Improve your academic reading skill with IELTSi
Reading
Improve your Academic Reading skills with IELTSi

IELTS learners often tell us that it's difficult to understand what the test is assessing, and this makes it hard to prepare for. If this is a problem for you too, don't worry – you're not alone. Why not try IELTS intelligence?   IELTS intelligence (IELTSi) Academic Reading helps you to better understand the IELTS exam, to understand and improve your own skills, and develop your exam strategy. It’s been created through lots of research with self-study learners like you.  In IELTSi Academic Reading, you can test yourself with IELTS-style tasks, including True/False/Not Given, Yes/No/Not Given, Note Completion and Short Answer Questions. You’ll also get a personalised feedback report, created just for you. This report will show you the reading skills that each question was testing, why your answer was right or wrong, and give you some tips to improve your approach and focus your learning.    There are many different question types in the IELTS Academic Reading test. Each question type tests different skills in reading, so you need a good understanding of them all to be able to answer correctly. We explain these reading skills – called subskills – for each question type, so you can take charge of your own learning and get a better understanding of what you’re good at.   One of the most challenging things about IELTS Academic Reading can be the time limit of 60 minutes. There’s a lot of text to read and fully understand. It’s usually written in academic-style language too, which can be hard, especially if you’re not sure what the question is asking you to do.    The subskills we test in IELTSi are important because not only do they help you to do well in the IELTS test, but they also prepare you to read in a way that will help you when you’re in an academic setting, like university.  Let’s look at the subkills in more detail: Developing the skill of understanding main ideas helps you get used to an academic writing style; particularly how texts are organised, which will help you navigate texts. This means you’ll be able to read more efficiently, by going straight to the parts of the text which usually contain the main ideas and check them against the information that you need to find out in the questions.  It’s also important to recognise when finding details is what you’re being asked to do. We test this subskill using several question types, and help you understand when you should be looking for details, and whether those details are stated directly or indirectly.    Understanding sentences is also a key skill, both in IELTS and academic English. If you can understand sentences fully, this allows you to decide what the writer is trying to say or imply. IELTSi includes a number of question types that test and give advice on this skill.  For now, IELTS intelligence has one Academic Reading test available, along with your personalised feedback report. It should take about 45 minutes to complete the test and read all your feedback or you can stop and start again to suit you. Find out more by watching the video below: {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/hy41ug1IckE.jpg?itok=RmvjyyN8","video_url":"https://youtu.be/hy41ug1IckE","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   We’re constantly developing IELTS intelligence based on our research with learners, so we’ll let you know when new skills and tests are available.   Emily Clarke, IELTS Intelligence Product Manager Claire Gilbert, Senior Assessment Manager

We Love IELTS

19 October, 2020

Improve your Academic Reading skills with IELTSi

Improve your academic reading skill with IELTSi

IELTS learners often tell us that it's difficult to understand what the test is assessing, and this makes it hard to prepare for. If this is a problem for you too, don't worry – you're not alone. Why not try IELTS intelligence?

 

IELTS intelligence (IELTSi) Academic Reading helps you to better understand the IELTS exam, to understand and improve your own skills, and develop your exam strategy. It’s been created through lots of research with self-study learners like you. 

In IELTSi Academic Reading, you can test yourself with IELTS-style tasks, including True/False/Not Given, Yes/No/Not Given, Note Completion and Short Answer Questions. You’ll also get a personalised feedback report, created just for you. This report will show you the reading skills that each question was testing, why your answer was right or wrong, and give you some tips to improve your approach and focus your learning. 

IELTS Intelligence Preview Screens

 

There are many different question types in the IELTS Academic Reading test. Each question type tests different skills in reading, so you need a good understanding of them all to be able to answer correctly. We explain these reading skills – called subskills – for each question type, so you can take charge of your own learning and get a better understanding of what you’re good at.  

One of the most challenging things about IELTS Academic Reading can be the time limit of 60 minutes. There’s a lot of text to read and fully understand. It’s usually written in academic-style language too, which can be hard, especially if you’re not sure what the question is asking you to do. 

 

The subskills we test in IELTSi are important because not only do they help you to do well in the IELTS test, but they also prepare you to read in a way that will help you when you’re in an academic setting, like university. 

Let’s look at the subkills in more detail:

  • Developing the skill of understanding main ideas helps you get used to an academic writing style; particularly how texts are organised, which will help you navigate texts. This means you’ll be able to read more efficiently, by going straight to the parts of the text which usually contain the main ideas and check them against the information that you need to find out in the questions. 

  • It’s also important to recognise when finding details is what you’re being asked to do. We test this subskill using several question types, and help you understand when you should be looking for details, and whether those details are stated directly or indirectly.   

  • Understanding sentences is also a key skill, both in IELTS and academic English. If you can understand sentences fully, this allows you to decide what the writer is trying to say or imply. IELTSi includes a number of question types that test and give advice on this skill. 

For now, IELTS intelligence has one Academic Reading test available, along with your personalised feedback report. It should take about 45 minutes to complete the test and read all your feedback or you can stop and start again to suit you.

Find out more by watching the video below:

 

We’re constantly developing IELTS intelligence based on our research with learners, so we’ll let you know when new skills and tests are available.  

Emily Clarke, IELTS Intelligence Product Manager

Claire Gilbert, Senior Assessment Manager

top-tip

IELTSi breaks reading texts down into chunks, so you can practise the subskills required for each question type. Learning tips give you exam strategy ideas and help you focus on what each question type is asking you to do.

We Love IELTS

We Love IELTS gives IELTS test takers all the preparation materials and advice they need for success.

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IELTSi  – improve your skills the intelligent way
Reading
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: {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/hy41ug1IckE.jpg?itok=RmvjyyN8","video_url":"https://youtu.be/hy41ug1IckE","settings":{"responsive":1,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (Responsive)."]}   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. Right now, the first reading test is available.  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

We Love IELTS

15 October, 2020

IELTSi – improve your skills the intelligent way

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. 

IELTS Intelligence image on phone

 

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. Right now, the first reading test is available. 

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

We Love IELTS

We Love IELTS gives IELTS test takers all the preparation materials and advice they need for success.

