Matching Headings

In this post, we will be looking at matching headings.

The matching heading questions normally ask you to match a list of headings to paragraphs. The texts given can consist of six to nine paragraphs.

When you see this type of task, you should

  • Quickly read the headings and underline/highlight any keywords. 
  • Skim read the text – so you understand the overall meaning
  • Read the first paragraph and see if any headings match up
  • Choose the best heading for the paragraph (read again if needed)
  • Repeat this strategy for every paragraph

This strategy above allows you to choose the heading appropriate for each paragraph by going through a process of elimination. 

What is a heading?

A paragraph heading sums up the paragraph as a whole, not just parts of it. Try not to match up words in the heading with words you see in the paragraph, that could lead you to make an incorrect choice. The heading should apply to all information written about in the paragraph, not just parts of it.

When you look at the heading choices you may think that more than one could match up with different paragraphs, but you need to look closer to see which option is the best fit. You should take the time to practice matching headings to paragraphs, summing up the main idea, not just trying to match the words. 

Test Question

In the IELTS test, the matching headings questions will look similar to the those below and it will appear before a text, not after it >>

matching headings example question

The paragraphs for the practice exercises are from a text called “Adolescents: health risks and solutions” from The World Health Organisation (WHO) website.

All answers are at the bottom of the page.

Exercise 1

Read the following headings and then skim read the text, choose the heading that supports the main idea of each paragraph >> 

What topic do all of the headings have in common? Underline/highlight and keywords.

i. The future of mental health

ii. Violence has a wide scope in urban areas

iii. Support is on offer for youths surviving violent backgrounds

iv. The cause of female and male violence

v. The future of mental health in the school system and beyond

vi. Conflict prevention methods should be used to promote harmony

vii. Knowledge of assaults on women and men 


Depression is the third leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents (15–19 years). Violence, poverty, humiliation and feeling devalued can increase the risk of developing mental health problems.


Building life skills in children and adolescents and providing them with psychosocial support in schools and other community settings can help promote good mental health. Programmes to help strengthen the ties between adolescents and their families are also important. If problems arise, they should be detected and managed by competent and caring health workers.


Violence is a leading cause of death in older adolescent males. Interpersonal violence represents 43% of all adolescent male deaths in LMICs in the WHO Americas Region. Globally, 1 in 10 girls under the age of 20 years reports experiencing sexual violence.


Promoting nurturing relationships between parents and children early in life, providing training in life skills, and reducing access to alcohol and firearms can help to prevent injuries and deaths due to violence. Effective and empathetic care for adolescent survivors of violence and ongoing support can help deal with the physical and psychological consequences.

TIP >> Don’t try to match the words in the headings to the words in the text. You need to focus on the whole idea in each paragraph.

TIP >> Try and narrow the choices down when you are completing the task – through an elimination process. Look at paragraph A and decide which headings do connect with it, which ones do not

Exercise 2

Read the following headings and then skim read the text, choose the heading that supports the main idea of the paragraph >>

i. The detrimental effects of alcohol abuse

ii. How young people are affected by bad drinking habits

iii. Drinking alcohol can create many health problems


Harmful drinking among adolescents is a major concern in many countries. It reduces self-control and increases risky behaviours, such as unsafe sex or dangerous driving. It is a primary cause of injuries (including those due to road traffic accidents), violence (especially by a partner) and premature deaths. It can also lead to health problems in later life and affect life expectancy. Setting a minimum age for buying and consuming alcohol and regulating how alcoholic drinks are targeted at the younger market are among the strategies for reducing harmful drinking.

Exercise 3

Read the following headings and then skim read the text, choose the heading that supports the main idea of the paragraph >>

i. How to have a healthy diet

ii. The key to being healthy at a young age

iii. An insight to the eating habits and daily activities of young people


Developing healthy eating and exercise habits in adolescence are foundations for good health in adulthood. Reducing the marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt and providing access to healthy foods and opportunities to engage in physical activity are important for all but especially children and adolescents. Yet available survey data indicate that fewer than 1 in every 4 adolescents meets the recommended guidelines for physical activity: 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.

Exercise 4

Read the following headings and then skim read the text, choose the heading that supports the main idea of the paragraph >>

i. Observations of cigarette use amongst young people in modern society

ii. The problems associated with smoking

iii. How to stop people from smoking


The vast majority of people using tobacco today began doing so when they were adolescents. Prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors and increasing the price of tobacco products through higher taxes, banning tobacco advertising and ensuring smoke-free environments are crucial. Globally, at least 1 in 10 adolescents aged 13 to 15 years uses tobacco, although there are areas where this figure is much higher. Cigarette smoking seems to be decreasing among younger adolescents in some high-income countries.

Exercise 5

Read the following headings and then skim read the text, choose the heading that supports the main idea of the paragraph >>

i. The history of HIV

ii. An understanding of the current status of HIV in minors

iii. Problems associated with HIV


More than 2 million adolescents are living with HIV. Although the overall number of HIV-related deaths is down 30% since the peak in 2006 estimates suggest that HIV deaths among adolescents are rising. This increase, which has been predominantly in the WHO African Region, may reflect the fact that although more children with HIV survive into adolescence, they do not all then get the care and support they need to remain in good health and prevent transmission. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 10% of young men and 15% of young women aged 15 to 24 are aware of their HIV status.

Exercise 6

Read the following headings and then skim read the text, choose the heading that supports the main idea of the paragraph >>

i. The health issues relating to the youth of today

ii. Problems affecting adolescents in modern society

iii. The most common health issues that stop young people from reaching their full potential


Around 1.2 billion people, or 1 in 6 of the world’s population, are adolescents aged 10 to 19. Most are healthy, but there is still substantial premature death, illness, and injury among adolescents. Illnesses can hinder their ability to grow and develop to their full potential. Alcohol or tobacco use, lack of physical activity, unprotected sex and/or exposure to violence can jeopardise not only their current health, but also their health as adults, and even the health of their future children.


The matching headings questions are common in the IELTS Reading Test, therefore you should practice and develop a strategy for answering. 

TIP >> Read the instructions before you start reading the text. Make sure you understand the question.

TIP >> Skim read each paragraph and get the main idea of each one.

TIP >> Look at the headings and highlight any keywords you can see, then match them up if you see anything clear.

TIP >> Choose your answers through an elimination process. Which ones do not fit? Which ones can you dismiss? Be attentive to synonyms and paraphrasing.

Answers >>

Exercise 1 – Answers >>

A = iv

B = v

C = vii

D = vi

Exercise 2 – Answers >>

A = ii

Exercise 3 – Answers >>

B = iii

Exercise 4 – Answers >>

C = i

Exercise 5 – Answers >>

D = ii

Exercise 6 – Answers >>

E = i

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