IELTS Reading Subskill: Understanding sentences
Reading
IELTS Reading Subskill: Understanding sentences

Welcome to the final blog in the series IELTS Reading subskills: finding details, identifying main ideas and understanding sentences. Out of these three skills, understanding sentences is arguably the most difficult, as you need a good understanding of words, phrases and grammar as well as the links between ideas and between sentences.  This skill is particularly important in True/False/Not Given tasks, Yes/No/Not Given Tasks, and Matching sentence endings, but as mentioned in the other two blogs, there is a considerable overlap between the skills, and being able to understand a sentence is an important element in almost all areas of the Reading test.  So, let’s take a look at the three key areas you should explore in order to improve this skill: exam strategy, language and further study. Strategy: When you have identified the right location within the reading text using the particular combination of ideas from the question or task, it is time to slow down and to analyse the information at sentence level. It is really important here to pay attention to seemingly small and unimportant words, as they often carry the crucial information you need to answer the question successfully.  If you decide to sit the paper version of the test, you might want to mark and annotate the text. For example, you could underline the main ideas, circle the linking words and expressions, put question marks over unknown words and put little boxes around words that impact the meaning of the sentence, such as ‘cannot’, ‘unfortunately’ and ‘fewer’. By dividing the sentence like that, you might find it easier to compare the meaning in the sentence to the task statement or question. There is a recorded lesson which talk you through exam strategy for the Reading test. Check it out here.  Language: There is a common misconception, that IELTS does not test grammar and vocabulary. While it is true that there are no separate grammar and vocabulary sections of the test, you will perform better in the test (especially in the Reading and Writing parts) if you have a good overall level of grammar and a good grasp of vocabulary in a range of topics. Many test takers make the mistake to simply work on their exam strategy and skills and focus solely on exam strategies without improving their actual knowledge of English. This not only prevents them from understanding information at sentence level, but it affects their performance beyond the test, for example at university or in their career in another country, as they have neglected to improve their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary as part of their IELTS preparation. The specific areas you should work on, in addition to your own weaknesses, are very similar to those for understanding main ideas: you need a good grasp of linking expressions, adverbs, adjectives, and qualifiers. Furthermore, you should also pay particular attention to the kind of grammar that carries its own meaning. For example, if a sentence says ‘the process used to be very risky’, the meaning is that this was the case in the past, but not anymore, this might be important for the answer you choose.  Further study: In addition to using IELTS tools such as IELTS intelligence and resources that help you with systematic grammar and vocabulary review (for example IELTS Vocabulary or IELTS Grammar), you can also use freely available practice tests to identify the topic areas and vocabulary that might be useful in the exam. We Love IELTS also provide a range of blogs on how to improve your vocabulary in some of the most common topic areas within IELTS, and you should definitely aim to include daily vocabulary study in your IELTS preparation routine.    Maybe just a sentence or two a day. This will give you a much better understanding of how the English language works. In order to check your own effort, you could run the text through a translation software afterwards, but be careful: your own choices may be better than the computer generated ones, as you will really have thought carefully about the meaning of words and expressions in context and the computer has not! Of course, you may make some mistakes that go undetected, but the aim is to engage with language, and the language you acquire accurately through translation easily outweighs a few misunderstandings.  Are you studying on your own? Why not check out IELTS Trainer 2 and The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS. They provide a wealth of exam strategies, language development, and study tips. Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

4 May, 2021

IELTS Reading Subskill: Understanding sentences

IELTS Reading Subskill: Understanding sentences

Welcome to the final blog in the series IELTS Reading subskills: finding details, identifying main ideas and understanding sentences. Out of these three skills, understanding sentences is arguably the most difficult, as you need a good understanding of words, phrases and grammar as well as the links between ideas and between sentences. 

This skill is particularly important in True/False/Not Given tasks, Yes/No/Not Given Tasks, and Matching sentence endings, but as mentioned in the other two blogs, there is a considerable overlap between the skills, and being able to understand a sentence is an important element in almost all areas of the Reading test.

So, let’s take a look at the three key areas you should explore in order to improve this skill: exam strategy, language and further study.

Strategy: When you have identified the right location within the reading text using the particular combination of ideas from the question or task, it is time to slow down and to analyse the information at sentence level. It is really important here to pay attention to seemingly small and unimportant words, as they often carry the crucial information you need to answer the question successfully.

If you decide to sit the paper version of the test, you might want to mark and annotate the text. For example, you could underline the main ideas, circle the linking words and expressions, put question marks over unknown words and put little boxes around words that impact the meaning of the sentence, such as ‘cannot’, ‘unfortunately’ and ‘fewer’. By dividing the sentence like that, you might find it easier to compare the meaning in the sentence to the task statement or question.

There is a recorded lesson which talk you through exam strategy for the Reading test. Check it out here.

Language: There is a common misconception, that IELTS does not test grammar and vocabulary. While it is true that there are no separate grammar and vocabulary sections of the test, you will perform better in the test (especially in the Reading and Writing parts) if you have a good overall level of grammar and a good grasp of vocabulary in a range of topics. Many test takers make the mistake to simply work on their exam strategy and skills and focus solely on exam strategies without improving their actual knowledge of English. This not only prevents them from understanding information at sentence level, but it affects their performance beyond the test, for example at university or in their career in another country, as they have neglected to improve their knowledge of grammar and vocabulary as part of their IELTS preparation. The specific areas you should work on, in addition to your own weaknesses, are very similar to those for understanding main ideas: you need a good grasp of linking expressions, adverbs, adjectives, and qualifiers. Furthermore, you should also pay particular attention to the kind of grammar that carries its own meaning. For example, if a sentence says ‘the process used to be very risky’, the meaning is that this was the case in the past, but not anymore, this might be important for the answer you choose.

Further study: In addition to using IELTS tools such as IELTS intelligence and resources that help you with systematic grammar and vocabulary review (for example IELTS Vocabulary or IELTS Grammar), you can also use freely available practice tests to identify the topic areas and vocabulary that might be useful in the exam. We Love IELTS also provide a range of blogs on how to improve your vocabulary in some of the most common topic areas within IELTS, and you should definitely aim to include daily vocabulary study in your IELTS preparation routine.

Reading Top Tips for Understanding Sentences

 

Maybe just a sentence or two a day. This will give you a much better understanding of how the English language works. In order to check your own effort, you could run the text through a translation software afterwards, but be careful: your own choices may be better than the computer generated ones, as you will really have thought carefully about the meaning of words and expressions in context and the computer has not! Of course, you may make some mistakes that go undetected, but the aim is to engage with language, and the language you acquire accurately through translation easily outweighs a few misunderstandings.

Are you studying on your own? Why not check out IELTS Trainer 2 and The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS. They provide a wealth of exam strategies, language development, and study tips.

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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