More about the author

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IELTS intelligence

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Timesaver Techniques for Multiple Choice Questions
Reading
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

Timesaver Techniques for Multiple Choice Questions

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

top-tip

Tip: Once you’ve identified the relevant passage, slow down, pay attention to ‘little’ words (will, not) and words that put ideas into context with each other (greater, cause), find the link to the headline question and make sure you can confirm your answer. 

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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Academic question types in IELTS Reading
Reading
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 may 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

Academic question types in IELTS Reading

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:  

IELTS Reading Question Example

 

IELTS Reading Question Example 2

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 may 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

Liz has been teaching IELTS around the world for over 25 years.

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IELTS 15 Academic contains four practice tests EXACTLY like the real exam. It comes with audio scripts, answer keys and sample Writing answers. A new downloadable Resource Bank includes extra sample Writing answers, a sample Speaking test video and answer keys with additional explanations. QR codes in the book provide quick access to the audio and video content.  This book gives you an excellent opportunity to familiarise yourself with the test format and practise exam techniques using real-to-life test material written by the test makers (Cambridge Assessment English).  Also available for IELTS General Training *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks
Reading
IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks

In my last reading blog, I looked at how you can manage your time while completing gapfill tasks by searching for synonyms and by approaching the task in the most time-effective way. Today I want to share two more tips to help you get to the right answer, even if you don't know all of the vocabulary in the sentence. These two techniques work particularly well if the gapfill task is quite short, or you are trying to find an answer you have missed on reading the text for the first time. My first tip is to consider what type of word is missing in the gap. This is, of course, not particularly helpful advice if your knowledge of word forms and syntax (arrangement of words in a sentence) is generally a little shaky, but I would really recommend that in that case you do some grammar revision. You could use Grammar for IELTS to do this.  I work with a lot of university students who still struggle to use verbs, nouns and adjectives correctly and who have to spend a lot of time re-writing their work and correcting mistakes as a result. So, if you invest some time in revision now, you’ll not only perform better in all four parts of the IELTS exam, but also have less work to do in your future studies and career. If you already have a solid understanding of word forms and word order, you’re ready to apply this technique. My second piece of advice is to simply ask a direct question instead of trying to keep the sentence in your mind. It’s really interesting that my students can usually remember if I ask them “What was the question?”. However, when I ask them “What did the article say?”, there is usually a lot of rustling of paper, scanning for the right paragraph and reading of the answer involved. For whatever reason, our brains seem to find it easier to deal with questions than with chunks of information and we can make good use of this fact in the exam.  So, how does this all work in practice?  Let’s look at some examples:    For the first gap, we see that the gap happens right after an adjective (colourful) and before a verb (was created). Both of these facts tell me that the word I’m looking for is most likely a noun. To make absolutely sure I pick the right answer, I can now form a question: “What was created (by rubbing the ochre against pieces of quartzite)?” (You don’t need to remember the bits in the bracket as you read, but they will help you eliminate ideas later on.) In reading the relevant passage I spot this sentence: ‘First, the pieces of ochre were rubbed on quartzite slabs and crushed to produce a red powder.’  I’m pretty sure that this is the right sentence, since it’s the only place where the word quartzite occurs. I may not know the words ‘ochre’, ‘quartzite’, ‘slab’ and maybe not even ‘rubbed’ or ‘crushed’, but I do know that ‘produce’ means the same as ‘was created’ although the grammatical form is a little different. The key part of the sentence is thus ‘produce a red powder’. The answer to my question “What was created…” is ‘a red powder’. I don’t need ‘red’, as I already have the synonym ‘colourful’ in the given words and I am only looking for a noun. I am also only allowed to use one word for each of the gaps. So, the correct answer is ‘powder’. Let’s do one more example:  In the second sentence, I see ‘were’ right before the gap. This is tricky because this could just be the verb ‘be’ followed by an adjective, adverb or a noun, or it could be ‘half’ of a passive. So, I need to look a little more closely at the rest of the sentence. The use of ‘and then crushed’ shows me that it is indeed a verb in the 3rd form (past participle) as ‘were’ relates to the missing verb and to ‘crushed’. Now I could ask a question like this “What happened to the animal bones (in addition to being crushed and added)?” In the text I find the word ‘bone’ in this sentence:  ‘This was combined with ground-up mammal bone, the traces of which show signs that it was heated before being ground.’ Looking at this as a teacher, I would guess that a lot of my students probably don’t know the words, ‘ground-up’, ‘mammal’ and ‘traces’, but we can actually ignore that fact, as we’re looking for a past participle to complete the sentence. I can see three of them in the sentence: ‘combined’, ‘heated’ and ‘ground’. If I look at my question now, I see that added (combined) and crushed (ground) are already part of the question, so the only remaining (and correct) answer is ‘heated’. Well, I hope you have found this useful. Let me know on Facebook or Instagram if there is anything IELTS-related you would like me to cover in one of my upcoming blogs!  Sophie  

Sophie Hodgson

17 July, 2020

IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks

IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks

In my last reading blog, I looked at how you can manage your time while completing gapfill tasks by searching for synonyms and by approaching the task in the most time-effective way. Today I want to share two more tips to help you get to the right answer, even if you don't know all of the vocabulary in the sentence. These two techniques work particularly well if the gapfill task is quite short, or you are trying to find an answer you have missed on reading the text for the first time.

My first tip is to consider what type of word is missing in the gap. This is, of course, not particularly helpful advice if your knowledge of word forms and syntax (arrangement of words in a sentence) is generally a little shaky, but I would really recommend that in that case you do some grammar revision. You could use Grammar for IELTS to do this. 

I work with a lot of university students who still struggle to use verbs, nouns and adjectives correctly and who have to spend a lot of time re-writing their work and correcting mistakes as a result. So, if you invest some time in revision now, you’ll not only perform better in all four parts of the IELTS exam, but also have less work to do in your future studies and career. If you already have a solid understanding of word forms and word order, you’re ready to apply this technique.

My second piece of advice is to simply ask a direct question instead of trying to keep the sentence in your mind. It’s really interesting that my students can usually remember if I ask them “What was the question?”. However, when I ask them “What did the article say?”, there is usually a lot of rustling of paper, scanning for the right paragraph and reading of the answer involved. For whatever reason, our brains seem to find it easier to deal with questions than with chunks of information and we can make good use of this fact in the exam. 

