Learn the Different Question Types

IELTS is a good gauge of your English abilities, but it’s also a test that you need to understand in order to pass with a good grade. You need to know the question types and the format. In the reading exam there are 10 different types of question:

  • True/False/Not Given
  • Yes/No/Not Given
  • Multiple Choice
  • Matching Information
  • Classifying Information
  • Sentence/Summary/Chart Completion
  • Short Answer
  • Diagram Labelling
  • Matching Sentence Endings
  • Matching Headings

Do Practice Tests

This probably seems like an obvious suggestion, but it really does help. Buy a book or go online and get some sample papers. This will help familiarize you with the material, but it will also make you more confident when you do the actual test. The IELTS is quite formulaic. The people who make the tests have to adhere to a strict set of guidelines, and so although it is impossible to predict material, you can get a good feel for the exam by doing past papers.

Develop Your Reading Techniques

You may have a good vocabulary, and a strong sense of grammar, but unless you can read fast and find key information, you will struggle with the IELTS reading exam. The problem is that there’s hardly any time to read all the information! You can’t just read slowly through the articles and answer the questions at leisure. Even a native speaker would struggle.

What you need to do is learn skimming and scanning. It is very important that you can read a text quickly and find important words that you will later come back to.


When you find an important word, you need to be able to come back to it. You can’t trust yourself to find it again as fast as you need, so get used to underlining key words and ideas. Make notes if you need to. The IELTS reading exam requires you to search quickly and then focus in on a particular part of the text in order to find an answer. If you underline what you need to use later, it will save you so much time – and time is not your friend in this exam.

Read Carefully and Avoid Trick Answers

The IELTS doesn’t really try to “trick” students, but it does have some stumbling blocks that may seem that way… In the reading exam, you need to be able to look at a question and find synonyms in the text. If you find a word in the question and then the text, it is tempting to assume that you’ve found your answer… but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it seems like you’ve found the answer, but in fact the answer is hidden nearby.

You need to be able to locate the right section of the text and then read carefully to ascertain the correct answer. Don’t just to conclusions. Don’t assume.

Finally… Practice, practice, practice!

Incorporate regular reading practice into your daily schedule. Read the news, read social media, read novels, read Wikipedia… Read everything! The more practice you get, the better your reading skills will become. It’s that simple.