Ace Your IELTS Reading Exam with These Winning Strategies


The International English Language Testing System, more famously called IELTS tests the overall English language skills of the candidates who take it. IELTS is designed to assess the readiness of candidates planning to take part in higher education courses across the world. The two test modules of IELTS are the Academic and the General Training module. IELTS preparation and answering the IELTS are two different things; therefore you need to have a different approach to solve the reading section on the IELTS. You need to answer all the 40 questions asked on the IELTS and you have only 60 minutes to do that.

Top 5 Types Of Questions Asked In IELTS Reading Section


1. Fill-in-the-Blanks

It is found that many candidates face problems with FIB-type questions. One easy approach to avoid mistakes is to read the entire sentence once we are sure of the answer. Try to fit your answer in the blank and check if the sentence reads well. Pay close attention to grammar.

For example

“One of the characters is Wereket-El, a Phoenician merchant living at Tanis in Egypt’s Nile delta. As many as 50 ships carry out his business plying back and forth.”

In an ancient story, a ———– from Phoenicia, who lived in Egypt, owned 50 ships.

In the above example, it is evident that the question was asking us for the occupation of the person, but not the name. We can see that the blank is preceded by an article “a”. It obviously means that we are not supposed to fill in proper nouns (like names of people, places, etc) as the answer. I have seen that many students write “Solomon” as the answer. We can simply avoid this trap answer by re-reading the entire sentence and seeing whether it reads correctly. Don’t just focus on fitting one particular answer but also make sure it is correct. Use your intuition!

If the FIB is in the form of a paragraph or summary completion, it is more than likely that all the answers will be found in only one or two consecutive paragraphs of the passage. FIB may also be in the form of flowcharts. So the passage is probably talking about hierarchy, process flow, or a chronological turn of events. Once you get one answer in the flowchart, it becomes easy to locate others one by one!


2. Headings

One of the simple ways to correctly answer them is to skim through the given passage. Remember, we are not expected to spend time understanding the passage. We are only required to get the answer. My suggestion is to first go through the question stem and then come to the passage. By doing so we will have an idea as to what the passage is talking about and be able to follow.


3. Multiple Choices

These question types ask us to choose either one correct answer or two answers or more than two from a given set of options. One best way to arrive at the correct answer is to eliminate wrong answers one by one. We will most probably be left with two options in which one is correct. Look for subtle differences in each of these options.


4. True, False, Not given

A standing confusion for many test-takers. A set of statements are given and we are required to find out whether the given statements are True, False, or Not given. If any information about the statement is given in the passage then it will be either true or false. If the information in the passage contradicts that of the statement, it is False. On the other hand, in some cases, there will not be any information about the statement in the passage. Be careful to not assume it to be false. Not given is the option when the statement bears no reference to the passage.


5. Short Answer Questions

Paraphrase the terms given in the passage. Only spend a little bit of time knowing the meaning of any word. Think of synonyms when paraphrasing. Stay under the word limit specified for each question. Sometimes we may come across questions for which there is more than one possible answer. Pay close attention to transition words (like although, however, as well as, but) as they are capable of changing the meaning of a sentence.


Top 5 Reading Strategies to Ace the IELTS


IELTS Reading Strategy 1

Get skilled to get the gist of the passage by adapting the skimming technique. Don’t be afraid of skipping a difficult word when you have understood the meaning of the whole passage. The IELTS test generally comes with wonderfully specialized vocabulary where you can try to guess the meaning of the words you don’t know by understanding the overall context of the text.


IELTS Reading Strategy 2

It is really important to know how to identify parallel phrases. As there are always different ways of expressing the same thing such as “I like to read” and “reading is enjoyable”, both these phrases have a similar meaning but are expressed differently. Many questions, e.g. YES NO NOT GIVEN questions and gap fills, test your ability to match up a similar phrase in the task with its equivalent in the text.


IELTS Reading Strategy 3

Learn to skim! Adapt the skimming technique and try reading the article quickly. In this technique, you can jump over the words which are not that important and try to understand the idea of a paragraph to get the answer to your question. You need to manage your time well. Each text should roughly take 20 minutes. Avoid spending too much time on one question. If the time is running out, do the gap-fills before answering the easy-to-guess questions such as YES NO NOT GIVEN.


IELTS Reading Strategy 4

One more important strategy is Scanning. It is highly useful when you are looking for something specific. Try to adapt the scanning technique to get the location of answers in the texts. You can search for words, numbers, dates, and words beginning with capital letters such as a name of the places.


