Need to brush up on your IELTS Reading skills? In this guide, we will show you how to pass this section of IELTS with a band 7+. We’ve included all you need to know about the exam, marking and task types, along with our top tips on exam technique and time management. Check out the bonus IELTS Reading resources at the end to improve your skills at home. Let’s get started!
The IELTS Reading paper is worth 25% of your overall IELTS score. Each Reading paper, whether it is for General or Academic IELTS, has 3 sections with a total of 40 marks. You have 60 minutes overall to complete the 3 sections. These contain a reading source and various different tasks and questions.
It is worth remembering that the reading sources for both Academic and General IELTS differ greatly. The Academic paper is aimed towards those who want to go to university in an English-speaking country, so the sources for this paper a bit more difficult. Expect long passages of 700-800 words taken from articles, academic publications and research papers.
In contrast, the General IELTS Reading exam has shorter reading passages taken from advertisements, newspapers, magazines and handbooks. This reading paper is designed to test your reading comprehension in an everyday situation.
You should also be aware that you have to get a few more marks in the Academic paper to get a higher band!
|Band score||Marks out of 40|
|Band score||Marks out of 40|
To achieve a higher band in either test, you must show the examiner that you understand the general meaning, the key ideas, the writer’s opinion, purpose and the argument (if there is one).
The following information applies to both Academic and General IELTS Reading exams.
There are different types of tasks on the IELTS Reading exam. The number of questions you are required to answer for each task cannot be predetermined. Sometimes the test paper has 6 questions for a task and 5 questions for another. There can be as many as 3 tasks in a section or as few as just 1.
You should acquaint yourself with all the possible task types that come up so you feel more prepared. It could lower your score if you do not! Any multiple-choice tasks are in order of the text to make it easier for the candidate to answer.
|Type of task||Task description|
|1. Multiple choice||You must choose between options labelled a), b), c), d) and e). The instructions for the task will clearly explain how many options you have to choose. You might have to select an option for completing a sentence or choose an option for a specific question.|
|2. Identifying information||You will be given statements and asked if the following statements agree with the information in the text. You must write ‘true’, ‘false’ or ‘not given’.|
|3. Identifying writer’s claims||You are given statements and asked the question: ‘Do the following statements agree with the views/claims of the writer?’. You must write ‘yes’, no or ‘not given’.|
|4. Matching information||You are asked to find specific information in the text. You may be asked to find details, an example, a comparison or a description. The paragraphs of each text are usually lettered at the side to help with this task. You must put the letter of the correct paragraph on the answer sheet.|
|5. Matching headings||You are given a list of headings with Roman numerals and are required to match the correct heading to the correct paragraph. It is possible that some headings may not be used.|
|6. Matching features||You are given pieces of information and must connect them to a list of options. A typical matching features task is to join historical events to their time period.|
|7. Matching sentence endings||You are given the first half of a sentence and must connect it with the appropriate ending.|
|8. Sentence completion||You must complete sentences so they have the same meaning as in the text. The exam will state how many words you can use: ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’, ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’. You must pay attention to this because marks will be lost if you use more words. Contractions (e.g. can’t) cannot be used and hyphenated words (e.g. long-term) will be counted as 1 word.|
|9. Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion||You must insert the correct information into a summary, note, table or flow-chart.|
Like with sentence completion tasks, the exam paper will state how many words you can use.
|10. Diagram label completion||You are required to complete a diagram with information from the text. Again, the exam tells you the maximum number of words you can use.|
|11. Short answer questions||You will be asked to answer a set of questions. Like the last three tasks, the maximum number of words you can write will be shown.|
These tips and tricks will help you go beyond band 6 and achieve a higher score on your IELTS Reading test. Let’s jump in!
Honestly. This one is a life-saver and should be the first thing you do! Time is limited in this part of the exam, so understanding and highlighting key instructions first will not only give you a sense of security as to what you have to do, but will also make the skimming and scanning process easier (more on that below).
