IELTS reading tips and tricks

23+ Best IELTS Reading Tips For Band 9 (2023)

Have you got an IELTS test coming up? Are you freaking out about the Reading section? 

Fear not. 

In this post, I’ll share 24 IELTS reading tips and tricks to help you ace the test.

With the right strategies, you can improve your score and feel more confident on your test day.

So sit back, relax, and let’s get started!

1. Familiarize Yourself With The Test Format And Question Types

The IELTS Reading test is designed to assess your ability to read and understand a range of written materials in English. 

By familiarizing yourself with the test format and question types, you can better understand what to expect on the IELTS Reading test. This can help you feel more confident and better prepared to answer the questions accurately.

The test consists of 40 questions divided into three sections, and you will have 60 minutes to complete the entire test.

The question types in the IELTS Reading test (Academic and General Training) are listed as follows:

  • True, false, not given/Yes, no, not given
  • Multiple choice
  • Sentence completion
  • List of headings
  • Matching (sentence endings, information, features)
  • Diagram label completion
  • Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion
  • Short answer questions

Some questions require you to identify specific details in the passage, while others require understanding the main idea or the author’s purpose, opinions, and attitudes.

2. Understand The Purpose Of Reading 

Reading isn’t just a chore you have to do to pass a test. It’s a life skill! And for this test, you’re reading to get the answers right. 

So, before diving into the passages, ensure you know what you’re looking for. Think of the questions you need to answer and focus on finding those answers.

3. Find Out What Works For You

Read one or two questions and the passage at the same time, or read the questions first and then the passage. 

Who cares? 

Do whatever works for you. It’s not like the reading police will come and arrest you for doing it wrong. 

Just make sure you’re comfortable with your strategy.

4. Don’t Read Every Word

Oh, you thought you had to read every single word in the passage? 


Just focus on the important bits. 

Start by reading the paragraph’s title and topic sentence to get a sense of what it’s about. Then, scan the passage for specific details and keywords relevant to the questions.

You don’t need to understand every word or sentence, but you should aim to identify the main ideas and supporting details.

Doing so can save time and energy and increase your chances of answering the questions accurately.

5. Manage Your Time

Managing your time effectively is crucial for the Reading section of the IELTS exam. 

You should aim to spend less than 20 minutes on each passage, which includes reading and answering the questions. 

Keep track of your time and move on to the next passage if you take too long on a question.

Don’t forget that the passages get more challenging as you go along, so be wise with your time and allow some extra time to check your answers.

6. Transfer Your Answer To The Answer Sheet 

Don’t be that person who gets all the answers right but forgets to transfer them to the answer sheet. 

That’s just sad. 

Remember, only the answers on the answer sheet will be marked. So, make sure you take the time to transfer your answers correctly. 

7. Read The Instructions Carefully 

Before starting the Reading section, be sure to read the instructions carefully. 

This will help you understand the question types, the number of questions, and the time allotted for each passage. 

Pay close attention to any specific instructions. For example, if the instructions state that answers must be no more than two words, follow this rule when answering the questions.

By understanding the instructions, you can ensure you answer the questions correctly and avoid making careless mistakes.

8. Improve Your Reading Speed

One effective way to improve your reading speed is to practice regularly. You can do this by reading academic articles, books, and other materials regularly. 

Additionally, when you are reading, try to skim the text quickly to get an overall understanding of the content before diving deeper into the details. This can help you save time and improve your comprehension.

9. Answer All The Questions

Answering all the questions is crucial for getting a good score on the IELTS Reading test. Even if you’re unsure about an answer, make an educated guess rather than leaving it blank.

The test does not penalize you for wrong answers, so guessing can potentially earn you extra points.

10. Find Keywords

Keywords are your friends. 

These could be specific words, phrases, or numbers mentioned in the text.

Pay attention to synonyms and paraphrasing; the passage may use different words to express the same idea.

Highlight or underline the keywords as you go along to make them easier to locate when you return to answer the questions.

11. Skim And Scan

Skimming and scanning are two reading techniques that can help you save time and find the information you need quickly on the IELTS Reading test. However, using them appropriately and not relying on them exclusively is important, as some questions may require more careful reading and analysis.

Skimming involves quickly reading through the passage to get an overall sense of what it’s about. You don’t need to read every word, but rather focus on the headings, subheadings, and the first sentence of each paragraph. This technique can help you understand the main ideas and the structure of the passage, which can be useful when answering questions that require a general understanding of the text.

Scanning, on the other hand, involves searching for specific information in the passage. This technique helps answer questions that require you to locate particular details or keywords. To scan, you can run your eyes quickly over the text, looking for words or phrases that match the question.

12. Pay Attention To Important Clues 

Clues are pieces of information that can help you identify the correct answer and can be found in different parts of the passage.