So, how does this all work in practice? 

Let’s look at some examples: 

Reading Exercise from Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

 

For the first gap, we see that the gap happens right after an adjective (colourful) and before a verb (was created). Both of these facts tell me that the word I’m looking for is most likely a noun. To make absolutely sure I pick the right answer, I can now form a question: “What was created (by rubbing the ochre against pieces of quartzite)?” (You don’t need to remember the bits in the bracket as you read, but they will help you eliminate ideas later on.) In reading the relevant passage I spot this sentence:

‘First, the pieces of ochre were rubbed on quartzite slabs and crushed to produce a red powder.’ 

I’m pretty sure that this is the right sentence, since it’s the only place where the word quartzite occurs. I may not know the words ‘ochre’, ‘quartzite’, ‘slab’ and maybe not even ‘rubbed’ or ‘crushed’, but I do know that ‘produce’ means the same as ‘was created’ although the grammatical form is a little different. The key part of the sentence is thus ‘produce a red powder’. The answer to my question “What was created…” is ‘a red powder’. I don’t need ‘red’, as I already have the synonym ‘colourful’ in the given words and I am only looking for a noun. I am also only allowed to use one word for each of the gaps. So, the correct answer is ‘powder’.

Let’s do one more example: 

In the second sentence, I see ‘were’ right before the gap. This is tricky because this could just be the verb ‘be’ followed by an adjective, adverb or a noun, or it could be ‘half’ of a passive. So, I need to look a little more closely at the rest of the sentence. The use of ‘and then crushed’ shows me that it is indeed a verb in the 3rd form (past participle) as ‘were’ relates to the missing verb and to ‘crushed’. Now I could ask a question like this “What happened to the animal bones (in addition to being crushed and added)?” In the text I find the word ‘bone’ in this sentence: 

‘This was combined with ground-up mammal bone, the traces of which show signs that it was heated before being ground.’

Looking at this as a teacher, I would guess that a lot of my students probably don’t know the words, ‘ground-up’, ‘mammal’ and ‘traces’, but we can actually ignore that fact, as we’re looking for a past participle to complete the sentence. I can see three of them in the sentence: ‘combined’, ‘heated’ and ‘ground’. If I look at my question now, I see that added (combined) and crushed (ground) are already part of the question, so the only remaining (and correct) answer is ‘heated’.

Well, I hope you have found this useful. Let me know on Facebook or Instagram if there is anything IELTS-related you would like me to cover in one of my upcoming blogs! 

Sophie

Language Activity from Sophie

 

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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Cambridge Grammar for IELTS

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Skimming and Scanning in IELTS Reading
Reading
Skimming and Scanning in IELTS Reading

The IELTS Reading Test is only 60 minutes long with 40 questions to answer from multiple texts, so reading and finding answers quickly is essential. Check out this page on our website for a summary of the test format for Academic IELTS and General Training IELTS. Let's look at some ways you can do that.    Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read skimming and scanning in IELTS Reading   Skimming and Scanning Have you ever wondered what skimming and scanning actually means? Teachers and textbooks often use these words, but sometimes learners are left wondering what they mean and how they can learn these mysterious skills. Today, I’m going to explain these important reading skills so that you can relax and get on with using them.  Think for a moment about how you read a piece of text in your own language. Do you slowly read each individual word and think about what it means? Probably not. Instead you read through it quickly, getting meaning from keywords to see what it’s about, or if you’re trying to find specific information you look for the particular words. What you are doing is skimming and scanning, just like in the IELTS Reading test. So, this is not a new skill to learn, just old skills you need to apply to this new situation. In the IELTS Reading test there is limited time. You must answer 40 questions on 3 texts in only 1 hour. Skimming and scanning are two techniques to help you speed up your reading, so if you practice these skills before the test you should see your scores improving. Put simply… Skimming is reading quickly to find the general overview of the passage. Scanning is reading quickly to find specific details within the passage.  Skimming tends to happen before you read the questions, where you focus on the overall message, while you can use scanning to locate relevant parts of a text when answering a question. Skimming When you are skimming a reading passage, always read the major parts such as the titles and headings carefully. This will provide the main idea of entire readings, sections, or paragraphs of reading passages. When you skim a text, you read the first and/or last sentence of a paragraph, this usually provides enough information to get a general overview of a paragraph. This will help you to quickly answer questions such as heading match questions and title match. You use skimming when you are: pre-reading the text for the overall meaning. quickly checking that you have located the correct part of a text once you have scanned for a keyword or idea when you are answering questions. Scanning Scanning is all about keywords; it helps you find specific details. Vocabulary such as proper nouns, dates, numbers, and times is what you are looking for when scanning text. So, when scanning a reading passage, you need to know what the keywords are in the question in order to find the keywords in the passage. Don’t forget that IELTS loves a paraphrase so chances are you will not find exactly the same word or phrases from the question. You need to think about what other words might appear in the text.  I find that following my finger or pencil while I scan a text helps me to stay focussed and not get distracted. We are all different though, so have a go and see if you find it easier with or without your finger!  So, you need to look at the questions to find out what information you are looking for, and then you can scan the text to identify where the key words are. Once you’ve found the right part of the text, read the sentences before and after to check that you have the right place to find the answer.  Circle or underline the keywords within the reading passage, that way you can go back and find it easily again and you can jump between the question and the text without wasting precious time. This allows you to check the question again and know that you have not made any mistakes. You might even put the question number in the margin.  Download this activity sheet and go through some questions with me.  Worksheet download I hope that this has helped you to understand what books and teachers mean when they talk about skimming and scanning a text. During the IELTS Reading test you probably won’t read the texts closely from start to finish, instead you might use a combination of skimming and scanning to get a general idea of the text and then jump in and out looking for the answers to the questions. This is OK, you are allowed to do this! Good luck!  Emma  

Emma Cosgrave

18 June, 2020

Skimming and Scanning in IELTS Reading

Skimming and Scanning in IELTS Reading

The IELTS Reading Test is only 60 minutes long with 40 questions to answer from multiple texts, so reading and finding answers quickly is essential. Check out this page on our website for a summary of the test format for Academic IELTS and General Training IELTS. Let's look at some ways you can do that.

