Some useful tips and strategies to enhance your GT Reading score:
Reading is perhaps the most interesting (some of you may read ‘strange’) skill of all that is tested in the IELTS exam. We like to ‘read’ rather than ‘write’ or ‘speak’ in our everyday life, as non-native speakers of the language, and yet when it comes to taking the reading test in an IELTS exam, or perhaps in a mock test situation, something strange happens. We start preferring the speaking or writing tests rather than taking the reading test!
This is because many of us do not practise enough for this test and expect to get a better score in it. Please note that you are not given any score for your ability to read the passages or paragraphs, rather your score depends on your ability to extract information from reading passages within a timeframe, which is often tough if you cannot find information quickly, and then satisfactorily and accurately answer the questions that come with the reading passages. Not to mention, there are a few tricky questions which will try to deceive you so that you need to think really hard to find the correct answers. Many average IELTS candidates fail to score more than 28-32 due to these tricky questions only. Those questions are designed to knock you down(!) if you don’t think very rationally and sincerely.
This article focuses on how to extract information from the reading passages so that you can find and write the correct answers in your reading test. What it does not do is introduce the reading test in details, which we assume you already know very well. We also encourage you to practise many reading passages as there is no alternative to practising a lot. When you attempt many reading passages and finish them within the prescribed timetable, you know what types of mistakes you make and this understanding helps you devise your own strategies to correct those mistakes over time.
We will no longer extend our discussion, and focus on strategies that can help you do better in your IELTS GT Reading test.
So, let’s begin!
Strategy # 1 – Attempt one reading passage at a time:
Do not make the classic mistakes of trying to answer a few questions of reading passage 1 and then finding it hard, or for some other reasons, move to the second and then the third passages. Your brain can’t process or remember much information at a time (especially in an intense situation, like, when you are taking an exam) unless you are a prodigy with a gift. So if you try to go through the information of multiple reading passages at a time, chances are you will end up doing a lot worse than you normally deserve.
Our recommendation, and it’s a piece of proven advice, is that you try to answer all the questions of the first reading passages and then move to the second passage and so on. You will come back to the previous reading passages only to revise your answer choices, (during the last few minutes of the end of the exam) or to answer a quite a few questions that you did not attempt in your first endeavour.
Strategy # 2 – Do spend time wisely on each reading passage:
By now, you already know that you have one hour to answer around 40 (on average) questions in your IELTS GT test, which has 3 reading passages. So you have 20 minutes to complete answering a reading passage including writing your answers to your answer sheet, and each reading passages comes with 12-14 questions. This is a pretty simple equation of dividing the time to complete your GT reading test. But things get a little more complicated when we consider the difficulty level and length of the reading passages.
With a few exceptions, the third reading passage in your IELTS GT test is more difficult and lengthier than the rest of the two. This means if you have already spent 40 minutes to complete the first two reading passages, you have insufficient time to complete the third reading passage. So, it is wise to spend around 17 minutes to complete the first passage, then 18 minutes to finish the second reading passage. This way you will have 24 minutes to complete the third passage. This is a recommendation and not a hard and fast rule. You can adjust your own timing based on your experience, skill and reading speed.
Strategy # 3 – Read the questions first:
This is perhaps the single most important strategy that can enhance your reading score significantly and help you manage the time accurately. If you are not already doing this, then it might sound a bit odd to read the questions first, and then read the text from the passage. But this strategy saves you time and keeps your brain from collecting and jotting unnecessary information.
Our recommendations for this strategy are that –
A) you read the passage name/title first, and then go to the question section.
B) From the question section, read two questions at a time and then go to the reading passage to find out the answer(s) to one or both question(s).
C) As soon as you find the answers to your questions, write them in your answer sheet and mark the questions to indicate that those have already been answered.
D) Be sure about your spelling. Even a correct answer would get no marks due to spelling mistakes.
E) In your reading passage, write 1, 2, 3… 10, 11… and so on with a pencil to mark where you have found answers to particular questions.
Practise this strategy several times in real-exam like simulation environment and you will notice that it saves you time. Many students build-up the habit of reading the full reading passage first and then read questions and find answers. This is counterproductive and time consuming for the ELTS Reading Test.
Strategy # 4 – Use a pencil:
You will need to use a pencil to write your answers in your GT Reading answer sheet. So never use a pen to underline texts from reading passages, even when you practice, let alone write your answers in your answer sheet. When you use a pencil, you can erase the writing and correct it without much hassle. Misspelt words and grammatically inaccurate expression will get no marks in your IELTS Reading Test. Rest assured that both British and Americal spellings are accepted.
