types that you find difficult, study any tips and hints about those question types, practice them repeatedly

DON’T: keep making the same errors with the same question type!

4. For questions you answer incorrectly, do you understand why the given answers are correct and why your answer was incorrect?

Analysing your own work, focusing on the answers you got wrong, retracing why you put that answer and spending time looking at why the correct answer was correct will help you work a lot faster through the reading test. Taking practice tests is a good plan, but you need to spend at least the same amount of time working through the test after you know the answers.

DO: spend as much time analysing your incorrect answers as you did taking the test, even if that means reading the text repeatedly until you can see the logic of the correct answer.

DON’T: simply move on to a new practice test hoping it will improve – without looking at your own mistakes, your result is likely to stay the same!

5. Skim and scan the text, read the question

Understanding the question is key to getting the correct answer – you need to spend time carefully and closely reading the question. You need to read the question with much more caution than the text in general, so if it helps, carefully mark EVERY word – underlining, circling, scribbling, whatever works for you – all of this helps your brain identify all aspects of the question. Here’s an example using a True, False, Not Given question:

Many people believe that the rail network has been slightly improved.

In order to correctly answer this question, you need to identify the following points:

It’s not EVERY person that has to believe this, it relates to the rail network, it uses to the present perfect passive (has been) so refers to something that started in the past and is continuing now or has a current effect, it refers only to SLIGHT improvement. Missing any one of these points can lead to a wrong answer – so read the question carefully.

DO: Read the question word for word, using your pen or pencil to mark the words you think are relevant

DON’T: skim the question and jump straight to the reading text


We hope the 5 point checklist helps, but we’re always open to new ideas, so if you have a technique you think would benefit other IELTS candidates!

Question types used in IELTS reading

This page is not fully complete and will be added to in the future!

This page provides a quick overview of the question types used in the IELTS reading test and whether they require reading ALL of the text or identifying only the section that will have the answers, as well as which questions will come in the order of the text and which ones can be sprinkled randomly.

  1. True / False / Not Given questions can cover the entire text, but they are in order. That means if you find the answer to Question 1 in Paragraph 2, then the answer to Question 2 must be lower in the text than that (it will NOT be in Paragraph 1, for example).
  2. Headings style questions will cover the whole text, and are randomly spread, The answer to Question 1 could be Paragraph F and the answer to Question 2 could be Paragraph B. However, the same paragraph is only used once.
  3. Summary completion questions generally focus on only one or two paragraphs and will not require you to read the entire text. However, the order of the summary and the order of the text will not be the same. You may find the answer to question 1 in a lower part of the paragraph compared to question 2.
  4. Sentence completion questions generally come in the order of the text, but not always. They also often focus on information given in just one or two paragraphs.
  5. Multiple choice questions come in the order of the text, but the options given for each question may be randomly presented.
  6. Matching and classifying questions do not come in the order of the text, and may require you to look through ALL paragraphs to find the answers.
  7. Table and flowchart completion questions often do not come in the order of the text, but will often focus on only one or two paragraphs.
IELTS reading all question types

IELTS reading all question types

IELTS reading all question types

IELTS reading all question typesThere are 8 common question types in IELTS reading. On this page, you will see an example of each type based on the reading text below.

Important note: the questions used on this page are to demonstrate the types of question used in the IELTS reading test – they are MUCH EASIER than you could expect in the IELTS test.

The IELTS Test

A The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) was launched worldwide in 1989. The tests are produced by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES), and jointly managed by the British Council and IDP Australia. There are over 250 test centres in 105 countries around the world, figures which are increasing almost monthly as the IELTS test continues to become more popular. From 1999 to 2001, the number of candidates sitting the test increased dramatically from just over one hundred thousand to well over two hundred thousand.

B The IELTS has two formats. One is the general test, which is taken mostly by people looking for residency in English speaking countries. The other is the academic test, preferred by nearly 80% of candidates as the results determine whether candidates can join academic courses held in English. Accounting for 13% of these, New Zealand is surpassed only by Great Britain and Australia. Although there is no standardised score for tertiary or high school entry, students looking to join a foundation course at university are often aiming for a score of 5.5, and those looking to complete a postgraduate course of study generally need 6.0 or more. In the USA, for example, over 170 universities accept students with a suitable IELTS score.

