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The IELTS Academic Reading Test and How To Improve Your Score

ielts readingThe IELTS Reading Tests are the same for the two formats, i.e. IELTS Academic Test  and IELTS General Training Test. The IELTS Academic Test is for those:

1) Who want to study at a university at the undergraduate or postgraduate level in a foreign English Speaking Country.

2) Who want to join a professional organization in a foreign English Speaking Country.

The IELTS Academic Reading Test takes 60 minutes to complete. There are 40 questions, each carrying 1 mark. A variety of questions is asked, which are designed to test your range of reading skills. The reading includes three long text passages with a total of maximum 2750 words. The text passages are authentic and taken from different newspapers, books, magazines and journals. The text passages might contain non-verbal materials in the form of graphs, diagrams, tables, etc. In case the text contains any technical terms, then a glossary is provided. You need to read the texts and then start answering the questions, which are based on the texts. You need to understand mainly :-

  • 1) The main ideas of the text passage.
  • 2) The logical arguments in the text passages.
  • 3) The writer’s opinion and purpose of writing hidden in the text passages.

You should enter all the answers in a given answer sheet within the stipulated time, there is no extra time at all. Among the question types, there might be the types of questions like:

  • Fill in the gaps in a passage or in a table.
  • Match headings to diagrams, charts or written text.
  • Complete an incomplete sentence.
  • Give short answers or a one-word
  • Answer numbers of a multiple-choice
  • Answer a short phase.
  • Multiple choice questions.
  • Identifying an information
  • Completion of flowcharts/diagrams/labels

‘How to improve your reading’ for the ‘IELTS Reading Test’:

The text passages given in the test are taken from different  English newspapers, English books, English magazines, and English journals as already mentioned. So, you should be familiar with reading this stuff. If you are unfamiliar with these kinds of stuff, you should start reading renowned English  newspapers, magazines, books, etc. as a basic step towards preparing yourself for the IELTS Reading test. Three such authentic sources for reading are 1) The National Geographic magazine, 2) The Economist magazine and          3) The Economist magazine. Apart from that you should read and practice downloaded study material which replicates the IELTS reading test question answers. If you practice reading this stuff on a regular basis, it would help you understand the contextual idea. Understanding the texts well would help you in answering the questions in the actual test more quickly, effectively and accurately. The question paper writers select a wide range of specific types of texts and there are four distinct types:

  • 1) Analytic Texts: Which discuss the cause of any incident that has happened.
  • 2) Descriptive Texts: Describing a situation, explaining how something has happened.
  • 3) Discursive texts: Where different opinions are expressed and you have to proceed to a conclusion by justifying reasons.
  • 4) Narrative Texts: Explaining a series of events in the order of their occurrence.

Keeping all these in mind the first step you should take is: Download sample reading test papers from the Internet and start studying them following the given instructions. Practice  again and again, minding the time. It has been observed that candidates often run out of time in the 3rd section of the test. So maintaining the time strictly is very important during practice. After preparing for a month or two you should take admission to a ‘Well Reputed IELTS Coaching center’ to fulfill your goal of achieving a high band score, at least 7+. The areas where you should focus on while preparing is:

Skimming: You must develop your ability to skim. Here skimming means reading or glancing through quickly, skipping and ignoring less important difficult words. The purpose is to grasp the main contextual idea so that you can answer the easy questions.

Scanning: you must develop your ability to scan a text. While scanning, you should read the text keenly looking for the answers, i.e. looking for dates, numbers or words starting with capital letters etc.

Recognizing the structure of a paragraph: This is of extreme importance. Identifying the structure of a paragraph would help you to get the central idea of the text. The main idea might be given at the beginning or at the end of the text. Answering the questions depends on how accurately you have spotted the main idea. Moreover, understanding the idea would be particularly helpful while giving matching heading.

Getting an overview: Getting an overview of the text, based on which questions would be asked is crucial. Before start answering the questions, ‘Getting the overview’ is a must. Reading the title, subtitle and focusing on the start and end of the text would help you to answer quickly and accurately.

Learn not to panic: While giving the test, you might face unknown difficult words, no need to panic. Skip them, they might not be needed for understanding the text. Practice trying to guess the meaning of the unknown words by their usage in the text and in the sentences. Practice a lot keeping in mind that you might have to encounter unknown difficult words. Take help of your tutor or take help of the coaching center you are studying in. Having a teacher or studying in a coaching center is almost mandatory for getting a high band score.

