IELTS Reading Test

The IELTS Reading test is the second part of the IELTS exam, and takes 60 minutes. It consists of three or sometimes four reading passages of increasing difficulty, and there are a total of 40 questions to answer. Though you can mark and write on the Question Paper, you must enter your answers on the Answer Sheet as there will be no extra time for transferring your answers from the test booklet to the Answer Sheet.

The ielts reading test will test a number of different skills, including:

  • Completing a diagram, table or summary

  • Tell the difference between main ideas and supporting

  • Find specific information

  • Identify the writer’s opinion

  • Follows key arguments

  • Identify the writer’s purpose

The IELTS reading test is also as much a vocabulary test as it is a reading test because most of the answers will be synonyms or paraphrases of the question


Preview the questions first

While reading, your brain is working hard to create a picture of what the passage is about. You can save your brain the trouble by reading the questions quickly, before you start reading the passage. This will give you an advantage in the IELTS reading test. The questions provide you with an outline of the contents of the passage, which then allows you to read more quickly because you know what to expect.

Read the introduction first, conclusion next, body last

After previewing the questions, you can start on the passage itself. I recommend spending no more than five minutes on this stage. What is the best way to approach the passage? I suggest you read the introduction first, and then skip the body to read the conclusion. The principle is the same as for Tip #1. It’s easier to read the body when you know in advance where it’s going. As long as you’ve read both the introduction and the conclusion, it’s not essential to read all paragraphs in the body.

Skim- don’t read every sentence

Skimming is when you read a text quickly in order to get the general idea. But how does skim- reading actually work? One technique is to look for main ideas, which are usually near the beginning of each new paragraph. Once you’ve found this idea, you don’t need to read all of the supporting sentences. A quick glance at the final sentence can help you to confirm if that main idea was the correct one.

Scan- underline specific information

If you find the name of a person, place or organisation, underline it. That’s because these names will almost certainly appear in the questions and you’ll be searching for them later. That’s also the case for technical terms, which usually come with a definition in the text. You can save yourself time by multitasking and marking these words for later reference. Other words that aren’t as specific will probably be paraphrased in the questions.

Spend no more than 1 minute per question

You must manage your time effectively and attempt all 40 questions. Make sure you don’t run out of time by spending no more than 1 minute on each question. You can always go back at the end and tackle the really difficult ones again.

More tips, tricks and strategies for the IELTS test and preparation with our IELTS expert Sally Dewi.