IELTS Reading

The IELTS Reading test consists of 40 questions that cover a wide range of reading skills.

These include:

  • reading for gist
  • reading for main ideas
  • reading for detail
  • skimming
  • understanding logical argument
  • recognising writers' opinions, attitudes and purpose.

There are two versions of the Reading test – one for General Training and one for Academic. Our preparation materials can help you develop your reading skills for both versions.

Below you’ll find more information about the test format and scoring, as well as top tips, free videos and blog articles, and other resources to help you understand the Reading test and achieve a high score.

If there’s anything else you would like to see, tell us on our social channels.

The Reading Test has 40 questions and lasts 60 minutes.

IELTS Academic contains three long reading passages ranging from descriptive and factual to discursive and analytical. These are taken from books, journals, magazines or newspapers and have been written for a non-specialist audience. IELTS General Training has three sections: Section 1 contains several shorter texts; Section 2 contains two texts; and Section 3 contains one long text.

Write your answers carefully on the answer sheet during the test – there’s no extra time at the end and you can lose marks for poor spelling and grammar.

Each question is worth 1 mark.

Your score is calculated by the number of correct answers you have out of 40 questions in the test. You won’t lose points for incorrect answers.

1. Read English language articles and newspapers as often as you can. Our blog content is a great reading resource.

2. Aim to skim-read 100 words in 30 seconds. (Did you know ... you can read about 100 words in 20 seconds in your own language?)

3. On test day, read the instructions carefully and make sure you follow them, especially instructions on the maximum number of words.

4. Timing is really important! Try to finish each section in less than 20 minutes. You can write on the question paper but you must copy your answers onto the answer sheet within the 60 minutes, so allow time to do that.

How to save time in the IELTS Reading test

In the IELTS Reading test, you will have one hour to answer 40 questions. 

If you’re worried about running out of time, find out what you can do on exam day to save you valuable minutes when you’re taking the test.

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IELTSi – improve your skills the intelligent way

When preparing for the IELTS test, it can be hard to know what to focus on to make the best of your preparation time. IELTS intelligence, or IELTSi as it's also known, is a new digital tool to help you maximise your study time and develop your weaker skills.   Firstly, take a quick skills test with questions from the producers of the IELTS test. Simply select the skill you want to test and your target band score for that skill and off you go. The tasks are similar to those that you’ll find in the real test, and aim to help you improve the skills you need for IELTS and beyond. But the best part about IELTSi is that it creates a feedback report, just for you, in seconds – all from your device.   Your personalised report gives you detailed feedback for every question in the test. It even explains why all your answers were right or wrong. There are also tips and advice to help you understand the skills you need to improve.   You can use IELTS intelligence anytime, anywhere – it works on mobiles, tablets and computers. It’s a great tool to use whether you’re studying alone, or taking an English course. You can use the feedback to help you make the right choice for you about what to practise.   IELTS intelligence is delivered through Cambridge One – the online learning platform of Cambridge University Press. Once you sign up, you’ll be able to see all your content and access your tests and feedback, all in one place. Find out more by watching the video below:   IELTS intelligence is a brand-new product from Cambridge, and we’re planning to add to it regularly. We’ve been talking to learners all over our IELTS community to find out the areas they need most help with. So check back often to take new tests and get more feedback to help you with your IELTS preparation journey. Emily Clarke, IELTS Intelligence Product Manager Claire Gilbert, Senior Assessment Manager


