How to prepare yourself for READING - IELTS? Tips And Tricks
Many students see the reading module of the IELTS test as slightly easier than the other parts because you can reread passages if you can't understand them the first time. Whereas this is true, it still requires a good strategy and preparation to actually understand each and every question type.
Since there are two types of IELTS tests; academic and general, people often get confused about whether the tests are the same or if there is any difference.
The reading skills required for both tests are the same (prediction, finding specific information, identifying opinion, etc.)The question types are also the same (multiple choice, sentence completion, etc.).
However, there is a slight difference when it comes to reading material provided. In the academic version of the test, students will be given three long text passages (most likely from academic journals, magazines, books, and newspapers). The test takers for the general version of IELTS will be given a mixture of long and short texts of a much more general nature and related to work and social situations. These types of texts are taking from notices, timetables, flyers, documents, newspapers, instructions and manuals.
IMPORTANT: Unlike in the listening module of your IELTS test you won't be given extra time in the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. You will have one hour to complete 40 questions AND write your answers on the answer sheet.
Just like any other module, the reading module tests different skills:
*Complete a diagram, table or summary
*Tell the difference between main ideas and supporting details
*Find specific information
*Follow key arguments
*Identify the writer's opinion
*Identify the writer's purpose
Don’t forget that the reading test does not only test your reading but also your vocabulary. Many answers will be disguised as synonyms or paraphrases of the questions.
Different Question Types
If you have read the other blog post about preparation for the listening module you already know this. Just like the listening test, the reading test is designed with several different question types to test different reading skills. It is of utmost importance that you familiarize yourself with these question types. Being prepared and knowing what lies ahead of you already earns you the first points and could be a deciding factor if you achieve 6 or 7 bands (approx. 30 correct answers out of 40).
*Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion
*Diagram label completion
*Matching sentence endings
*True, false, not given
Tips & Tricks
1) You don't have to understand every word
The worst thing you could do while answering questions in the reading module is stressing over words you don't understand. It is a normal thing to not know the meaning of every single word. Even native speakers or IELTS trainers know everything. It is not expected from you to have the meaning of every word carved into your brain. It is not only impossible but also unnecessary.
There are two things you can do when you come across a word that is unknown to you. Either you try and figure out the meaning with help of the surrounding words or you just simply ignore it.
Desperately trying to understand will not only send you into panic mode but also cost you valuable time. Time you don't have. Focus on the words related to the question and stop worrying about the words you don't understand.
2) Read for pleasure
Only practicing past IELTS exam papers won't do much for your overall reading skills. Try to squeeze in some time every day to read some newspaper or blogs online, which interest you. You are more likely to improve your reading skills and vocabulary if you read something you are interested in. It will also make it easier for you to remember the vocabulary. You should do this on a regular basis. Just 30 minutes a day are enough.
3) Read and understand the instructions
Even if you are a really good English user, if you don't pay attention to the instructions and read them carefully you will lose important marks. They will give you very specific instructions in the reading and listening module.
For instance, in the exam, there are several tasks where you will have a word limit.
' write only 2 words and/or a number'
(Note: Even if a number is written as a word it counts as a number e.g.: Twenty seven is counted as 27)
This means you can only write:
*one word and a number
*two words and a number
It gets really tricky if it is mentioned that you are only allowed to use one word. If it says 'an umbrella' in the text, then you should only write 'umbrella'. If you write 'an umbrella' it is counted as two words and therefore incorrect.
Don't lose important marks by making such silly mistakes.
4) Don't lose your cool
Some people tend to break out in sweats and are on the verge of tears when they come across a question they cannot answer right away. It is important to know that there are easy and really difficult questions. Sometimes you are not supposed to figure it out on the spot. However, that is the good thing when it comes to the reading module, you can easily go back to the same question later. First, finish answering all the other questions before you spend more time on a question that seems to be difficult for you.
Keeping calm will help you to reread the passages without searching the paper in a hurry for any kind of clue. Also, accepting the fact that you won't be able to answer all of the questions correctly will definitely help to remove stress from your mind and keep your emotions in check.
5) Vocabulary, Vocabulary, Vocabulary
As already mentioned before, the reading module of the IELTS test does not only test your reading skills but also your range of vocabulary. They will use many different synonyms and paraphrase sentences. The best way to widen your vocabulary is by reading. Just trying to remember word by word without any context may work for a while but it won't stick. You will eventually forget all of them. Try to figure out the meaning for the words you don't know with the help of surround words and sentences. In the long run, this will definitely pay off.
What also proves to help many students is to dedicate a notebook to all the words you find difficult to understand or remember. Just take a notebook and a pen and whenever you come across a word you think you should write down, do that. Along with the meaning also try to add synonyms and antonyms etc.
After spending so much time on writing everything down, do not just put the notebook away. You will only be able to find these words in your vocabulary if you start reviewing them regularly.
6) Keep track of the time
All this preparation goes to waste if you are not good at managing your time. Do not spend too much time on one question. Of course, it does not make any sense to set yourself a time limit for each question. Some questions are more complex and difficult than others.
Make sure you keep track of your time while practicing, so you know before you take the actual test, how much time you usually need for specific types of questions. This will give you confidence and stops you from panicking in the exam.
7) Do not use your own knowledge, stick to the text
Sometimes the topic of the texts provided may overlap with something you are familiar with. Maybe you have a degree in this particular field or you saw a documentary about it etc. Please do not use that knowledge to answer the questions. Focus on the text provided and nothing else. Otherwise, you will end up losing marks because you thought you knew something that's not mentioned in the text.
8) Practice the right way
Jumping straight to past exam papers and practicing them under exam conditions will not work out the way you hoped it would. First practice slowly, so you have time to acknowledge the mistakes you made and analyze how much time you need for each section. After that, you can go ahead and practice under exam conditions.
9) Don't underestimate the transfer of your answers
In the IELTS test, you will be given an answer sheet to transfer your answers to. Since you will spend most of your time reading, understanding and answering the questions, there is mostly only a little time left to actually transfer these answers to your answer sheet. Under this pressure, silly mistakes happen. Try to avoid that by allowing yourself some time to do that.
While practicing at home make sure you also practice with an answer sheet. This way you can estimate how much time you need in general for the transfer.
10) Don't leave any blanks
Year after year people still keep leaving blanks in their tests. Don't do that! Even if you don't know the answer, just try to at least write something that could be right in the blank. You will not get any negative marks. So even if you don't know the answer you might get lucky. Don't throw away the chance of getting marks. You have nothing to lose.
If you follow all these steps, you have no reason to worry. Allow yourself to breathe and relax now and then.
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