How many IELTS Reading Question types are there? Different websites have different ways of categorising IELTS Reading Question types, but I put them into 3 broad categories.
- Matching things (headings, statements, features, sentence endings, dates and people)
- Filling in gaps (summaries, notes, tables, flowcharts, sentences, diagrams)
- Choosing from a list (Multiple Choice, True, False, Not Given and Yes, No, Not Given)
In this blog, I examine the official 11 Question Types as outlined on IELTS.org and explain how other teachers and websites might label them.
Try not to worry too much about the ‘type’ of question. Developing good reading skills and habits will enable you to answer ALL question types.
It goes without saying that you need a good vocabulary, a good knowledge of synonyms, an ability to understand paraphrasing to be successful with all of these question types listed below.
Listen to the podcast here (skip the 5-minute intro if you want to get to the question types quickly!) or on YouTube (edited version).
1. Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
At its most basic form, you need to choose ONE correct answer from four choices: A, B, C, D.
You might also have to match a sentence with the best ending – I would call this a ‘matching’ activity, or even ‘choosing from a list’, but essentially you have to choose the best answer from several options.
Difficulties: There are distractors – tricks that look similar to the correct answer.
Tips: Distractors often use the same words as the text. Correct answers are usually synonyms.
2. Identifying Information
This question type is more commonly known as ‘True, False, Not Given’ (TFNG).
You have to decide if a statement is correct or incorrect or whether the text does not mention it.
Difficulties: Most students really dislike this question type because it’s asking you to do several things – find, analyse and understand the information in the text (even if it doesn’t exist!).
Tips: Turn the statement into a question to see what answer the text gives you.
3. Identifying writer’s views/claims
This question type is more commonly known as Yes, No, Not Given (YNNG).
It is slightly different from TFNG because it refers to people’s opinions (TFNG questions refer to factual information).
The difficulties and tips are the same for TFNG.
For both question types, the answers are in the same order as the statements, and there will always be at least one of each type.
4. Matching Information
Some teachers call this ‘Matching Statements’ or ‘Matching Paragraph Information’ because you get a list of statements and you have to say which paragraph they come from. You might have to look for a reason, an explanation or a theory for example.
Difficulties: It’s difficult to find information in a long and difficult text within such a short time limit.
Tips: Do this question type last – you might find the answers as you go through the other questions for the same text.
Remember: there may be 2 pieces of information in one paragraph. As with the Matching Headings (below), the answers will not be in the same order as the text.
5. Matching Headings
This question type is similar to Matching Information, but this time there is only one heading per paragraph.
Difficulties: You have to do a lot of fast reading to match headings because you can’t skim and scan for quick answers. It’s often difficult to identify the main idea of a long paragraph.
Top Tip: The first line of a paragraph often sums it up.
This question type tests your ability to distinguish main ideas from small details.
6. Matching Features
This is quite a broad category.
Some teachers call it ‘categorising’ features, some call it ‘name matching’ because you often have to match people (usually researchers or experts) with their opinions, theories, discoveries, findings etc.
There could be other ways to categorise information e.g. dates and events.
Difficulties: I find these types of question require a lot of concentration, especially when matching people to categories, as there are often many different people mentioned.
Top Tip: Find the person in the text first (look for capital letters and underline all the names). Read about this person’s opinion or theory. Then find a statement that matches.
7. Matching Sentence Endings
In this question type you are given the first half of the sentence and you have to match it with a list of second halfs.
So it’s another ‘choosing from a list’ exercise in many ways.
Difficulties: Sometimes it seems like ALL the sentences match with each other, but you will be able to eliminate some as they don’t make sense grammatically.
Top tip: Make sure you fully understand the meaning of the first half so that you can scan the text for the second half. Eliminate ones that don’t fit grammatically.
8. Sentence Completion
This is a gapfill exercise. The gap will always be in the text.
- Check the number of words you’re allowed
- Spelling is important, so copy the word(s) EXACTLY as seen in the text
- You can write numbers as figures or words (3 or THREE)
- You can use capital letters
- The sentences are in the same order as the text
Top Tip: Try to guess the type of word you need before you go looking for it in the text.
9. Summary, notes, table, flowchart completion
Sorry but this is just another gapfill!
Diagrams, flowcharts, tables – they’re just ways of presenting information.
By following the logic of the text, you can usually ‘slot in’ the words like a jigsaw puzzle, even if you’re not sure exactly what they mean.
Obviously, if your vocabulary is good you’ll be able to recognise synonyms, understand more and find the words more easily.
10. Diagram label completion
Even the IELTS.org website is starting to repeat itself with the same advice.
- only write words from the text
- don’t write more words than you’re allowed
- spell the words correctly
- use capital letters if you want to
11. Short answer questions
Other question types?
IELTS Liz mentions ‘Choosing a title’. I haven’t seen this question type in an Academic test recently, but please let me know if I’m wrong.
I hope that this has helped you understand the different IELTS Reading types better.
When I created my most recent course, I based my lessons only on the most recent Cambridge Practice Test books because they are the most reliable source of information.
If you see any other question types in course books, they may not be used in the real test.
To improve your reading skills
- Read every day.
- Do lots of practice tests.
- Check and understand your answers.
- Build your vocabulary.
Many of the lessons on my blog and podcast go into each question type in more detail with examples, so please use the Search Category/Search Bar to search for more practice and tips.
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