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IELTS Reading Tips & Strategies

Source: Rachel Mitchell



1. Reading a lot (no shortcut). You will only be able to improve your reading skill with time and practice. Doing more reading about subjects that you are interested in.
2. Reading a lot of IELTS passages in the Cambridge books.
3. Analyzing each passage carefully, finding the ‘keywords’, understanding each passage, and finding the correct answer to each question.
4. Analyzing your mistakes and the correct answers.



Here is a list of IELTS reading strategies:
1. Because the time for IELTS reading test is limited, you don’t spend too much time reading the whole text. Do not read word for word everything you see. You don’t have to understand everything.
2. Just go straight to read the questions first, and then read the passage.
3. Use skills such as skimming and scanning to quickly read for the main idea or look for keywords or look for specific detail like numbers, names or dates.
4. There are three passages in the IELTS test. The first passage is the easiest, then the second passage and then the third passage. Since the first passage is easier, it’s a good idea to spend less time on this one.
5. Don’t waste time on difficult questions. Do easier sections first, and do difficult sections later.
6. Read all instructions carefully. Especially for questions which require you to answer in NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER .
7. Most of the answers to questions are in the correct order in the passage, so you don’t need to go back to the beginning to find the next
8. Search for and underline the “keywords” . Usually, some of words in the questions have the same meaning to words in the passage. For example, if the passage includes the words “towns and cities “, “elderly people” , the question might use the words “urban”, “senior citizens” . Therefore, you will probably find the answer if you find the similar words.
9. Circling transitional words and phrases when you look for details such as “in contrast”, “however” in order to ensure that these words and phrases work as a sign that important information may appear before or after them.
10. Predict the correct answer.
11. Find the right part of the passage quickly. Read that part carefully. Read the sentences before and after the keywords that you have found to look for the correct answer.
12. IELTS is very big on paraphrasing and using a range of different language for the same meaning. Therefore, when you look at questions or statements, you do need to think about possible paraphrases. That will help you identify where the answer is and to actually get the right answer.
13. Common traps: one of the common traps you need to know is COMPARISONS . If you see a comparative sentence in the question “more or less than”, make sure you also find a comparison in the passage to find the correct answer.
14. Also look for these types of words: if they say “all” and the question says “some” , that’s not a match. Likewise, if they say “the majority” and the question says “some” , that’s also not a match. This is really testing your ability to understand the exact difference and the exact meaning of words.
15. Don’t “over-think” the answer. Many students get the wrong answer simply because they think too hard about small differences in meaning.
16. Time management: you will have 60 minutes for the reading test with 40 questions in total. Therefore, you need to manage your time wisely.
17. Transfer your answers from the question sheet to your answer sheet carefully. When you transfer your answers to the answer sheet, don’t get your answers mixed up spelling and grammar or you will lose points here. Don’t be in a hurry. Be careful to check and doublecheck. If your writing is unclear, your answer will be marked wrong.



Matching Headings: you are asked to select headings of paragraphs and match them to the relevant paragraphs from a text. Matching headings is often one of the most difficult question types for Students. Why? The main reason is that the headings are usually very similar to each other. Also, you have more headings than you need for the question.

Matching Headings Tips:
Do this type of question first if it is on the test. By doing this, you will have a chance to get the general meaning of the text as a whole. This will help you with the rest of the questions that require you to take a more detailed look at the text.
2. Check how many questions you need to answer.
3. Do not use any answer more than once.
4. Do not need to read the whole text.
5. Read the headings first and think about the topic of the text. Then, read the first, second and last sentences of the paragraph to understand the general meaning of the paragraph.
6. Identify and underline keywords within each heading.
7. Try to look for synonyms or other words that have a similar meaning to words or phrases in the headings so you can rule out the correct answer.

Matching Information to Paragraphs: you will be asked to match statements in a list to corresponding paragraphs in the reading text. The match information task has been designed to test your ability to find specific information in the passage of text. In other words, this task focuses on your ability to locate specific information. You might be asked to find specific details, for example, a reason, a description, a comparison, a summary, a fact, or an explanation.

Matching Information Tips:
Do this type of question last. You will be able to look for the correct information and the right answers more quickly and easily if you do other questions first since you were familiar with the passage.
2. Read the title of the passage.
3. Read the instructions carefully.
4. Look for and underline keywords, and highlight the kinds of information you need to find for each statement given such as a definition, a number, a name, an example or a description.
5. Use paraphrasing skill to look for words that have similar meaning. Take notes for synonym or antonyms. This will help you identify the correct answer.
6. All paragraphs contain an answer and some paragraphs contain more than one answer. Therefore, you may use any letter more than once. That means you might find the answer to different questions in the same paragraph.
7. The questions are not in the same order as the information in the passage.