Some important clues to look out for include the following:

  1. Synonyms and paraphrasing: The passage may use different words or phrases to express the same idea, so look for synonyms and paraphrasing of keywords.
  2. Headings and subheadings: These provide an overview of the main topics covered in the passage. By reading them, you can get a sense of the structure of the passage and the main ideas presented.
  3. Topic sentences: These are usually the first sentence of each paragraph and provide a summary of the main point presented in that paragraph.
  4. Transitional words and phrases: These are words that signal a shift in the passage’s focus or indicate a relationship between ideas, such as “however,” “furthermore,” or “in contrast.”
  5. Numbers and dates: If the question requires you to identify a specific number or date, look for it in the passage.
  6. Key concepts and ideas: Pay attention to the main ideas and concepts presented in the passage, as they can help you identify the correct answer.
  7. Examples: Examples are specific instances or cases that illustrate a broader concept or idea. They can provide evidence to support your answers.
  8. Definitions: Definitions are explanations of unfamiliar words or terms that can help you understand their meaning and use.
  9. Bolded or italicized words: These are often used to emphasize important ideas or concepts in the passage.

13. Cross Out The Wrong Answers 

When answering multiple-choice questions, it can be helpful to cross out the options that you know are incorrect. This can help you narrow down your choices and increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.

Besides, eliminating incorrect options can help you avoid getting distracted by irrelevant information.

While crossing out wrong answers can be helpful, it’s still important to carefully read and consider all answer options before making a final selection.

14. Guess Or Skip Unknown Vocabulary 

If you encounter unfamiliar words or phrases, guess what they mean from their context. 

Often, the context of a sentence or passage can provide clues about the meaning of unfamiliar words.

Look for prefixes or suffixes you recognize and other words in the sentence or paragraph that may provide hints about the meaning.

You can also identify the part of speech. Determine whether the unknown word is a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. This can help you understand the role of the word in the sentence and its possible meaning.

However, if the unknown word doesn’t directly affect your ability to answer the question, focus on answering the question as best as you can with the information you understand.

15. Follow The Order In The Passage

One crucial tip for answering IELTS reading questions is to follow the order of the passage.

This is especially true for question types like True/False/Not Given, Yes/No/Not Given, multiple choice, and completion tasks (such as sentences, summaries, and diagrams). 

By following the order of the passage, you can ensure that you are answering the questions based on the relevant information and context provided in the text. This can help you maximize your score on the Reading section.

16. Don’t Get Stuck On Difficult Questions

If you encounter a question that seems too complicated, don’t waste too much time on it.

Move on to the next question and return to the difficult one if you have time.

It’s better to answer as many questions as possible than to get bogged down on a single question and run out of time.

17. Work On Your Grammar

Good grammar is essential for success in the IELTS Reading section.

By having a solid understanding of grammar rules, you’ll be able to comprehend the text more easily and understand the context of the passage in chunks. This can help you identify the main ideas and supporting details, which is important for answering questions accurately.

For instance, understanding how to use conjunctions, prepositions, and other connecting words can help you identify relationships between different parts of the text. 

Being able to recognize subject-verb agreement, verb tense, and pronoun usage can also help you follow the flow of the passage and understand the meaning of sentences.

18. Check Your Spelling

Many questions require you to write down words or phrases from the passage, and spelling errors can result in lost points.

Double-check your spelling and make any necessary corrections before submitting your answers. This is particularly important for words that are easily misspelled or that have similar spellings to other words.

19. Practice With Past Papers

One of the best ways to prepare for the IELTS Reading section is to practice with the official IELTS past papers.

This can give you a sense of the format and types of questions you may encounter on the exam, allowing you to become more familiar with the test and its requirements.

You can also identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Make sure to time yourself when you practice.

20. Don’t Overthink Your Answers

When answering questions, it’s important to base your responses solely on the information in the reading passage. 

Avoid relying on your own common sense or personal opinions, as this can often lead to confusion and incorrect answers. 

Instead, focus on finding the answers within the passage by paying close attention to details and using specific information or details to increase your chances of performing well in the IELTS Reading section.

21. Improve Your Vocabulary

Having a strong vocabulary can be a big help as the passages and questions on the test often contain complex vocabulary.

One way to improve your vocabulary is to read widely, including newspapers, magazines, and books. You can also use vocabulary-building tools like flashcards, online resources, and word lists. Make a habit of learning new words every day, and practice using them in context.

Another way to improve your vocabulary is to pay attention to the words used in the passages themselves. Look for unfamiliar words and use the context to figure out their meanings. You can also try identifying word families and root words to help you understand related words.

Review and learn from any new vocabulary you encounter when practicing for the IELTS Reading test. Use the new words in your writing to help reinforce your learning.

22. Be An Active Reader

Being an active reader is crucial for success in the IELTS Reading test. 

It involves previewing the text, skimming and scanning for information, highlighting important details, taking notes, making connections, and analyzing the text critically. 

By actively engaging with the text, you can better understand the content, identify key information, and answer the questions more accurately. 

Developing this skill takes practice, but with consistent effort, you can become a more effective and efficient reader, improving your chances of success on the IELTS Reading test.

23. Have A Study Plan

Preparing for the IELTS Reading section requires time and effort, and having a study plan can help you stay on track and make the most of your preparation time.