IELTS Reading Strategy 5

Try focusing on what you have been asked to do in ‘completion’ type questions. For example, if the question asks you to complete the note ‘in the…’ and let us suppose that the correct answer is ‘evening’, then you should only be using ‘evening’ as your answer. Here it is important to note that if you have said ‘in the evening’ then it would have been incorrect.


How to Improve IELTS Reading Score?


Know the Exam Before You Start

The IELTS exam pattern involves thorough and in-depth testing of the reading skill, in one hour with 40 questions on 3 or sometimes more passages, the reading section of the IELTS is a formidable section in terms of difficulty next only to the writing section. It is even more difficult for the academic test takers as the paragraphs are seen to be rather complex in comparison to general test-takers, but the general candidates are required to get more questions right in order to get the same grade as the academic candidates. In any case, the Reading section requires a lot of skill, practice, and timing along with exposure to a varied range of texts.


Exposure to Topics

The IELTS reading section has no IELTS syllabus as such, it is a mixed bag of random topics, which sometimes might scare the candidates. Topics like biological aspects of space technology might not be friendly passages for many. Hence it becomes important to get accustomed to a wide variety of topics. IELTS online course is the best strategy to tackle this problem, it provides you with a diverse range of topics to practice on rather than fixed offline courses where the diversity factor is minimum.


Practice Reading for the IELTS

The often misunderstood and misinterpreted advice of reading for the exam is even more misunderstood in the case of IELTS. While it is a great thing to have a reading habit, it has to be fine-tuned for IELTS. If a candidate carefully observes they can see that IELTS has a standard paragraph format of passages, with a proper introduction- body-conclusion. Candidates must gain the skill to read and grasp such information within less time.



One has to remember that there is no extra time or “transfer time” in the reading section like one has in the listening section. You are free to mark on the paper, and make notes but the answers have to be written on the answer sheet within one hour. For this, reading specific timed online IELTS classes become more important, they test you in the one-hour time frame to fine-tune your timing skills.


Go All-in

The IELTS reading exam pattern is designed in such a way that no answer is awarded any negative, in effect, there is no penalty. So, in a case where you can’t pinpoint an answer to any part of the passage then you should guess and move on. This will give you a higher probability of scoring.


Instructions are as Important as Answers

IELTS reading test comes with specific instructions for every section, like ONE WORD, ONE WORD AND A NUMBER, ONE WORD AND/OR a NUMBER, etc., and breaching the instructions by even a single word or a number might render even a correct answer wrong. Hence, pay sufficient time to understand the instructions and one should get as much practice with such questions as one can.


Extract Meanings Contextually

It is virtually impossible for anyone to memorize all the words in the English language, the diction of the language is vast and widespread. However, most of it can be absorbed from the context in which it was written. Hence, a candidate must use this to his/her best advantage. Online classes give you a range of materials where you can practice the ability to grasp the meaning of the sentence.


Order of Questions vs Order of Answers

A frequent mock test taker should be well versed with this trick, the order of the answers in the passage follows the order of the questions, and they are aligned in order, most of the time. One should be careful enough to understand this order and optimize his/her time while searching for the answers.


Author’s Opinion

For questions that ask you to follow the writer’s opinion, the famous skim and scan technique might not work. In these cases put the effort into deducing the passage’s opinion from the introduction and the conclusion. And keep an eye out for the shift in tone or language because IELTS is known to pack surprise punches sometimes.


Mocks before Anything and Everything

It is an unsaid but accepted fact that the more mocks a student takes the more his ability to tackle all kinds of tests. Hence, take as many mocks as possible. Online preparation and online classes give you more mocks than any offline coaching, make the best use of these online coaching packages.


Top 10 Tips for Reading and Listening Section in IELTS

After completing your IELTS registration on the British Council’s main website, users can receive some help in the form of IELTS practice tests and IELTS preparation materials. Other than cramming these materials and learning from the IELTS syllabus, paying some attention to these useful tips is sure to aid you in getting that perfect score.


1. Understand the Structure and Plan Accordingly

The IELTS exam pattern-depending on whether it is academic or general will usually consist of two to four passages for the reading section. As a rule, you should plan which passages to tackle first depending on length, complexity, and number of questions.

As the IELTS test has no specific rules on progressing with the questions in a linear order, you can skip particular questions if needed and move on to the others. This may, however, be different if the test is online.


2. Reading the Listening Section Beforehand

The Listening section in the IELTS exam essentially requires test takers to fill in details from an audio recording to the answer sheet. This can include an audio conversation, descriptions of objects, places, events, or even speeches.