Multiple-Choice Questions: one question is given to you followed by four or five choices in which you have to choose the best one which will fit your answer.

Multiple-Choice Tips:
Read the instructions carefully, skim all the questions briefly to get an idea of the topics for which you will be searching when reading the text.
2. Try to predict the right answer before you read the text.
3. In multiple choice questions, remember to use the keywords in the question to help you find the right part of the text. Read that part again and consider all the options one by one.
4. Match the keywords in the question to their associated paragraph in the text. You need to know where to read to find the correct answer.
5. Locate the particular section of the paragraph in which the important information is located to find the answer.
6. You don’t need to read the entire text from beginning to end because the questions follow the same order as the paragraphs.
7. The keyword you see in the question may not be written exactly the same as it is in the paragraph.
8. Only read the particular section of the paragraph which directly relates back to the question after you match the keyword or the synonym from the question to the corresponding paragraph.

Summary Completion: you will be given a summary of information from the text and there will be some gaps in that summary. You will either be given a list of words to fill the gaps with or asked to find the answers in the reading text. Your job is to insert some of the words from the list into the gaps; or if you are asked to fill the gaps with words from the text, there will be more words in the list that are required to fill the gaps. All of the information contained in the summary will also be contained in the reading text but they will use synonyms and paraphrasing . Therefore, don’t expect to see the same words. The summary may relate to the whole passage or only a part of it and the text of the summary will follow the order of the text of the passage.

Summary Completion Tips:
Read the instructions to the questions very carefully.
2. Skim through the summary. Ignoring the blanks to understand its general meaning.
3. Predict the right answers before looking at the options.
4. Don’t waste time looking at parts of the passage that are not included in the summary.
5. You need to focus on keywords before and after the blank.
6. Check with the passage. You can use your keyword strategy to identify the correct part of the passage but remember you are looking for synonyms.
7. Check to see if your word is grammatical. Think about nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.
8. The answers are mostly in order. Sometimes they’ll all be in order; but once in a while, there will be an answer that comes before another answer. However, don’t worry about this because the keywords are specific and easy to find.

Completion Tasks: These tasks are note completion, flowchart completion, sentence completion, table completion, and summary completion tasks.

Completion Tasks Tips:
Here are some basic tips that you need to learn to deal with this type of question excellently:
1. There will be a words limit, so please read the instructions carefully and see the words limit that you need to write in order to fill in the gaps. There will be usually NO MORE THAN ONE WORDS, TWO WORDS or THREE WORDS , so underline this and remember while you fill in the exercise.
2. Secondly, usually for most tasks in IELTS reading, the questions in the tasks and the gaps are followed in the same order as they will appear in the text. However, please remember and keep in mind that when you see a completion task, the questions and the gaps will not necessarily follow the order that they will be shown in the text.
3. You should copy the words that you find in the text exactly the same way in order to fill in the gaps. Hence, they have to both fit grammatically and syntactically.
4. Try to predict what kind of words are missing, for example, a noun, a verb, an adjective or an adverb. The words before and after the gap help you understand what is missing.
5. You should underline key words that precede gaps. These keywords are going to guide you through the text in order to find where the correct answer is located. You should be careful of paraphrasing.
6. In IELTS, you should always concentrate on meanings, not on words. That is always helpful to be good at skimming and scanning techniques.

Classification Type: you need to classify the information you read in the passage. In other words, you need to sort statements or features into different categories. There are always 3 categories and these categories are of the same type. You are also given several numbered statements or features. Each category is given a letter. So on your answer sheet, you need to write a letter, A, B, or C.

Classification Tips:
Always be sure to read the instructions first.
2. Skim the reading text to get its general meaning.
3. Search for and underline the “keywords” in the statements. Usually, some of words in the questions have the same meaning to words in the passage. You will probably find the answer if you find the similar words.
4. It is important to note that, in classification tasks, the questions will not be in the same order as you read them in the passage. Therefore, it’s a good idea to circle information that you’ll need later.
5. Some letters, or categories may be used more than once while some letters may not be used at all.
6. Always give an answer even if you are unsure. You won’t lose marks if the answer is wrong and you may just get it right.

