How to Prepare for the IELTS Reading Test
Taking the IELTS Reading Test can feel challenging, especially if you’re taking it for the first time. The IELTS or the International English Language Testing System is an international standardized English language proficiency test that helps non-native English speakers broaden their opportunities in studying, working, or migrating to a country where English is the native language.
As a mandatory section of the Academic or General Training IELTS test, the IELTS Reading Test assesses a wide range of reading skills. If you’re about to take this test, below are some tips and suggestions that you might find handy.
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IELTS Reading Test Structure
Taking 60 minutes, the IELTS Reading Test requires test takers to read three long texts and answer 40 questions. All of these test a variety of reading skills, including:
The test is not just about how fast you can read, but how quickly you can absorb or understand what you read. This can be extra challenging given the time limit and the length of the text that you’ll be required to read (a total of 2,150 to 2,750 words).
Aside from quickly comprehending what you read, you will also be able to test your skills in quickly scanning a text and getting a basic idea of what it is talking about. Broadening your vocabulary prior to the test is good for this. It will help you quickly get through the contents of a text.
Another essential skill that the IELTS Reading Test looks at is your ability to pinpoint the key ideas, concepts, or details mentioned. Highlighting or focusing on these will help you answer the test questions, some of which will ask you about the most important information mentioned in the text.
The test also assesses your ability to understand logical argument, understand inferences and implied meaning, and recognize the writer’s opinions, attitudes, and purpose. The General Training Reading Test and Academic Reading Test contain similar question types, but the reading text topics are different. While Academic Reading contains texts taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, General Training is more about reading materials that you would normally find in daily surroundings, such as newspapers, advertisements, handbooks, and notices. It helps to practice reading these types of texts to be able to familiarize yourself with them.
Wondering what type of questions will be asked during the test? Here are the types of questions you will have to answer:
- Multiple choice
- Identifying information (true / false / not given)
- Identifying writer’s views or claims (yes / no / not given)
- Matching information / headings / features / sentence endings
- Sentence / summary / note / table / flow-chart / diagram label completion
- Short-answer questions
Preparation and Test-taking Tips
So, what’s the best strategy before and during the IELTS Reading Test? Aside from practicing reading similar texts, you can also try the following:
Develop Your Reading Skills
Trying to read at a fast pace can be dizzying, especially if your eyes are not used to reading that quickly. Take a look at similar texts that are available to you and test your speed reading skills through them. Of course, don’t forget that speed reading is just one part of it–you also have to be able to accurately comprehend what’s written.
Take Advantage of Practice Tests
Make use of sample questions, and even sample IELTS reading tests, that are available online. This will help you get a better sense of the types of questions that will come up during your actual test. If you prefer, try doing this while on the clock. Timing yourself will help you get a sense of your current pace and what you still need to improve on in terms of time management.
Read All the Questions First
Go through all of the questions before reading the text. By keeping in mind the questions asked, you will be able to quickly pinpoint which information or concepts to look out for as you read.
To save time in going through all three texts, opt to skim through all three before diving into the details. The main priority is to identify the main ideas, key messages, and important information included in each text. There’s no need to read the texts in detail, especially if you’re running out of time.
Answer all questions, because even though you end up guessing the answers to some of them, there’s still a chance that you will get the right answer. If you have extra time, check your answers by going through the texts in detail and seeing if you were able to capture the main ideas of the texts correctly.
Acing the IELTS Reading Test
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by everything that you need to do to be able to prepare for the test, it’s wise to create a study plan that details the things you need to practice and improve, tasks you would like to accomplish, and milestones that you have to achieve. By plotting all of it, even just on a sheet of paper, along with your intended timeline, you will have a clearer sense of what you need to do and when.
Keep in mind that creating a study plan is only half of it–actually doing what’s written in the plan is even more important. Set up regular reminders, or add the tasks to your personal calendar. You can also try doing this with your friends or colleagues so that you can monitor one another’s progress. Preparing for the IELTS Reading Test doesn’t have to be a solitary effort. If it gives you encouragement, try finding people who are also taking the test. That way, you don’t have to prepare for the test on your own.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.