Although most students seem to be more worried about the writing and speaking tests, many ask me how to prepare for the IELTS reading test. This exam is much more difficult than it seems, and being prepared is absolutely essential. This guide will help you get ready for your own IELTS reading exam.

Know the Exam Format

The first thing you should do is get to know the test format. Even if you are really confident in your reading skills, you need to be familiar with the exam layout in order to succeed. Here are the key details you must know:

  1. There are 3 reading texts with a maximum word count of 2,750 total
    • these come from non-specialist sources like articles, newspapers, etc
  2. You need to answer 40 questions
    • you get 1 mark for each correct answer
  3. The time limit is 60 minutes, giving you 20 minutes per text

You should make sure you are familiar with the test format before taking the real IELTS exam, so pick up some practice tests or search for authentic tests online.

What Types of Question Are There?

You must also be familiar with the question types for the IELTS reading test. These include:

  • multiple choice
  • identifying information
  • sentence completion
  • identifying author’s views
  • matching headings
  • table completion
  • note completion
  • summary completion

There are more, but those are the most common types of question you will encounter. It is almost certain you will be asked to for a multiple choice question or to match headings, as these are among the most popular types. You should therefore spend extra time practicing these before the exam.

Practice answering each type of question often, and if you get a question wrong, ask yourself why you were wrong. This is important. Perhaps you could consult a friend or teacher, and that will help you to avoid making the same mistake again. Making mistakes is completely normal, but we need to analyze them and learn from them.

Here are some practice tests I have made:

Tips for Passing the IELTS Reading Test

Learn to Read Quickly

If you only have 60 minutes to finish the IELTS reading test, you need to be able to find information quickly. This means developing your reading skills: skimming, scanning, and reading for detail. Too many of my students start of their IELTS reading practice by slowly sifting through a whole test, trying to understand every word! This is the exact opposite of what you need to do. Instead, you should quickly look over the passage and only seek out what you need. The key here is to practice your reading skills over and over until you are an expert at finding the right information.

Reading quickly doesn’t just mean going through the text fast… You also need to be able to process the questions quickly, too. Remember that there are 40 questions and they are all worth just 1 mark each. If you really struggle with an answer, it is not worth spending too much time on it. Just move on to the next question. Never waste your time, or else you could lose valuable points elsewhere.

Practice Reading in English Every Day

If you really want to be faster at reading, get used to reading in English a lot. Don’t just read textbooks – instead, read the news in English. Read novels in English. Read reviews and jokes and webpages in English. Read everything in English! It’s the quickest way to boost your reading speed. There will always be words you don’t understand, but there are times for picking up a dictionary to figure out the new vocabulary, and times to skip it over and move on.

The more you read in English, the faster and more accurate your reading skills will become. If you read regularly, you’ll soon find that the IELTS reading exam starts to seem easier. Remember that when you are preparing for IELTS, you don’t always need to be thinking of exam skills. Sometimes it’s good just to improve your general abilities.

Build Your Vocabulary

Having a large vocabulary can really help you in the reading exam because knowing synonyms is just about the most important skill you can have. One of the key features of the IELTS reading exam is that the questions will use different words to refer to ideas in the text. This means you need to be able to underline a key word in the question and then think of words with a similar meaning to search for the in the passage. If you can do this – and do it quickly! – you are destined for IELTS success!

Build your vocabulary while doing general reading practice. While reading the news, keep a dictionary handy to note down interesting words and collocations. Test yourself on them later to see how much you’ve learned.

Changing word form is another way to improve your vocabulary, and in the reading exam you can look for parts of words that are familiar. Maybe you know the word “victory”. You can then guess that “victorious” is related to it, right? Native speakers do this all the time. Pay attention to the ends of words for the correct part of speech.

Don’t Leave Blanks

When answering questions, you will often find that you don’t know an answer. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave a blank space on the answer paper. Instead, just take a guess! This is so important because a blank space means no mark, whereas a guess could be one mark. This is especially true for certain types of question like T/F/NG. You have a 33% chance of being right! If you really don’t know the answer, figure out what the most likely one or two answers could be, and just guess. It may be a really important extra mark for you.

IELTS Reading Video Lesson

Here is a short video about answering questions for IELTS reading.