IELTS Exam Preparation Tips: Academic Reading Paper

About The IELTS Examination

The IELTS English Examination (International English Language Testing System) is the most widely used English test in the world. There are two streams: Academic and General Training consisting of four papers each: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing.

The Academic Module is used as an entrance test for boarding school, college and university admission worldwide. It is also used by employers and the Government in Hong Kong for job application screening. The General Training module is used mostly for immigration purposes. There are two separate Reading Papers used for each of these modules. This article will concentrate on the Academic Reading Paper.

Reading Paper Tips

The IELTS Reading Paper tests your reading skills in many different areas and consists of three reading passages from a variety of sources such as newspapers books and magazines. Although the content is not specialised, the articles are fairly high level. Even though they may be scientific, they are of general interest and you do not need any prior knowledge of the subject to be able to answer the questions. One will probably contain a chart or diagram, and at least one will contain a complex argument

  • Time Management: One of the main obstacles is the fact that the articles are quite long (about 900 words each). There is only 1 hour for the whole test, so its impossible to read the articles and understand every unknown word.
  • Understand The Question Types: As with the rest of the IELTS test, you must have a good understanding of the types of questions you have to answer. There are ten types of questions including multiple choice, sentence completion, short answer questions, completing sentences, classifying, yes/no/not given, labeling paragraphs with headings, matching, identifying the location of information, and labelling a diagram or completing a summary.
  • Learn Reading Skills: You should also learn which reading skills you should use to answer each type of question. For instance, if the question requires you to label paragraphs then using skimming to get a general idea of each paragraph is the appropriate skill. For the sentence completion the questions you need to use scanning to get a deeper understanding of the text.
  • Understand the Test Structure: Like the rest of the papers, the IELTS reading texts get more difficult as your progress through the test. Time is limited so if you cannot answer a question, do not waste time trying to find the answer but just leave it and go on to the next question. You can always come back to it and even guess if needed (there is no penalty for wrong answers).
  • Understand How Synonyms are used in the test: The words in the test questions will normally be different from the key words in the text. Sometimes the exact words in the question are used in the text but in a different part of the text than which the question refers to in order to trick you. Be very careful when you match words like this.
  • Understand Paraphrasing: The questions often paraphrase the meaning of a section of text so understand what paraphrasing is and remember to look for these.
  • Be Correct: When answering questions be careful about spelling and grammatical mistakes as these will reduce your marks. Be extra careful with plurals as well. And if the question says “write no more than 3 words” then do not write 4!
  • Be Clear: The IELTS reading test booklet is designed rather like the listening test but in contrast there is no separate answer sheet. You must write all your answers in the test booklet and there is no extra time at the end to transfer your answers. Be sure to write your answers legibly and if you need to change your answers, indicate clearly which is your “final” answer.
  • Learn about IELTS reading skills: The best way to prepare for your IELTS exam is by taking an “IELTS preparation course with a native English IELTS expert Doing practice tests on your own is useful but understanding the exam structure and developing your key reading skills is essential for a high score in this part of the exam.

, Ian Nock ,