What Is The Format Of The IELTS Test Reading Section?
The reading section lasts for 60 minutes in both the general and academic versions of the exam.
This section has 40 questions that are intended to test a wide variety of reading skills. These skills include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognizing a writer’s opinion, attitude and purpose.
There are three long texts, ranging from descriptive and factual to discursive and analytical. The readings originate from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. You do not need to be a specialist in the subject to understand a reading, but you do need a well-developed academic vocabulary. One text is going to contain a detailed argument on a topic.
The task types make use of a variety of question types such as multiple choice, identifying information, identifying the writer’s views and claims, information matching, matching headings to paragraphs, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion and short-answer questions. There are a lot of different kinds of questions and you better become familiar with them all.
You transfer your answers to an answer sheet during the test. This is important to remember: no extra time is allowed for transfer. Each question is 1 mark.
IELTS General Training
This version of IELTS follows the same format as the academic version, but the readings are taken from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. The vocabulary is less demanding, and the items are things you would encounter daily in an English-speaking environment.
Tips You Should Know Before Taking The IELTS Test
Use your time wisely!
Start with the easiest part
Don’t waste time trying to figure out difficult questions. If you spend a lot of time on difficult questions, you’ll be wasting valuable exams. Answer all easier questions first and leave the hard ones for the end.
This way you won’t have to think about the rest of the questions you might have the answer to, while trying to answer the difficult ones. Think time saving always!
However, be careful of what might seem easy to you. Do not get tricked by your own knowledge on a specific topic. Remember to always answer based on the information that are given to you by the document the exam is providing.
The examinator do not ask you to make the list about everything you know on fitness or agriculture for example, do not drift away from what is asked (even if you don’t have the answer, because it really won’t serve your cause to try to distract him).
Analyze the questions
Don’t start reading the text before looking at the tasks, otherwise you will have to come back to the text once again to find the answers to the questions. When you start reading, you should have some questions in mind. This is when the connexion between what is asked and what you just read happens, this is a big time saver! Read the tasks and questions first before you read, and think about the information that you must find to answer the question.
This way you won’t lose your precious time and you will be able to work properly and be organized.
Also, you might want to practice your casual reading, not the exam one, which means trying to read a bit of everything, on a daily basis. This might sound useless, but you will find it quite useful when reading becomes natural to you. This way you will have less trouble analyzing your exam text because it will be just another reading (with a bit more attention and reflexion needed of course).
Practice tests with mock exams
Practice doing lots of reading tests, so you become familiar with the task types, questions formats and wording of the questions. Use different methods to practice, and start practicing months in advance to have the time to cover every section and module. Start by training yourself in an easy way, without pressuring yourself.
For example, you can start without setting any timer or you can put the listening material on pause from time to time to make sure you understand everything.
Once you feel comfortable, you can slowly increase the level by removing the breaks, working under exam conditions, and so on until you feel fully ready to take the real test.
Read the instructions
Read the task carefully. Make sure you read the instructions and the examples carefully. Lots of people write four words when the instructions say three words, for example. It is really easy to get confused when the candidate reads the instructions too quickly, especially if you are under a lot of stress.
Breathe, focus and make sure what you are about to answer corresponds to what is asked of you.
It is easier to recommend not stressing during the test but difficult to aply. First of all, make sure to fully prepare yourself in advance with books, online courses, podcasts, videos, IELTS Listening exercises, mock exams… Whatever you need : you can never train too much. Make sure you practice under exam conditions so you’re not surprised when the big day comes.
Obviously, make sure you are not just on time for the exam, but in advance. No need to add more stress to the whole situation by arriving late. Then apply all the tips above, they will help you remain organized, focused and save time.
Of course you might find that some questions are hard, do them at the end, when your mind is clear and the rest of the questions are answered. Take your time, you will be fine.
Common Question Types You Need To Know And Suggestions
The IELTS Reading test questions are related to pretty common topics such as animal science, environmental science, global politics, health and fitness, psychology, tourism, trade and commerce, biology, engineering, inventions and discoveries, information communication technology or agriculture.
Just make sure you familiarize yourself with these subjects so you don’t feel lost when reading passages. Obviously you are not required to be an engineering or global politics specialist but you will need to understand what the document is all about to be able to find the answers to the questions within the text.
True/false/not given: True and false are self-explanatory. Not given means that the article did not mention the information.
Matching tasks: Consider all the options for each question. Don’t cross out something too quickly. Often one option may fit in two or three places, but it fits in one place best, so you need to be careful and go through everything.
Gap filling tasks: Watch the word limit. Don’t go over the word limit for each gap. You will win the point if you do go over the word limit.
Some other suggestions
Vocabulary: Find the Academic Word List and the Academic Vocabulary List. Go through them and see which words you don’t know and then learn them. Read academic stuff and get familiar with the phrasing used.
Skimming and scanning: Learn how to skim and scan well. They are great time savers and allow you to find information quickly and effectively.
Read faster: It sounds silly, but a lot of people plod through a text. Push yourself to read faster. Find articles of similar length and time yourself.
Study all other 3 sections: Do not hesitate to refer to our IELTS Speaking Tips article and IELTS Writing tips to pratice the test.
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Well, there are corrected exercises to help you know where you are going wrong, and what you need to do to improve, and we use progress tracking that uses statistics to show you how you are doing; this is great for your motivation and planning.
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