IELTS Reading Tips - How to Score High on IELTS Reading

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Cyril Zachariah
Updated on Feb 13, 2023 11:28 AM IST

Preparing for the IELTS reading section? Check out this page to understand the best reading tips for IELTS exams that you can use to improve your chances of achieving a high IELTS band score this year. While the section will only affect a part of the overall IELTS score, it is important to score high in this section in order to be selected for higher studies in top universities abroad.

On this page, you will be able to find the best IELTS reading tips that you can use as well as other important information. This includes the differences in the IELTS reading sections in both, the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests, as well as the different types of questions you may encounter in the IELTS exams this year. You can also check out some of the best books for IELTS reading sections, that you can use to improve your skills.

Overview of IELTS Reading Tips

IELTS Reading Tips: Most IELTS candidates find the IELTS Reading section to be either too simple or too challenging and overwhelming. If you are among the latter, here are some excellent IELTS Reading tips and tricks that will eventually assist you to move into the former set of people. 

The purpose of this article is to help readers understand the difference between IELTS Academic Reading and IELTS General Training Reading sections, the types of questions that show up in the IELTS Reading section, important IELTS Reading tips, and the best books that can help aspirants skyrocket their IELTS Reading band score.

Let us get a quick overview of the IELTS Reading sections in the two types of IELTS exams. 

IELTS Academic Reading vs IELTS General Training Reading Sections

Here is a quick overview of the difference between the IELTS Academic Reading test and the IELTS General Training Reading test. 

IELTS Academic Reading

IELTS General Training Reading

The test consists of 3 long and detailed reading passages

It also consists of 3 reading sections. The first 2 sections have 2-3 smaller texts and section 3 has one long passage

The passages are longer and comparatively more difficult than the IELTS General Training test

The passages are shorter and comparatively easier than the IELTS Academic Reading test

The passages are related to material found in different academic books at college or university levels

The passages are related to the material you would encounter regularly, such as ads, company handbooks, newspapers, books, and magazines (descriptive and factual resources)

For a detailed analysis of the two types of exam comparison drawn above, refer to the IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Exam.

Important Note: Keep in mind that the IELTS Reading section is developed to evaluate many aspects of reading skills, such as reading and understanding the main idea, summarisation, recognition of the author's opinions/argument, and the ability to analyse the same. Regardless of which version of the IELTS you take, there will be a time limit of 60 minutes and 40 questions in the IELTS Reading section.

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IELTS Reading Test Format

Now that we have understood the general differences between the two types of IELTS and their respective Reading sections, it is better to have a better understanding of the test format of the Reading section to understand IELTS Reading tips better.

IELTS Academic Reading Test Format

The IELTS Academic Reading Test is designed for students who want to study at a foreign university in an English-speaking nation. It is the more difficult exam of the two types of the IELTS since it assesses the candidate's analytical, critical thinking, and reading skills at the university level. This is to see whether you will be able to keep up with the coursework and effectively share your ideas.

There are three lengthy, detailed paragraphs to read, drawn from a variety of sources ranging from academic writings and journals to newspapers and magazines. As previously said, these passages are university-level and require a higher degree of thought than the IELTS General Training Test.

IELTS General Training Reading Test Format

This version of the IELTS is designed for aspirants who want to continue their secondary education abroad, gain work experience, or engage in specialised training programs. It may also be required for someone wishing to immigrate and settle in another country.

The IELTS General Training exam, unlike the IELTS Academic exam, does not test your higher-order thinking skills or critical reasoning at the university level. Instead, it tries to test your level of communication and fundamental comprehension, which will aid in your survival and communication in a new context where English is the language of communication.

Naturally, the sources used for the passages and assignments in the General Test are those that you would encounter regularly, such as ads, company handbooks, newspapers, books, and magazines. You will find three sections in the IELTS General Training exam:

IELTS General Reading Test Sections


Social Survival

You will be provided two or more brief yet dense texts containing a plethora of data. These are texts that you will come across daily.

Training Survival

You will be provided two texts with university or organisation information.

General Reading

The last component consists of one long piece that aims to assess basic reading comprehension.

IELTS Reading Section Question Types

Now that we have understood the distinction between the IELTS Academic Reading section and the IELTS General Training Reading section, elucidated below are the types of questions that you will be asked in your IELTS Reading section.

Having said that, it is important to know the types of questions that you have to deal with before inculcating the common IELTS reading tips. The types of questions that will be asked are as follows:

  • Multiple-choice questions 

  • Matching information

  • Matching headings

  • Short-answer questions

  • Diagram label completion

  • Matching sentence endings

  • True, false, not given

  • Sentence completion

  • Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion

IELTS Reading Tips and Tricks

Listed below are some of the most important IELTS Reading tips and tricks that will help you skyrocket your IELTS Reading band score in future.