 

Listening Icon Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read skimming and scanning in IELTS Reading

 


Skimming and Scanning
Have you ever wondered what skimming and scanning actually means? Teachers and textbooks often use these words, but sometimes learners are left wondering what they mean and how they can learn these mysterious skills. Today, I’m going to explain these important reading skills so that you can relax and get on with using them. 

Think for a moment about how you read a piece of text in your own language. Do you slowly read each individual word and think about what it means? Probably not. Instead you read through it quickly, getting meaning from keywords to see what it’s about, or if you’re trying to find specific information you look for the particular words. What you are doing is skimming and scanning, just like in the IELTS Reading test. So, this is not a new skill to learn, just old skills you need to apply to this new situation.

In the IELTS Reading test there is limited time. You must answer 40 questions on 3 texts in only 1 hour. Skimming and scanning are two techniques to help you speed up your reading, so if you practice these skills before the test you should see your scores improving.


Put simply…

  • Skimming is reading quickly to find the general overview of the passage.
  • Scanning is reading quickly to find specific details within the passage. 

Skimming tends to happen before you read the questions, where you focus on the overall message, while you can use scanning to locate relevant parts of a text when answering a question.

Skimming

When you are skimming a reading passage, always read the major parts such as the titles and headings carefully. This will provide the main idea of entire readings, sections, or paragraphs of reading passages. When you skim a text, you read the first and/or last sentence of a paragraph, this usually provides enough information to get a general overview of a paragraph. This will help you to quickly answer questions such as heading match questions and title match.

You use skimming when you are:

  1. pre-reading the text for the overall meaning.
  2. quickly checking that you have located the correct part of a text once you have scanned for a keyword or idea when you are answering questions.

Scanning

Scanning is all about keywords; it helps you find specific details. Vocabulary such as proper nouns, dates, numbers, and times is what you are looking for when scanning text. So, when scanning a reading passage, you need to know what the keywords are in the question in order to find the keywords in the passage. Don’t forget that IELTS loves a paraphrase so chances are you will not find exactly the same word or phrases from the question. You need to think about what other words might appear in the text. 

I find that following my finger or pencil while I scan a text helps me to stay focussed and not get distracted. We are all different though, so have a go and see if you find it easier with or without your finger! 

So, you need to look at the questions to find out what information you are looking for, and then you can scan the text to identify where the key words are. Once you’ve found the right part of the text, read the sentences before and after to check that you have the right place to find the answer. 

Circle or underline the keywords within the reading passage, that way you can go back and find it easily again and you can jump between the question and the text without wasting precious time. This allows you to check the question again and know that you have not made any mistakes. You might even put the question number in the margin. 


Download this activity sheet and go through some questions with me. 

Download Worksheet

Worksheet download


I hope that this has helped you to understand what books and teachers mean when they talk about skimming and scanning a text. During the IELTS Reading test you probably won’t read the texts closely from start to finish, instead you might use a combination of skimming and scanning to get a general idea of the text and then jump in and out looking for the answers to the questions. This is OK, you are allowed to do this!

Good luck! 
Emma
 

Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS - Recommended by Emma

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

More about the author

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Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

This all-in-one study guide provides comprehensive preparation for IELTS Academic and General Training and is packed with activities, practice tests and tips to help you maximise your IELTS score. It covers the language and skills you need to perform with confidence. Organised by skill, you can study from start to finish or focus on areas that you need most help with. *Book Depository is an online bookstore which offers free worldwide delivery. Alternatively, you can find it at your local bookstore or online shop.

Grammar Essentials: What is the passive voice?
Reading
Grammar Essentials: What is the passive voice?

Have you heard the words 'active' and 'passive' used to talk about verbs in English? Do you know what they mean? These are not tenses, they are voices. Put simply, the active voice shows what something does while the passive voice shows what happens to something. Today we will look at the structure of the passive, why we use it and when you might need it in IELTS.   Structure We make the passive with a form of the verb be + past participle and we only use it with transitive verbs (those that take an object). When you want to change the tense of your sentence you change the be part.    Use Let’s take a look at some of the more common uses of the passive voice.  Using the passive allows you to make choices about what is important. We use the passive when the object is more important than the subject and the agent (who or what is the action) is either obvious, not important or unknown.  You will be asked to show your ID at the test centre. We don’t need to say who will ask you, we can guess that it will be a person working there. We use the passive in formal writing to make it less personal and create distance from what we are saying.  Students are advised to contact their tutor to discuss their workload.  The impersonal ‘it’ with a reporting verb can be used in this situation too. It is considered impolite to talk with your mouth full in many cultures. It is argued that governments should spend more on public transport.  When we describe a process, we use the passive to show that the process is more important than who did it (this is not the same for natural processes, use active for those). This is probably the way that the passive voice is most useful for the IELTS test, especially if you have to describe a process in Academic Writing Part 1. Each child was given a book to read and then asked to write a summary of the story. The summaries were analysed by a group of teachers and the most common phrases were highlighted. The phrases were used in the following lesson to develop writing skills and vocabulary. Using the Passive in IELTS Knowing how to use the passive voice is essential for understanding texts in both the Reading and Listening IELTS tests. As the passive is often thought of as a more formal structure that is used in formal writing, you probably won’t need to use it in the IELTS Speaking test. You will definitely find it helpful if you need to describe a process in Academic Writing Task 1 and Task 2.  So, let’s have a go. Can you change these sentences from active to passive, you will have to decide when to leave out the subject?  (Click to enlarge) Here is an Academic Writing Task 1. It’s a perfect example of when you need to use the passive. (Click to enlarge) And finally, have a look at this model essay, underline the correct option, you need to choose between active and passive each time. (Click to enlarge) I hope that we have helped you to understand how and when to use the passive in your IELTS preparation. If there is a topic you would like me to blog about next, let us know via our social media channels.  Emma 

Emma Cosgrave

25 May, 2020

Grammar Essentials: What is the passive voice?

Grammar Essentials: What is the passive voice?

Have you heard the words 'active' and 'passive' used to talk about verbs in English? Do you know what they mean? These are not tenses, they are voices. Put simply, the active voice shows what something does while the passive voice shows what happens to something. Today we will look at the structure of the passive, why we use it and when you might need it in IELTS.

