An Introduction to IELTS Reading

The IELTS Reading Test lasts 60 minutes. It is made up of three parts, with a total of 40 questions. You are given no extra time to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. During the test, the texts become more difficult.

In the General Training test, the texts are not academic, they are about daily life, for example – advertisements, reviews or ‘how to’ articles. You may read something about preparing for a job interview or a review of places to visit when going abroad.

In the Academic test, all three texts are of an academic tone, for instance – scientific research or a historical article. The articles in the Academic reading test may include research about medical procedures or the future of medicine, the environment and climate change issues.

What do you need to do?

Find specific information in the texts. You will be looking for information, such as dates, names, places and costs. 

Finding the purpose of a text, looking at the reasons behind the writing. Why did the author write this? What is the purpose of it? To share an opinion? Many people when they write are expressing their views, selling something, sharing news, suggesting, recommending something or reviewing something. 

Separating the main idea of an article apart from other ideas. In a long text, there will be the main idea, that is supported by other ideas. It will be good practice for you to read articles and select the main idea, as well as the point of each paragraph. 

Following an argument, looking for both sides, the for and against. When you are reading a text, think about – What is the key argument? What statement is the author making? Are they sharing their opinion?

Understand information in diagrams and tables. These are used to give specific information for a fast analysis. In the exam, you may have a table that you have to fill in, after finding the required information in an article. 

Summaries and notes, a summary is a short review of something, you will often see this when looking for information about a book or movie, they will give you a short summary of what it is about. Notes can be in bullet form, with groups of words or single words, linked to a subject heading. 

The main features of the text, knowing where the title is, the subheadings, the images and the main body of the text is important.

Text length, can in the Academic test go well over 1000 words. This is why it is important to learn how to skim read and locate specific information. In the General Training test, the texts are shorter, but you will also have to be able to skim read. 

Being able to paraphrase and recognise paraphrasing is also very important. Many of the texts will paraphrase words – the questions may paraphrase using different words with the same meaning. Always read the questions before you start reading through the text.

How Can You Practice?

There are many websites and texts out there for you to practice with, but day to day you should try and read articles from news websites, science journals, history and of course general interest. 

Here are some links to websites with articles you may find interesting;

When you choose an article to read, think about the following questions >>

  • What is the main idea of the article?
  • How does the author feel about the subject? / Do they give their opinion?
  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • What are the key points?
  • What is the main argument? 
  • What are the supporting arguments/points?

There are free practice reading tests you can download from the British Council for the Academic Test and the General Training Test.

For more help on each skill you should practice before the reading test, please take a look at the other posts in the reading section

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