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IELTS Reading: Seven FAQs

IELTS Reading: Seven common questions

You may have read one of our posts about nine commonly-asked questions for the Listening module. In this post, I am going to discuss some frequently asked questions raised by candidates about the Reading module.

1. What if I don’t know about the topics in the reading passages?
The topics in IELTS are of general interest and come from books, magazines, newspapers, journals and so on. They will not be so difficult or technical that an educated person can’t understand them. It is sensible to spend some time reading the kind of text you are going to see in the test — especially if you are not familiar with Western culture.

2. How many different types of questions are there?
There is a whole range of question types, including multiple choice, short-answer questions, sentence completion, table completion, True/False/Not Given, classification and others. Confused? If so, you really need to find out more about these task types. Some of them can be difficult — especially True/False/Not Given. If you don’t understand these task types before you go into the examination hall, you are very unlikely to do well in IELTS. Start by reading about the different question types, like True/ False/ Not Given or matching headings to paragraphs. Then practise completing the questions so you feel confident and familiar with the differences.

3. Should I start by skimming through the passages?
Skimming and scanning skills are important in the Reading test, but it may be better to read the questions first. One thing is always true — the questions are easier to understand than the passages themselves. By quickly looking at the questions (it won’t take more than 45 seconds), you can get an idea on what to look for in the text, which will save time later.

4. Do I have extra time at the end to transfer my answers to the answer paper?
No. In the Listening module (paper-based version only), you are given time at the end to transfer your answers, but not in the Reading module. You need to write your answers on the answer paper as you work through each section.

5. Should I spend the same amount of time on each section?
If you are aiming for a high band score (above 7), it’s a mistake to spend the same amount of time on Section 1 and Section 3. The questions get a lot tougher in the last section and you must pay more attention to detail than in the previous passages. Familiarise yourself with the contents of each section — knowing what to expect in each section will help you plan how much time you can afford to spend. If you aim high, you have got to be confident enough to go through the first section quickly, as it tends to be more straightforward. Judging from my own experience, 8-10 minutes would be the maximum time you should spend on your first run on Section 1.

6. Do I get more marks for correct answers in Section 3?
No. There are a total of 40 questions, and there is one mark for each question, no matter which section it is in.

7. If I get an answer wrong, do I lose a mark?
No. You will not have a mark deducted, you will simply fail to gain one. This means that if you are not sure of the answer, there is nothing to lose by guessing. Who knows, you might get it right!

Click here to read more useful tips for the IELTS Reading test.

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