Next month, there will be a new resource available to IELTS candidates around the world. It is a book called IELTS Reading Practice: Academic and it is written by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy.
The book begins, as one might expect, with a guide that shows readers how to make the most of it, and then proceeds with a brief explanation of the IELTS exam. The guide is quite important as making full use of this book requires jumping back and forth between pages. Anyway, I appreciated the authors’ honesty in this preparatory comment:
We can’t tell you what texts will appear in your IELTS Academic Reading test, and we can’t tell you what task types will appear either, but we can share lots of strategies that we feel will help you succeed.
Indeed. One cannot expect unreasonable results from any resource, though sadly in the hyper-competitive IELTS industry, false promises abound. In any case, this honesty is indicative of the professionalism and intelligence of the authors, both of whom have impressive credentials. One has written for Pearson, the other is an IELTS examiner, and both have lots of teaching experience.
The main part of the book begins with a rundown of key information concerning the IELTS reading test and a list of useful strategies that could be employed. I was surprised by this because I expected those to be taught throughout the book, but in fact the book was more substantial than merely a guide to strategies, as I shall explain. Anyway, those strategies are the usual ones you see in pithy blogs and YouTube videos: don’t leave questions unanswered, read quickly to get the gist of a text, etc.
This is followed by a look at each of the fourteen types of question one might encounter in an IELTS reading exam – matching headings, T/F/NG, summary completion, etc. Each is given one page, with a very brief outline, tips, and pitfalls to avoid. For me, this was actually the weak point in the book. These pages were very repetitive (with whole sentences even repeated on opposing pages) and ultimately all of this information could more effectively have been slotted into the later chapters, which were the most valuable parts.
The bulk of the book is, thankfully, composed of more conventional chapters that again take each question type as the focus. These are also given a common IELTS theme (technology, fast food, careers, etc) and they follow a similar pattern to other valuable textbooks:
- A discussion/thinking exercise
- Several vocab exercises
- A set of limited, guided reading activities
- Then a realistic IELTS text with questions to answer
This was absolutely the highlight of the book for me and I would gladly have used this book back when I was teaching in a classroom. I really enjoy this sort of approach and feel it is tremendously useful for students. As such, I would advise this for any teachers looking for a decent book on IELTS reading.
As for individual IELTS students, it could certainly be helpful. Whilst it would make a better classroom resource, there is no reason that it could not be applied to self-study, though I would caution that it would be of most use to those already at about band 6.5 and above. Anyone below that level would likely struggle to understand the instructions and fully benefit from the advice given.
The book is rounded out with additional activities at the end. These are supplementary to the fourteen main chapters (one for each of the common question types) and simply provide extra exercises for people that have finished the first sets. For those looking to do more reading practice, the publisher (Prosperity Education) will also be releasing a set of 28 sample IELTS reading papers. This would complement the reading guide quite nicely.
These two books go on sale in October. I will post a link here once they do, but for now I will direct you to their sales page here.