Home » IELTS Reading: Time management the key to a high band score

IELTS Reading: Time management the key to a high band score

‘I don’t understand how some candidates could complete the paper within just one hour — there is just so much to read!’ We often hear candidates complaining about the lack of time in the Reading test: the articles are long and difficult, and it seems impossible to complete all the questions in an hour. In this blog post, we will look at a smart way to manage your time in the Reading test.

The three sections

Before you start, try to imagine that you only have 50 minutes to complete all the questions once. If you are aiming for a high band score (i.e. allowing only one to two incorrect answers), leave 10 minutes in the end to check all your answers. We will come back to this later.

Not all sections are equal. The first section contains a text and a set of questions which will be easier than the other two. You should aim to read the topic sentences only, go straight into the questions and get a sense of where the answers can be found in the text. The first section should take you roughly seven to ten minutes to complete. Try to aim for that the next time you work on a practice test.

Highlighting the topic sentences in the paragraphs. Excerpts from Road to IELTS Test Drive.

The second and third sections will likely to contain trickier questions and require more detailed reading. The sentences in the reading will become longer and more complex, and if you are careless, may get thrown off by distractors and infer information incorrectly. In these two sections you should spend about fifteen minutes to read each article and five on answering each set of the questions. Find it difficult? Practise reading 1200-word long news articles until you can comfortably finish them in 15 minutes. Remember: a good test result always requires hard work. You can have a go at this article, for a start.

Sentences in passage 2 and 3 are more complex, and require more careful reading.

The last check

There are ten minutes left, and it is time to check your answers — and this is where most candidates get it wrong. It’s not just a simple spell-check: you will need to use that 10-minute window to read the questions again and quickly answer them in your heart. Ask yourself these questions as you go through the answer sheet:
Am I sure about this answer?

  • Is this a trick question?
  • Did I have doubts about this answer and should I look at the passage again?
  • And don’t forget to check the answer numbers against the question numbers, making really sure the answers are in the right boxes.

Not sure where to find practice materials? Road to IELTS is a good place to start.


  1. Raj says:

    I learned different variations of reading concepts from this blog post and how to manage time while reading besides answering these perceptions.

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