IELTS Reading Preparation: Top 10 Tips to Increase Your Score

An image of a postgraduate student applicant writing a standardized test, either the GRE or the GMAT, with an illustration of a test booklet and pencil.

The IELTS Reading section is the second part of the IELTS test and is taken immediately after the Listening section. You’ll have 60 minutes to read three passages and answer 40 questions. You might be wondering, “is IELTS reading difficult?” The test’s difficulty varies for everyone, but the biggest challenge of the IELTS Reading section comes from having to understand a large amount of text and answer questions about what you read in a short amount of time. This is especially true for the Academic Reading portion of the test, where you’ll have to read and understand a more difficult passage. However, with good preparation strategies and lots of practice, you’ll be less stressed when you take the test. Read on for 10 IELTS reading tips that can help you get a high score!

Plus, check out our top strategies for boosting your IELTS Writing, IELTS Speaking, and IELTS Listening scores.

A illustration of a pile of books, representing IELTS reading.

Read Lots of Different Media Types

One of the best ways to improve your reading comprehension is to read as much as possible. Read as many types of English texts as you canbooks, newspaper articles, online publications, academic materials, and social media. Reading a variety of written content will help improve your reading skills and broaden your vocabulary. It can also bring you up-to-speed with modern slang and speaking patterns. Even listening to music can be helpful, and bonus points if you look up the lyrics!

Your reading speed will improve, too, which will give you an edge when taking the real test. Remember, during the test your time is limited, so reading questions quickly will save you valuable seconds.

Don’t Make Reading Your Only Study Tactic

Being an avid reader is great. However, the IELTS Reading section is designed to test your ability to identify important information. So unless you’re closely analyzing everything you read, you won’t be fully prepared.

One way to strengthen this skill is to create questions for yourself. Find an article that interests you and read it. As you do, take note of what you think is the most important information. After, come up with a question or two (in the IELTS Reading format) about the article you read. This will help you get in a mindset that will lead to success.

Learn Unfamiliar Words

As you read, get into the habit of highlighting confusing words or phrases. Then look them up to learn what they mean. This will help you avoid stumbling across a word you don’t recognize during the test.

An illustration of a magnifying glass.

Try Reading the Questions First

Before reading the passages in the Reading section of the test, look at the related questions. Since they directly relate to the passages, knowing the questions beforehand will help you know what to look out for as you read.

After reading the passage through the first time, return to the questions and re-read them. This will help you pinpoint which sections of the passage you need to pay careful attention to.

Remember, Spelling Counts

If your answer is spelled incorrectly, it will be marked wrong. The good news is that you don’t lose points for wrong answers, so if you’re not sure how to spell a word, give it your best shot anyway. You may get it right!

For more IELTS help, check out our list of the 5 Best IELTS Preparation Books for International Students and the 6 Common IELTS Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.

Watch Out for Traps

As mentioned above, the Reading section is all about reading a text and identifying key information. Let’s say you’ve followed our advice and read the questions before reading the text. You then spot a word in the text you saw in one of the questions. That must be the answer, right?

Not always.

The Reading section is set up to test your reading comprehension and part of this is checking to make sure you’re paying attention. Some questions are designed to mislead you into thinking they have obvious answers. Always re-read your answers to make sure they follow what the question asks. Don’t fall into a trap!

Labelling Diagrams

During the Reading test, you may be asked to label a diagram. The good news is that you’ll find the words you need in the text. As noted above, spelling counts, so be sure to accurately copy any words you need.

An illustration of a stopwatch.

Highlight Important Information

The Reading section asks you to process a lot of information in a short amount of time. To make things easier for yourself, underline and circle important words and sentences as you go.

Divide Your Time Evenly Between Passages

In the Reading test, you’ll be asked to answer questions on three different passages. We recommend spending around 20 minutes on each passage. This may not seem like much time to devote to a single passage but remember: you only have one hour to complete the Reading section.

By splitting your time evenly between all three passages, you’ll give yourself the best chance of overall success. Just remember to keep an eye on the time, as you don’t want to end up with only 10 minutes to spend on the last passage.

A Few More IELTS Reading Tips:

  • You don’t lose points for wrong answersso never leave a blank space
  • Make notes on your question paper, but remember, only your answer sheet will be marked 
  • You’ll be writing in pencil, so remember to bring an eraser
  • For the True/False questions, you can write “T” or “F” instead of True or False, respectively
  • Questions aren’t always linear, meaning the process of answering them doesn’t necessarily have one starting and ending point 

We hope you found these IELTS Reading tips helpful, and wish you the best of luck on the IELTS Reading section! 

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