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IELTS Reading: Six key tips

IELTS Reading: Six key tips

Do you have an IELTS test coming up? Are you looking for some quick IELTS Reading tips and insights? Here are six key tips that I have come up with through the years as an IELTS trainer.

1. Manage your time

You have 60 minutes to answer 40 questions. That means 90 seconds per question, excluding reading time! That’s not much, so you must learn to manage your time effectively. Do not waste time on questions you don’t see the answer to. Skip them, move on and, if you have time, you can come back to them later.

2. Decide the best order of operations

Some candidates find it better to read the questions before the text; others prefer to read the passage first, then look at the questions. Try both ways and see which suits you best.

3. Know where to look for answers

Questions are usually in the same order as the answers in the text. This means the answer to question 1 will be earlier in the text than the answer to question 2. Bear this in mind as you look for answers. If you think you see the answer to question 7 before the answer to question 3, you are probably wrong. Make sure you double-check it.

4. Don’t panic when things get hard

The reading passages generally go from easier to harder and so do the questions. So don’t panic if you find the later texts and questions more difficult — they are supposed to be!

5. Make every mark count

Following on from tip 4, do the earlier questions first to get easy marks and gain confidence. Don’t forget that each correct answer gets you one mark. It doesn’t matter if it is an ‘easy’ answer or a more ‘difficult’ answer.

6. Learn to paraphrase

The IELTS Reading test aims to find out whether you can truly understand the texts you are reading. That means understanding not just the words, but also the ideas they are expressing. Because the questions usually paraphrase the information in the text, you need to read for meaning, not for exact wording. So don’t make the mistake of just looking for the same words in the question as in the text. Take this example:

Words in the text: ‘Marine life, for example, is influenced by tidal patterns.’
Words in the True / False / Not given question: ‘The rise and fall of sea levels affects how sea creatures behave.’
You can see that ‘marine life’ has been replaced by ‘sea creatures’; ‘rise and fall of sea levels’ is ‘tidal patterns’ and ‘influenced by’ is paraphrased by ‘affects how [sea creatures] behave’.

You can practise paraphrasing by re-telling stories you have read. Write down the main ideas of a chapter in a story, or an article you have found interesting. Then summarise what you have read, using your own words. It might be useful to look up synonyms for common or important words in texts. This will help to build your vocabulary, which is very important for your IELTS test.


  1. Wan Daqian says:

    Dear Sirs,

    I just realized that I made a wrong purchase of ROAD TO IELTS for general training while my test is Academics. I wonder if you could do something to shift my course from G to A.

    Your prompt comments will be highly appreciated.


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