15 October, 2020

Timesaver Techniques for Multiple Choice Questions

In previous blogs, we've seen that while some types of reading questions require careful preparation, others should only be read once you've completed individual paragraphs to save time and avoid confusion. When it comes to multiple-choice questions, you'll need to combine both techniques. Therefore, you should read the ‘headline’ part of the question before you start reading the text but leave the multiple-choice answers until you’ve identified the relevant section of the reading passage. Let me take you through my thought process in completing this example from IELTS 13 Academic (page 48) on a text entitled ‘Making the Most of Trends’. This is the ‘headline’ part of the first question: ‘In the first paragraph, the writer said that most managers’… With this kind of question, I can set an internal ‘alarm clock’ by asking: ‘What do most managers do?’ Here, I also don’t have to worry too much about identifying the passage since the text tells me where to look for the answer. I read the first paragraph quite slowly with this question in mind. As I read, I get quite excited, because the first sentence starts with: ‘Most managers can identify the major trends of the day.’ It’s now time for me to look at my possible answers and here they are: 1. fail to spot the key consumer trends of the moment. 2. make the mistake of focusing only on the principal consumer trends. 3. misinterpret market research data relating to current consumer trends. 4. are unaware of the significant impact that trends have on consumers’ lives At this stage, I’m a little disappointed, as the first sentence doesn’t actually provide me with the answer. Instead, it’s quite a typical ‘trap’ for this type of question, because the vocabulary in option A is almost identical to the question. However, the meaning is the exact opposite: can vs fail. This teaches us that in this type of question we must pay attention to ‘little’ words such as ‘can’, ‘will’ and ‘not’ since they can change the meaning of the sentence drastically. I now check if any of the remaining answers are correct. However, in doing so I realise that all of the answers relate to problems or failures. This means that the answer is not in the first sentence. In order to save time, I don’t prepare my remaining three options in detail. Instead, I ask myself this question as I read the rest of the paragraph: What are most managers getting wrong?’ As I read on, I realise that the answer must be in this phrase: ‘managers often fail to recognise the less obvious but profound ways these trends are influencing consumers’ aspirations, attitudes, and behaviours’. I now go over my remaining three answers and I can eliminate C because data is not mentioned, and although there is a mention of research earlier in the paragraph, this is not directly linked to the idea of failure. (Similarly, the mention of trends peripheral to core markets at the end of the paragraph, has no direct link with failure.) Thus, it is absolutely vital to look for links between ideas in multiple-choice questions and establish how different ideas relate to each other. Most words/ideas are likely to be present somewhere in the text, so it’s really important that you confirm what exactly is being said about them and which one links directly to the headline section of the question in order to eliminate answers designed to confuse you. So, the only possible answer remaining in our example is D, and as I check I’m pretty confident that ‘consumers’ lives’ and ‘consumers’ aspirations, attitudes and behaviours’ are synonymous. Be careful: Some questions might contain what I would call ‘distraction’ answers, where the information is not contained in the text at all and the answers are therefore designed to slow you down by making you look for confirmation in other sections of the text. It’s therefore really important that you confidently identify the right section in the text. Finally, make sure that you’re able to confirm your answer from the words on the page. Sometimes certain answers are implied by the information we’re given, but the text never actually states the information itself and the option is therefore not correct.   If you found this helpful, why not check out my other blogs on timesaver strategies in the reading exam, where I take you through other types of reading questions? Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

