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  • Writer's pictureJialang Zheng

Tips for IELTS Reading Test

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an English language proficiency test for those who intend to study or work in countries where people use English to communicate. The test focuses on English language skills in four areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It provides a comprehensive and accurate assessment of a candidate's ability to use the English language. Preparing for this test can also help people improve their English-speaking skills.

This is a picture of an IELTS testing book sitting on a coffee table.
The IELTS test can be beneficial if you want to study or work in an English-speaking country.

Today, we are going to talk about tips for the reading section because it is a fundamental part of IELTS. It is particularly difficult for candidates who are brand new to the test. As a candidate before, I can understand the difficulty of preparing for the reading section. The IELTS Reading test consists of three articles about academic materials like science, humanity, etc. Candidates would have to answer a total of 40 questions within 60 minutes. However, even though the process of learning the new words can be hard, it’s worth it because you will be able to read the article successfully and receive a good score. And I will help you in this process by providing tips for IELTS reading so that you can learn how to prepare for the exam effectively and make the process a little easier.

Before I talk about tips for reading, I would like to tell you about my journey in preparing for the IELTS reading test at that time. For me, the IELTS reading test was very difficult. Because I knew very few words at that time and had a poor grasp of grammar, it could take me two hours to read an English article. For the test, I had to read three articles in an hour. I hope that with these tips, you will read IELTS articles more efficiently and not make too many mistakes.

1. Develop a detailed preparation plan

Whether you are studying on your own or taking an online IELTS course, it is extremely important to keep a pace of study in your mind, and the most scientific way I can think of to do so is to use a good preparation plan. Having a good plan can help us in many ways. For example, we can avoid stopping halfway, clearly see if we have achieved our goals each day, grasp the progress of our review, and provide timely self-feedback to see if we are learning effectively. Doing so will help us to adjust our study time and improve our learning efficiency.

2. Recite words.

The second thing is to solve the word problem. We can buy an IELTS dictionary, which is a collection of common words in the IELTS reading test. We should concentrate on memorizing the words before we start reading the articles. Once we know them, we need to review them regularly. This method of studying words is based on The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve. Spending time on memorizing words allows the brain to remember more clearly and forget the words more slowly. However, there is a disadvantage: the more time we spend learning the meaning of the words, the less time we can spend learning their pronunciations and how they’re used. We can only remember the meaning of the words, all for the sake of IELTS reading.

3. Combining intensive reading with extensive reading

Intensive reading of texts needs to cover different subject topics and genres, not to simply get the right answer, but to focus on learning subject vocabulary and reading the passages. The extensive reading is to train reading speed and develop the habit of reading. There is no need to read the whole text intensively. Instead, I usually recommend that you read the readings in IELTS authentic examination papers intensively and read some famous articles or novels in general.

This is a picture of a person reading a book.
Studying both intensive and extensive reading will be beneficial for the test.

4. There are a few important steps to remember as you read IELTS readings. These include the following:

1). The first step is to look at the title of the question to get an idea of the general topic of the reading.

2). The second step is to see what types of questions are there. (The way to identify and solve different types of questions is shown in “5. How to do different types of questions”).

3). The third step is to draw the keywords in the stem of the question in order. Keywords are the locators which can help us find the paragraphs or sentences with the necessary information to solve the question. It is an important feature of the IELTS reading section because it sets those keywords deliberately to help us find the answer.

5. How to do different types of questions.

Judgment Questions: The first thing you need to do is to look at the question and see whether it is TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN or YES/NO/NOT GIVEN. You should not infer it and take it for granted. Carefully compare it with the original text.

TRUE: The goal is to find a synonymous substitution. If the original text can correspond in turn, that is certainly TRUE. However, please don’t panic if you can't read the original text. After the original text is set in place, if there are more than three synonymous substitutions in the sentence, it can be determined as TRUE, even if you don’t understand the meaning.

FALSE: The stem of the question is contrary to the original text, the subject words are the same, and the words are contrary to each other.

NOT GIVEN (NG): This is easy to confuse with the other two. Remember that there are only two cases of NOT GIVEN: the information in the stem is not given in the original text or it describes a possibility of the original text.

1). The first thing you need to do is to check whether the question is one of these two cases, and if so, choose NOT GIVEN.

2). In addition, NG and F are particularly easy to choose an incorrect situation when the stem describes a relationship between A and B. If the original text of such a relationship does not exist, that is NOT GIVEN. If the original text of such a relationship has the stem of the inconsistency, that is FALSE. Generally, there are not three consecutive NGs. At most, there are only two.

