The IELTS exam is one of the most popular and internationally recognised English language proficiency tests. It is offered in over 130 countries, including Singapore. The reading section of the test is often quite challenging to students for various reasons.
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 you are taking the test. The IELTS Academic test is for people 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 focus on the IELTS General Training Reading test and offer some advice on how you can best prepare for this test.
The Difference Between The Academic And General Training IELTS Reading Tests
The Reading Component of both the academic and the general training tests your reading comprehension skills. 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.
However, there are a few differences in content and format between the two reading tests
The Academic module contains three reading passages. Most of the texts are related to academics. The passages are sourced from books, textbooks and journals, etc.
The General Training module contains three sections. Section 1 and 2 might have one or two passages.
The passages in the first section usually relate to everyday English life situations which are sourced from magazines, flyers, newspapers, notices and advertisements. This section is designed to assess your social survival skills in an English-speaking country. The texts will represent situations that candidates will probably have to navigate through during their day to day life.
The second section relates to work issues. These texts are sourced from actual company handbooks, official documents or policies
The third section is about general interest issues. The passages in this section are quite similar to the Academic reading test passages and are usually sourced from real magazines or books. These are often more descriptive and instructive texts.
Scanning is the most important skill needed for section 1 and 2 since the texts for these sections are more factual than descriptive. Most questions require you to simply locate pieces of information without much further thought. Section 3 requires a wider variety of skills and strategies since the passages for section closely resemble those found in the IELTS academic test and are much more difficult than section 1 and 2.
Both tests include the same types of questions. These include:
- Multiple-choice questions
- Matching Headings
- Matching Features
- Matching Information
- Matching Sentence Endings
- True/False/Not Given questions and Yes/No/Not Given questions
- Summary, Table, Note, Flowchart Completion
- Diagram Labelling
Methods To Practice The IELTS General Training Reading Exam
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. Since you are not allowed to use any dictionaries during the test, 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. Active reading refers to when you read out of enjoyment rather than just to pass a test. Find some English reading material that you enjoy, such as books or magazines. you can also source material that closely resembles the common topics of section 1 and 2, such as newspaper advertisements to tourist spot pamphlets. This will not only improve your general reading skills but it will also help you to understand and recognise the paraphrases of the common vocabulary used for these topics. Make sure that you record the new words you learn.
The questions in section 1 and 2 often ask you to find specific types of information such as names, dates or numbers. It’s important to be able to correctly predict which type of answer is being asked for, especially when it is a fill in the blank type of question. you need to have a good understanding of how articles and prepositions are used in order to be able to predict the type of noun needed. Certain prepositions signal that a date or specific place follows. articles like a and or the signal whether or not a singular or plural noun should be placed in the blank. A simple error like using a plural noun instead of a singular noun can result in an incorrect answer, so it is important to practice these grammar topics
Familiarizing yourself with the reading test instruction is also 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, you might be asked to answer questions using no more than one or two words. Unfortunately, many test-takers lose valuable marks due to their inability to carefully follow the instructions regarding word limits.
You can further aid your reading test preparation by taking a free IELTS reading practice test, in order to gauge your current level of preparation. It is also highly useful to go through sample IELTS reading passages, which are provided by the British Council and IDP.