How to ace your IELTS reading test
Read your way to success. Source: Alexis Brown on Unsplash

There are four parts to the IELTS test: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

The 60-minutes reading test is the second portion of the test, which consists of three or sometimes four reading passages of increasing difficulty. There is a total of 40 questions to test a wide range of reading skills, such as reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.

It can be a daunting task – candidates start reading and then panic when they encounter words they don’t know or see that time is running out for them to go through the lengthy texts given.

Below are some tips on what you can do to ace the Reading test:

1. Master the types of questions

There are around 14 types of questions. While this may seem a lot, the good news is there is a strategy to tackle each one. Here’s the full list of the types of questions and an explanation for each.

Many students struggle with the True, False, Not Given category where you will be asked to classify whether the statements given match, contradict or are not found in the passages. This will test how well you understand paraphrasing and looking for meaning. Check out this video below by IELTS teacher Liz which explains what each of the three terms mean:

2. Time management 

Time is precious for the Reading test and a candidate who knows how to manage it will have the upper hand. Don’t make your first attempt at managing time on your exam day itself. Instead, practise timing yourself at home and at mock tests several times beforehand.

For other tips on how to prepare check out this step-by-step guide on how to prepare for your IELTS test.

3. Zoom in on the questions

Candidates often focus on reading the all the texts given without giving a thought to the questions in tore. Bryan Dowie, an IELTS teacher from Hong Kong advises students to first start with reading the questions instead so you are able to spot which information you will need from the passages. Then, note down the information as you spot them.

If you read the passage, then read the questions and then head back to the passage to scan for the information, it will take a whole lot more time, according to Dowie. This isn’t a wise move when time is of the essence.

4. Keep calm when you see unknown words

The thing about language is those with a working grasp of it can figure out a sentence even if they do not recognise all the words in the sentence. So, don’t panic when you come across unfamiliar words. Instead, scan the entire sentence for context and you should be able to comprehend the sentence.

Take for example this line: “In terms of individual psychological factors, there may be three types of school shooters: the traumatised, the psychotic and the XXX”. You could probably figure out what the sentence is trying to say even without stating XXX. Even if you can’t, make a guess and move on.


In fact, like an IELTS teacher have said: “Indeed, a major reading skill is the ability to read through words and understand what the general meaning of a sentence or paragraph is without knowing what every word means.”

5. Move on

It’s only human to not have the answers to everything. And non-native English speakers as well. Cut yourself some slack if you are unable to answer one or two questions. Don’t waste time on one question and lose time on other questions (that you will most likely get right!). After all, you can always come back to these questions when you have time.

Good luck!

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