IELTS Reading Fast Common Tips

Reading Module: Preparation Tips

Manage your time

In the IELTS test, time is your greatest enemy. In the listening test it was managed for you, but the reading test is a different story. You need to manage it very carefully yourself and this is where the 15-20-25 rule comes in.

When you receive the reading booklet, first of all, count how many passages there are. Typically, there are 3 passages in the question booklet. You could divide the hour into 3 equal parts and spend 20 minutes on the first passage, 20 minutes on the second and 25 minutes on the last one. Why? Because they progress in the level of difficulty!

Write down the time when you should start and when you should finish working on each passage and stick to the time limits. Remember that there is no additional time in the reading test to transfer your answers on to the answer sheet. Therefore, in each passage set aside 2 minutes to copy you answer to the answer sheet. For example, in the first paragraph you should use 13 minutes to actually answer the questions (writing the answers on the booklet pages) and 2 minutes to copy your answers to the answer sheet.

If you did not finish a passage on time, move to the next one anyway.

If you have some time left by the end of the reading test, make sure you did not forget to answer any question. Check and double check answers. It can give a few “easy” points if you find mistakes before the marker does.

Make a Map

The text before you resembles a strange, new territory. It is so easy to get lost inside all these words! What you need is a map that will help you to orientate. Every paragraph in the passage has its own main idea, which is different from all other paragraphs. Write in the margins near the paragraph what its topic is, and its main idea. If writing takes too much time, underline the words in the paragraph that explain its main idea. You can thus create a map to guide you in your search for answers.

Learns the Rules

First, read the instructions and the example. They show you exactly what your answer should look like- is it a number or a name, how many words must you write, etc. the following points are important because they may affect your score.


When filling in the answers, copy the example’s style. To demonstrate, look at the following table:

Divorce rate Example 1”    
Marriage Example 2 : first    

Example 1

If the example says “55%”, give your answer in this exact form, a number and %. Any other form or style (like “55” or “55 percent” or “fifty percent” may harm your score!

Example 2 

If the example says “first”, answering in any other form or style (like “1st, “1” or “first marriage”) may be risky.

2. Word limit

Usually if there is a word limit for an answer, it is no more than 3 words. Prepositions (in, of, to, at, etc,), articles (a, an, the) and numbers (5, 12, etc) are considered words. The reason behind this 3 word limit is the limited space on the answer sheet.

3. One Question- one answer 

Don’t give more than one answer to one question, even if you see more than one option. It will result in a ZERO score. For example, if you see names of 3 countries that qualify as an answer and the question asks to name just one- do not even think of giving two or three names, the only correct answer is to name exactly one. Only if they ask for two names should you name two, etc.

Assumptions are the mother of all mess-ups!

Do not assume you know the answer, search for it in the passage. When answering the questions, you must stick to the facts as they are written in the paragraph. Forget all about your personal knowledge is the most natural thing for you, so sometimes they use it in IELTS to trick you into making a choice according to what you know or believe and not according to the passage.

Practice, practice, practice

Reading the text in the way described in this chapter must become a second nature to you. The only way to make it happen is to practice using the tips while doing the reading test.

When practicing, finish the reading test and then check your answer key. Pay attention to those you got wrong, not those you got right-understand why you did not do them right and try to remember, so that mistakes is not repeated.

Practice with a clock and copy your answers onto the answer sheet. Go to page 284 for the reading answer sheet.

Reading Module: Common Mistakes

Does not read- scan!

It sounds absurd that you do not need to read in a reading test, right?

Anyway, it’s true. The biggest mistake you could make is to start the test by reading the whole passage.

The best thing is to scan the text quickly. Do not try to understand every word! Just go over it and get the idea of what each paragraph is about. Usually you do not need to read the whole paragraph- the first couple of sentences are enough. This way once you get to the questions, you will know what part of the passage you need to look at for finding answers.

Pocket Tips


  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Manage your time.
  • Make a map.
  • Easy questions first- complicated later.
  • Look for keywords.
  • Matching headings- use the map.
  • True/false/not given.
  • Multiple choices- use T/f/NG method to eliminate all choices but one.
  • Gap fills- use the map to find where the answer hiding.
  • Don’t make assumptions!
  • Have time left-check your answers.

Hot tips

Pointers for the reading test

A lot of the tips that work for the IELTS listening also work well for the IELTS reading test, especially understanding the importance of practice to become familiar with the various task types that form the basis for the 40 questions.

An important point that you must remember is that in the reading test, an extra 10 minutes are not given to transfer the answers and therefore it becomes imperative that this too is done carefully, within the 60 minutes allotted for the test.

2 Differences between IELTS

Reading and Listening Tests

  1. There is a far greater opportunity for control in the reading test and it allows you to make more personal decisions about how you want to work your way around the test material. In the reading tests there are three sections or three passages. An increasing level of difficulty is seen in general reading tests as you move through the sections and with the individual texts and reading becoming longer and more complex. In case of the academic reading test, differences of difficulty are harder to establish given that the three passages are on different topics and are broadly of similar lengths.

You control the order of answering

.   As a candidate, you are free to decide the order in which you would like to attempt the passages. You might want to begin by attempting a passage on a topic that you have prior knowledge of even if it is passage 2 or 3 because it might make you feel like you will have an easier time understanding it, given a greater familiarity. This is one of the ways in which you hold greater control in terms of answering in this test.

.   in a similar fashion, you might also want to start by answering a task type you find easier, before attempting a more difficult one, even when they follow a different question order. This depends entirely on your confidence as a candidate in taking control of the situation and on what you believes is the most effective strategy for you to increase your final score.

2. All the required information and material for the reading test is written form. This negates the problem of having to move back and forth between written and spoken material. A minor inconvenience might have to move between pages efficiently in case the text and the questions are on different pages.

Quick tips for the IELTS Reading Test

  • You have more control here than in the listening tests.
  • Have a strategy in mind for how you plan to manage your time.
  • Go through the rest contents once before starting and skim over all questions and the texts.
  • Take a look at the questions before moving on to the text.
  • Go through the structure of each text or passage paragraphs and topic sentences.
  • Look out for common text patterns.
  • Do not leave any question unattempted.

Be Prepared for the IELTS Reading Test

  • Make sure you are familiar with all task types
  • Begin by practicing single passages.
  • Make sure to practice complete tests not just the parts.
  • Try the same passage and questions a few times to build speed and confidence.

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