IELTS reading tips: How to improve your score? - A.I.B.E | Aadharsila Institute of Basic Education

IELTS reading tips: How to improve your score?


Reading section has 40 questions in total which is divided into three sections R1, R2 AND R3. The texts are taken from journals, newspapers, books, magazines, advertisements etc.

The first section contains relevant basic linguistic survival in English with mainly concerned with providing factual information.

The second section focuses on the work context and involves texts of complex language. The third section involves reading more extended texts with a more complex structure, but with the emphasis on descriptive and instructive rather than argumentative texts.

A variety of question types are asked including multiple choice, matching heading, features, matching information, diagram labelling, summary completion note completion inflation flow chart completion summary completion sentence completion short answer questions, True false and not given questions.


Reading is one of the most scoring sections of IELTS. One can even score 9 bands in that section. One needs to increase the reading speed as the duration of the reading test is one hour. As there are three sections, so one needs to finish each section in 20 minutes. It is easy to score good bands in reading if one has a decent vocabulary and good comprehension skills. 


Following are some tips which one needs to keep in mind:

  1. Take a look at the questions before you go to the passage-It’s always a good idea to quickly glance at the questions before you start reading the passage, since you can alter your reading strategy based on this. Suppose you get a question of matching heading then you need to have a broad understanding of the passage but if the question is asking you to match writer’s claim / information then you need to read the passage in detail. Looking at the questions will give you an idea on how to approach the passage.
  1. Learn to summarize– You need to paraphrase or summarize the passage in your own words. It will be a lot easier for you to understand the text. For this you can prepare a map or underline keywords. Don’t worry about difficult words rather try to understand “why” the author is giving you this information. 
  1. Keep a track of time– You get 60 minutes to complete the entire reading section. So, give 20 minutes to each passage. You will not get extra time to transfer your answers, so finish it in 18 minutes and use the remaining 2 minutes to transfer the answer to the answer sheets.
  1. Read the instructions carefully- one needs to read the instructions carefully as instructions might be different from what you may have seen in during your practice.
  1. Focus on the first and last paragraph of each passage– This is very important strategy for reading as the first paragraph introduces the idea of the passage and the last paragraph     usually summarizes it. Thus, focusing on these two paragraphs will make it easier for one to capture the overall flow of thoughts in the passage.
  1. Use your cursor/ pencil as your read– If you are giving a computer based exam then keep your cursor on the passage as your read and if your paper based exam then keep your pencil on the line you are reading and underline important points, key words as you read it. It keeps you focused.
  1. Stick to the word limit– Do not write more words than you have been asked to. While answering short answer questions, check the word limit. If you write more than required, then you will lose marks.
  1. Do not use your knowledge in answering the questions– The answers to all the questions are given in the passage. Never make the mistake of answering the questions based on your additional knowledge of the given subject.
  1. Pay attention to spellings– while transferring your answers to the sheet make sure your spellings are correct and write in legible handwriting and copy against the correct question number.
  1. Skimming and scanning– This technique is useful for almost all the questions. Just by skimming and scanning, one can solve all completion questions like summary, note, table, diagram, and flowchart and sentence completion. One needs to just locate the information of the question in the passage and give the answers.
  1. Vocabulary building- One needs to have a good vocabulary to crack this section with good bands. People who have an average vocabulary can improve by learning new words daily.
  1. Comprehension skills –One needs to improve the comprehension skills as passages come from different genre like medicine, science, technology, economy, history, philosophy etc. One need to practice reading plethora of article and have diversity in reading. One can start with reading half an hour daily.
  1. Reading speed– One needs to have a good reading speed to crack this section, one needs to practice skimming scanning and follow the pointer method and underline the key-words wherever required. Scanning” involves moving your eyes quickly down the page – often down the center – and identifying specific words and phrases as you go. These can be key sentences (often the first sentence of each paragraph), names, numbers, or trigger words and ideas. Learning to expand your peripheral vision can help with this.
  2. When in doubt, guess– There is no penalty for wrong answers, so even if you don’t know the answer to a particular question, guess. Do not leave any question unanswered.
  3. Practice mocks and test papers– Practice is the key. One needs to practice many questions and give mock tests under same guidelines of 1 hour and then analyze the questions also.

Common Mistakes in IELTS Reading

A lot of candidates succumb in this section due to exam anxiety. One needs to avoid certain mistakes to ace this section. Some of the common mistakes to avoid in IELTS reading section are:

  1. Not understanding the question-

As there are 13 topics, candidate needs to be versed with the question types and how to tackle each question. For e.g.,  in true false and not given questions, questions are in order so the answer for question number 1 is before 2 ,so on and so forth. However, in completing tasks, one needs to locate the answers. Also, in matching information, one needs to do detail reading.

  1. Not reading the instructions carefully:

Sometimes, students do not read the complete questions and make errors while doing it. The common mistake in this word limit/The candidates do not check the word limit and in hurry write more than required and hence lose marks.

  1. Not managing time properly

Many people fail to manage time so are not able to finish their paper on time. For this students need to pick which questions to do first. They need to understand their strengths and weaknesses and it will come with practice.

How to approach different types of questions

There are 13 different question types but they all can be categorized four headings:

1. True false Not given and yes no not given questions– These questions are in order. One needs to attempt this question first as these are in order. You get 5-15 marks questions from this section. You need to practice these type of questions as they definitely come in the exam.

 2. Multiple choice questions- These questions come in the category of MCQ: Single, which is the most common type of question and MCQ: multiple. These type have questions with options, so one needs to select the correct option. This questions needs to be approached by elimination method.

3. Matching questions– there are four set of questions which pertain to this category:

a. Matching Heading-In this one needs to match the correct heading with the correct paragraph. To tackle this type of questions one needs to look for key words and then eliminate the headings given.

b. Matching features– This type requires to match the given statement with the correct expert, scientist etc. To crack this section, one needs to follow the skimming and scanning approach.

c. Matching information- In this type of question one needs to match the given information statement from the respective paragraph. One needs to mark which particular paragraph has the given information. This information can be in the form of example, explanation, summary, definition etc. One should attempt this section in the end as it requires detail reading.

d. Matching sentence endings- In this type, one needs to match the sentence beginnings with the endings. The technique is elimination method and since these questions are also in order so one needs to find the endings for the first   beginning and rest can be found easily. One can also take help of grammar and collocation to crack this section.

4. Completion Tasks– The remaining questions come under this category. There are plethora of completion tasks which are asked in the exam like 

a. Table completion-In this one needs to complete the table by looking at column headings.

b. Diagram completion– in this one needs to label the diagram by seeing the information from the passage. [‘

c. Summary completion- one need to compete the summary by either taking answers from the box given or from passage given by locating the information.

d. Note completion-one needs to complete the notes by looking at the note headings.

e. Flowchart completion– in this one needs to complete the flowchart by looking at the different stages and locate information in the passage

f. Sentence Completion-one needs to fill in the blanks by looking at support n contrast indicators.

g. Short answer questions-One need to answer these questions from the passage. The answers are mostly Nouns and Noun phrases. One needs to check the word limit to crack this section.


So, the whole idea of reading section is to read every question before moving to the passage . Gain knowledge of the variety of question types and practice as many mocks as you can. After practicing one needs to do a complete analysis.


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