IELTS Reading: 10 Study Tips to Help Increase Your Score

The IELTS Reading section is the second part of the IELTS test and is taken immediately after the Listening section. You’ll have 60 minutes to read three long passages and answer 40 questions about them. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

Well, it’s harder than it sounds!

The difficulty of the IELTS Reading section comes from having to understand a large amount of text and accurately answer questions about what you read in a short amount of time. This is especially true for Academic Reading, as you’ll be presented with more difficult texts.  Today, we’re sharing 10 important study tips to help you get a high score on the IELTS Reading section!

Read as Many Different English Texts as You Can

It may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to improve your reading skills is to … well, read! Try and expose yourself to as many English reading materials as you can – books, newspaper articles, online publications, academic materials, even social media. Being exposed to a variety of written content will help improve your reading skills and widen your vocabulary.

Your reading speed will improve too, which will give you an edge when taking the real test. Remember, your time will be limited, so being able to read questions quickly will save you precious seconds on the test!

…But Don’t Make This Your Only Study Tactic

Being an avid reader is great. Unfortunately, reading a lot of books only does so much to prepare you for the IELTS test. The reading section is set up to test your ability to identify important information in a test. So unless you’re closely analyzing everything you read, you won’t be fully prepared for the reading section.

One helpful exercise is to create questions for yourself. Find an article that interests you and read it. As you do, take note of what you think is the most important information. Afterwards, come up with a question or two (in the IELTS reading format!) about the article you read. This will help get you in the mindset that will lead to success.

Learn Unknown Words

As you read different texts, get into the habit of highlighting confusing words or phrases. Then make sure to learn what they mean. This will help you avoid stumbling across a word you don’t recognize during the actual test.

Try Reading the Questions First

Before reading the passages on the reading section, take a look at the questions first. Since they directly relate to the passages, knowing the questions beforehand will help you know what to look out for as you read.

After reading the passage through the first time, return to the questions and re-read them. This will help you pinpoint which sections of the passage you need to pay careful attention to.

Remember, Spelling Counts!

If your answer is spelt incorrectly, it will be marked wrong. The good news is don’t lose points for wrong answers, so if you’re really not sure how to spell a certain word, give it your best shot anyway. You may get it right!

Watch Out for Traps

As mentioned above, the Reading section is all about reading a text and finding the most important information. Finding the “needle in the haystack”, if you will (an idiom – write that down). Let’s say you’ve followed our advice and read the questions before reading the text. You then spot a word in the text you saw in one of the questions. That must be the answer, right?

We’ll let our friend Admiral Akbar take this one:

The Reading section is set up to test your reading comprehension and part of this means making sure you’re paying attention. Some questions are designed to mislead you into thinking they have obvious answers. Always re-read your answers to make sure they are doing what the question asks. Don’t fall into a trap!

Labelling Diagrams

During the reading test, you may be asked to label a diagram. The good news is that you will find the words you need in the text. As noted above, spelling counts, so be sure to accurately copy any words you need.

Highlight Important Information

The Reading section asks you to process a lot of information in a short amount of time. To make things easier for yourself, underline and circle important words and sentences as you go.

Divide Your Time Evenly Between Passages

The reading test asks you to answer questions on three different passages. The recommendation is that you spend 20 minutes on each passage and it makes total sense. 20 minutes may not seem like much time to devote to a single passage but remember: you only have one hour to complete the Reading section.

By splitting your time evenly between all three passages, you’ll give yourself the best chance of overall success. Just remember to keep an eye on the time, as you don’t want to end up with only 10 minutes to spend on passage three!

A Few Other Tips to Keep in Mind:

  • You don’t lose points for wrong answers – so never leave a blank space!
  • Make notes on your question paper, but remember that ONLY YOUR ANSWER SHEET WILL BE MARKED
  • You will be writing in pencil, so remember to bring an eraser
  • For the True/False questions, you can write “T” or “F” instead of True or False, respectively.
  • Questions aren’t always linear

We hope you found these tips helpful and wish you the best of luck on the IELTS Reading section!

For more IELTS help, check out our list of the 5 Best IELTS Preparation Books for International Students and the 6 Common IELTS Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.