This is the second post in my series ‘Best IELTS Last Minute Tips’. The first post was about the Listening Test.
Now, I think I always make it quite clear that I believe in starting your IELTS Test preparation way in advance of the test but in this post I’m going to give you my best IELTS tips for the Reading Test.
- Read the instructions carefully. In particular, I suggest that you underline (or circle) the instructions regarding the number of words you are required to use in your answer. Questions with a word limit do not always ask for the same number of words.
Do this all through the test as the instructions usually change throughout the exam.
- Before you start, quickly glance at all 3 sections of the test. We all know that the Reading Test increases in difficulty as you progress. Although section 1 is known to be the easiest section, you may notice that the section 3 text is about a topic you know really well and you might decide to start with section 3. I have found that a lot of my students really don’t like the ‘true, false, not given’ task type and therefore decide to leave the section containing that task type until last. In any case, it’s always a good idea to seize control of the test and give yourself the option of doing the section you ‘like the look of’ first.
- A common lament I hear from students is about running out of time in the Reading Test. Time management is crucial in the IELTS Reading Test. You must complete 3 sections in one hour. As a result, I strongly suggest you spend no more than 20 minutes on each section.
- When you are ready to start, don’t read every word of the passage. Read through quickly (about 5 minutes) and write the topic (main idea) of each paragraph in the margin, you should also underline the key words used for this topic. Doing this will help keep you focussed when you’re answering the questions.
- Following on from the last point, the General Training Reading Test and the Academic Reading Test are quite different. In the General Training Reading Test, you might have shorter texts to read but there are often more of them. This impacts on your time management and you need to ensure that you spend about 5 minutes of actual reading time for each section of the test.
- Another point about time management is the question of transferring answers to the answer sheet. As soon as you are satisfied with your answers to each group of questions, transfer them directly to the answer sheet (don’t forget you are NOT given time at the end to do this).
- When reading the questions, underline or circle the key words and look for words and phrases in the passage that have a similar meaning. Think carefully about the type of answer the question requires (e.g. is it a number, a place, an animal). Equally important is to think about the grammar of the answer; will it be a noun, an adjectival phrase etc. This is particularly important in gap-fills where the answer needs to be factually correct and to fit grammatically.
- I have found that for certain task types (that my students always complain about!) e.g. matching paragraph headings, yes/no/not given (true/false/not given), summarising, it often helps to read the questions and underline (or circle) key words before you read the text. This will keep you focussed when you read the text. As you are reading the passage, you can put a tick next to a paragraph or sentence that seems to relate to the questions.
- For multiple choice and matching paragraph heading question task types, sometimes you immediately identify an answer as wrong. If this is the case, put a line through it; there are two reasons for this 1) it is very satisfying (!) and 2) it makes you spend your time focussing on the other options.
- It often happens in the matching paragraph heading question task type that you can’t decide between 2 possible answers. I usually suggest that my students write both answers on their question sheet. As you progress through the questions, it often becomes clear which is the correct answer. At the end of the set of questions, if you are satisfied with your answers, but still have two possible answers for one question, then take an educated guess. Do NOT write two answers on your answer sheet where only one is required. You will not score a point for your answer if you write both.
- In gap-fills and sentence completion task types, you are often required to copy a word or short phrase from the passage. Make sure you copy the spelling correctly. This sounds obvious but I am astounded by the number of students who make this mistake either through nerves or carelessness.
Finally, good luck on Saturday!
Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!