Read Something Every Day

The most important IELTS Reading tip is to read something every day. You must read from a variety of sources. Online articles, newspapers, novels, and journals are excellent places to begin. Try not to read intentionally and instead simply follow the flow of the words. Read with curiosity and for pleasure.

This will improve your reading stamina, vocabulary, and reading speed. If there was ever a magic bullet for passing the IELTS, it is this tip. It could be for 30 minutes or 60 minutes, but make sure you read.

Read the Instructions Very Carefully

Moving on with our IELTS Reading tips, the next one is something that most of us overlook. Many easy scores are missed by good IELTS applicants because they do not adequately understand the instructions.

This is especially true for the reading and listening assessments, which provide detailed instructions. If you do not follow these directions precisely, you may answer the question incorrectly.

Always Read the Questions First

When it comes to achieving a good score in the IELTS Reading section, the next IELTS Reading tip is a game-changer. You have 60 minutes to respond to 40 questions based on three texts. Since you only have 60 minutes to read the passage, read the questions and answer them, you need to put in some smart work here. You simply cannot spend a good chunk of your time reading the passages at your leisure. Hence, it is always advisable to read the questions first.

This IELTS Reading tip will help you save time by telling you what to search for when you get to the passage. However, one must understand that there is no space for error. Even a minor misunderstanding of what the inquiry seeks can set you back a long way. As a result, you should constantly learn to properly study and comprehend the questions.

Follow the 3S Rule; Scan, Skim and Summarise

Some applicants may find the IELTS Reading section intimidating, but hold your horses. Here is one of the best IELTS Reading tips that can help you tremendously. Always read in threes, that is, scan, skim, and summarise.

Skim through the passage and look for primary concepts, comprehend the layout of the text, highlight keywords and salient elements, and try to understand what the passage is about. This is critical for scoring well in the IELTS Reading section.

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Enter the Keywords into your Head

The IELTS requires a significant amount of research. You will be asked to look for specific information and fill in/choose the acceptable answers to questions. While skimming, highlight keywords and important facts such as dates, places, themes, numbers, and so on. With experience, you will be able to identify them.

Expect to not Grasp Every Word

Many IELTS aspirants believe they must know every word in a dictionary. The reasoning behind this is sound; having a broad vocabulary is essential for a high IELTS score, but stressing about all the terms you don't understand in the IELTS Reading exam is one of the worst things you can do. 

There are two options if you don't understand a term/word. You can either look at the words and sentences around it for clues to their meaning or go on and forget about it. As a result, this is one of the most important IELTS Reading tips to remember that will help you to save time.

Pro Tip: Concentrate on the words that are relevant to the inquiry and ignore the words you don't understand.

Practice your Reading Skills More, Not your IELTS Skills

Another one of the most important IELTS Reading tips is to practise your reading skills rather than your IELTS skills. Students who only prepare for the IELTS exam are missing out on an excellent opportunity to improve their general reading skills. IELTS reading texts might be tedious, but if you read about something you are interested in, you are more likely to read on a regular basis.

Reading for pleasure a little each day will increase not only your English skills but also your vocabulary. On the internet, there are thousands of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and newspapers to select from. Remember that practice is the key to success.

Do Not Panic

Another great IELTS Reading tip to keep in mind while studying for your IELTS exam. Because you have to answer 40 questions in around 60 minutes, time can be a concern for some of us. It is natural to feel panicked after witnessing time slip.

However, this is the predicament you must avoid. It is given that some of the questions will be simple, while others will be quite challenging. The secret is to remain calm when answering a challenging question.

It is not advisable to devote a significant amount of effort to one question while failing to devote sufficient time to the remaining ones. If the answer does not appear, proceed to the next question.

You can always return to the harder questions later, and answering the other questions will frequently benefit you. To perform well in the IELTS Reading section, time and anxiety must be managed. If you can't control your nerves, no amount of IELTS Reading tips can assist you.

Time Management

Last but not least on our list of essential IELTS Reading tips, candidates must learn to manage their time effectively from the outset. Initially, take as much time as you need to understand the subjects, search for information, and study all the terms you come across when practising. However, as you continue, you will need to pay attention to the time factor as well.

