IELTS Reading: Read Often, Read Widely

The IELTS Reading paper can prove to be the trickiest part of the whole exam. You are given three texts to read and you will be asked questions from a variety of different question types – from multiple choice questions to the dreaded True / False / Not Given questions. One of the most challenging things to deal with in the reading exam is the time constraint, as you only have an hour to do the exam. Here at Atlas, we make it one of our top goals to provide our IELTS students with the best preparation and practice to help them get their desired grades in the exam.

Before we go into looking at specific question types and exam techniques here are some tips for focusing ion and improving your general English reading skills.

1. Graded Readers

As mentioned, a common problem for students in the IELTS reading exam is that they have difficulty understanding texts and also answering all the questions in time. The main reason for this is that they simply haven’t been reading enough in English so haven’t developed the core general English reading skills with a variety of text types. Students who do not read in their free time, tend to have more difficulty understanding the texts selected for IELTS exams.

So, at Atlas, we strongly recommend our students to read different texts in their free time – everything from newspaper articles, internet blogs, sports columns and a type of book called a graded reader. What is a graded reader? Well, they are books based on an original novel and the language is adapted for students with different levels. To help you understand the context and language of the text a little better, graded readers also often include activities at the back of the book related to each chapter. For our IELTS students looking to go on to further graduate and postgraduate study at university, you should aim for readers that are a C1 level as this will be closer to the level you’ll be aiming to be comfortable with in the IELTS exam.

Of course, if you do choose to read a novel in its original format, make sure you choose one that isn’t too complicated, as you have to make sure that you enjoy reading the book to get the most out of it. Another tip is to underline the unknown words and continue until the end of the chapter. Then you can go back through the chapter and study and take note of the underlined words that you didn’t understand.

You can find further information on graded readers at the Extensive Reading Foundation. While most English language publishers have a great range of graded readers these days, we recommend the selection of higher level graded readers from Summertown Publishing. These stories are often set in a business or professional context so are more suitable for IELTS preparation. We also suggest to try to find more non-fiction graded readers like this one about Bill Gates, Business at the Speed of Thought: Level 6 (Penguin Readers, ISBN: 9781405882590).

2. How to Read More Effectively

Students who find they never get to finish a test in time often have similar problems. They either don’t understand the text properly or they read too slowly. Reasons for not reading effectively is that they might read each word individually, have the need to understand every single sentence or phrase, get stuck or annoyed when they don’t understand a word, or they are simply not used to reading full texts in general.

One key point to understand is that your brain does not process words individually but rather processes groups of words together called ‘chunks’. So how can you read more efficiently in the exam?

Here are some things you should do both inside and outside your class:

  • Read, read and then read some more. The people who read more outside class, can understand a text faster.
  • Read the questions and then find the answers. You simply don’t have time to first read the text then the questions, and then return to the text again to find the answers.
  • Use the images and titles provided to get the overall idea of the text before yuo start to read.
  • If you don’t understand a word, then move on. You might find out what it means later or it could just be a distractor.

Most importantly, remember that each answer is only worth one point. So spending too long finding a difficult answer will lose you crucial time to find the other answers. Again, move on.

IELTS reading paper preparation

3. Understand the Different Text Types

If you can recognise what text type may appear in the exam, then you will learn to recognise where answers could be or even predict what the correct answer could be.

Essentially, there are four different text types:.

  1. Analytical – These tend to explain a concept or investigate something that happened
  2. Descriptive – These ones usually describe how something is done or describe a situation
  3. Discursive – These look into different opinions on an issue
  4. Narrative – These explain or describe a sequence of events

Once you recognise what text type is in front of you along with the context or topic, then you will be able to find the answers more easily. One good tip to try out early on is to search for ‘analytical texts’ or ‘discursive texts’ on google. This will help you focus more on the text types you’ll be dealing with in the IELTS exam.

4. Developing Good Reading Habits

If you are generally not a reader, even in your first language, then we strongly recommend that you begin to think about making a plan of action to start to develop good reading habits. At Atlas, we often see the students who do weakest in their reading paper in the IELTS test are the ones who do no or only a little reading outside class. So, we strongly recommend that you develop good reading habits as early as possible to help ensure you get a better chance of getting good marks in the exam.

Here are some of the ideas we encourage our students at Atlas to adopt in order to develop good reading habits:

  1. Set aside 30 minutes every evening to read. Also, make sure it is for pleasure and not IELTS material. You need to give yourself a break from doing IELTS related tasks from time to time.
  2. Join a library. Here you can find a large amount of reading materials for you to read and borrow. Libraries also have a great atmosphere to help you get more engaged with a book. Rathmines library, a great local community library, is just about a 7-minute walk away from the school. It’s a lovely place to study and read in peace.
  3. Set up a reading circle with classmates. We recommend that after school you get together with classmates and discuss the things you’ve been reading during the week. You can encourage each other to read materials that you all have been reading.
  4. Read science and academic articles online. Generally, you will be asked questions on science or academic based texts. There is so much online material that it’s relatively easy to find articles related to science. Try the Science magazine or the science sections of the more serious newspapers such as The Guardian.

IELTS reading preparation
We hope that these tips will help you get a better idea of what you need to do in the IELTS exam. The main point, though, is to make sure that you are reading as much as possible, and as widely as possible, whether it be for IELTS or for pleasure.

In future posts, we’ll look in more detail at the different IELTS reading questions. You can approach each question type slightly differently, so it’ll be worth thinking about how to approach each one.

Apply the tips above when preparing for the IELTS reading paper. They will help you in your IELTS exam preparation and help you succeed in the IELTS exam.

If you need help preparaing for the exam please contact us today!

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Find more tips on how to prepare for the IELTS exams in IELTS exam preparation blog series:

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