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What’s on the IELTS Academic Reading Test?

What’s on the IELTS Academic Reading Test? Glad you asked! Today, we’ll look at the key features of IELTS Academic Reading.

What are the topics of the passages on the IELTS Academic Reading Test?

There are three passages in the IELTS Academic Reading section. All three passages are educational nonfiction. The passages can cover a variety of academic topics, although topics related to science — especially health, life science, and the environment — are the most common. Social sciences such as cultural anthropology, behavioral psychology, and sociology are also somewhat common themes in the IELTS Academic Reading passages. You won’t really see topics outside of the hard sciences and social sciences; there are no history or literature passages on the test, for example.

How long are the reading passages on the IELTS Academic Reading test?

The first passage on the IELTS Academic Reading Test is up to 900 words long, and usually no shorter than 800 words in length. The same is true of Passage 2. The IELTS Reading section then closes with a third passage that’s a little longer, usually in the 850-950 word range.

How many questions are on the IELTS Academic Reading Test?

There are 40 questions on the IELTS Academic Reading test. Reading passages 1 and 2 each come with a  13-question set. The slightly longer Reading Passage 3 is followed by 14 questions.

What are the question types on the IELTS Academic Reading Test?

There are quite a few different types IELTS Academic Reading questions. Kungayan has already done a blog post on the most common IELTS Reading question types, complete with links to official IELTS practise for each kind of question. As Kungayan explains, the most common IELTS question types are: multiple choice, true/false/not given, matching (matching headings, matching information, and matching features), sentence completion, summary completion, short answer, and note/table/diagram completion.

These questions can appear after any of the passages. There isn’t any particular question type that’s more likely to appear after Passage 1, Passage 2, or passage 3. There is one trend in the distribution of question types, however. Diagram label completion questions are usually associated with hard sciences, especially biology. On the exam, you’ll often label the body parts of an animal, a diagram of an ecosystem, or other biology-related infographics.

What’s on the IELTS Academic Reading Test, Compared to IELTS General Training Reading?

You may wonder if you can use IELTS General Training Reading materials to practise for the Reading on the IELTS Academic Test. General Training Reading is somewhat similar to Academic Reading. If you choose to use some General Training materials for IELTS Academic practise, make sure you are aware of the differences between these two exams.

The final passage in IELTS General Training Reading is just like an IELTS academic passage — it’s a longer, science-oriented passage. The other General Training Reading passages are a good deal different. There are more passages on the IELTS General Training Reading Test, and they’re much shorter. Additionally, these shorter passages cover a wider variety of topics. Some of them may discuss academic subjects, but other General Training Readings focus on travel, work, and many other non-academic areas.

IELTS General Training Reading also has more varied question types. You’ll find all of the Academic Reading question types on the General Training exam, but you’ll also find a few additional kinds of questions. For comparison, see a list of the different kinds of IELTS General Reading questions.

To really get a feel for the Academic Reading test, you can take our timed practice test in the video below. To get started, just press play!

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