In the IELTS Reading test, you will definitely come across tasks that require a specific number of words, such as ‘write no more than two words’. This should be underlined immediately! If you write more than two words, you will not achieve any points for your answer.
These two will be your best friends during this part of your IELTS exam. Please ensure that before you do the test, you know them exceptionally well. Skimming is used to get an overall idea of the text and find general ideas. Scanning is used to locate specific information.
To use them effectively in your exam, skim your text first so you understand the meaning and then scan it to answer the tasks. The skimming process should be fast and take 2 minutes only.
Think numbers, dates, proper nouns and words associated with the topic at hand. IELTS Reading involves a great deal of information and if you quickly highlight these things while skimming the text, it becomes a lot easier to answer the tasks.
Many tasks test your ability to say the same sentence in a different way. IELTS Reading is not a simple “copy and paste” exam. A good way to practise sentence variations is to find a sentence in a text and rewrite it in several different ways. Check that your new sentence means the same thing by asking a native English teacher or a friend with C1+ level English.
Make sure that everything you have written is grammatically correct so that marks are not deducted. For example, if the question is using the past simple, do not respond to it using the future continuous. Be consistent and take clues on tense usage from the question.
You should also know that phrasal verbs are required quite a lot on the reading exam, particularly for gap fill tasks. To learn more about these, their meanings and correct usage, check out our articles on phrasal verbs.
The better you spell, the more marks you will gain. Brush up on your spelling by giving yourself regular spelling tests. A good way to do this is to write down a list of words and rewrite them five times while not looking at the first list. Accuracy is important on the exam.
Leave no space blank. Even if you are not sure of the answer, it is better to write something than nothing. However, make sure that you have tried to answer the question properly before hazarding a guess.
The Reading part of IELTS DOES NOT require your opinion. If, for instance, there is an article on astronomy and you are an astronomer, you are not expected to correct the factual accuracy of the text or add extra information to it. Stick to the tasks given in each section and answer the questions using the information in the text.
After successfully practising all the tips above, turn your attention to time. As you progress, time management should be your primary focus for this exam.
Think about it this way – you have 40 questions to answer in just 60 minutes. Try to spend 1 minute on each question, which is 40 minutes in total. With the remaining 20 minutes, spend 15 minutes on the reading (5 minutes per passage) and 5 minutes checking all 40 answers. If you follow this plan and practise it thoroughly in advance, you will feel more comfortable.
Do not waste time on a difficult question. Leave it and come back to it later in the exam.
The exam is either paper or computer-based. During the paper-based exam, you will be given the reading papers and a separate answer sheet that is numbered 1-40.
Bring two pencils, a sharpener and an eraser. Make sure to use a pencil when filling in the answer sheet, so you can erase an answer if you change your mind. Also be aware that you can annotate the reading papers and write answers on the paper itself before you put them on the answer sheet.
During the computer-based exam, make sure to bring some scrap paper and a pencil to draft answers before typing them out on the computer.
To prepare well for your exam, you should get in the habit of reading in English every day. Take a wide range of texts on various topics. These should be at an appropriate level for your target IELTS band score. There are a great many online resources to choose from – news websites, journals, scientific publications, blogs, hobby sites and even libraries!
Use these resources to boost your IELTS Reading score. Bookmark the following websites in your browser and make sure to read several articles each day, noting down new vocabulary and constructions. Use the practice tests below to assess your reading skills each week or month.
Effect is a noun that means ‘result, consequence of change’ – e.g. cause and effect. Affect is a verb that means ‘influence, make a difference to’ – e.g. The accident affected her health. We confuse the spellings of these words because their pronunciation and meanings are very close. Simple rule: Effect (End result) vs. Affect (Action). Continue reading
Anyway (one word) is an adverb that means ‘in any case’ – e.g. It started to rain, but the family went to the beach anyway. Any way (two words) is a phrase that means ‘in any manner’ – e.g. The mechanic tried to start the car any way possible. Continue reading