International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
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Answer all questions. There is no negative marking for incorrect answers.
The reading test is considered by many to be the most difficult part of IELTS. And with some justification. You have to read 3 long sections, each with multiple paragraphs, and answer 40 questions (13 to 14 per section). Unlike the listening test, no extra time is given at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Time can be a major constraint since you only have an hour to finish the test.
Start by reading the How to prepare for IELTS - Reading test manual at the Hong Kong City University site to familiarize yourself with the test, the types of questions that are asked and strategies for answering them.
The key to doing well in this part is practice. Read newspapers, magazines and books. Try and improve your reading skills and speed. Do the practice tests in Cambridge IELTS 3.
The most important thing to understand is that the test does NOT assess your comprehension of the paragraphs. It does NOT test how well you have understood the passage. It tests specific skills called Scanning and Skimming.
Scanning is what one does, for example, when looking for a phone number in a directory. You know the specific information you are looking for and you go down the page quickly to find it. This technique is used when answering questions such as multiple-choice and matching. You scan the passage to quickly find the information mentioned in the question. Once you find it, you get the answer from the passage and write it against the question.
Skimming refers to reading a paragraph quickly to get an idea of what it is about, without trying to understand its details. This technique is part of the initial reading (see below). It can be modified (reading a little slower) to answer "Provide headings for the paragraphs" , "In which paragraph does this information appear in the text?" and "Author's views" type of questions.
The sections get progressively more difficult. Aim to spend about 15 to17 minutes on Section 1, 20 minutes on Section 2 and 23 to 25 minutes on Section 3. If possible, keep some spare time to check your answers.
I would suggest ( and this is how I did it ) that you first read all the questions quickly to get an idea of what type of information is required and whether scanning or skimming (or a combination of the two) is called for. As you read the questions, use a pencil to underline important information such as dates, places and names.
Once you are through with reading all the questions, skim over the text and underline / mark important parts. If you see any information relating to the questions, mark it straight away. You may even be able to answer some questions as you read.
Answer the questions one by one with the help of the underlined parts of the text. Having read the text once, you will find it easy to find specific information by scanning.
The answers usually appear in the text in the same order as the questions. That is, the answer to question 4 will be earlier in the text than the answer to question 5. This need not always be true. It may apply to each question type rather than to all the questions taken together. The answer to MCQ 2 will appear before that to MCQ 3 and the answer to Matching question 2 will usually appear earlier than that to Matching question 3. However, the answer to MCQ 3 may appear before the answer to Matching question 2. This will not apply to questions like "In which paragraph does this information appear?" and "Yes / No / Not given". For these question types, the information may be scattered randomly anywhere in the paragraphs.
As soon as you find an answer, write it against the question on the question paper. It is not always a good idea to try answering questions in the order in which they are asked.
Read the instructions for each question very carefully. If the question specifies that you must not use more than three words in your answer, stick to three words.
The toughest questions are the True / False / Not given and Yes / No / Not given ones. Practise doing these questions till you are confident. Make sure you do not answer True / False for a Yes / No question and vice versa. Such an answer will be considered wrong and fetch no marks.
Do not get stuck on any one question. If you can't get the answer, move on. You can always come back later.
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