A common mistake is to fill in the first words that correspond to the blanks in the answer sheet and the audio. Instead, skim through the questions for the listening section before the audio begins. This will help in developing some intuition regarding what answers should be filled in.


3. Learning Outside the Scope of the Books

Here’s an essential piece of advice. Instead of merely sticking to the materials provided and books available, gain some knowledge from mass media. Dish out the newspapers and tune into debates on English news channels. Publications like the New York Times and Washington Post are frequently recommended to get an edge on reading.

Another essential thing to consider when preparing for the IELTS exam is to develop a vocabulary to explain substantial sentences in shorter words. Not only does this reflect nicely in the writing sections but also helps with specific questions for synonyms and antonyms.


4. Underline, Underline, and Underline

Don’t know a word, underline it. Don’t know what a passage means? Underline it. Can’t find the exact word to use for a listening exercise? Underline it. A simple yet effective tip, underlining difficult words and passages helps maintain the flow of reading through the readings rather than mentally remembering them.

As a rule, you can use a pencil for the fillings in the IELTS exam. But if you do choose to use a pen to make the answers more legible, be careful when having to redo or undo inevitable mistakes.


5. Ignore the Passages

This is a piece of advice that SAT students utilize from time to time. The mind tends to play tricks on students, especially when several options can seem so similar to each other. In an IELTS academic test, this is best seen from the reading section when passages are only understood after repeated readings.
Instead of jumping straight to the passage. Read the questions first to get an understanding of what’s needed and then start reading the passage.


6. Keep Away Distractions and Disturbances

It’s not surprising to know that even while going through an audio recording, test takers can go adrift and lose their focus altogether. This can usually happen when the test taker is too focused on finding a specific segment of the audio that he or she loses track of all other segments.

As a note, always practice the art of transferring answers and reading. A better alternative is to enhance dictation skills as the listening section in an IELTS exam requires some level of multitasking.


7. Plan Out Your Time Efficiently

Remember that while the examiner will remind test takers about the time, it’s best to keep a mental clock about the time that should be devoted to each section. Both the reading and writing sections of the IELTS exam are roughly 40 minutes.
Depending on whether the exam follows an academic or general style, devote no more than 10 minutes to a question(passage or recording) with some minutes for corrections at the end.


8. Follow the Rules of Subtraction

A crucial adage that is inspired by the works of software development is-‘ If it has no use, don’t add it to the design.’ Similarly, if during the reading sections, the candidate is to come across words and phrases that stand out but don’t seem to add anything to the answers, don’t add it straight away.

Always be cautious about using words and phrases that you seem unclear about as this induces the risk of losing points due to incorrect grammar or poor spelling.


9. Themes, Keywords, and Summaries

Right off the bat, a fairly reasonable question would be to develop an idea or summary from the passage or audio recording. This is where vocabulary and excessive sentence skimming is crucial.

Read through the passages and go through the audio recordings not just to grasp a feel of what is being conveyed but which words are being repeated and reused. This will help in answering such complicated questions.


10. Keep in Mind the Accents

While accents are bound to be present in the listening sections, specific reading passages in the IELTS exam can be written to suit a particular style or tone. In the mishmash of words and sentences, it’s not strange to misinterpret phrases and verbiage.

Prepare thoroughly beforehand and listen to English speakers from the Commonwealth nations – including Australia, Canada, as well as the United States.


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How can I improve my reading speed for the IELTS?

You can improve your comprehension for the IELTS reading section by practicing active reading techniques, such as summarizing each paragraph or section, making predictions about what may come next, and taking notes on key information. You can also work on building your vocabulary and improving your knowledge of grammar and sentence structure to help you better understand the text.

What are some effective strategies for IELTS reading?

Effective strategies for IELTS reading include skimming the passage for main ideas, scanning for specific details, understanding the organization of the text, using context clues to confer meaning, and taking notes while reading.

What is skimming and how it can be used in IELTS reading?

Skimming is the process of quickly reading through a passage to get a general idea of the content. In IELTS reading, skimming can be used to identify the main ideas and overall structure of the text before diving into the details.

How can note-taking help in IELTS reading?

Note-taking can help in IELTS reading by helping test takers to stay focused, remember important details, and organize their thoughts. Notes can also be used as a reference while answering questions and can help test-takers to better understand the material.

What are context clues and how can they be used in IELTS reading?

Context clues are hints or cues within a text that can help readers infer the meaning of unfamiliar words or phrases. In ILETS reading, context cues can be used by test-takers better understand the material and answer questions more accurately.

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