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IELTS Reading: Three things you must know about multiple choice

In IELTS Reading, your biggest enemy is the clock. You have three passages to read in an hour, so you are going to be in a hurry — and when you rush, it’s easy to make mistakes. So it’s important to do some of the hard work before you even arrive at the exam hall. Try to spend 15 minutes, right now, reading and digesting three important facts about multiple choice questions in the Reading test.

How many answers?

You may have more than one multiple choice task in your IELTS Reading. Let’s look at an example. You read the instructions for the first passage and see that you have to choose two answers from each question. You go ahead and complete the exercise, correctly choosing two options each time.

You then move on to the second passage, and there is another multiple choice task. It’s very easy to skip the instructions and carry on choosing two options per question, just as you did in the first multiple choice. This would be a very big mistake. It is highly unlikely that the second multiple choice will be the same as the first. It is almost certain that in the second, you have to choose either three or one option per question. If you choose two, you will get zero marks.

Lesson: Read the instructions for each section very carefully, even if you think you know what to do.

Use your knowledge of the world

You can often use your common sense to help you answer a multiple choice question. Let’s look at a very obvious example. You might get a question about something very general, like the sun:

The sun is:

  • hot
  • blue
  • cold
  • yellow

You have seen the sun, and you know it’s not cold, so you can eliminate that answer, and you know it’s not blue, so that can’t be correct either. So we only have two answers left: hot and yellow. At this point you need to go back to the passage and find something that relates to hot or something that relates to yellow. Your knowledge of the world is unlikely to be enough to lead you all the way to the correct answer; but it can take you half way there.

If in doubt, guess

If you can’t find the answer to a multiple choice question, guess. You are not penalised for wrong answers. You are only given credit for answers that are correct. There is another danger to leaving an answer blank: it’s easy to get confused and write the next answer in the box. Then you risk all of your subsequent answers being wrong because they are all in the wrong boxes.

What’s next?

This advice comes from a video in Road to IELTS. The same video also includes British Council IELTS experts’ advice on:

  • Skimming the text and questions
  • The importance of synonyms
  • The importance of understanding the task types
  • True / False / Not Given question — perhaps the hardest task type in IELTS Reading

To watch the video, click here.

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