Heading questions: You should first cross out the options in the example and then see which paragraphs to choose as the heading. Look at the original text paragraph by paragraph, and then you can find the correct heading. Some extra tips are as follows:

1). If there are some corresponding options after reading a paragraph, there will generally be interference.

2). Be careful with the options that look similar. You should note and analyze which one is more about the central idea of the paragraph with keywords.

3). After choosing a heading, you can cross out the obviously incorrect choice to narrow down the scope. Do not just look at the first sentence of the paragraph; most of the time, the question is not so simple.

Matching questions: You should first look at the question to determine if there is an NG. If there is, it means that you can choose some answers twice. There are three kinds of matching questions: paragraph matching, relationship matching, and sentence matching.

1). Relational matching is the easiest. It is usually the name of the person or the era, which is very easy to locate in the original text.

2). Sentence matching is sequential, and it is good to do it one by one by matching the keywords in order.

3). The hardest part is the paragraph matching. You still have to read the original text paragraph by paragraph, and then you can choose whether there is a match in the options.

4). There is an important distinction between paragraph matching and heading. The heading needs to find out the central idea of the whole paragraph, and paragraph matching determines what information is in the paragraph, even if it is not key information. As long as the keywords appear in the paragraph and can correspond with an option, you can choose that option.

This is a picture of a student sitting at a desk, writing in an open notebook.
Learn the different strategies to answer different types of questions.

6. There are a few effective ways to speed up IELTS reading

After mastering how to do the IELTS reading questions, we should focus on improving our reading speed.

1). Before you start reading the given article, you should first figure out the questions you need to answer.

1.1). With those questions, you can target the subjects that are related to the answers. And some information can be left out altogether to save more time and achieve twice the results with half the effort.

1.2). If the question is in the form of a chart, then the chart section will be marked with some textual topics, and these words or phrases can be used as keywords. So you should read the keywords in the chart carefully when answering the questions so that you know exactly what kind of questions are being asked and how to answer them.

Note: Read the beginning and end of each section of the test. It’s also a good idea to determine the number of questions in each section.

2). Fast reading is important, but skill is equally important. The single-minded pursuit of reading fast will prevent us from finding the answer. So we need to be flexible, know how to adjust the reading speed, and know when to speed up and slow down. Don't read just for the sake of reading. In the test, you should read with purpose. Here are some specific reading strategies:

2.1). When we want to get the general idea of the text, we can skim and look for a specific word or phrase.

2.2). If you are looking for the general meaning of a paragraph, you just read the first and last sentences of that paragraph quickly.

2.3). If you are looking for the correct answer to a question, you should take the time to read each word carefully to get more details.

2.4). There are several types of IELTS reading questions, each requiring a different skill or a different combination of skimming, checking, close reading, etc. So it is recommended that you adopt a specific reading strategy based on the type of question.

3). The IELTS reading questions are complex and varied, so the direction of each question type is slightly different. For example, matching questions are always one of the hardest parts for candidates because the answer is out of order. So for the answer order, we suggest the following:

3.1). Headings questions are obvious. Most of the options are about the main idea of the passage. After completing this question, you will have a basic understanding of the general content of the article.

3.2). The summary question is a detailed examination. According to the locator and list of headings questions, it is easy to lock the corresponding paragraph to complete the content of each to be filled.

3.3). Judgment questions are completed after the students have a basic grasp of what the article is about, so it was a good idea whether or not the article had mentioned the content.

4). The most important thing is to take notes while browsing the IELTS reading articles. IELTS reading articles will have some common test points, such as the general idea of the paragraph, the matching of names, the understanding of long and difficult sentences, the theme of the article, etc. If we mark this key information when we skim the article, then it is not only easy to locate when doing the questions, but we can even do the questions directly. For example, if you crossed out the topic sentence of each paragraph, then you can match the subheadings and quickly solve the matching questions.

7. Find a good online IELTS course to learn the basics of the IELTS reading test.

Students who are new to IELTS and want to learn on their own are often prone to making some mistakes. They will find a lot of articles to read and copy other people's methods, without considering whether they are suitable for themselves. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you have a good understanding of what you are doing. I recommend that you try the online IELTS classes at ReDefiners World Languages. Our mission is to create multilingual global citizens through equal access to language learning opportunities. We offer classes in IELTS for candidates. By taking our courses, you will learn how to prepare for the IELTS test. For more information, please visit or email us at

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