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The Reading Component of IELTS

Author: Limey, Posted on Sunday, March 27 @ 04:05:02 IST by RxPG  

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The test

If candidates are most unhappy about any section of the IELTS,it is the reading component.

This is a general opinion among most of us that, for reading the allotted time is never enough.And that exactly is the challenge here.With practice most of the candidates come out with flying colors and am sure,you will be no exception to this.

The test basically consists of 3 Passages, each one with its own set of questions to answer. Total number of questions are usually 40. The aim is to answer these 40 questions in a time limit of 60 minutes.

Questions are all based on the passage,which you gotta read before attempting the questions.

You are expected to spend not more than 20 minutes over each passage.

You can mark on the question paper, but you are not given any extra time to transfer the answers to the answer sheet towards the end of the test(as it is given in listening).It is always advisable to answer directly in the answer sheet and save yourself the mess towards the end of the exam.

The passage length usually vary from 700-1000 words;for general training it can be shorter.These are usually chosen from Newspapers and Articles of general interests ,intended to be read and understood by common population(not specialist groups).So you can relax yourself on these aspects.

The difficulty levels usually increase as you move ahead with the passages,viz, Passage 3 is usually more difficult than Passage 1 or Passage 2. So keep this in mind when you practise. Don’t get euphoric and loose concentration if u finish the 1st Passage in 12-15 minutes. Move ahead to next passage immediately.You might need that extra 5 minute for the upcoming difficult passages.

Always keep some time in hand to go through your answers towards the end of the test.

-if you have made any spelling or singular/plural mistakes,
-that you have not messed up with serial numbers of the answers,
-that you have followed the instructions carefully and not written 4 words where you were supposed to write “NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS”.
-that the incomplete sentences in the question paper make grammatical sense when read complete with your answers.
-that the answers you have written are legible and examiner will not misinterpret it to be some other word.

There are no negative marks and I suggest you attempt all the questions.

However don’t spend much time over one question.If u get stuck,make your best guess and move ahead.If have time left at the end of the test,you can always come back to this question.

The practise

Again, I found ‘How To Prepare for IELTS’, very useful for reading practice.

It has real good collection of paragraphs for practice and the difficult level is so set that most of us found the real exam much easier than those given in this book.

Time yourself when u practice reading.This is most important.

But don’t leave half your mind on your watch.You need to be fully concentrated on the passage.Start a stop watch and let it take care of time while you give yourself totally to the passage and the related questions.

Check at the end of each passage, how much time u spent over the entire task. This will tell you if you need to speed up or your speed is just as accurate as you need.

Collect editorials from your daily newspaper to give yourself a thorough practice.

There are 2 main methods to practice efficient reading :


Skimming is just moving your eyes over the entire paragraph and get a feel/general idea of the text.
During skimming,note :

-The main heading of the paragraph - prepare your mind for what exactly the extract going to talk on.
-Check if there are there any subheadings
-Is the para divided into “Labeled” sub sections :This is an important point to note here.

If the entire para is divided into sub sections which are labeled, say, Section I,Section II, etc. Turn the page and have a look at the questions. Is there a set of questions which asks to match Paragraph Headings? If yes,write down your own ‘HEADINGS’ for each section as you read.This will save a lot of your time when you start answering later.
If there are no such questions, you are saved from the time consuming task of giving headings.
Smile and move ahead with the next step.
Spend not more than 1-2 minutes in skimming.

Scanning :

This is the next step.....here you actually start reading the topic.Remember that you have to be fast and that doesn’t mean that you keep looking at your watch and get nervous.

Concentrate on totally on the passage.With a pencil ,as a guide to ur eyes, move ahead with the passage and mark the important points.

Marking the important points/key word is the talent you have to practice and improve upon.Remember the aim of marking isn’t to just MARK ---- You should be able to track down to this particular ‘marked’ area when you are solving the questions.

You don’t need to read just everything,but its important that you understand the basic idea.

Note down the dates mentioned,names (of speakers,places,etc), any other specific info (like some Organisation or some NAMED meeting )

If a sentence gives u a long list of lots of things,just mark the key word (of what the list is about).Don’t mark all the things in the list.You don’t even need to read that long list.If a question is based on this,you will always be able to locate the list and answer correctly without wasting much time in marking everything or reading everything.

This is what you have to train yourself in while you practice : What to read ,What not to read,What to mark,What not to mark!!!

You have 20 minutes for each passage.Spend around 5-8 minutes in skimming/scanning and the rest you have to spend in the most important part,which is going to fetch you marks - ANSWERING!!!

Don’t spend too much time on one question.You have more questions to answer.Make the nearest guess and move ahead.

During the entire reading process, don’t forget that you are reading so that you will be able to locate the answers to the questions which follow.

Remember that all the answers are in the passage given,so if u read intelligently you will be able to answer all of them.

Look for the key words in the questions.If you have scanned the text efficiently,you may easily locate where exactly it was discussed in the para.

Always go back to the para and read the concerned sentences before answering.Never answer without referring back to the para.

Types Of Questions

1.Multiple choice questions :

There are three types of multiple choice questions in the IELTS reading exam.

