Lesson 2 of 11
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Introduction to the reading test

In this lesson, we look at what you need to know about the reading test.

About the Reading Test

  • Time: 1 hour
  • Questions: 40 questions (in 3 sections)
  • Each question is worth 1 mark
  • You don’t get negative marks for incorrect answers
  • You can write in capital letters
  • You don’t have extra time to transfer answers to the answer sheet
  •  There is a different Reading test for the General and Academic IELTS test

9 Tips

When you open the reading paper:

  1. Glance at the questions (see what kind of questions you have)
  2. Skim read the passage (highlight/underline names, dates, names of theories, locations, etc. Also, make a note what is in each paragraph)
  3. Tackle the questions (underline words in the text and read for detail)

For most question types, the answers come in order. If you can’t find the answer, skip the question and return later. Remember, the reading test is a race against time: you can’t afford to spend too much time on one question. 

We’ll be covering all the question types in this course.

  1. Read the questions first
  2. Don’t try to understand everything
  3. Don’t subvocalise (unless reading for detail)
  4. Don’t re-read sentences (unless reading for detail)
  5. Do a lot of practice tests

Instead of spending 20 minutes on each section, try this time arrangement: 

Section 1: 15 minutes

Section 2: 20 minutes

Section 3: 25 minutes

Some people even do Section 3 first as it is usually the most difficult. 

Many students lose marks because they make spelling mistakes. If you are doing the computer based IELTS test, you can copy and paste the answers to avoid spelling mistakes.

Consider leaving the Multiple Choice and True/ False/ Not Given questions till last. You have a higher chance of guessing these ones correct.

Most of the students that have got band 7+ in IELTS Reading are the ones that have done a lot of practice tests. I have spoken to many students that have done over 100 IELTS practice tests. 

The way that you practice is also important. I recommend this 3-stage approach. 

Stage 1: Skill Development

  • One passage at a time. No time limit- take as long as you want
  • Which questions did you get wrong. Why?
  • Which question types do you find most difficult?
  • Record new words

Stage 2: Reading Practice

  • One test at a time (timed)
  • Track your progression
  • Which questions did you get wrong. Why?
  • Record new words

Stage 3: Full Test Practice

  • All tests (Listening | Reading | Writing) in one day
  • Build your stamina!

Get into the habit of reading regularly in English. Find articles or books that you are interested in. Read these for fun and not for just for learning new vocabulary. A good way to do this is to read books that are below you English level. You can find some here: https://www.penguin.co.uk/series/penrea/penguin-readers–graded-readers-.html

Frequently asked questions about the reading test

We have found that students do best if they organise their time like this:

Passage 1: 15 minutes
Passage 2: 20 minutes
Passage 3: 25 minutes

Yes. This often makes your writing clearer for the examiner. 

You have to use a pencil for the reading and listening test. 

No, it depends on the question type. We will look at all of the question types in this course so that you know which questions come in order and which do not. 

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