IELTS Reading Tips: to Guess or not to Guess

One IELTS module that many people are not too happy to take is Reading. Because many adults, young and old, have begun reading less, the IELTS Reading exam has become a source of stress and anxiety. 

If you have trouble with this particular module, read on to learn some tips on IELTS Reading. 

1. Begin reading again

The main complaint of many adults is that the last time they read anything of length was back in school. If that is you, IELTS Reading will be troublesome. You may find your eyes and head hurting after a few paragraphs.

Since the Academic and General Training tests have magazine-length articles, it helps to start reading something similar while preparing for the test. Find magazines that have a variety of topics within (e.g., environment, history, art, politics, entertainment) since the IELTS Reading passages are not limited to a specific field. Aside from Reading, the information gathered might help you in Writing and Speaking.

2. Skimming and scanning

Many IELTS practice materials emphasize the skills of skimming and scanning. Skimming means quickly looking at the story to get a general idea of what it is about, not remembering everything. However, skimming is only helpful if you are a fast reader and have a good memory. Good readers can quickly skim through stories and recall somehow what they read. If you cannot do this, skimming may not help you much.

Scanning means looking for a specific detail, such as a person’s name, city, date, or number. This is a helpful technique even if you are not so good at English. For example, if the question contains the word February, you can quickly search for February to find the possible answer. You do NOT have to read the entire story to get it right.

To help you scan, consider underlining or circling these keywords before looking for the answers: proper nouns (e.g., names of people or places), dates, numbers, and italicized words.

3. Look for similar words or ideas 

Something that makes the reading module difficult is that the words in the questions are rarely the same as the words in the story, except for the keywords mentioned in Tip #2.

For example, the question might say, “Where is the dog?” but the story might use a particular breed, like a poodle or huskie, not the word “dog.” So instead of searching for the exact words, look for the idea of a dog.

4. Skip what you don't know 

The objective of IELTS Reading is to get as many of the 40 items correct, so you should not spend too long on any one question. So skip questions that are taking too much time or confusing questions, such as those containing vocabulary you do not know.

Skipping these questions ensures you reach the end of the test, allowing you to go back and try again. Hopefully, on your second go at the questions, your mind will be more relaxed, and you might finally find the answers.

5. Don't just guess

As the article’s title suggests, many people end up guessing in the reading module. While guessing may have helped you back in school, it will not do much for you in the IELTS.

The test is designed for test takers to actually READ the story to get the correct answers, not pass because of stock knowledge or common sense; otherwise, it would be the IELTS Jeopardy module. So if a question is answerable without even looking at the article itself, there is probably a trick.

Now, this does not mean you cannot guess. You can! But the best time is in the last five minutes of the exam, not at the very beginning. Doing so will ensure you at least tried your best before relying on luck in the end.

6. Remember, it's an open-book test

An error in IELTS Reading is forgetting you can always reread the articles, which is why you do not need to guess. It also means you do not have to read slowly to memorize the details. Since the test is just for an hour and there are 40 questions to answer, you are supposed to move quickly yet carefully through the stories.
In fact, if you are NOT a good reader of English, it does not make sense to read the stories first. Instead, you can look at the questions (perhaps 1 or 2 questions at most) and start looking for the answers.

7. If you use glasses, wear them!

Another issue that can hurt your score is not wearing your glasses. Unfortunately, some people believe glasses detract from their everyday look, so they rarely use them or do not have a pair anymore. But you will be amazed at how high your scores can go once you put them on!

However, if you have been wearing them as you practice but still experience difficulty reading, do have your glasses checked. Perhaps they were made several years ago, and your eyesight has deteriorated. It is much cheaper to upgrade or purchase a pair of glasses than retake the IELTS.

8. Always read the instructions carefully 

Last, but definitely not least as this is one of the most important tips, make sure you always read the instructions for each question very carefully.

Each question type has specific things you have to do. Candidates often lose marks because they don't follow what they have been told. Don't let that be you!

Wrapping it up

The IELTS Reading can be tough, especially if it has been awhile since you last read something more than three paragraphs long. But you CAN succeed if you take the time to prepare and use the tips above. 

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