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The Best IELTS Reading Practice

You may have been told that the only way to get a high score on the IELTS Reading module is to constantly read a wide variety of English texts and to take as many practice exams as possible.  Whilst aiming to read as much as possible and familiarizing yourself with the practice tests are essential, there are some specific ways to practice and set skills you must learn in order to succeed.  Incorporating my recommended techniques below into your reading practice will help to significantly improve your score and do it in the most efficient way.

Read text that interests you!

In short, you need to read as much as possible and it is an undeniable fact that if you enjoy the content, you are much more likely to read more. Love cycling? Then pick up a cycling magazine. Enjoy adventure travel? Then read the travel section of the Sunday newspaper. Any kind of reading will help improve your vocabulary, reading speed, and other reading skills, so you might as well read something you enjoy.


Increase your vocabulary.

There are a wide variety of question types in the Reading module. Generally the questions incorporate paraphrases or synonyms of the text. So in order to get a high score, you will need to look for the meaning in the text, not the exact words.  To do this you will need to expand your range of vocabulary so that you can easily recognize synonyms and paraphrased text.

Top Tip: Buy yourself a special notebook to record all new vocabulary you find.  When you are reading, underline any new words you see. At the end of reading your text, go back and try to guess the meaning.  Confirm your answer by looking up the definition in the dictionary.  Then record the word to your vocabulary notebook. Beside each word write the meaning, include a list of synonym words and phrases, and add an example sentence.  Take this notebook with you EVERYWHERE! When you find you have a few minutes spare, like waiting for a delayed train, pull it out and review what you’ve recorded.


Learn the skills of skimming and scanning.

Skimming and scanning are both methods of speed reading.  In skimming, you run your eyes over the whole text from beginning to end to get an idea of what it is about. This is a very useful strategy for identifying the main ideas in the IELTS Reading. Here you should be thinking about the general information and not the detail. Scanning on the other hand, is when you look for one specific piece of information in a text. Here, look for detail only!  Don’t concentrate on the meaning of the text. You eyes should only be lightly touching the other information.  You need to practice both to build your confidence.


At first, complete practice tests slowly.

After you’ve practiced reading lots of text that interests you, worked on increasing your vocabulary, and learned the skills of skimming and scanning, it is then time to take your first practice test.  You might be tempted to try to complete the practice test under exam conditions, i.e. finishing in the 60 minute time frame.  DON’T! It is important to start out slowly.  Use your first practice tests as a way to familiarize yourself with the question types and the exam format. Also decide the best way for you to approach the test. You can work on increasing your speed later, but to start, take your time so that you become comfortable with the format.


Understand why you got a question wrong.

I’m a firm believer in that we learn the most from our mistakes. So I highly recommend that after you take each practice test, you pay special attention to the questions you got wrong. Why did you get it wrong? What makes the correct answer right? Why did you make that particular mistake? Once you understand why you made a mistake, you are less likely to make it again. Or at the very least, you will begin to understand what your weaknesses are and what types of questions are hardest for you.  Do you struggle with True/False/Not Given questions?  Then you know you need to practice them more and those are also the ones you need to review at the end of the exam if you have time.


Finally, practice time management.

As you develop your skills and as your knowledge of the IELTS Reading module improves, you can start to practice completing the test under exam conditions. However, don’t suddenly start trying to do the full test in 60 minutes.  Gradually work on increasing the time you spend on each test until you are ready to tackle them in 60 minutes. Remember that you have roughly 1.5 minutes for each question. You should aim to answer the questions quickly and accurately.  If you can’t do a question quickly, leave it and come back to it later. Also, the texts and tasks become progressively more difficult.  Therefore, do the earlier questions as quickly as possible to give yourself more time for the difficult questions.

Incorporating these practices regularly into your studying will help ensure that you get a high score on the IELTS reading.


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