 

Structure
We make the passive with a form of the verb be + past participle and we only use it with transitive verbs (those that take an object). When you want to change the tense of your sentence you change the be part. 

Sentence Structure

 

Use
Let’s take a look at some of the more common uses of the passive voice. 

Using the passive allows you to make choices about what is important. We use the passive when the object is more important than the subject and the agent (who or what is the action) is either obvious, not important or unknown. 

You will be asked to show your ID at the test centre.

We don’t need to say who will ask you, we can guess that it will be a person working there.

We use the passive in formal writing to make it less personal and create distance from what we are saying. 

Students are advised to contact their tutor to discuss their workload. 

The impersonal ‘it’ with a reporting verb can be used in this situation too.

It is considered impolite to talk with your mouth full in many cultures.

It is argued that governments should spend more on public transport. 

When we describe a process, we use the passive to show that the process is more important than who did it (this is not the same for natural processes, use active for those). This is probably the way that the passive voice is most useful for the IELTS test, especially if you have to describe a process in Academic Writing Part 1.

Each child was given a book to read and then asked to write a summary of the story. The summaries were analysed by a group of teachers and the most common phrases were highlighted. The phrases were used in the following lesson to develop writing skills and vocabulary.

Using the Passive in IELTS

Knowing how to use the passive voice is essential for understanding texts in both the Reading and Listening IELTS tests. As the passive is often thought of as a more formal structure that is used in formal writing, you probably won’t need to use it in the IELTS Speaking test. You will definitely find it helpful if you need to describe a process in Academic Writing Task 1 and Task 2. 

So, let’s have a go. Can you change these sentences from active to passive, you will have to decide when to leave out the subject? 

Activity from Page 36 Common Mistakes at IELTS Intermediate

(Click to enlarge)

Here is an Academic Writing Task 1. It’s a perfect example of when you need to use the passive.

Page 194 Grammar for IELTS

(Click to enlarge)

And finally, have a look at this model essay, underline the correct option, you need to choose between active and passive each time.

Exercise 4 from Page 196 Grammar for IELTS

(Click to enlarge)

I hope that we have helped you to understand how and when to use the passive in your IELTS preparation. If there is a topic you would like me to blog about next, let us know via our social media channels. 

Emma 

Emma Cosgrave

Emma has been teaching IELTS for 20 years. She enjoys helping people to develop both their language skills and confidence.

More about the author

filter tags

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Cambridge Grammar for IELTS

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Time-saver Strategy for IELTS Reading
Reading
Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: Summary Completion

Today we'll be looking at the summary completion task although some of the principles outlined below also apply to sentence completion, note completion, table completion, flow chart completion and diagram label completion tasks. So, hopefully, you'll find this helpful.  Before we start on how to complete this type of task, we need to consider a key idea: synonyms. A synonym is ‘a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language’. Synonyms are important in the summary completion task, because the summary doesn’t use exactly the same words as the reading passage so you have to be able to identify which section is being summarised, and which ideas are missing using synonyms.  Here’s the step-by-step guide to completing the summary task: Step 1: Prepare for all questions You don’t really have time in the exam to read the whole text more than once – although you may re-read certain passages. It’s therefore really important to prepare all of the questions for the reading passage and multi-task as you go along.  Step 2: Set your inner alarm bell for the summary task Before you start reading, you should make a short list of keywords that will help you identify where in the text you’re likely to find the answers to the task. Look at this example: (Click to enlarge)   Here’s a possible keyword list for the example above: earliest humans/produce/during 2005 hormone positive effect University of Haifa negative emotions University of Antwerp lack of willingness to help University of Amsterdam own culture vs other cultures Step 3: Start reading/identify relevant section(s) With your list of key words in mind, start reading the text and answer any of the other questions you’ve prepared as you go along. Be aware that sometimes the summary gathers information from the whole text and sometimes it focuses on one or two paragraphs. You should also remember that you’re not only looking for the exact key words, but synonyms as well.  In our example, our alarm bells are triggered very early on. The second sentence reads “It was through various studies focusing on animals that scientists first became aware of the influence of oxytocin.” ‘First’ is a synonym of ‘earliest’ and this shows us that we may have found the right section/sentence.    Step 4: Slow down Before you read on or answer the questions, you should look back at the task and identify what information is missing. You could use questions to help you do this. For example, the first summary sentence is: “The earliest findings about oxytocin and bonding came from research involving ………” So you could ask “What/Who did the earliest research involve?” ‘focusing on’ here is a synonym of ‘involving’, which means that ‘animals’ is the right answer.    Step 5: Check word limit Before you firmly settle on your answer, remember to check the word limit for the task as that can help you eliminate unnecessary or invalid answers. In our example, we’re only allowed one word.  Step 6: Read on and repeat If we look at our list of keywords, we find that the next word we are looking for is a synonym of ‘produce’ and that this must have something to do with humans. The paragraph goes on to talk about animals until: “It is also released by women in childbirth.” Released is a synonym of ‘produced’ and ‘women’ is a synonym of humans. The question I need to complete the sentence “It was also discovered that humans produce oxytocin during ………” is “When do humans produce oxytocin?” and the answer is ‘in childbirth’. However, given the word limit, this becomes ‘childbirth’. Repeat the steps above until you reach the end of the reading passage.  Step 7: Manage your time If you reach the end of the text, but there are still gaps in your summary task, check your timing. If you’ve spent less than 20 minutes on this task so far, you could spend some time trying to find the answer by looking back over the text. Remember that the task is in order, so that should help you identify where in the text the answer might be. However, if you have spent 20 minutes or more on this reading text, move on to the next section as there might be ‘easier’ points to be gained there and your gaps in the summary task might be due to the fact that you simply don’t know the right synonyms to complete some of the gaps.  That’s it! Task completed! In my next reading blog I’ll be looking at how you can use some of the same skills we discussed here in gap-fill tasks. Hope to see you again then. Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

15 May, 2020

Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: Summary Completion

Time-saver Strategy for IELTS Reading

Today we'll be looking at the summary completion task although some of the principles outlined below also apply to sentence completion, note completion, table completion, flow chart completion and diagram label completion tasks. So, hopefully, you'll find this helpful. 

