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How to Improve Reading Skills in IELTS: Tips For Reading in IELTS

Updated on 25 April, 2024

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

how to improve reading skills in ielts

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is one of the most popular English proficiency tests among non-native English speakers who want to study, work or migrate to English-speaking countries. Introduced in the year 1989, the IELTS examination is accepted universally. The test consists of four parts: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The reading section of the IELTS test is considered the most difficult. 

The IELTS reading section is the second part of the test, right after the listening section. Candidates get 60 minutes to read three long passages and answer 40 questions. The IELTS Academic Reading test is quite challenging; therefore, you need solid preparation. If you are wondering about how to improve your reading skills in IELTS, this article will be helpful for you.

IELTS Reading Test

The reading test is a significant part of IELTS and it is an area where the students can score good marks through diligent practice and dedication. The IELTS reading test comprises passages followed by questions and tasks that need to be answered by the students based on the information from the passage. Usually, there are three separate reading passages and several tasks that follow the passages. The questions and tasks can include matching information, matching headings, matching features, identifying information, multiple-choice, identifying writer’s views, table completion, summary completion, note completion, and short questions and answers. When it comes to the marking for the test, each successful answer will fetch the student one mark. Therefore, the highest number that the students can get is 40. Later, these scores are converted into the IELTS nine-band scale.

What skills will be tested in the IELTS Reading Test?

Your vocabulary and comprehension of information and language are evaluated in the IELTS test. You should be able to synthesize, interpret and respond to information.

IELTS reading examines your ability to comprehend what you read and contextualize information. This includes your capacity for summarizing what is communicated and how information is organized in texts. Also, IELTS examiners are known to include vocabulary you might not be familiar with to check if you can infer meaning by association.

To sum it up, the skills that will be tested in the IELTS reading test are:

  • Targeting arguments and key points
  • Understanding what the author wants to communicate
  • Identifying specific facts in the paragraph
  • Finding relevant answers based on the question

What are the different question types?

The questions in the test are intended to assess a candidate's overall understanding of the English language. Understanding the types of questions in the IELTS reading section enables one to develop a better approach and get a better band easily. The types are as follows:

  • Short answer questions
  • Multiple choice questions
  • Sentence completion
  • Summary, table, flow-chart completion
  • True and false type questions
  • Labeling diagrams
  • Matching information

Tips for Improving Reading Skills in IELTS

Below are some tips for improving reading skills in IELTS which can help you sharpen vocabulary and improve your score:

Develop skills for all types of questions in reading

You will come across 14 different types of questions; therefore, you have to find a way to answer each of them. Some of the question types come with answers while the others do not. This kind of information will help you to save time along with finding the right answers.

2 : Developing speed reading skills

The IELTS tests have a strict time limit, which challenges the ability of the candidates to complete the questions within the time frame. Therefore, developing speed reading skills will help you to find the answers quickly.

3 : Understanding the full passage is not important

You certainly do not have to understand the entire passage. You are supposed to locate only the answers. The majority of the questions test your ability to find the specific information that is given to you and then understand the sentences that contain the particular information. There are basically only two types of questions that would require you to understand the entire passage. The rest of the questions would demand locating information.

4 : Enhance grammar skills

Learning grammar is one of the most important parts of learning any language and the same stands true for English. While appearing for IELTS, you need to ensure that you have a sound grasp of English grammar so that you can quickly and effectively identify the correct usage of grammar. There are specific questions such as reading a passage that is designed to gauge the level of knowledge about English grammar of the students. With a firm grasp of grammar, you can easily tackle questions that require sentence completion and summarizing. 

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5 : Identifying keywords

Have you ever heard saying that each question contains within itself a clue to the answer? It is equally true for the IELTS questions which can help you identify the key information required to answer the questions correctly. The IELTS questions may have keywords that can stand out such as numbers, dates, places, names, and many more. Locating these keywords in the passage can easily draw out the answer to the question and the information given in the passage can be paraphrased for the answer.

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Get to know about the latest updates on the IELTS Exam, Eligibility, Preparation Tips, Test procedure,  Exam Pattern, Syllabus, Registration Process, Important Exam Dates, and much more!! This guide is a one-stop solution for every IELTS Aspirant who aims to crack the exam with an impressive band score.

6 : Scanning and skimming

One of the effective techniques that the students can employ when dealing with passage-like questions can be scanning the passage to get an overall grasp of the passage quickly. For this, the students are advised to skim through the passage without spending a lot of time reading each and every word and sentence. This not only familiarizes you with the layout of the passage but also gives you a good idea of what the passage is all about. The ideal time to be spent in this activity should not exceed three minutes so that when you are tackling individual questions, you have enough time to revisit the passage and locate the answer. To train on these skills, the students can make it a habit to skim through newspapers and magazines regularly to improve their comprehension and the ability to locate key information in a piece of writing. 

7 : Optimizing your vocabulary

Vocabulary can ultimately prove to be the one area that is often responsible for even good students scoring good marks. Without a good vocabulary, you may struggle to understand the questions and face difficulties while attempting to paraphrase the information presented.  To develop one’s vocabulary, the students should make it a point to go through news articles, literature, and other books regularly, making sure that they are of high literary quality. They also need to ensure that whenever they come across words that they are unfamiliar with, they should make it a point to find their meaning and use it at least three times in the coming 24 hours. Special attention should be paid to getting a good idea of synonyms of common words as well since they can be asked in some of the questions in IELTS. 

8 : Tackling tricky and complex passages

Often the students complain that one of the reasons that they were not able to score good marks in the reading and comprehension questions in the IELTS is because the passage included complicated information. While most of the work that is included in IELTS is aimed towards laymen, every once in a while students may find themselves dealing with unfamiliar subjects and topics. To counter this challenge, the students must prepare themselves by regularly reading scientific literature and research papers. This will not only help the students become familiar with the vocabulary used in the scientific community but also train them to quickly analyze the information in the passage and simplify it for their usage. There are also plenty of resources where the students can get practice test papers which can aid them in preparing for such passages.

