Many of you may be struggling on how to prepare for the IELTS reading examination. Some tutor may tell you there is no way to prepare, just read more newspapers, books, and magazines, and you will improve your reading speed and vocabulary. Sound familiar? Honestly, reading skill and examination skill are completely different professions. You can read it so fast but answer incorrectly. In this tutorial, I am just gonna give you the basic guideline and tips on getting a higher band score through my experience.
First thing first, you need to be totally familiar with the IELTS reading exam format. Once the reading test starts, you have just 60 minutes to finish 40 questions which are increasing difficulty from the start to the end. Many students just spend too much time in some sessions and fail to complete all the answers within the time limit. Remember that you need to write all your answers in the Reading Answer Sheet but not the QUESTION PAPER. I am not joking, some students made this fatal mistake and no luck that you will get a ZERO mark undoubtedly.
Does the IELTS academic and general training reading test the same?
No matter if you are taking the Academic or general IELTS test, you need to complete three sections, starting from easier to more difficult articles theoretically.
According to the IELTS official score banding scheme, taking the general training exam needs a higher number of correct answers than the Academic test, it is because the academic ielts paper has more complicated vocabularies.
Below is the average correct answer reference to achieve specific band score provided by IELTS official:
Academic IELTS exam reference
|Band score||Number of correct ANS|
General training IELTS exam reference
|Band score||Number of correct ANS|
So now you should know that the IELTS general training exam theoretically is easier than academic tests but the marking scheme requirements are different so it’s not fair to say taking general tests is much easier than the academic one. You need to get the number of correct answers equal or more than 38 out of 40 in order to get a band score of 8 or above.
Alright let’s talk about the tips of taking the IELTS reading test and how you can be well-prepared before taking the actual examination. You should know the passages types are from variety sources like newspapers, journals, magazines, logical argument, etc, so having a good reading habit daily is definitely an advantage to you. Some recommended reading are TIME, Bloomberg, BBC News, NewScientist, etc. Just try to learn more new vocabulary in different fields so as to widen your horizon.
Question types in the reading exam:
Next you need to get familiar with different types of tasks in the reading test. You will encounter TRUE/FALSE questions, Short-answered questions, Multiple choice questions, diagram completion, choosing heading of an article, matching phrases, identifying location and labelling, etc. So I highly recommend you to try out all the questions type by the Online mock exam, make sure you are well acquainted with the format before the actual examination.
In each section, there are around 10-15 questions you need to handle, and the difficulty will keep increasing from Section 1 to 3, so make sure you get enough time in section 3 which may take you more effort to deal with.
Again and again, to get a high score in the IELTS reading test, you must start to develop skimming and scanning skills as you get only 60 minutes in the exam. I will try to explain a little bit more about this critical skill.
How to develop skimming and scanning skills in short?
Skimming and scanning skills are similar but not the same. Both of them use rapid eye movement technique which read quickly through the sentences or even a paragraph (Yes, some people are well trained not reading word by word or not even sentence by sentence but paragraph by paragraph start from a kid)
In order to have this special skill, you need to start to force yourself reading sentence by sentence and progressively paragraph by paragraph. Your only purpose is to get the OVERVIEW of the articles, just moving on even though you don’t understand every single word. I know it’s really hard at the very beginning but try more time and you will get familiar with this skimming skill which will save your life in the IELTS reading test.
Scanning skill literally means looking for a particular information in an article. Just imagine you read the whole article once and then start to read the first question in the reading test, you need to read the article again finding out the answer. The time spent will be double. A better way is to read the questions first, and then start scanning for the answer you are looking for. This skill especially works well for the research articles which included lots of factual data.
In conclusion, the smart strategy is skimming first, understanding the overall idea of the articles, then read the questions one by one, start scanning and locate the answer in the paragraph, get the work done. You can still review if you have extra time to make sure your answer is correct.
Does the grammar matter in the IELTS reading test?
The answer is absolutely YES. This is another common mistake students encountered. While doing the sentence completion type of question, you need to write down your answer with correct spelling and grammar. Even British spelling and American spelling matter. According to the official IELTS guideline, it’s alright to spell in British or American ways but you need to be consistent in the whole paper. That means you can’t randomly pick the words to be used. For example,
|British spelling||American spelling|
They look so similar but just cultural differences. However, as mentioned, the IELTS marking scheme is consistent with the spelling. So please make sure you use the vocabulary in the same way.
Also, using inappropriate grammar is not treated as a correct answer. So you need to double check your grammar, like the tense, the verb pattern, the clauses, the conditionals, etc. There are tons of resources on the Internet teaching about English Grammar or you can refer to our grammar basic tutorial to learn from.
Practice makes perfect. It’s a universal truth. Even though you are not strong in English, maybe you don’t have a good English foundation or you are so scared of reading exercises, just try to read more articles daily, starting from the easier one so as to increase your vocabulary. You will find it funny once you are able to understand the meaning of the articles, and you will become stronger and smarter.
The final tip is making English flash card. This is an effective memory technique especially helping those people who do not easily memorise English words. Making your own flash cards and reading it repeatedly can increase your vocabulary in short. You can even draw some images in the cards to strengthen the memories. Just try it out!
I Hope you got some ideas on how to prepare for your IELTS reading test. Feel free to leave comments or any question or share this information to your friends if you find this useful.