Reading strategy for IELTS

If you are working on your reading for IELTS, you must have seen and heard teachers advising you to skim and scan. This is certainly a very good recommendation because your time in the IELTS reading section is limited. You are given 1 hour for the reading section but let’s be realistic, you only have about 52 min to do the test as the other 7 or 8 min will be spent on transferring your answers to the answer sheet. So, what have we got? 40 questions, 3 long texts and about 50 min for everything.

Therefore, you need to develop your speed reading. True.

So, when you have a question like this, for example:

Q: There is some doubt about what caused the Mary Rose to sink.

  • Underline the key words in the question: There is some doubt about what caused the Mary Rose to sink. This will help you to find the right sentence in the passage:
  • Start scanning (reading very quickly) the text to find the first mention of the Mary Rose. Very often it will take you a couple of seconds only because it is a proper name which stands out in the text.
  • You find the first mention of Mary Rose in the text and then look for other key words there – doubt, cause, sink. And you understand that some or all of the key words in the question can have either the synonyms (cause = the reason why, etc) in the text or… they could be described by a phrase or a sentence or even a few sentences.
  • Some students would look for the exact match for the key words in the text i.e. cause, doubt and sink. But this is not a good strategy as often there would be the same words in the text but they might be used in a different context describing something else but not the statement that you need.
  • The best approach would be to understand the meaning of the question, the message it conveys. And then search the text for the proof of that message (True) or the opposite of it (False). If, however, you can’t agree with the statement or disagree, then it must be Not Given.
  • After you have found the key words in the passage, you think that might be it – but this is when you need to slow down and read ATTENTIVELY and read the sentence TO THE END. I often see that students find the right place in the passage but they either do not read the sentence to the end and get the answer wrong or they do not read it attentively and miss important detail and again get it wrong.

       To summarise

  • Underline the key words in the question
  • Read the passage quickly (scan) to find the right place in the passage
  • Read the sentence attentively in the part of the text that you think has the answer.
  • Pick the correct answer  




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