Reading: 10 strategies for a high score

ielts reading tipsIs IELTS reading driving you crazy?

Did you know that the IELTS reading test is not really about reading, it’s more like a vocabulary test. That’s why you should work on your vocabulary, however, this takes time and there are no shortcuts. In addition, never read the whole text or try and understand every single word as you will not have time.

Understanding how paraphrasing works is crucial to getting a good score, therefore you need to have a good range and understanding of vocabulary. Never learn lists of words either as that will work against you. When you do the IELTS reading exam you will not understand every word and you cannot use a dictionary in the test,  Click here for a lesson about guessing the meaning from the context which might help you. For a lesson on learning vocabulary click here to see more.

Many IELTS teachers tell their students to just scan and skim the text. In fact, they are missing a key skill which is reading in detail in the area where the answer could be. This doesn’t mean reading the whole text, just the area where the answer might be.

Question Types

The first thing you should do is to become familiar with the various types of questions (there are around 14 question types in IELTS reading listed below)

1. Sentence completion
2. Table / Flow chart completion
3. True False Not Given
4. Yes No Not Given
5. Match the heading
6. Match the paragraph
7. Match sentence ending
8. Summary completion (Gap Fills)
9. Multiple choice
10. List selection
11. Choose a title
12. Decide on a category
13. Short answers
14. Diagram labelling

Make sure you are using authentic Cambridge test material when practicing as there are lots of fake materials on IELTS websites out there. You can find some authentic material online, see links below.

10 steps to getting a good score.

1. First, make sure you understand the instructions (for example: ‘Choose no more than TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer’ ) Then start by skimming the text to get an idea of the topic. (less than a minute)

2. Next, read the questions carefully and make sure you understand them.

3. Now, circle the keywords in the questions then locate their synonyms/paraphrase in the text. This is where skimming and scanning come in handy especially for passages 1 and 2.

4. Once you have a good idea of where the answer might be in the text, read the sentence before the keyword and after the keyword. So you have to read in detail in the area of the text where the answer could be. (With True False Not Given or Yes No Not Given, the answers come in order in the text.)

5. Be aware of how sentences and words are paraphrased. This is a very important skill to practice, especially in the IELTS reading section.

6. If you still can’t find the answer just guess and move on. Do not go through the whole text looking for the answer, you won’t have time. Don’t overthink it.

7. Time management: this is so important, I suggest around 15 minutes for section 1 and 2 but section 3 needs around 30 minutes as you will have to read in more detail in this section. Work on your time management when doing mock reading tests, train yourself to complete the test in 60 minutes.

8. Paragraph heading questions: read the first two sentences and the last two sentences in the paragraph. Don’t bother reading the whole paragraph. Look out for synonyms and keywords here. For True False Not Given questions click here for tips on those.

9. Do not keep doing IELTS practice tests over an over again. You need to find your weak points and work on those, do not do the IELTS exam until you have found your weak areas and fixed those. How would you answer these questions below?

  • Are you having trouble understanding paraphrasing?
  • Do you have poor time management?
  • Are you spending too much time on section 1 and 2?
  • Are you losing time looking for the answer to a NOT GIVEN question in TFNG?
  • Are you just skimming and not reading the area of the text in detail where the answer could be?
  • How are your stress levels? are you feeling overwhelmed, what can you do to calm down?
  • Have you learnt from your mistakes or are you constantly making the same mistakes?
  • Did you understand the instructions before reading? (for example: ‘Choose no more than TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer’ )

10. I advise reading a lot of non-IELTS material also such as News stories (BBC News, The Guardian, The Times etc..) , magazine articles (New scientist, the Economist, stuff you find interesting) Work on these active reading points below.

  • When practicing reading (IELTS or non-IELTS material) make a note of new vocabulary and notice paraphrasing patterns.
  • Get to know how words collocate, collocations are key in developing your vocabulary.
  • Underline any difficult or new grammar structures you find while reading. Look them up online and practice them.

Paraphrasing is an important skill to develop


ielts paraphrasing in reading

Any Questions? Leave a comment below…

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