Improving your IELTS Reading score takes time and effort.
Here are some tips that can help make the IELTS Reading texts a little easier.
1. Learn about Reading text structures
IELTS texts follow a predictable structure (e.g. chronological – in order of time, or theoretical – based on research and evidence). Once you recognise the structure, you will know where to find the answers more quickly.
2. Develop your vocabulary
It’s important to have a good background knowledge and vocabulary to help you with the typical topics that come up in the Reading Test.
IELTS texts relate to similar subjects, so you need to build up your vocabulary and knowledge to help you understand concepts more easily.
‘Skimming and scanning’ will NOT help you if you don’t understand the words – as soon as your vocabulary improves, you will understand more, and you will read faster.
3. Practise with Cambridge Practice Tests
If you don’t have much time to read, make sure you’re reading the right stuff.
Start with the most recent Cambridge Practice Test book (Book 17), and work backwords until you get to Book 9 (the earlier books are not as useful).
Doing this will help you get used to the text lengths, topics and question types.
4. Learn about question types
IELTS questions follow a similar format. Once you know how the questions work, you will identify the correct answer more confidently.
For example, IELTS questions always go in the same order as the answers are found in the text (apart from matching headings/statements with paragraphs).
This means that you don’t need to jump around the whole text to find the answer.
5. Learn about common IELTS topics
If you are aware of some of the topics that you will read about, such as the environment, this will save you so much time in the exam.
Get more familiar with IELTS Reading topics on my Resources page.
6. Learn how to manage your time
Good time-management is also essential.
You don’t need to get all the questions right to get a high score, so train yourself to
- stick to the strict 20-minute time-limit for each passage
- move on when you get stuck
- make ‘educated guesses’
- find information quickly
Find more advice on How to manage your time in the IELTS Reading Test.
7. Go back through each practice test
Practice tests are learning tools. Go back over the answers and check any that you got wrong. Try to understand why you chose the wrong answer.
Use a dictionary and make notes – this will help develop the vocabulary you need to improve your reading skills.
On my website there are many practice examples with answers and explanations and Podcast links in my 10-minute lessons. Do one a day leading up to your exam.
8. Read widely
If you have extra preparation time (if you’ve already analysed all of the Cambridge Practice Tests and are aiming above Band 7), use it to read more widely.
Here is my complete guide to IELTS Reading Resources.
My IELTS Reading Skills Course will help you understand how the reading test works and how to answer a variety of question types within 60 minutes.
IELTS Reading FAQs
How can I improve my Reading score?
To get a good IELTS Reading score you need to
- have a good knowledge of vocabulary
- be able to recognise text structures
- know how to answer different types of questions
- find information quickly
- ignore unknown words
- guess words from context
- make intelligent guesses about the answers
- manage your time well.
What does the Academic Reading Test consist of?
3 texts of increasing difficulty.
40 questions to answer in 60 minutes.
20 minutes per text.
- No extra time to transfer answers
How difficult is the IELTS Academic Reading Test?
- The language in the text is Academic: formal, technical, scientific and complex. Many people do not read this kind of text in everyday life, so they are not used to it.
- The format of some of the questions are tricky and they require detailed understanding
- You need a very good knowledge of vocabulary and an ability to follow complex language in a very tight time-limit and under pressure.
How is the General Training test different from Academic?
Many students find the General Training IELTS Reading test slightly easier because the texts are shorter and more familiar.
However, this does not mean that they are easy, and you will still need to be familiar with a range of question types and reading strategies to get the best score.
The format is very similar
- 3 parts (5 texts)
- 40 questions
- 60 minutes.
Part 1: 2 texts about everyday life like Passports and Airports
Part 2: 2 texts about work life like Dress Codes and Negotiating a Pay Rise
Part 3: a factual article like The Iron Bridge
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