9 : Do a strength vs weakness analysis

When the students start preparing for the IELTS, one of the best things that they can do is quickly get an idea of their own strengths and weaknesses. Even those people who are generally considered good in English do not score consistently well in all types of questions in IELTS and other English language proficiency tests. With a realistic analysis, the students will be able to focus on the high-priority areas and make the most out of their preparation time. The students can also attempt the mock IELTS test papers and evaluate their scores for a realistic result that they can expect. It is also a good idea to get plenty of feedback from knowledgeable sources who can point out the exact mistakes that the students might be making and get advice to form strategies and techniques for the concerned areas.

10 : Practice as much as you can

One of the best ways to make sure that you perform well in the IELTS is to go through as many practice tests and exercises as possible. This also helps you in improving your time and responses so that when you are actually attempting the IELTS you are having a good idea of how to pace yourself. There are some great resources through which you can gain access to some of the best test demos available in the market. 

These tips are bound to help you develop the necessary competency to successfully clear the IELTS test. There are plenty of more insights that you can get if you can get in touch with certain experts who specialize in IELTS coaching. With timely feedback, you can overcome the challenges that you are facing with the IELTS test and also improve your command of the English language. The students must not lose sight of the larger goal of the IELTS test which is to ensure that the students can manage their academics in an English-speaking country.

You can also talk to our foreign studies experts for any query and further assistance regarding studying abroad.

More Resources to Read:

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FAQs: How to Improve Reading Skills in IELTS?

How can I improve my reading skills for IELTS?

There are many ways by which you can amp up your IELTS reading skills. Reading tips for IELTS involve going through a variety of texts on a daily basis. Start by reading long passages, then move to textbooks, educational materials, books, and publications. Doing this will be helpful in developing your vocabulary, eventually helping you get an idea about what kind of reading materials you can get in your IELTS exam.

How do I concentrate on the IELTS reading section?

Here are some tips that can be useful to concentrate in the IELTS reading section

1. Remember that you don’t have to understand the entire passage but identify the important information.

2. Start by reading the questions first and identify the keywords asked in the question.

3. Look for the answers to the questions in the passage by searching for the keywords.

4. Avoid reading the whole passage and try not to understand everything. You can employ skimming and scanning methods while going through the long passages. Try to be patient with yourself as these methods come after a lot of reading practice.

How can I ace my IELTS reading test?

Students get 60 minutes to finish their IELTS reading test. Each passage consists of 40 questions. The key is to divide your time precisely so that you can answer each question. Below are some tips that one can employ to score well on your reading test.

1. Quickly skim through the passage instead of reading every paragraph

2. Read the questions carefully and underline the keywords

3. Use the keywords to look for the correct answer

4. Make sure that you save at least 20 minutes to check your answers in the end.

Is reading tough in IELTS?

Is reading tough in IELTS? No, IELTS reading is not that difficult. It depends on the student’s ability to solve the reading test in the allotted time. If the student knows how to use the tips and tri

What are the good ways to get more bands in the IELTS reading section?

Scoring good band scores in the IELTS reading section is possible if the student successfully manages his time. Here are some good ways to achieve more bands in the IELTS reading section

1. Divide the time wisely between passages. It is advised not to spend more than 20 minutes on each section.

2. Practice speed reading and underline the information you find important

3. Get a glance at the sample questions so that you get familiar with IELTS reading question types.

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How to improve reading in IELTS?

You can always improve by following a few handy strategies in this case. You should try and read as much as you can. Learn words which are new to you. Enhance your vocabulary as much as possible. Read the questions carefully and always check spelling and grammar. Make sure that important details are always highlighted at your end. Distribute time equally for all the passages as well. These strategies will help you improve your score in this section.

How to improve reading score in IELTS?

You can enhance your score in the IELTS Reading section by focusing on your vocabulary more than anything else. It will help you answer better and also help you understand the passages that are given. 

Make sure to divide your time equally between the passages and read and comprehend the questions carefully before answering in order to make sure that you do not miss out on something. Spelling is also very important.

How to improve reading comprehension for IELTS?

You can always enhance reading comprehension in IELTS by practicing before the examination. Try comprehending difficult passages in the quickest time possible. Always pay attention to your spelling since it counts. 

Make sure that you properly label any diagrams if applicable and read the questions carefully in order to understand what you are expected to do. Improving your vocabulary is also helpful in this regard. Keep picking up words that are new and unfamiliar.

How to prepare for a presentation IELTS reading answer?

You can plan the ending properly beforehand and finish with a proper phrase or line that is memorable. You may conclude with a humorous or enjoyable anecdote that will delight any audience. The listeners always focus on the end or beginning of any speech so focus on these two sections most of all. 

Be specific or engage the audience in fun games where they can also participate. This may get you some brownie points as well.

Is IELTS reading same for general and academic?

The IELTS Writing and Reading sections differ across the General and Academic versions. 

The Listening and Speaking parts remain the same in these IELTS test types. The Academic test will have topics in these sections that are more suited for those who are about to get admission into any professional institution or university/college of their choice. 

The General Training sections will have topics of a more general nature. Note this difference between the sections in these two test types.

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Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

Mrinal Mandal is a study abroad expert with a passion for guiding students towards their international education goals. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, earned in 2018. Since 2021, Mrinal has been working with upGrad Abroad, where he assists aspiring students in realizing their dreams of studying abroad. With his expertise and dedication, he empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of international education, making their aspirations a reality.

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The above tips are the Author's experiences. upGrad does not guarantee scores or admissions.