C The IELTS test has four sections, testing the fours skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking. The reading test has three passages, totalling between 2,000 and 2,800 words. The texts are taken from magazines, journals, books and newspapers, and are specifically chosen to be of ‘general’ interest. That is, no specialist knowledge is required to understand, although they are aimed at an academic level and require a good standard of vocabulary. There are a number of topics, such as the environment or social issues, around which IELTS readings often revolve. You have one hour to complete the test, which comprises 40 questions based on the reading texts (generally between 12 and 18 questions per text). The questions may come before or after the reading, and you will not necessarily get every type of question. You will not be given additional time to transfer your answers to the answer paper.

D The writing test consists of two parts – Task I and Task II. Again, this section of the test is aimed at an academic level and requires a good standard of vocabulary and is based on the same possible topics as the reading. You have one hour in which to complete both tasks, with the recommendation that you spend 20 minutes writing the 150 words required for Task I and 40 minutes completing the 250-word Task II. In Task I, will have to describe information given in a chart, graph or illustration, and in Task II you will have to give opinions or make recommendations about a topic.

E The listening test has four parts, and takes around thirty minutes. This is the only section of the test in which you are given time to transfer the answers from your question paper to the answer sheet. The format of each part of the listening is different, becoming more difficult as the test progresses. There are a variety of question types, most of which are the same as the reading. Perhaps the most important fact about the listening test is that, apart from the example you are given at the beginning of each part of the test, you will only hear the tape once.

F Finally comes the speaking. There are three parts to the speaking test. In phase one, the examiner will ask a number of questions about you, your family your plans or your background. In phase two, the long turn, you are given a card and have one minute to prepare a talk of up to two minutes. This leads to phase three, where the examiner will ask you extension questions based on what you have said in phase two. In total, the test takes up to 15 minutes. Testing centres differ in when the listening test is held. Sometimes it is before other sections of the test and sometimes a few days or even a week later.

Reading - all types

IELTS reading – all question types

Reading test #1

Tips for the IELTS reading test

Tips for the IELTS reading test

On this page are tips and hints for reading in the IELTS test. If you have a question or a tip that you think would benefit others, let us know using the message form at the bottom of the page.

*Note that there are differences in the first two sections for the General Training and Academic Module test

Transferring answers

Tips for the IELTS reading testA common – and very disappointing – error that occasionally happens in the reading test is that candidates do not transfer their answers to the answer sheet before the end of the 60 minutes given. That means that even if you have all the correct answers written on the question paper, you still get a score of zero. One of the most useful tips for the IELTS reading test is to transfer your answers as soon as you finish each section, and as you get closer to the end of the test, transfer your answers as soon as you have completed them.

The best method for sitting the IELTS reading test

There are a number of different theories about the best way of approaching the IELTS, but in our experience as IELTS trainers, the best approach is not fixed – you need to try a few different methods, find out which works best for you then stick to it. Repetition when preparing for the IELTS test is the most important point, so once you find the technique that suits you, stick to it! Here are some of the common (and effective) techniques – try them all and see which works best for you:

Tips for the IELTS reading test: Technique 1

Skim the text before reading any of the questions, making short notes in the margin of the page identifying what each section or paragraph relates to. Don’t spend too much time reading in detail. Once you have an idea what the text relates to, go to the questions. Focus only on one question type (for example, if questions 1 to 4 are multiple choice and 5 to 7 are short answer questions, focus only on questions 1 to 4). Because you have already skimmed the text, you should know the approximate area in which to find the answers.

POSITIVES: when you are focusing on find answers, you already have a clear idea of what the test is about so it should be easier to locate and confirm your answer.

NEGATIVES: the problem with this technique is time – you may find you are up to 10 minutes into the reading test and still have no answers to any of the questions, and this can sometimes cause candidates to panic and rush their answers.


Tips for the IELTS reading test: Technique 2

Look at the first few questions, identifying keywords and qualifying words and getting a clear idea of what you are required to do (word limit in the answer, for example). Then go to the text for the first time, scanning for something that relates to question.