Here are some quick IELTS Reading tips that will help you to manage your time well during the IELTS Reading test:

  • Practice different types of questions and learn to skim, scan, and pick facts

  • Read the questions carefully

  • Never spend more than one minute on each question

  • Use the remaining time (about 15 minutes) to read the content

  • Spend the final 5 minutes going through and rechecking your answers

  • Don't waste time on a difficult question. Get the easy ones out of the way first, then return to the difficult ones afterwards

Best Books to Improve your IELTS Reading Score

Post going through the above-mentioned important reading tips, given below are some of the best books for IELTS preparation that will help aspirants to improve their reading band score:

  1. Barron’s IELTS Superpack

  2. The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

  3. IELTS (Academic) 5 in 1 Actual Tests eBook combo

  4. The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

  5. English Vocabulary in Use by Michael McCarthy, Felicity O’Dell

  6. New Insight into IELTS by Cambridge

  7. Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS by Pauline Cullen

  8. Improve your IELTS Skills Series by Sam Mccarter

  9. Target Band 7: IELTS Academic Module – How to Maximise Your Score by Simone Braverman

  10. Focus on IELTS Foundation: Foundation Coursebook by Sue O'Connell

We hope that after going through the important IELTS Reading tips and tricks, you are all set to ace your IELTS Reading section with a sky-high band score. Since learning is a process, and not just a one-time event, always remember to make it a habit of reading for leisure every day to improve your IELTS Reading band score. 

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FAQs on IELTS Reading Tips

How can I get 9 in IELTS reading?

The one tip that you can follow is to Skim over and watch for the answers. This means that you don't need to read attentively every word. Remember, you just need to answer the questions, nothing more. Learn how to manage your time well. Check your spelling before writing your answer on the answer blank. When you skim over the text, underline the most important phrases. Also, never get panicked if the text seems unfamiliar to you or you don’t know some words. 

How many paragraphs are there in the IELTS reading?

There are 3 paragraphs in the IELTS Reading test. The IELTS reading test lasts one hour and consists of three passages from various sources. Journals, books, magazines, and reports are examples of possible sources. Test takers are typically required to respond to 40 questions based on the texts, with 12-14 questions per paragraph.

How much time should I spend on the IELTS reading?

IELTS recommends spending 20 minutes on each text in the IELTS Academic Reading test (or 20 minutes per section in the IELTS General Training Reading test). However, I am aware that many IELTS candidates spend too much time on one text/section and do not have enough time to answer all 40 questions in one hour.

What are the common question types in IELTS reading?

The common types of questions that come in the IELTS Reading test are enlisted below: 

1. Multiple choice

2. Identifying information

3. Identifying the writer's view/claims

4. Matching information

5. Matching headings

6. Matching features

7. Matching sentence endings

8. Sentence completion

Which IELTS reading questions are in order?

The following types of IELTS Reading exam questions are always in order, i.e. the questions are in the same order as the information in the text: 

1. Multiple choice questions

2. Matching sentence endings

3. Sentence completion

4. Short-answer questions

How IELTS reading is marked?

The IELTS reading test is marked like any other competitive or entrance exam. The exam consists of 40 questions. Each right answer receives one point. The IELTS nine-band scale is used to convert scores out of 40. Scores are given in full and half bands.

What are the 4 types of reading techniques?

the 4 types of reading techniques are as follows:

1. Skimming: Skimming, also known as gist reading, is the process of skimming through a text to grasp the essential concept.

2. Scanning: Scanning is the process of rejecting or disregarding extraneous information from a text in order to find a specific piece of information.

3. Intensive reading: It entails close reading with the goal of achieving comprehension precision.

4. Extensive reading: Extensive reading focuses on fluency rather than accuracy.

What are the common reading problems that readers face in the IELTS Reading test?

The 4 common reading problems that most readers face in the IELTS reading test are:

1. Issues with decoding where beginner readers may struggle when confronted with new or unfamiliar vocabulary.

2. Poor comprehension of reading skills.

3. Speed, where if one has difficulty with speed, it could result in slow information processing and

4. Mixed reading difficulties where readers struggle with both difficulties. They have difficulties reading words, remembering information, and comprehending the content.

Is it easy to get 7 bands in IELTS reading?

Yes, it is not an impossible task to get 7 bands in the IELTS reading test. Moreover, it takes effort and practice. Students that are more realistic tend to be around Band 6.5 and seek a Band 7. In this instance, their weak areas are easily addressed, and they have a high vocabulary and grammar overall.

How can I improve my IELTS reading?

Enlisted below are some of the best tips and tricks through which you can improve your IELTS Reading:

1. Learn unfamiliar words, synonyms and antonyms 

2. Try reading the questions first before reading the passage

3. Always highlight important information and facts in the passage

4. Divide your time evenly between the passages 

5. Read as many different English texts as possible

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