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Complete guide to the IELTS Reading Exam - the skills you need


IELTS reading skills and strategies

Are you gearing up to take the IELTS exam? Whether you're aiming for the Academic or General Training version, conquering the reading section is essential for a high score. In this guide, we'll break down the IELTS Reading test, share tips and strategies, and provide you with the tools you need to tackle it with confidence.

Understanding the IELTS Reading Section


The IELTS Reading test is designed to assess your ability to understand and extract information from written texts. It consists of three passages, each with a set of questions. Here's a quick overview of what you can expect:

1. Academic IELTS Reading


For Academic IELTS, the reading section includes texts that are more challenging and academic in nature. You'll find topics related to subjects like science, history, and social studies. There are three passages, and the text length increases as you progress.

2. General Training IELTS Reading


If you're taking the General Training IELTS, the reading section is a bit different. It's tailored to assess your ability to read and understand materials you might encounter in everyday life. This section also consists of three passages but focuses on topics like advertisements, job descriptions, and everyday situations.


Before diving into specific strategies, let's briefly review the structure of the IELTS Reading exam. The test consists of three passages, each with a set of questions. You have 60 minutes to complete 40 questions, which are divided into various question types, including multiple choice, true/false/not given, matching headings, sentence completion, and more.


Now, let's explore strategies and tips for each of these question types:


Multiple Choice Questions



ielts reading multiple choice example question


Multiple choice questions in the IELTS Reading exam often present three or four answer options. To tackle these questions effectively:

  • Skim the passage: Begin by quickly scanning the passage to get an overall idea of its content.

  • Read the question first: Before delving into the passage, read the question carefully to understand what information you need to look for.

  • Eliminate incorrect answers: Cross out answer choices that are clearly incorrect, narrowing down your options.

  • Look for synonyms: Pay attention to synonyms or paraphrased words in both the question and the passage.

  • Be mindful of time: Don't spend too long on a single question. If you're unsure, make an educated guess and move on.


True/False/Not Given Questions



ielts reading true false not given question example


These questions require you to determine whether the information in the passage matches the statements in the questions. To excel in this question type:

  • Read the instructions carefully: Understand the distinctions between true, false, and not given statements.

  • Pay attention to keywords: Look for keywords in the questions that signal specific information in the passage.

  • Avoid making assumptions: Don't infer information; rely solely on what's stated in the text.

  • Beware of negatives: Be cautious with negative statements in both the questions and the passage.

  • Use the elimination method: If you're uncertain, eliminate choices to increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.


Matching Headings


ielts reading question example matching headings


Matching headings questions require you to match a set of headings to different sections of the passage. Here's how to approach them:

  • Skim the passage: Get an overview of the passage's structure and content. A good idea is to give each paragraph your own 'title' to help determine the topic of each paragraph.

  • Read the headings: Review all the headings provided and make a mental note of their content.

  • Match the headings: Match each heading to the corresponding section in the passage by identifying the main idea.

  • Be cautious with synonyms: Pay attention to synonyms or paraphrased words in both the headings and the passage.

  • Review your answers: Double-check your answers to ensure they align with the passage's content.


Sentence Completion



ielts reading question example sentence completion



Sentence completion questions require you to fill in the blanks in a sentence with words from the passage. To succeed in this question type:


  • Skim the passage: Quickly scan the passage to understand its main ideas and key information.

  • Look for contextual clues: Identify contextual clues around the blank spaces that can help you choose the correct word.

  • Pay attention to word count: Ensure that the word you select fits grammatically and semantically in the sentence.

  • Check for synonyms: Use synonyms and paraphrasing to find the right word from the passage.

  • Be mindful of grammar and tense: Ensure your chosen word matches the sentence structure and tense.


Diagram/Map/Plan Labelling


In these questions, you must label diagrams, maps, or plans with information from the passage. Here's how to tackle them:

  • Familiarise yourself with the visuals: Study the diagram, map, or plan provided and understand its components.

  • Locate relevant information: Skim the passage to find details that match the visuals.

  • Match information accurately: Label the diagram with the correct information from the passage.

  • Use synonyms and paraphrasing: Look for synonyms and paraphrased words to match the visuals.

  • Verify your answers: Double-check your labels to ensure they accurately represent the information in the passage.


Top IELTS Reading Skills you need


For the IELTS Exam, you need to practice certain IELTS Reading skills so that you can complete the exam with enough time to spare so that you can check your answers and avoid mistakes!


1. Skim and Scan

Skimming involves quickly glancing through the passage to get a general sense of the topic and main ideas. Scanning is the art of swiftly searching for specific keywords or phrases. This approach helps you locate answers more efficiently.


understanding the difference between skimming and scanning

2. Read the Questions First


Before diving into the passage, read the questions carefully. This will give you a sense of what to look for and save you time during the test.

3. Predict Answers


Try to anticipate the answers while you're reading the questions. This can help you stay focused on relevant information when skimming and scanning the passage.

4. Highlight Key Information


Use a pencil to underline or highlight crucial information as you go. This will make it easier to find and reference later when answering questions.

5. Manage Your Time


The IELTS Reading test is timed, so keep an eye on the clock. Don't get stuck on a single question for too long; move on and come back if necessary.

6. Be Mindful of Synonyms


Sometimes, the IELTS test makers use synonyms or paraphrased words in the passage. Be on the lookout for these variations, as they can be tricky.

7. Stay Calm and Keep Reading


If you can't find an answer immediately, don't panic. Keep reading, as the information you need might be in a different part of the passage.

8. Answer in Order


While you can skip questions and return to them later, it's generally a good idea to answer questions in order. This keeps you on track and ensures you don't miss any questions.

9. Be Aware of Word Limits


Pay attention to word limits for your answers. If the instructions say "no more than two words," make sure your response adheres to this requirement.

10. Review Your Work


If time allows, go back and review your answers. Check for any careless mistakes or overlooked details.



Mastering the IELTS Reading section is all about practice and strategy. By honing your reading skills and implementing these techniques, you'll be well-prepared to tackle this challenging portion of the exam.

Remember, the IELTS Reading test isn't just about finding the right answers; it's also about managing your time effectively and staying calm under pressure. Good luck! By understanding the question types and implementing the strategies outlined above, you can significantly enhance your chances of success. Remember to practise regularly, develop your reading skills, and build your confidence in tackling various question formats.


So, practice regularly, stay confident, and you'll be on your way to IELTS success!




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