Reading Hints & Tips

  1. In Order: Reading module questions are in order most of the time, and this means approximately 98 percent of the time. An exception to the order rule is in the Yes/No/Not Given, True/False/Not Given questions where there may be idea or paragraph summaries. In such instances, the test taker must give an answer based on an overall understanding of the previous paragraph, paragraphs or idea as a whole.
  1. Scan and Skim: Skimming and scanning techniques should be used for Sentence Completion, Fill in the Blank, and Short-Answer Questions. Valuable time can be saved with these questions types. A greater amount of time can then be spent on more difficult question types such as Matching Headings that require the test taker to read in depth.

Important note: For Sentence Completion, Short-Answer Question and Fill in the Blank question types, it is practically impossible to guess the answer, so these question types should be done first if you are running out of or pressed for time.

  1. Time: It is advised that no more than 60 seconds be spent on a difficult question. After that, if it is possible, make a guess (for some question types, guesses are not possible). If you can, make a 50-50 guess, note which question it is, underline the part of the reading passage that the question is connected with, and if there is time later, return to the question. If there is not time, go with your best guess.
  2. Read the Question First: Read the question first. Do not first read whole paragraphs or even the whole text. It is often possible to skim and find quick answers without reading whole paragraphs.
  3. Key Words: Practice active reading of questions. This means you should underline key words in each question. Remember that the IELTS is a paper test and may require you to look back and forth between and often turn pages. In addition to the questions, identify and underline key words in the reading passage, but do not think you have answered a question just because you have found the same word. That hardly ever works. Instead, look for synonyms. Also, it seems obvious to say, but be sure that while reading the questions you identify the most important key words, namely proper nouns (Turkey, Portugal, Spain) and numbers (August 12, $7 million).
  4. Synonyms/Antonyms: If a key word is something like ‘slow, it can be assumed that you are looking for a synonym of ‘slow’, or an example of something slow. Simply looking for the word ‘slow’ may deceive you into choosing the wrong answer. However, it is possible that you should be looking for an antonym of slow (fast, quick), or an example of something that is fast. It is a mistake to match the same word in the question and the text because the IELTS test writers create the test knowing that students will be looking to use this obvious (and wrong) tactic.
  5. 50/50 guess: In questions that present you with multiple answer choices, it is often possible to cross out one or two options that are obviously incorrect. If you are unsure of the answer to a question that presents you with multiple answer choices, try to narrow down the answer to one or two choices. This will maximize your chance of guessing the correct answer.
  6. Guess: Always guess, even if you do not have any idea what the correct answer is. Do not leave anything blank. If the time is almost finished, first complete any question type that gives you multiple answer options, then proceed to start filling in blanks and finishing short answer questions.
  7. If you don’t know the answer to a Yes/No/Not Given or True/False/Not Given question, select True or False as they are the most frequent answers to this question type.
  8. Active Reading: While reading questions and the text itself, it is imperative to underline words, numbers, phrases, and ideas that might be important. Doing so will not only help you focus on the text, but will making a note of which question correlates to which part of the text will help you to go back and double-check your answers later. If you do not make a note in the text about where you found which answer, it is very difficult and time-consuming to go back and check your logic.
  9. Is time running out?: First, do questions that you can’t guess. This means fill in the blank and short answer questions. Leave questions that you can guess for later. Yes/No/Not Given and Matching Headings questions can be guessed, often with some precision.


The IELTS Reading Academic and General Tests are the same in that they have 40 questions each and last one hour.

However, the content and vocabulary of the General Test is easier. The General Test includes topics and vocabulary from social, work and academic subjects whereas the Academic Test focuses on topics that are commonly found in undergraduate university courses.

The General Test consists of four to five short passages and one long passage, in contrast to the three long passages of the Academic Test.

The General Test is generally taken by people who want to use their Band Score to prove their English proficiency for work reasons. For example, some employees in job sectors such as banking may get a raise or promotion upon achieving a certain score on the IELTS.


The Reading section is one hour in length. There are three sections which consist of 40 questions. There are roughly a dozen different question types that can be asked of you. Unlike the Listening module, there is no transfer time at the end of the Reading module. All answers must be written in the answer book at the end of one hour.

The Reading module is very vocabulary intensive, so it is recommended that students study the vocabulary from an IELTS book. Sincethe Cambridge publishing company is one of the writers of the IELTS exam, their texts are highly recommended while preparing for the exam. In addition to Cambridge, there are many other texts out there, so it is useful to consult a professional IELTS tutor for specific suggestions.