IELTS Reading Tips – Common Mistakes in Reading

IELTS Reading Tips – Common Mistakes in Reading

IELTS Reading Tips - Common Mistakes in Reading
IELTS Reading Tips – Common Mistakes in Reading

IELTS Reading Tips – Common Mistakes in Reading


Look again at your answers

You lose marks for small errors. Mistakes like these can cost you easy marks. Look at this example of an answer sheet.

Did you lose many marks in Practice Test because of this kind of mistake? Don’t throw away marks because you are in a hurry! A couple of errors like these could make all the difference to your final score!

Go back to the questions you got wrong

Try to analyze each mistake. Why did you write the wrong answer?

Did you?

– have problems understanding the words in the question?

– have problems understanding a word or phrase in the passage?

– choose an incorrect answer which was included to ‘tempt’ you?

If you still don’t understand why an answer is incorrect, ask a teacher, a native speaker another student to explain the answer to you.

Be sure you understand before starting the next test.

Try this…….. to build your vocabulary

Write down all new words and expressions.

Keep a special notebook for new words and phrases.

– Check the meaning in your dictionary and with a teacher or native speaker.

– Find out any other meanings when the word(s) is used in a different context.

– Write a few examples using the word or expression.

– Ask a teacher or native speaker to check what you’ve written.

Make sure that you will understand the meaning if you read it in another test.

Collect synonyms.

Note down words or phrases from the reading, with the same meaning as different words and in the question.

E.g. on Saturday and Sunday = at the weekend

It was a cold, wet and windy day = the weather was pretty miserable.

Watch out for ‘tricky’ synonyms! If you got caught once, don’t get caught again.

Practice reading to conquer time!

Another common reason for errors and/or a low score in the IELTS Reading Test is lack of time. Mistakes are made due to hurrying, and often candidates don’t finish the test in the time allowed.

So to improve your test results you need to work both quickly and accurately……..and conquer time!

Pace yourself

– Practice spending no more than 20 minutes per section, aims for less.

– Don’t waste marks (remember?) so be sure you get all the easier answers correct.

– Don’t spend too long on one question, mark it and come back later.

– Don’t leave any question unanswered. Guess. You might be lucky!

Read what you need

Learn to skim and scan:

– Skim for the part of the passage that seems related to the question by looking at headings, sub-headings and topic sentences (usually the first sentence of a paragraph).

– Scan by looking carefully at that part to find the specific information.

Practice makes perfect…….

– to get to know question and answer types.

– to increase your vocabulary.

– to spot the synonyms.

– to pace yourself through the test.


You need to read efficiently for success in IELTS.

What to read first…..

First look quickly at the reading test: is title, sub headings, any diagrams. What’s it about?

– Then look quickly at the first few questions. How many are there? What kind?

– There’s no time to memorize them, but your brain will be more focused.

– Now read the text quickly and then go back to the questions.

Adapt the way you read to the type of question.

– ‘Whole text’ questions such as choosing headings for paragraphs or sections

First read the topic sentences. These should tell you what the paragraphs are about. If the topic sentence and the heading seem similar, then read the paragraph slowly and carefully to check that they go together.

– ‘Detail’ questions such as multiple choice questions (choose A, B, C or D)

First skim to find which part of the text seems to be about that information. When you locate that part of the text, scan carefully for the specific detail you need. NB There will always be an answer that is wrong, but put in to try and tempt you, (the ‘red herring’ answer) so double check that you’ve chosen the right one!

Practice skimming for names and numbers

– If the question ask for the name id a place, city, country, street, person or organization, they’re quite easy to find because they always start with a capital letter.

– Remember the different ways to write numbers: nine or 9 or (ix) or IX, 1400 or one thousand four hundred or fourteen hundred or 1400 (the year).

Be sure you’re familiar with how decimals and fractions are written in English.

If you don’t understand a word or phrase……..

Don’t panic!

Try to guess from the nouns and verbs around it.

Look for words like ‘similarity’ or ‘in contrast to’ or ‘unlike’ which may help you.

By taking the time to repeat the tests, you are developing your reading skills, building vocabulary and increasing your understanding of test strategies. This is time well spent.


Never Stop

I never stop practicing my reading in English. When I’m on the bus, train or walking, I always try to understand the signs, posters and advertisements. If I don’t understand, I write it in a notebook so that I can ask a friend or my teacher.’

Tip from Yi Ling

I was very slowly at reading and thought I could never finish the test in one hour. But I made myself do a practice test every weekend. After a couple of months I began to recognize the kind of questions and how to find the answers more quickly. I was always careful with the easier questions at the beginning of the test. When I did the IELTS exam I got a 6!’

Fall in Love

‘I’m ‘in love’ with dictionary! I bought a really good dictionary. It was quite expensive, but I use it every day so I don’t feel guilty about how much it cost. I try to check everything I don’t understand.’

Tip from Andrea who scored 7 on the IELTS Reading Test

The first time I took the test there were many words I didn’t understand so I only scored a 5. I bought a small address book with pages marked A-Z, and every day I wrote down a new words or expressions I didn’t know. I tested myself every night. If I could remember what the word meant three days running I crossed it out. After three months, when I took the test again, I had a much bigger vocabulary and I got a much better score!

Answer all the questions

I put an answer, even if I really didn’t understand. If it’s multiple choice then there are only 4 possible answers, so I chose an answer that seemed to make sense and was grammatically correct.’

Keep cool

‘Remember that every question scores one mark, but the questions generally increase in difficulty as you go from 1 to 40. So I didn’t worry too much about the last few questions, but I was careful with the earlier ones.’

Tip from Sachiko

In some question types in the IELTS Reading Test, answers to the earlier questions often found nearer the beginning of the Reading passage, and answers to later questions are found in later parts of the passage. So, sometimes you can less than searching for answers.’


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