16 September, 2020

Academic question types in IELTS Reading

Do you want to see all the IELTS Reading tasks at a glance? Today, I'm sharing the questions types in Academic Reading to help you understand the different types of questions that come up. The Academic Reading Test has: 3 different texts of about 900 words each 40 questions to answer 1-hour time limit What is it actually testing? The 40 questions are testing a variety of reading skills including your ability to: identify the writer’s overall purpose (why has the writer written this text?) follow key arguments in a text identify opinions and attitudes find specific information tell the difference between the main idea and supporting detail take information from the text to complete a diagram, summary table or notes. Each text or section has about 12 to 13 questions. These are divided up into two or three different question types. Confused? Here's two examples:     As you can see, questions 1 - 8 are a note-completion question type, while questions 9 - 13 are a True / False / Not Given question type. 13 questions 2 question types   Question types Note / summary / table / flow chart completion This question type requires you to understand the organisation of one part of the text. You have to: scan read the whole text to find the part you need look at the notes in the questions – these paraphrase the words and ideas in the actual text. (Paraphrase is using different words with the same meaning so you will NOT find the exact same words in the text.) find the paraphrase find one or more words and / or a number in the text and copy them into the space. For more information about summary completion read: Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: Summary Completion blog   True, False, or Not Given This type of question requires you to identify and compare information given in statements with the information in the text. You have to: read statements that are in the same order as the information in the text scan read the text to find the part that you need decide if the information in each statement: agrees with the text – TRUE, contradicts (is different from) the text – FALSE or if the information in the statement does NOT appear in the text at all – NOT GIVEN.   For more information about True, False, Not Given read: Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: True/False/Not Given blog:   Yes, No, Not Given Unlike the question type above, here you must identify the writer’s views / claims. You have to: read the text quickly to get a general idea of the content and the structure read the view/claim in the first question (questions follow the same order as the information in the text) use the key words to help you find the correct part in the text. For example, if the view or claim says ‘negative views’ then look in the text to locate those ‘negative views’ read the part of the text carefully and compare it with the question look for paraphrases and synonyms. decide if the view/claim in the question agrees with what the writer says in the text – YES, disagrees with what the writer says in the text – NO or if there is no information on this in the text – NOT GIVEN.   4-option Multiple Choice This question type requires you to choose one answer from choices A – D. You have to: read the first question and the 4 options A – D find the correct part of the text and read it very carefully (questions follow the same order as the information in the text) the text will NOT have the same words as the options so look out for synonyms and paraphrases there will be parts of the text that mention something from all four options but they will not all be correct choose only the one option that is correct follow the same procedure for the rest of the questions.   Matching Headings This question type requires you to choose the correct heading for each paragraph of the text. You have to: read the whole text focus on the content of each paragraph read the list of headings (there are more headings than paragraphs) choose the heading for each paragraph that summarises ALL the information in it. In the list of headings, you should highlight the key words and phrases that would reflect the content of a paragraph in a text. So if we take the matching headings task example above, the key words to highlight would be:   i For this heading you would need to find a paragraph that mentions more than one complaint about the impact of a specifically named approach. ii For this heading you would need to find a paragraph that talks about more than one fundamental belief that is wrong. iii For this heading the paragraph would need to talk about the first recommendations that talk about business activities. And so on. As with all things Academic Reading, you will be looking for synonyms and paraphrase of the highlighted words. You would not expect to see the highlighted words themselves.   For more information about Matching Headings read our Blog: Time-save strategy for IELTS Reading: matching headings    Sentence completion This type of question requires you to complete a sentence with a suitable word or words from the text within the given word limit.   You have to: scan read the whole text to find the part or parts you need. The information may be in one paragraph or over a longer part of the text. highlight the key words in the sentences to help you locate the correct place in the text find the paraphrase find one or more words and copy them into the space.   Top Tip: remember to use the words from the text exactly as they are written in the text. Make sure that the words fit the sentence grammatically.   Label the diagram This question type has a diagram and a description of a process. You have to: scan read the whole text to find the part you need carefully read the part of the text that describes the process find one or more words (again, this depends on the instructions) and copy them into the correct part of the diagram. Again, remember to use the words from the text exactly as they are written.   I hope you’ve found this blog on the different task types for Academic Reading useful. They offer an overview of what’s required and what you have to do. Make sure you are familiar with all the different task types and practise them as much as you can. Happy Reading! Liz

Liz Marqueiro

22 August, 2020

Episode 1: Top 5 IELTS questions answered

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz answer five questions they are frequently asked by their IELTS students.

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Time Saver Strategy Task – True/False/Not Given

Follow along with Sophie's blog as she answers a True/False/Not Given question from our Authentic Practice Tests series.

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Introduction to the IELTS Reading Test

IELTS teacher and author, Pauline Cullen provides a short introduction to the IELTS Reading test.

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