Introduction to the Reading Test

In this class you will learn some basic information about the IELTS reading test and practice two question types.

Exercise 1

Read the text below. Select an appropriate heading for each section of the text.

The IELTS reading test is the second test on the IELTS test day. It follows the listening test. The test is 60 minutes long. You are given a question paper and an answer paper. No extra time is given for you to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer paper so make sure you write your answers on the answer paper as you go along. Watch the clock to manage your time effectively to make sure you answer all of the questions. You may write on the question paper but the examiner will not check this paper.
The IELTS reading test consists of three sections. There are 40 questions in total and each question carries one point. Each section contains a text or texts of around 750 words.
In this test, each of the three sections consists of just one long text. The text will be about an academic subject that an undergraduate student at university should be able to understand. The texts are taken from journals and newspapers and are intended (made) for a non-specialist audience so the vocabulary should not be too technical. If there are technical terms included, then a glossary will be provided which explains the technical terms. In order to understand the texts in this test, it is important that you have a good understanding of ‘sub technical academic vocabulary’, that is, vocabulary which is academic but not topic specific. Prepare for this by learning vocabulary from the academic word list. We have an app available that can help you do this. The texts you encounter in the reading test may be discursive (provide an argument), be factual or be analytical. It is important that you consider the text type and the purpose of why it was written as this will better help you to answer questions about it.
As with the academic test, this test consists of three sections. The texts themselves are often taken from advertisements, manuals, handbooks, or public notices.

  • Section one often consists of a number of short texts. These will be relevant to day to day life in an English speaking country.
  • Section two consists of two texts. These texts are short and the content is factual and usually related to work.
  • Section three consists of one longer text about a general knowledge topic that may be found in a magazine or newspaper. It does not contain technical vocabulary
Reading ability is formed of a number of skills. The IELTS reading test is designed to test your ability to…

  • read for the general message of a passage
  • read for the main idea of each paragraph
  • read for specific information
  • understand inferences and implied meaning
  • recognise a writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose
  • follow the development of an argument
All of the questions on the reading test require you to read the text but some questions require you to write just a letter on the answer paper while other questions require you to write a word or several words. If you must write a word or words, then you must be careful with spelling because bad spelling will cost you points. There are a range of different question types that are used on the IELTS reading test. These include questions in which the candidate must…

  • fill gaps in a passage of written text or in a table using words from the reading passage
  • match headings to written text to diagrams or charts
  • complete sentences with words or phrases from the reading passage
  • give short answers to open questions
  • answer multiple choice questions
We have found that our students make the following mistakes or suffer from certain problems in the test.

  1. Read the questions before you read the text. Choose the appropriate strategy for each type of question.
  2. Make sure you read the instructions carefully. If the instruction tells you to write ‘yes or no’ on the answer paper but you write ‘true or false’ you will not receive any points.
  3. Some candidates try and understand every single word this slows the candidate down. If you don’t understand a word, read around the word to see if there are any clues as to the meaning. If you still don’t understand, then read on. Don’t waste time.
  4. Some candidates write the answers on the question paper and forget to transfer them on to the answer paper and so receive a score of zero. Make sure you write answers on the correct paper.
  5. Spelling is important in the IELTS test. Always double check your spelling with what is written in the text. If you know you make particular spelling errors, for example if you are an Arabic speaker, you may confuse a/e, then pay extra attention to these – you know your own weaknesses.

Exam Note

You have completed a heading matching task. This exam question type tests your understanding the main idea of each section of a text. This is a very common question type in the IELTS exam.

Exercise 2

Based on the text, are the following statements true, false or is the information not given.

1. Most candidates find the IELTS reading test more difficult than the IELTS listening test.
2. The maximum score possible on the reading test is 40.
3. In order to prepare for the academic reading test, you should learn academic vocabulary as this is what will help you to understand the texts.
4. Highly technical words are not explained in the academic test.
5. Each section in the general reading test consists of different types of texts.
6. There are 10 different types of reading questions that may be found on the IELTS reading test.
7. Use different strategies to answer different question types.
8. You must understand every single word in the text in order to get a good band score.

Exam Note

You have just completed true false not given questions. These questions require you to find specific information in the text and decide whether the statement agrees or disagrees with it or if there is no information regarding the statement in the text. This is a very different skill to analyzing paragraphs for main ideas that you did in exercise 1.

True False Not Given Strategy

Notice that in these types of questions, the answers are presented in the text in the same order that the questions are asked. Therefore, the answer for question 2 appears after the answer for question 1 but before the answer for question 3. This can help you to more easily locate answers in the text.