POSITIVES: you will be answering questions within the first two minutes and don’t need to spend time reading sections of the text that don’t relate to any of the questions.

NEGATIVES: even by the end of the test, you may not have a clear idea of everything in the text – only the sections which relate to the answers.

Writing your answers in CAPITAL LETTERS

Write your answers in CAPITAL LETTERS – that way you won’t risk losing points for punctuation (e.g. ‘LONDON’ is better than  ‘london’) and your writing will be clearer and easier to read.

Start with the passage that interests you most

It’s often better to start with the section of the reading that interests you most – this will then leave you free to focus on the other sections knowing you have already answered 10 or more questions, relieving some of the pressure.

Use the question paper

You can write, underline and make marks on the question paper – this will not be submitted with your answer sheet (although you are required to hand them in at the end of the test). Underlining, making notes or other markings on your question paper can often help you clearly understand the topic presented in the text and can help you pinpoint or double check answers just before the end of the test.

Use titles, heading and subheadings

Most reading sections will have a title and some will also have illustrations and subheadings – make sure to spend some time looking at them as they will often give you a good idea of what the text is referring to.

Don’t get stuck on an answer

With 60 minutes to answer 40 questions, as well as time to skim and scan the text and locate answers, you have approximately one minute to answer each question. If you find you are spending more time than that, make a clear mark on the question paper to indicate that you haven’t answered that particular question then move on to the next question. If there is time later, then you can go back to that question, but spending time on a difficult answer may mean you lose more points on answers which you may have found easier. Remember that it is one point per correct answer, regardless of how difficult or easy you think it may be.

ALWAYS write an answer

You are not penalised in the IELTS test for an incorrect answer in the listening or reading sections, so even if you are not sure or don’t know, always write something, even if it’s just a guess. You might get lucky, and it certainly won’t harm!

We hope these tips for the IELTS reading test have helped, but if you have any other ideas you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you in the comments area below!

Speed reading for IELTS

Speed reading for IELTS

An essential skill to help you read faster in the IELTS reading test

To read faster in the IELTS reading test, you need to increase you speed reading for IELTS. There are a number of points that you need to consider:

1. Keep going!

speed-readingWhen reading, a lot of people stop and go back, reading the same words again. This is often simply a habit and one that does not necessarily help you understand any better. Spend some time reading forward only, even if you feel that you missed something or that you didn’t understand. With practice, you will find that you are spending less time reading the same words twice but can get just as good an understanding of what you are reading.

2. Use ‘chunking’ techniques

When you read, try to focus not on individual words, but on small groups of words (about 3 or 4 words) each time your eyes move. This technique is called ‘chunking’ – looking at a chunk of words at one time. On this page, for example, your eyes should be moving a maximum of 4 times. Here is an example (your eyes should move to each different ‘block’ of text):

This is an example sentence to help you practice your speed reading techniques.

3. Stop reading to yourself

When reading, many people actually ‘say’ the words as they read them. This might be silently or a very quiet mumble, but this slows your reading speed down. Your eyes and brain can absorb information much more quickly that your mouth and brain can form the words.

4. Use a marker

To keep an even pace and to stop your self re-reading words (see point #1), try using a marker to keep you focussed. This can be another piece of paper that you move at a consistent speed, or even something simple like your finger or a pen. The main aim is to keep the marker moving, even though you might want to stop or slow down. When you first try this technique, you may find that you don’t remember anything of what you have read. Keep trying! Remember that you are re-teaching your brain how to read!

5. Read vertically, not horizontally

When reading slowly, it is common in western languages to read from the left to the right. However, when speed reading, you will eventually be able to read straight down the page, with your eyes chunking once to the left and once to the right of the centre as you move your finger, a pen or other marker straight down the page.

6. Be prepared

Before attempting to speed read any text, try to get as much information as you can about what you are reading. Look for a title, any subheadings, images or text captions. Also very quickly scan for any bold, underlined or italicised text. Having some idea of what you are reading will help your reading speed.

7. Practice!

None of the techniques above will work by the end of today. You need to keep practising and using these techniques wherever you can. Newspapers, magazines, textbooks – all of these are good practice material.