Managing time: Learn time management, be extremely careful about the time. During the IELTS Reading Tests lot of students run out of time, as already mentioned. Why does it happen? Because they don’t mind the time during practice. So right from the word go, start practicing strictly maintaining time, practice answering each section in less than 20 minutes. Wasting time would cause serious trouble in the third section. If you spend more than 40 minutes for the first two sections, you would naturally get less time for the third section. But the third section needs more than 20 minutes to complete, and there is no extra time. A good number of students baffle to finish the IELTS reading test because of lack of time management skill. So you should improve in this area.

Developing speed of reading: Develop your speed of reading while skimming or scanning, because saving time is very important. The faster you read, the more time you would get for answering the questions. Be careful so that you don’t miss something important, while reading fast. While reading, don’t get stuck if you come across unknown difficult words, if you stop, time would be wasted. While skimming and scanning do look for the answers, but make it quick. It is wise to put your finger right under the line you are reading, so that while reading quickly, you might not miss a line or a few words. Mind it your eyes move quicker than your fingers, so move your finger faster to comply with the eye movement. The more you read during practice the faster you will be able to read. Try to read three words at a time, because with some exception your brain would memorize a group of words, not a single word.

While preparing for the ‘IELTS Reading Test’ if you take admission to a ‘Coaching Center’, they would provide you detailed instructions on how to develop your skills in every aspect. Through a series of mock tests, they would prepare you for the real test. Moreover, the downloaded samples would help you with proper instructions and sample papers. The sample papers replicate the ‘Reading test papers’ with questions and answers. Your hard practice following all the instructions minutely would prepare you for the real test.

How to make the of the IELTS Reading test:

While you are preparing for the test, make your practice realistic. Do follow the below instructions while reading:-

  • Look out for the title, headings, words beginning with capital letters, underlined words, words in italics, figures, graphs, tables.
  • Before starting answering, understand the questions and follow instructions with extreme care.
  • Time is a big factor, so don’t spend a long time to understand a passage or a question.
  • Don’t try to read each and every word. Read with a purpose as discussed above, first skimming then scanning.
  • Don’t waste time on a question if you don’t know the answer, rather move quickly to the next question.
  • All the answers to the questions are in the text. So do not panic if don’t know the answer of any question.
  • Use only the words which are in the text. Important that you must not change the form of any word in the text.
  • If you come across an unknown word, don’t panic, you might not need it at all.
  • Be extremely careful about spelling.
  • Execute extreme caution about the usage of singular and plural.
  • In the case of ‘Completion type questions’ do exactly what you have asked to do.
  • If a question asks you to fill the gap like ‘in the _____’ and if the correct answer is ‘morning’, write morning, not in the morning.
  • Do attempt all questions, no negative markings are there, so you don’t have anything to lose.
  • Don’t forget to ‘Check Your Answers’ at the end and rectify them.
  • Use a pencil to write answers so that you can erase and rectify your answers.

So we can conclude that you have to improve your skimming speed, scanning speed. You have to prepare yourself keeping lots of factors in mind to improve your score. No need to read the whole passage, instead scan through for important information and central idea. If you learn to read this way you would be able to save lots of important time. Remember, every minute counts. Some important suggestions are:

  • Try to complete each of the first two parts in less than 20 minutes. Because the third part is the toughest and for sure it would take more than 20 minutes. Try to divide the total time of 60 minutes into three segments, as 15-18-27 minutes.
  • It is very important for you to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Writing on the question papers would not be counted.
  • If you don’t find the answer to a particular question, mark it with (??), so that you can find it later and try to answer it.
  • If you are instructed to answer in ‘Three words’, your answer should be exactly in ‘Three words’, nothing more nothing less.

You would have to read 900 words in the test. (Might be a few more). Answering 40 questions after reading 900 words and doing all this in just 60 minutes, that too in a foreign language might sound impossible to you. No need to be concerned about. Don’t be scared, there are so many techniques and tricks, there are surefire ways to do things with impeccable accuracy. Thousands of students are qualifying each year with Band Score of 7+, why not you? Rigorous time bound repeated practice, a series of mock tests by your tutor or your coaching center would not only boost your confidence, but also would make you reach your destination of getting a Band Score of at least 7+. With more sincere effort and pinpoint accuracy you can get Band 8 or even Band 9 as well.

Originally posted 2016-11-11 02:31:52.

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