1.) Time Yourself
Start timing yourself from the very beginning of your practice. Some students take their time with the passages when they begin practicing until they feel more confident but one of the most challenging parts of reading is exactly that: you don’t have enough time!
As a result, when they start timing themselves they panic because they’re used to taking their time with it. Don’t make the same mistake! Start timing yourself from the very beginning and get used to it. Spend approximately 20 minutes in each passage and remember that this is part of your practice and as important as finding the correct answer!
2.) Familiarise Yourself With The Tasks
Before you start practicing it is good to check out the tasks you may come across in the exam. Get to know what they ask you to do and which strategy you should follow with each task. (I have separate lessons for each and every task in the reading section so these may help you with that).
In this way, you will instantly recognise them when you see them; you will know what you need to do; and you will be more confident which is vital. The different tasks you may come across are quite a lot, so don’t forget this step it will save you time in the long run.
3.) Do NOT Read Everything
This is important because you don’t have time for that! Often students say that this is impossible! “How can I answer to all these questions and find the correct answers if I don’t read the texts?”
Well, do you know what’s impossible? To read three long and challenging passages of 900 words word per word; read and answer 40 questions; and have some spare time to transfer your answers in the separate answersheet. And all this, in 60 minutes only. Now, that’s impossible!
Unless you are a very fast reader that understands everything clearly while reading, you may need to change your traditional idea of reading regarding IELTS. So, try not to read the texts word per word. Instead you should practice with different reading techniques. How can you do that? This takes us to the next tip!
I’m sure you’ve heard skimming before but do you use it the right way? I’m not talking about reading for the gist here and there; this is not a technique; this is chaos. I’m talking about skimming the right way. Very briefly:
- You read the title
- You read the first paragraph
- You read and underline only the first two and the last two lines of the rest of the paragraphs
- You read the last paragraph
When you practise enough, you will be able to recognise and underline some key words in between. For more information about skimming, check out this lesson here.
Skimming can’t help you enough without scanning and the latter is equally important. So, what’s their difference? Skimming helps you to find the gist of a text you don’t know. Scanning helps you to find something you already know. Just like in a dictionary, you know which word you search for and you open the dictionary to find it.
Similarly, scanning is very useful when you go to the questions. You know what the question asks you to find and you go back to the text to find it. If you do skimming the right way, you will know more or less in which paragraph the answer is located; you will remember. You will know where to search through your underlining.
Mind you, you need to practice a little bit this way in order for these to steps to start working. It’s not going to work right way (for some people it has) but usually it takes some time practicing. For more information check out this lesson on Skimming and Scanning here.
6.) Always Read The Instructions Carefully
Don’t get too carried away because you know the tasks and you want to start answering the questions right away. If you don’t pay attention to the instructions you may lose marks even if you answered correctly.
So, always check the WORD LIMIT in the instructions! If it says “NO MORE THAN 2 WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER” try to keep it that way and don’t start writing whatever you want. Even in multiple choice tasks, sometimes they ask you to find two correct answers instead of only one which is more common.
7.) Underline Key Words
This is important in both the text and the questions. Basically, you underline names, dates, numbers, and scientific terminology in the text that are easily recognised and cannot be paraphrased. In the questions, you underline what you need to search for in the text.
This is where most mistakes take place in IELTS, so be careful of paraphrasing! They tend to use the same words in both the text and the questions so as to confuse you.
So, when you give an answer to a question from the passage try to focus on the same meanings and not on the same words or phrasing. You can understand how paraphrasing works a little bit better in this lesson here.
9.) The Order Of The Text
The good news is that nearly all tasks follow the order of the passage which means that you will find the answers to the questions in the same order in the text too. (For example, the first question will be found first in the passage and so on so forth). This is very helpful when you missed the answer to a question and you found the previous and the following one. In this way, you know more or less where to search.
However, the bad news is that NOT all tasks follow the order of the text. Be careful of tasks like: a.) diagram labelling b.) sentence completion c.) flow-chart completion. Keep in mind that in these tasks the questions do NOT necessarily appear in the same order as the information will be found in the passage.
10.) Ignore The Words You Don’t Know
Don’t get stuck with words you don’t know. Don’t do that because you will waste valuable time. Don’t focus on words, focus on meanings.
Move on with it since you will probably understand the meaning of the word through the context. If you need some quick tips on what you can do when you don’t know a word, you can check this lesson here.
11.) Be Careful Of Grammar Mistakes
When you give an answer to a question make sure that it fits both grammatically and syntactically with the rest of the sentence. For completion tasks specifically, you cannot change the words that you find in the text. For example, you cannot change a noun you found in the text into a verb in order to fill in the gap. If you need to do that you probably make a mistake, so check your answer again!
Just like in Listening you still lose marks for spelling mistakes. Most words are found in the text so don’t forget that. Write them down as you see them in order to avoid spelling mistakes as much as you can.
13.) Find Your Personal Technique
What do I mean by that? Some people start with the questions, others with the passage. There is no right or wrong way; it depends on what you prefer and what works best for you.
With practice you will be able to choose one way. Once you find it, be consistent with your choice because this will really help with your timing.
14.) Read A Lot In English
The more you read in English, the better. If you are used to reading English articles, then reading won’t seem so challenging anymore. At least not that much.
Start with articles on your interests and hobbies (you can find numerous articles online about anything you may love). In this way, you will have fun while practicing and reading in English. It will be easier for you and you will gradually start reading more quickly.
15.) Enjoy Yourself
Last but not least, see it like a game! Your attitude plays a major role in your practice and it will greatly help you. If you moan and groan, you only harm yourself not IELTS. So, just have fun with it like you would with a video game quest or a quiz!