For these questions you may be given the start of a sentence which you have to complete with one out of four choices.

Or you may be presented with a question and asked to find two, three or four items in a list of answers.

You could be asked to identify facts or opinions in the texts.

Multiple choice questions can test both your global understanding of the text or ask you for specific information.

2.Short Answer questions

There are two types of short answer questions in the IELTS reading exam.

Type 1. Questions
Type 2. Lists
These questions will usually tell you to write your answers in NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS.

Read the instructions carefully.It varies with every exam and every para.

3. Sentence completion questions

There are two types of sentence completion questions in the reading exam.

Type 1 asks you to complete sentences with words from the reading passage.

Type 2.asks you to complete sentences with words given in the list provided with the question.

read carefully before you answer.

4. Notes/table/form/summary/flow chart/diagram
completion questions

This is similar to sentence completion type questions,just that in the form of diagram or tables.

You may be required to pick the words from the reading passage or from the list of given words.

Read the instructions carefully, read the headings of the table and note if the table runs horizontally or vertically.

5.Yes/No Not given or True/False Not given

This is the trickiest set of questions.

Answering this depends on how well you understood the passage.

If the question asks about a statement which is clearly given in the passage ,there is no confusion.Your answer is YES/TRUE.

If the question asks about a statement which clearly contradicts the idea given in the passage,your answer is NO/FalSE. Remember,for an answer should be NO/FALSE the idea should have been mentioned in the passage.

If the idea is not metioned- its NOT GIVEN.

Easily said than done!

The real situation isn’t as easy as it appears in the sentences above.You need to be careful in recognising what is NOT given and what is given but different from what asked in the question.

Know that the statements in the questions is usually paraphrased from what is given in the passage.So read carefully and understand what the statement says.

Look carefully if the question says, ‘The new rule is implemented....’ and the paragraph says, ‘The new rule may be implemented...’ This implies that the passage only says that the rule may be implemented.It doesn’t say that it IS implemented.

The significance is,though it all looks the same and in hurry you may answer this as YES,in truth the answer should be NOT GIVEN.

Learn to identify these sort of differences when you practice.

5.Giving headings

You may be asked to give heading to the entire paragraph,or to the different subsections.

If you have given your own headings while u were scanning the passage,the task becomes real easy for you.

A list of headings is usually given,be careful and choose the most likely match as more than one match may look like giving the same idea in the sub section.

This one, I personally found to be the most time consuming.

6.Completing a paragraph

An incomplete para will be given and you will be required to complete it by filling up with words from the passage or the given list of words.
Read the instructions carefully.

They may mention that the “FOLLOWING PARA IS RELATED TO THE 1st PART of THE PASSAGE” This means that you can easily locate and concentrate on the 1st part,no need to go thru the entire passage searching for proper words.

Look for key words.Answers are usually around these key words.

If the answer you have chosen doesn’t makes a grammatically correct sentence,most probably it’s a wrong catch.

The test day

Check that you filled in the personal details right in the answer sheet.

Ckeck that you are writing in the part of answersheet meant for reading (usually,one side of the answer sheet is meant for LISTENING and the other side for READING - Make sure you are not messing up with the 2 sides).

If you have opted for Pen & Pencil type of exam,most centers accept ONLY pencil for the listening and reading modules.Find this out clearly before making any errors.

Start with the 1st passage.

Read the instructions carefully.

Note whether there are any set of questions appearing before the passage starts. Don’t miss these questions.Make sure that you come back to these questions once you finish reading the passage.

Start skimming.

Note the main heading,the sub headings and quickly move your eyes over the questions. Any ‘choose headings’ questions....? If yes,make sure you write your own headings as u go through each paragraph in the passage.

Mark the key words intelligently.

Concentrate only on the passage.Let your watch take care of time.

If you are honestly reading,u will be always ahead of time,so don’t worry.

Start answering questions immediately as you finish.

Always note the question number when u write down the answer.Don’t mess up with the serial numbers.Also,this way you will be immediately aware of any questions you have missed.

Don’t spend too much time on any one question.Make your best guess and move ahead.You can always come back to it if have time left towards the end.

There is no penalty for wrong answers.

Make sure that you are not making any spelling singular/plural mistakes, that your handwriting is legible,that you are not exceeding the number of the words required for the answer.

Read carefully if the questions wants answer from the passage or the options are given.

For sentence completion and paragraph completion, read the entire sentence/paragraph once before moving ahead to next question. Is all that grammatically correct? If not, search for a better match.

Above all,don’t panic! Remember that all the answers are there in front of you.
Skill is just to locate them accurately with least time consumption.

Move to the next passage immediately after you finish the 1st.Remember your job isn’t complete till the last question of the 3rd passage.

Look at your watch after you finish each passage. Don’t sit back relaxed if your ahead of time in the 1st passage.You might need these extra minutes for the more difficult passages coming ahead.

Always keep your cool, be alert and fast.

My Recipe

I practiced reading passages from How to Prepare for IELTS.Read Editorials from my English Daily.

Also found,the reading passages here,very useful :

I practised for 10days on these.Got a band of 8.5.

Happy reading to u!

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