Before we start on how to complete this type of task, we need to consider a key idea: synonyms. A synonym is ‘a word or phrase that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word or phrase in the same language’.

Synonyms are important in the summary completion task, because the summary doesn’t use exactly the same words as the reading passage so you have to be able to identify which section is being summarised, and which ideas are missing using synonyms. 

Here’s the step-by-step guide to completing the summary task:

Step 1: Prepare for all questions
You don’t really have time in the exam to read the whole text more than once – although you may re-read certain passages. It’s therefore really important to prepare all of the questions for the reading passage and multi-task as you go along. 

Step 2: Set your inner alarm bell for the summary task
Before you start reading, you should make a short list of keywords that will help you identify where in the text you’re likely to find the answers to the task. Look at this example:

Summary Task from IELTS 13 Academic Page 45
(Click to enlarge)

 

Here’s a possible keyword list for the example above:

  • earliest
  • humans/produce/during
  • 2005
  • hormone
  • positive effect
  • University of Haifa
  • negative emotions
  • University of Antwerp
  • lack of willingness to help
  • University of Amsterdam
  • own culture vs other cultures

Step 3: Start reading/identify relevant section(s)
With your list of key words in mind, start reading the text and answer any of the other questions you’ve prepared as you go along. Be aware that sometimes the summary gathers information from the whole text and sometimes it focuses on one or two paragraphs. You should also remember that you’re not only looking for the exact key words, but synonyms as well. 

In our example, our alarm bells are triggered very early on. The second sentence reads “It was through various studies focusing on animals that scientists first became aware of the influence of oxytocin.” ‘First’ is a synonym of ‘earliest’ and this shows us that we may have found the right section/sentence. 

Writing-exercise-from-page-51-OPM2

 

Step 4: Slow down
Before you read on or answer the questions, you should look back at the task and identify what information is missing. You could use questions to help you do this. For example, the first summary sentence is: “The earliest findings about oxytocin and bonding came from research involving ………” So you could ask “What/Who did the earliest research involve?” ‘focusing on’ here is a synonym of ‘involving’, which means that ‘animals’ is the right answer. 
 
Step 5: Check word limit
Before you firmly settle on your answer, remember to check the word limit for the task as that can help you eliminate unnecessary or invalid answers. In our example, we’re only allowed one word. 

Step 6: Read on and repeat
If we look at our list of keywords, we find that the next word we are looking for is a synonym of ‘produce’ and that this must have something to do with humans. The paragraph goes on to talk about animals until: “It is also released by women in childbirth.” Released is a synonym of ‘produced’ and ‘women’ is a synonym of humans. The question I need to complete the sentence “It was also discovered that humans produce oxytocin during ………” is “When do humans produce oxytocin?” and the answer is ‘in childbirth’. However, given the word limit, this becomes ‘childbirth’. Repeat the steps above until you reach the end of the reading passage. 

Step 7: Manage your time
If you reach the end of the text, but there are still gaps in your summary task, check your timing. If you’ve spent less than 20 minutes on this task so far, you could spend some time trying to find the answer by looking back over the text. Remember that the task is in order, so that should help you identify where in the text the answer might be. However, if you have spent 20 minutes or more on this reading text, move on to the next section as there might be ‘easier’ points to be gained there and your gaps in the summary task might be due to the fact that you simply don’t know the right synonyms to complete some of the gaps. 

That’s it! Task completed!

In my next reading blog I’ll be looking at how you can use some of the same skills we discussed here in gap-fill tasks. Hope to see you again then.

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

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Time Saver Strategy for IELTS Reading
Reading
Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: True/False/Not Given

Welcome back to my blog series on saving time in the IELTS Reading test! In my last blog, we looked at how to deal with matching headings to paragraphs and my top tip was to read the questions as you go along. Today, we're going to look at True/False/Not Given questions. With this type of question, you should do some preparation before answering.    True/False/Not Given When looking at this question type, make sure to read each question carefully and find the key idea. Then set an ‘alarm’ in your head, which goes off when you see a ‘trigger’ idea in the text. Be careful to look for the ideas rather than the word, as the reading passage may use synonyms. You should also make sure that the idea you’re looking for is not too general. For example, in a text about trees, the word ‘tree’ isn’t a very useful idea to look for, as it will be mentioned in the full text many times.  It’s also really important to look at the relationship between ideas in the text. Once you’ve identified the section of the text where the answer can be found, slow down and check the meaning of both question statement and the information in the text very carefully.  Here is an example from IELTS 12 Academic (part of our Authentic Practice Tests series). I thought you might find it useful if I do the reading test as I write, so you can follow my thought process. I promise, I’d never seen this text before.  Download Reading Passage to complete the task with me below. (Click to enlarge) 1. The cork oak has the thickest bark of any living tree. In this text, the word ‘thickest’ is really important, as we’re looking for a superlative, here. The group in which it is the ‘thickest’ is also important so if the text mentions ‘thickest’ in combination with an extinct tree, but not with a living one this will impact the answer. As I read the first paragraph of the text, I see that ‘thick’ is mentioned, but it never says ‘thickest’ (or another word meaning thickest), so the alarm bell in my head never even goes off. The answer to the question is therefore ‘Not Given’. 2. Scientists have developed a synthetic cork with the same cellular structure as natural cork.  The alarm bell in my head goes off at the word cellular structure, so I slow down my reading  and I see this: ‘Developed most probably as a defence against forest fires, the bark of the cork oak has a particular cellular structure – with about 40 million cells per cubic centimetre – that technology has never succeeded in replicating.” The text says that there is no synthetic version of cork with the same cellular structure. The question statement and the information in the text are mutually exclusive and the answer is therefore ‘False’.  3. Individual cork oak trees must be left for 25 years between the first and second harvest. This is a great question, as 25 years should be a fairly easy idea to find. However, be careful, the word ‘must’ is potentially important. If the text says ‘usually’, it’s not the same as ‘must’. My alarm bell goes off when I read “From the planting of a cork sapling to the first harvest takes 25 years, and a gap of approximately a decade must separate harvests…” So, as it turns out ‘must’ was not important after all, but it is always worth noting these things. The answer is ‘False’, as the gap between harvests is only 10 years.    4. Cork bark should be stripped in dry atmospheric conditions. As I read on, my internal alarm is triggered by the word ‘stripped’. “If the bark is stripped on a day when it’s too cold – or when the air is damp – the tree will be damaged.” This is a tricky question, as it depends on your knowledge of the word ‘damp’ (meaning wet). You could try to work it out from the context, but remember that for the vast majority of test takers it’s perfectly acceptable to drop a few points, so remember your time management, take your best guess and move on. The answer is ‘True’, by the way.  5. The only way to remove the bark from cork oak trees is by hand.  This is another tricky question because the text uses synonyms for all three key ideas. However, the text has taught you that ‘stripping’ is a synonym for ‘removing’ so my alarm is triggered as I read “No mechanical means of stripping cork bark has been invented, so the job is done by teams of highly skilled workers.” Although ‘mechanical’ may also be a new word for you in this context, you can probably work out from the context that it’s the opposite of ‘by hand’, so the answer is ‘True’.  Remember, that it’s important to move on to the next set of questions to make sure you get all the points for the questions you can answer. Don’t spend too much time on difficult questions.  If you want to find out more about managing your time in completing other types of questions in the IELTS Reading test, make sure to check out future blogs in this series! The point in the ‘not given’ option is that the answer is simply not there in the text, so don’t waste your time looking for it. If you can’t say that a question is definitely ‘true’ or definitely ‘false’, the answer is most likely ‘not given’.  Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

