Today, we’re looking at the Paper that students often score lowest in: Reading.
First things first. It’s tempting to ignore our weakest areas, hoping they’ll improve by themselves. But almost always, they won’t!
So if Reading is a difficulty for you, focus your attention on this area and work hard. The reward improving in this area will be massive and will give you a huge sense of achievement.
And remember, this isn’t just about getting a high score in an exam. Being able to read longer, academic texts like you have in the IELTS Exam will be invaluable as you move into study or work.
So how do you do it?
1. Get Reading!!!
Be honest. How much do you read in English every week? 1 hour a day? 30 minutes sometimes? The three lines under an Instagram post?
When improving IELTS Reading, we first of all need to get reading in English day by day.
You can read a whole range of things: Magazines, news, blogs. For this stage, try to keep the topic linked to topics which come up in IELTS, but most of all find articles and websites which interest you and excite you.
So why don’t you set a goal right now of how much you’ll read this week?
One fantastic resource is news in levels. On this website, in Level 1, they write the news articles in the 1,000 most common words in English. In Level 2, they use the most common 2,000 words and Level 3 has the most common 3,000 words.
This means that the words you read here will definitely come up in other things you’re reading, improving your vocabulary and your reading speed. Check it out with the link above!
Can’t find time to read? Think about the ‘dead time’ during your day. How about when you have breakfast, or when you’re on the bus? Maybe you could reduce time on your phone and get into a really good magazine to start the day!
2. Improve your general Reading skills
Once you’ve started reading a little (or a lot) every day, you can spend some of that time more specifically focusing on improving the reading skills you need. The IELTS Reading test assumes you have basic skills of Reading, like skimming, scanning, reading for detail, inferring meaning.
If your current IELTS Reading level is significantly below what you want it to be, first spend time building your general ability in reading before applying this to IELTS Practice Tests.
One great website for this is British Council Learn English Teens – Reading Skills. On this website you can select your current level, or just under your current level, and work through the exercises before moving to the level above.
The instant feedback will help you see where you are misunderstanding the text and the more general topics will be the foundation for tackling the more academic texts of the IELTS Reading test.
3. Prioritise the Matching Headings task
When it comes to preparing for the test, focus on the Matching Headings Task. In this task you have to match headings given to you to the paragraph in the text.
This type of question comes up in every IELTS Academic Reading Test. Improving in this area will also really help you get the main ideas of paragraphs quickly. This will help you find the answers to other types of questions.
4. Summary completion tasks
One of the most difficult types of question is summary completion. You have a summary of a text and must either select the correct missing words or find the correct missing words from the text.
Stop to think. How likely are you to excel in this task if you have never written a summary yourself? It’s hard to complete something when you’ve never written it, right?
So start summarising the news articles and opinion pieces you’re reading in a short paragraph which uses your own words.
You can then bring your summary to school for a teacher to check.
At our Oxford English School, we have Homework Club every Monday with Lorna from 2.45-3.45. For free you can ask Lorna any question for an hour and this would be an amazing opportunity to get feedback on the vocabulary and accuracy of your summaries! – Remember the IELTS answers have to be accurate in grammar and vocabulary.
If you’re not at a school right now, why not share a link to the article you’ve read with your paragraph summarizing it with your friends on a social media platform and ask for their views?
5. Key to success: Paraphrase – saying the same thing using different words and grammar
When you get to the stage when you’re reading every day at the right level, you’ve improved your general English skills, and you’re confident finding the main ideas in paragraphs and writing summaries of longer texts, celebrate!
That’s the type of reader whops ready to tackle the rest of the IELTS Test, which is mainly focused on reading for detail, such as in True/False/Not Given questions.
For almost all the other exams, getting the correct answer means knowing paraphrases when you see them.
Paraphrasing is saying the same thing with different vocabulary and different grammar, sometimes in a different order. Have a look at this:
Sales of iphones has doubled in the last ten years.
A decade ago, iphone sales were half the number that they are now.
It means the same but lots has changed!
So for any mistake you make when you’re practising IELTS Reading, stop and really analyse the words in the question and the words in the text. Which word or grammar did you misunderstand? Make a note of it and study that language point because that language point will help you get a similar question correct in the future.
6. Timed practice – keep to time!
One extremely important part of your preparation must be timed practice using previous IELTS Papers.
We’ve talked about the language and skills you’ll need, but you also need to demonstrate you can do these skills in a time limit!
The Test Paper is 60 minutes and there are 40 questions, which means only 6 minutes for every 4 questions!
And when you remember you have to read the question, say, for 3 minutes, you’ll only have 3 minutes to find the answer in the text.
And lastly, in the Reading Paper, you have no extra time to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. You must write all your answers correctly during the 60 minutes.
All this means you need to do timed reading practice consistently to get used to this tight timing – at least once a week.
So that’s the key tips for Reading IELTS Success. The next in this series will be on Speaking!