A study plan should include specific goals, timelines, and strategies for improving reading skills. To create a study plan, set a realistic goal for your target score in the IELTS Reading section. Then, break down this goal into smaller, achievable steps, such as practicing reading comprehension exercises, learning new vocabulary words, and taking practice tests.

You can also set specific deadlines for each step, such as completing a certain number of reading exercises each week or taking a full-length practice test once a month. This can help you stay motivated and ensure that you are making progress toward your goal.

Make sure you stick to your study plan as closely as possible, but also be flexible and adjust it as needed based on your progress and performance. 

If your current level is relatively low, it’s essential to build a strong foundation before tackling more advanced skills or concepts. This may involve working on basic grammar and vocabulary, improving your reading comprehension skills, and practicing your writing.

Don’t expect significant improvements overnight; instead, be prepared to commit to a consistent study schedule over several weeks or months.

24. Be Prepared Mentally, Physically, And Emotionally

To perform well in the IELTS Reading test, it’s important to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  1. Mentally prepare: Get enough rest the night before the test and stay calm and focused. It can also be helpful to visualize yourself doing well on the test.
  2. Physically prepare: Eat a healthy meal before the test. Dress comfortably and appropriately for the test environment.
  3. Emotionally prepare: Be aware of your emotions and stay positive and confident. Take deep breaths or use relaxation techniques if you start feeling anxious.

What Is The Difference Between The IELTS Academic Reading And The IELTS General Reading Test?

Here is a table outlining the key differences between the IELTS Academic Reading and the IELTS General Training Reading test:

FeatureIELTS Academic ReadingIELTS General Training Reading
Text typesAcademic textsEveryday texts
Text sourcesAcademic journals, books, research papersNewspapers, handbooks, advertisements, notices
Topics coveredSubjects related to academic study such as science, history, and social sciencesTopics related to everyday life such as work, travel, and social situations
Vocabulary levelComplex and technicalEveryday language and idiomatic expressions
DifficultyMore complex and technical vocabulary, more detail-oriented questionsMore general and everyday language, more questions testing implied meanings and idiomatic expressions
PurposeAssesses reading skills for academic study, professional registration, or postgraduate studyAssesses reading skills for everyday situations, such as work and daily life
Test takersCandidates planning to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level or seeking professional registration in an English-speaking countryCandidates planning to work or settle in an English-speaking country

While there are differences between the IELTS Academic Reading test and the IELTS General Training Reading test, there are also some similarities. Here are some of the key similarities:

FeatureIELTS Academic Reading / IELTS General Training Reading
Test formatThree sections, 40 questions
Test duration60 minutes
Reading skills assessedReading comprehension in English
Test environmentConducted in a controlled testing environment
Scoring systemScored on a scale of 0-9, with half-point increments
Test deliveryAvailable in paper-based and computer-based formats
ImportanceRecognized by educational institutions and organizations as evidence of English proficiency

FAQs On IELTS Reading Tips

What Is The Time Duration For The IELTS Reading Test?

The time duration for the IELTS Reading test is 60 minutes.

Why Is IELTS Reading So Difficult? 

The IELTS Reading test can be difficult for several reasons:
1. Time pressure: The IELTS Reading test is timed, with 60 minutes to complete 40 questions in three sections. This can create a sense of anxiety and stress for test-takers, particularly those who struggle with time management.
2. Academic level: The test is designed to assess your ability to understand and analyze academic texts, which can be challenging for non-native speakers or those not used to reading academic materials.
3. Complex language: The texts are typically written in formal, academic language and may contain complex vocabulary, sentence structures, and ideas.
4. Range of topics: It covers a wide range of topics, from science and technology to arts and humanities, which may be unfamiliar or challenging for some test-takers.
5. Tricky questions: The test often includes questions that require careful analysis and interpretation of the text, such as inference and deduction questions, which can be challenging to answer accurately.

How Can I Improve my IELTS Reading Score?

Here are some tips to help you improve your IELTS Reading score:
1. Practice reading regularly in English, especially materials similar to the test.
2. Familiarize yourself with the test format and question types.
3. Develop strategies for skimming and scanning texts to quickly locate information.
4. Improve your vocabulary by learning new words and their meanings.
5. Pay attention to grammar and sentence structure to better understand the author’s intent.
6. Practice time management skills to ensure enough time to complete the test.
7. Review your mistakes and learn from them to improve your performance in future tests.

Where Can I Find Answers To IELTS Reading?

You can find practice tests and answer keys online or in IELTS preparation books to help you improve your skills and gauge your progress. Note that simply memorizing the answers to practice tests will not necessarily help you on the actual test, as the passages and questions vary from test to test. Instead, focus on developing your reading skills and strategies to improve your overall performance.

Can I Retake IELTS Reading Only?

Yes, it is possible to retake the IELTS Reading section only. The IELTS One Skill Retake option enables test-takers to retake a specific skill (Reading, Writing, Listening, or Speaking) if they want to improve in just that area. This option allows candidates to focus their efforts and resources on the areas where they need the most improvement rather than retaking the entire test.

Final Words

Overall, the IELTS Reading test is a challenging but manageable component of the IELTS exam.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.

Good luck!

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