9 April, 2020

Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: True/False/Not Given

Time Saver Strategy for IELTS Reading

Welcome back to my blog series on saving time in the IELTS Reading test!
In my last blog, we looked at how to deal with matching headings to paragraphs and my top tip was to read the questions as you go along. Today, we're going to look at True/False/Not Given questions. With this type of question, you should do some preparation before answering. 

 

True/False/Not Given

When looking at this question type, make sure to read each question carefully and find the key idea. Then set an ‘alarm’ in your head, which goes off when you see a ‘trigger’ idea in the text. Be careful to look for the ideas rather than the word, as the reading passage may use synonyms. You should also make sure that the idea you’re looking for is not too general. For example, in a text about trees, the word ‘tree’ isn’t a very useful idea to look for, as it will be mentioned in the full text many times. 

It’s also really important to look at the relationship between ideas in the text. Once you’ve identified the section of the text where the answer can be found, slow down and check the meaning of both question statement and the information in the text very carefully. 

Here is an example from IELTS 12 Academic (part of our Authentic Practice Tests series). I thought you might find it useful if I do the reading test as I write, so you can follow my thought process. I promise, I’d never seen this text before. 

Download Reading Passage to complete the task with me below.

Listening Exercise

(Click to enlarge)

1. The cork oak has the thickest bark of any living tree.

In this text, the word ‘thickest’ is really important, as we’re looking for a superlative, here. The group in which it is the ‘thickest’ is also important so if the text mentions ‘thickest’ in combination with an extinct tree, but not with a living one this will impact the answer. As I read the first paragraph of the text, I see that ‘thick’ is mentioned, but it never says ‘thickest’ (or another word meaning thickest), so the alarm bell in my head never even goes off. The answer to the question is therefore ‘Not Given’.

2. Scientists have developed a synthetic cork with the same cellular structure as natural cork. 

The alarm bell in my head goes off at the word cellular structure, so I slow down my reading  and I see this: ‘Developed most probably as a defence against forest fires, the bark of the cork oak has a particular cellular structure – with about 40 million cells per cubic centimetre – that technology has never succeeded in replicating.” The text says that there is no synthetic version of cork with the same cellular structure. The question statement and the information in the text are mutually exclusive and the answer is therefore ‘False’. 

3. Individual cork oak trees must be left for 25 years between the first and second harvest.

This is a great question, as 25 years should be a fairly easy idea to find. However, be careful, the word ‘must’ is potentially important. If the text says ‘usually’, it’s not the same as ‘must’. My alarm bell goes off when I read “From the planting of a cork sapling to the first harvest takes 25 years, and a gap of approximately a decade must separate harvests…” So, as it turns out ‘must’ was not important after all, but it is always worth noting these things. The answer is ‘False’, as the gap between harvests is only 10 years.   

4. Cork bark should be stripped in dry atmospheric conditions.

As I read on, my internal alarm is triggered by the word ‘stripped’. “If the bark is stripped on a day when it’s too cold – or when the air is damp – the tree will be damaged.” This is a tricky question, as it depends on your knowledge of the word ‘damp’ (meaning wet). You could try to work it out from the context, but remember that for the vast majority of test takers it’s perfectly acceptable to drop a few points, so remember your time management, take your best guess and move on. The answer is ‘True’, by the way. 

5. The only way to remove the bark from cork oak trees is by hand. 

This is another tricky question because the text uses synonyms for all three key ideas. However, the text has taught you that ‘stripping’ is a synonym for ‘removing’ so my alarm is triggered as I read “No mechanical means of stripping cork bark has been invented, so the job is done by teams of highly skilled workers.” Although ‘mechanical’ may also be a new word for you in this context, you can probably work out from the context that it’s the opposite of ‘by hand’, so the answer is ‘True’

Remember, that it’s important to move on to the next set of questions to make sure you get all the points for the questions you can answer. Don’t spend too much time on difficult questions. 

If you want to find out more about managing your time in completing other types of questions in the IELTS Reading test, make sure to check out future blogs in this series!

The point in the ‘not given’ option is that the answer is simply not there in the text, so don’t waste your time looking for it. If you can’t say that a question is definitely ‘true’ or definitely ‘false’, the answer is most likely ‘not given’. 

Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

filter tags

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IELTS 14 Academic

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time-saver-asset
Reading
Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: matching headings

It's true that time pressure is one of the main issues when dealing with the reading part of the IELTS test and in this blog series we will consider different techniques to manage your time more effectively to improve your performance. It's important to remember that we all think in different ways and that some techniques will really work for you while others may be less useful. For example, some people find it really useful to skim texts to get a general idea of the text while others find that this simply wastes time.   In this blog I’ll be looking at the matching headings task and how you can complete this task more efficiently. Step-by-step guide to matching headings: Step 1: Find a practice reading passage that includes matching headings.   Step 2: Do not read the matching headings questions at this stage.    Step 3: Read the first paragraph, paying particular attention to the first and last sentences.   Step 4: Answer any of the other questions related to this part of the reading passage.   Step 5: Now read the available headings one by one and decide if the heading is definitely right (✔), maybe right (?), or definitely not right. If it’s definitely not right, ignore that heading and move on to the next one. If it may be right, write the heading number and mark it with a question mark. If you’re sure it’s right, mark it with a tick and quickly check the remaining headings to make absolutely sure. Repeat Step 5 for the remaining sections. Here’s an example of a completed grid. As you can see, it’s perfectly normal to consider more than one possible answer. Section A iv? vii? Section B vii Section C v? Section D i? iii? vi? Section E iii? iv? Step 6: Look at your answers and see if you can eliminate any options by using logic. For example, in Section B, the candidate is completely sure of the answer. This means that vii cannot be the answer for Section A. Once we remove the ‘impossible’ answer, we only have one option left and we can be pretty sure that iv is the correct answer. In Section C the candidate is not completely sure, but they have only found one ‘maybe’ answer, so there is a good chance that this is the right one. In Section E the candidate has found two ‘maybes’, but one of them is the answer to Section 1 and can be eliminated. We can also eliminate one of the options from Section D, as it’s the answer to Section E. So, the new grid looks like this: Section A iv? vii? Section B vii Section C v? Section D i? iii? vi? Section E iii? iv? Step 7: Check your timing. In IELTS it’s important to focus on the ‘easy’ points and not to waste time on very difficult questions. If you still have a lot of other questions to answer, consider moving on for now and returning to the difficult questions at the end of the test if there’s time. Step 8: Look more closely at the headings in sections where you have more than one option left. In this step, every word is important, as all key ideas need to be present in the section for the heading to be relevant. For example, take a look at Reading passage 3 from Page 10 of Official IELTS Practice Materials.  (Click on image to enlarge) These are the possible headings for Section D: i     An experiment using people who are receiving medical treatment vi   Inducing pain through the use of hypnotism In this case, all of the key ideas in the two headings are present except the word ‘inducing’ which means ‘causing’. In fact, the paragraph talks about reducing pain and not about causing it, so vi can be eliminated, leaving only the correct answer. Remember, you may struggle to answer some questions because you don’t know one of the key words. Unless you need a Band 9, that’s OK. Once you understand what the technique is all about and how to do it most efficiently, why not try it under test conditions using our practice tests? There are some really useful techniques outlined in IELTS Trainer Academic, Top Tips for IELTS Academic, or the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS. Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

2 March, 2020

Time-saver strategy for IELTS Reading: matching headings

time-saver-asset

It's true that time pressure is one of the main issues when dealing with the reading part of the IELTS test and in this blog series we will consider different techniques to manage your time more effectively to improve your performance.

It's important to remember that we all think in different ways and that some techniques will really work for you while others may be less useful. For example, some people find it really useful to skim texts to get a general idea of the text while others find that this simply wastes time.

 

In this blog I’ll be looking at the matching headings task and how you can complete this task more efficiently.

Step-by-step guide to matching headings:

  • Step 1: Find a practice reading passage that includes matching headings.
     
  • Step 2: Do not read the matching headings questions at this stage. 
     
  • Step 3: Read the first paragraph, paying particular attention to the first and last sentences.
     
  • Step 4: Answer any of the other questions related to this part of the reading passage.
     
  • Step 5: Now read the available headings one by one and decide if the heading is definitely right (), maybe right (?), or definitely not right.
    • If it’s definitely not right, ignore that heading and move on to the next one.
    • If it may be right, write the heading number and mark it with a question mark.
    • If you’re sure it’s right, mark it with a tick and quickly check the remaining headings to make absolutely sure. Repeat Step 5 for the remaining sections.

Here’s an example of a completed grid. As you can see, it’s perfectly normal to consider more than one possible answer.

Section A iv? vii?
Section B vii
Section C v?
Section D i? iii? vi?
Section E iii? iv?
  • Step 6: Look at your answers and see if you can eliminate any options by using logic. For example, in Section B, the candidate is completely sure of the answer. This means that vii cannot be the answer for Section A. Once we remove the ‘impossible’ answer, we only have one option left and we can be pretty sure that iv is the correct answer. In Section C the candidate is not completely sure, but they have only found one ‘maybe’ answer, so there is a good chance that this is the right one. In Section E the candidate has found two ‘maybes’, but one of them is the answer to Section 1 and can be eliminated. We can also eliminate one of the options from Section D, as it’s the answer to Section E.

So, the new grid looks like this:

Section A iv? vii?
Section B vii
Section C v?
Section D i? iii? vi?
Section E iii? iv?
  • Step 7: Check your timing. In IELTS it’s important to focus on the ‘easy’ points and not to waste time on very difficult questions. If you still have a lot of other questions to answer, consider moving on for now and returning to the difficult questions at the end of the test if there’s time.
  • Step 8: Look more closely at the headings in sections where you have more than one option left. In this step, every word is important, as all key ideas need to be present in the section for the heading to be relevant.

For example, take a look at Reading passage 3 from Page 10 of Official IELTS Practice Materials. 

Reading passage 3 from Page 10 of official IELTS Practice Materials

(Click on image to enlarge)

These are the possible headings for Section D:

  • i     An experiment using people who are receiving medical treatment
  • vi   Inducing pain through the use of hypnotism

In this case, all of the key ideas in the two headings are present except the word ‘inducing’ which means ‘causing’. In fact, the paragraph talks about reducing pain and not about causing it, so vi can be eliminated, leaving only the correct answer.

Remember, you may struggle to answer some questions because you don’t know one of the key words. Unless you need a Band 9, that’s OK.

Once you understand what the technique is all about and how to do it most efficiently, why not try it under test conditions using our practice tests? There are some really useful techniques outlined in IELTS Trainer AcademicTop Tips for IELTS Academic, or the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS.

Sophie

top-tip

Top tip: When you come across advice for reading under exam conditions, try it out in your next practice test and make a note of techniques that work for you.

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

More about the author

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