How Can I Practice For The Academic IELTS Reading Test

The Reading Component of both the Academic and the General Training IELTS exams are designed to assess your reading comprehension skills. Students from Singapore often struggle to score well in this part of the Academic exam since the Academic reading test contains passages and questions that are more challenging than the General Training test. Therefore, it is extremely important to prepare and practice properly if you want to do well. On this page, you will find important tips on what reading skills you should practice in order to score well in the reading section of the exam.

The Difference Between The Academic And General Training IELTS Tests

The IELTS test is divided into two common types the IELTS Academic test and the General Training test. The test that a candidate takes depends on the reasons they are taking the test. The IELTS Academic test is for people who are applying for higher education or professional registration in an English – speaking environment. It reflects some of the features of academic language and assesses whether you are ready to begin studying or training.

The IELTS General Training test is for those who are going to English speaking countries for secondary education, work experience or training programs. The test focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts.

In this article, we will deal with the reading module of the IELTS Academic test content and format

The Academic IELTS  Reading Test

During the academic reading test, you will have to answer different types of questions based on different reading texts/passages. The texts are all authentic and taken from trustworthy sources. Most of the texts are related to academics and are often more descriptive and instructive texts. The passages are sourced from books, textbooks and journals, etc.

The test consists of 3 passages which contain between 700 to 800 words. There are 40 questions in total which have to be answered within one hour. Time management is an important skill during the exam since there is no extra time given to transfer your answers to your answer sheet.

Methods To Practice The Academic IELTS Reading Exam

Familiarizing yourself with the reading test instruction is crucial to your success. IELTS reading test questions require answers in the form of letters, numbers or words. Certain questions require a specific word limit and you might be asked to answer questions using no more than one or two words. Unfortunately, many test-takers lose valuable marks simply due to their inability to carefully follow the instructions regarding word limits

The reading test is often referred to as a vocabulary test since it depends heavily on your understanding of the words and phrases that are mentioned in the passage. You are not allowed to use any dictionaries during the test. Therefore, you must have a wide range of vocabulary in order to comprehend the texts.

The best way to improve your vocabulary is to pick up words through active reading. Basically, this means finding new words while you are reading out of enjoyment rather than just to pass a test. Find some English reading material that you enjoy, such as books or magazines. This will improve your general reading skills and also help with your vocabulary. Make sure that you check out any words you don’t understand and record them.

Many students panic during the reading test because despite improving their vocabulary, they still come across difficult and unfamiliar words. It is impossible to learn every possible word that could appear in your test, which is why it is also important to practice trying to understand the meaning of unfamiliar words by reading in context. It might surprise you to know that most native English speakers do not understand every single word that we come across. We actually just make an educated guess about what that word means. To do this one has to look at the words and sentences around the word you don’t know so you can make an educated guess as to what it means. It is also important to identify what type of word you are dealing with, as in is it a noun, a verb or an adjective? The words surrounding the unfamiliar word will always give you clues about this. For example, an article like a or an is followed by a noun, adjectives and nouns often appear together. A good understanding of sentence structure can aid in your understanding of the type of word you are dealing with.

The Academic Reading test is considered to be far more challenging than the General Training test. One of the additional skills that you will be required to master is finding the main idea of each paragraph. each paragraph always has a main idea or topic. You should practice identifying the main idea of a paragraph, as this will help you locate where certain answers should be answers. This is also especially useful for the Matching Headings questions, which requires test takers to match headings to the main ideas of each paragraph. The main idea is often located within the topic sentence, which can usually be located within the first two sentences of a paragraph. However, sometimes you might have to read the entire paragraph to find and the main idea.

Students also have to practise skimming and scanning – these are basic speed-reading skills. Skimming involves running your eyes over the whole text from beginning to end to get an idea of what it is about. Scanning means finding just one specific piece of information in a text.

As you practice more and more of these skills, you will find that the speed at which you answer practice reading tests and exercises will gradually improve and hopefully your score will improve as well.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.