IELTS Academic Reading Test Overview
The IELTS Reading Test lasts for 60 minutes. In that time you have to answer 40 questions based on 3 texts. You should spend 20 minutes on each text. The texts are on a variety of topics of general interest, at least one of which will contain a detailed logical argument. In order to answer all the questions within the time limit you will have to skim, scan and read short sections of text in detail.
IELTS Reading Test Scoring
The reading test is scored out of 40. These scores are then converted to band scores. This varies slightly from test to test, but the following is a good general guide:
- Low 20s = 5.5
- Mid 20s = 6
- High 20s = 6.5
- 30-32 = 7
- 33-34 = 7.5
- 35-36 = 8
- 37-38 = 8.5
- 39-40 = 9
Key Skills for IELTS Reading
- Skim – Read the text quickly to get the main idea / topic. Use the heading / subheadings and the first sentence of each paragraph.
- Scan – Find specific information in the text without reading each sentence. Search for particular words.
- Intensive – Read each sentence carefully, trying to understand the precise meaning.
How to complete the IELTS Reading Test
The most important thing to remember is that you should try to read as little as possible. Treat the IELTS Reading Test as a game – a race against time. Your job is to find the answers ‘hidden’ in the text as quickly as possible. To do this you have to be able to identify keywords in questions and scan the text to find them or synonyms / paraphrase. Once you have found them read ONLY that section of the text to answer the question. Read as little as possible.
Here is the basic process you should use to answer most reading test questions:
- Skim read the first text to get the main idea / topic (1-2 minutes ONLY)
- Look at the first set of questions
- Identify the keywords / information you need / possible answers
- Scan to find keywords and/or synonyms in the text
- Read short sections of text and complete the questions
- Repeat this process for the other questions and texts
IELTS Reading Question Types
In each IELTS Reading Test there will be a variety of question types chosen from the following:
1. Multiple Choice
You have to choose the best answer from four options (A,B,C,D) or the best two answers from five options (A,B,C,D,E) or the best three answers from seven options (A,B,C,D,E,F,G). The questions are in the same order as the text.
2. True/False/Not Given and Yes/No/Not Given
These questions involve matching the meaning of the questions with meaning in the text. The difference is that True/False/Not Given are used for information / factual texts whereas Yes/No/Not Given are used for opinions / views / claims of the writer.
If the answer is True or Yes then the question and the text will have the same meaning / be a paraphrase of each other.
If the answer is False or No then the question and the text will be opposite or contradict each other.
If the answer is Not Given then the meaning in the text will not be the same as the question nor will it be the exact opposite.
Again, where the answer is True/Yes or False/No then you will be able to underline the same meaning or the opposite meaning in the text. If you cannot do this then the answer is Not Given. Be careful – sometimes ‘Not Given’ statements will have information that is similar to the text, even some of the same words – but the meaning will not be the same or the opposite.
The questions are in the same order as the text. If you find the answer to question 1 in paragraph 3 and the answer to question 3 in paragraph 4, then the answer to question 2 must be between those two answers. If you can’t find it then the answer is Not Given.
Do not confuse these task types. If you write ‘Yes’ for a True/False/Not Given question, then your answer is wrong, even if the correct answer is ‘True’.
3. Matching Information to Paragraphs
These questions test your ability to scan for specific information. You have to find the paragraph in which the information is located, and write the letter or number of the paragraph on the answer sheet. These questions are NOT in the same order as the text.
4. Matching Headings to Paragraphs
These questions test your ability to skim read each paragraph of a text and identify the main idea of the paragraph. The heading for each paragraph will paraphrase the main idea of the paragraph.
There are more headings than paragraphs and some headings will match details in the paragraph rather than the main idea. This tests your ability to understand the difference between the main idea of a paragraph and supporting details. There is always one answer done for you as an example. The process for answering this kind of question is completely different from all the others – see Lesson 4 for a detailed description of how you should approach matching headings to paragraphs.
5. Matching Features
For this task, you have to match statements or information to a ‘feature’ of the text. Examples of features include people, places, historical periods or age groups. For example, ‘Who discovered X?
A. Professor Z B. Dr M C. Ms K or D. Mr Y’.
Some of the features might not be used to answer any questions, even though they will be in the text. Sometimes you will be able to use a feature more than once. The instructions will say when this is the case.
6. Sentence / Notes / Summary / Table / Flow-chart Completion
In these kind of tasks, you will have to read a section of the text in detail and complete gaps with a word or number of words. This tests your ability to understand detailed information.
The instructions will say how many words you can use. For example, ‘Write no more than three words’ OR ‘Write one word only’. Do not write more than this number or your answer will be wrong. Note that hyphenated words count as one word. For example, ‘perfectly-shaped’ is one word.
7. Labeling a Diagram
These questions test your ability to understand a description of something in detail. You will need to read one area of a text carefully and label a diagram of it. The labels of the diagram might not be in the same order as the text.
8. Matching Sentence Endings
These questions test your ability to understand the main idea of a sentence. You are given the first half of several sentences and have to choose the best way to complete them from a list of options (there will be more options than there are sentences). The questions are in the same order as the text.
9. Short Answer
These questions test your ability to understand factual information / details in the text. You must answer the questions using words from the text and you must not exceed the word count; e.g. ‘No more than three words’.