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IELTS Reading: 5 Tips on How to Succeed in the exam!

The IELTS Academic Reading exam can be challenging for even the strongest of students. Highly advanced vocabulary, specialised subjects and difficult questions can leave many candidates feeling overwhelmed and confused. However, the good news is that you do not need to know everything there is to know about maths, history and rocket science. With just a few simple tips, you can still achieve a high score, even if you don’t understand all the words in the text. Here are my top 5 tips for achieving success on the IELTS Reading paper.

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1. Read the question before you read the text

One of the most common mistakes students make in the reading exam is attempting to read every word of the text before reading the questions. This is a quick way to lose valuable time because once you’ve read the questions, you must re-read the text anyway.

The best method to read the questions is to take a keyword from the question and then scan the rest of the text for that keyword. When you find that keyword or phrase in the text, you know that the answer is close by. You can save several minutes using this technique. Try this method again and again until you get faster. But remember – the wording in the question is rarely the same as the wording in the text, so it’s important that you understand synonyms and paraphrasing.

2. Look for synonyms or paraphrasing in IELTS Reading

Understanding synonyms and paraphrasing is an essential skill for the IELTS exam. Remember that the examiners are trying to test your vocabulary range, so they rarely use the same wording in the question as in the text. With over 171,000 words in the English Language, people often choose different words to express similar ideas. Therefore in real-life situations, it’s important that you understand different words with similar meanings (synonyms) or different ways to express similar ideas (paraphrasing) – and that’s exactly what IELTS examiners are trying to test you on when they use different word choices in the questions to the text.

For example, if the question was asking you about politics, the answer may be something involving words like ‘government’ or ‘elections’ because they are all part of the same word group (semantic field). Being aware of synonyms and paraphrasing can help you save time and avoid confusion.

To learn what is paraphrasing and how can you achieve to do it, you can visit this post.

3. Skim and Scan in IELTS Reading

If you want to be able to answer all the questions in the required time, you must be able to skim and scan and read. Skimming is where you read a passage to get a general idea of the content. Scanning means being able to read through the passage quickly to find key information, whether that be a word, phrase or idea.

What is important to note with both these techniques is that you do not need to understand everything that you read. You also do not need to read every single word. In fact, there are some occasions where you may only need to read 10 out of 500 words to find the answer you are looking for. Just think of how much time this can save! You should be able to skim the full text in no longer than 2-3 minutes. Then, look for those keywords and synonyms in the question and scan the text to find them. You could answer one question in less than 30 seconds if you use this technique. Practise it now and see how long it takes you!

4. Perfect Your Grammar

Strong grammar knowledge is one of the biggest requirements for IELTS success. It’s something that you will be required to know for all 4 parts of the IELTS exam, and the reading paper is no exception. For summary and sentence completion questions, grammar knowledge can help you to know if you have chosen the right answer. If you need to input a missing word into the sentence, ask yourself if the sentence is missing a verb, noun or something else. Does it need a singular noun or a plural noun? Does the subject-verb agreement seem correct? If all these terms seem alien to you, then you need to practise your grammar before you attempt the IELTS exam.

5. Practice Makes Perfect – or as close as you can get!

It sounds like an obvious piece of advice and one that is age-old, but it really is true. Knowing all the different question types, practising them and checking your timings and identifying your weak areas are all great ways to ensure success on the day of your exam. The more familiar you are with the question types, the less scared you will feel when you open that exam paper and see them staring back at you.

Do not be that student who gets into the exam and thinks, ‘huh? A matching headings question? I’ve never seen this before what am I going to do?!’.  Make sure you know exactly what is required of you for each type of question and what skills you require to excel in them, and you will do just fine!

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By following these tips, you can increase your chances of success in the IELTS Reading section. To know more about how you can master your skills in IELTS Academic Reading, you can register at and get prepared with 300+ FREE practice tests. Do not forget practice makes perfect, good luck!

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