Strategy # 5 – Don’t waste time reading each line of instructions:
GT reading tests have similar question patterns and instructions. So you should know about all the questions types and the instructions those question types come with by the time you take the real test. It is expected that you will just look at the instruction and know what is expected from you without reading the whole instructions, word by word.
For example, when you see an instruction like the following, you know what is expected from you and what to write in the boxes of your answer sheet without reading the whole instruction.
Read the article and look at the statements below. In boxes 24-30 on your answer sheet write:
TRUE if the statement is true
FALSE if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN if the information is not given in the passage
The first one has been done for you as an example.
Example – Answer
The international students can’t apply for the TA post. – False “
In such cases, you just give a cursory look at the instructions. If you try to read the instructions word by word, you will lose valuable time that you could have used to find answers to the questions.
Strategy # 6 – Do “skimming” and “scanning”:
You are not expected to read each line of text in a reading passage and then read questions to find answers. If you do so, you will need a lot more time than just 20 minutes to finish each of your reading passage. This is why “skimming” and “scanning” are two important skills for you.
When you skim the reading passage or a paragraph, you do not try to understand everything that has been said in it. Rather, you try to develop a general idea of the passage or paragraph and find out what it is talking about.
When you need to find a piece of information from the reading passage, you do the scanning. When you scan a paragraph or a reading passage, you look for an exact match or a strong hints of the information you are looking for.
Strategy # 7 – Speed reading:
A child looks at every letter of a word to read it aloud, and then every word in a sentence to read the whole sentence. With skills and practice, he/she can read a sentence without looking at each word.
You can also develop your speed reading habit to save time while taking the IELTS reading test. This is a skill that will not only help you in your IELTS test but also in different situations in your life when you are expected to read quickly or find a piece of information within a short span of time.
With some practice, you can develop your habit of reading at a significantly fast speed. Our brain can process words faster than our eyes can scan them. So you do not need to look and try to figure out a single word at a time while not utilising the potential of our brain. Look and concentrate on three or four words (with practice increase it to 4-6) at a time and let the brain process them while advancing your eyes to the next set of words. This is the exact strategy that many people employ to read at a very fast speed.
Strategy # 8 – Don’t try to understand the whole passage:
Don’t try to understand the meaning and message of the whole reading passage. Your task in your reading test is to find answers to questions, not thoroughly understand everything that has been given in the paragraph. Except for the “find suitable titles/headings” and “matching heading” type questions, you just need to skim through the paragraphs and look for answers without understanding the text much.
Strategy # 9 – Figure out the “keywords”:
Each question contains one or more important keywords that you should be able to locate. If you can locate the most important keyword in a question, searching for the answer from the reading passage would become easier. Also, look for the paraphrases or synonyms of the keywords that could appear in the reading passage. For that, you need to slowly but regularly develop your vocabulary. Some obvious keywords are – names, dates, places, years and titles.
Strategy # 10 – Keep your calm:
Have you ever felt that if you had taken the same test at your room in a more relaxed environment without any pressure of time, you would have done a lot better? If your answer is ‘yes’, then you are not alone. Everybody feels a bit more stressed out and pressurised when they take a test at a test centre. So taking a test can be a bit more stressful than normal.
But how can you beat it? Learn to keep your cool. You know that this is just a test and it is not the end of the world. This is all a mental game and you have to keep your calm to win it.
Another way to beat it is to take as many mock tests in an exam-like environment as possible.
Strategy # 11 – Leave no blanks:
You will not lose any marks in your IELTS GT test for any inaccurate answer. So leave no answer untouched or unanswered. You might get lucky and you have nothing to lose!
Always answer all the questions.
Strategy # 12 – Eliminate wrong answers:
Sometimes finding the correct choice from a number of options is hard, especially in your reading test. So if you ever face such situations when you are not sure what would be correct answers, eliminate and strikethrough one or more wrong answer choices. If you can eliminate two wrong answers, finding the correct answer between the remaining options becomes a lot easier.
Those are a few strategies that we think would help you do well in your IELTS GT Reading test. We strongly believe that you already know about a few of these strategies and use them in your exams. But even if we had been able to present a single new approach to you which you find useful, our effort would be successful.
We wish you all the best.