Matching Sentence Endings: you are going to be given a list of incomplete sentences and another list with possible endings. Your job is to choose the correct ending for each sentence based on the reading text. This means you will have to choose their ending correctly based on a number of options. All options are going to have similar meanings, so this is what makes this task rather challenging. However, the good news is that the sentences in the task will appear in the order that they will appear in the text; so you will know where to find each piece of information that each sentence conveys while you scan through the text.

Matching Sentence Tips:
Read the sentences and underline keywords. Especially those phrases that are hard to be paraphrased. These underlined words and phrases will help you and guide you to find the answer in the text through scanning.
2. When highlighting keywords, it is often a good idea to highlight any names including place names or dates. These are often easy to find in the reading text.
3. Read the incomplete sentences first and try to predict how each sentence will end before you look at the endings or the text.
4. Go to the text and scan the text in order to locate where this piece of information that the sentence states.
5. Read the piece of information that you found in the text. It may be a whole paragraph, so you need to read this piece of information carefully and then choose the right option.
6. Make sure that the option that you have chosen fits the first half of the sentence not only in grammar and syntax but also in the meaning that the sentence tries to express.
7. The answers are in the same order in a text as they are in the questions.

Yes, No, Not Given Questions: the YES, NO, NOT GIVEN questions are all about the writer’s opinion. It’s not about the facts but about what the writer thinks. If the answer is YES , it means that the statement in the question agrees with the claims of the writer. If the answer is NO , it means the statement is opposite; it contradicts the claims of the writer. NOT GIVEN means it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about.

Yes, No, Not Given Tips:
Ignore anything you already know about the topic and don’t make assumptions. Based your answers on the text only.
2. Identify any words that qualify the statement. For example, some, all, mainly, often, always and occasionally . These words are there to test if you have read the whole statement because they can change the meaning. Be careful.
3. When you see verbs that qualify statements such as know, suggest, claim, and believe . For example, “the woman claimed she was a doctor” and “the women is a doctor” mean they are different.
4. Don’t skim and scan the text. To find the correct answer, you will have to read the appropriate part of the text very carefully in order to understand what the writer means.
5. Don’t look for words that exactly match those in the statements. Instead, you should look for synonyms.
6. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, then it is probably NOT GIVEN. Don’t waste time looking for something that is not there.
7. Answers are in the same order they appear in the text. Do not waste time going back.

True, False, Not Given Questions: you will be given a number of factual statements and you have to check in the text if they are true, false or not given. The TRUE, FALSE, NOT GIVEN questions are all about factual information in the passage. It’s not about opinions; it’s about fact . TRUE means that the statement in the question agrees with the information in the passage. FALSE means the statement in the question contradicts the information in the Passage (“contradicts” means it’s the opposite meaning) . NOT GIVEN means there is no information on this. This task is used to assess the candidate’s ability to find the particular information found in the passage.

True, False, Not Given Tips:
Read the instructions carefully and make sure you know if it is a true/ false/ not given question.
2. Read all the statements carefully. Trying to understand what the whole sentence means rather than simply highlighting keywords.
3. You need to find the right part of the text before you can answer the question. Remember that the questions follow the text.
4. Finding key ideas in the text.
5. Look for expressions of uncertainty . Look for modal verbs like could, might, or must . Look for expressions which indicate uncertainty, such as suggest, think, claim, believe, and know. For example, it is thought that or many scientists believe that.
6. If you can’t find the answer or if you are really unsure, mark it as NOT GIVEN and move on to the next question.
7. If the question in the reading test is TRUE, FALSE, NOT GIVEN , you must remember to write TRUE or FALSE or NOT GIVEN on your answer sheet; you can’t write YES or NO. That means if the answer is TRUE and you write YES , the answer will be marked wrong.
8. You can write a letter instead of a word for your answer. That means if your answer is TRUE, you can write only T . It still means true and IELTS will give you a correct answer for that one point.

Short Answer Questions: where you have to give a very short answer with a maximum of three words or a number. 

Short Answer Questions Tips:
You don’t have to read every word of the text. The questions test your ability to skim and scan for specific information, so you won’t have time to read every word.
2. The answers appear in the same order of the text.
3. Skim and scan the passage quickly and understand the overall meaning.
4. Look at and understand the questions first before you start reading the text.
5. Make sure you don’t go over the word limit as stated above the answers.
6. Don’t give your opinion, just the answer in the text.
7. Read the instructions carefully and note the word limit.
8. Read and understand the questions. Think about the information you will need to find.
9. Underline any keywords in the questions. Think about synonyms or paraphrases for these keywords.
10. Read the section containing the answer carefully and identify the right answer.