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IELTS Reading Test: Strategies & Tips

Time Management

One of the most popular issues from students is “Not enough time”. You can expect to read between 2,150 – 2,759 words in a total of 60 minutes. So, it can be quite challenging. There is also no extra time to transfer answers to the answer sheet at the end of the test.


Therefore, write your answers directly on answer sheet, not the question paper. It can take 5 – 10 minutes transferring your answers.


When practicing the Reading test, time yourself and try to spend no more than 20 minutes per section. Because text 1 is the “easiest”, try to spend 15 minutes on this.


One of the biggest time killers is spending too much time on one particular question. If a question is taking too long, move on to the next one and come back at the end when you are doing your final check.


If you are running out of time, guess the answer. Never leave blanks on the answer sheet. You might get lucky!

Watch the video on IELTS Reading: Time Management

Dealing with Unknown Words

One of the main causes of poor time management is candidates trying to work out the meaning of unknown words. There will be a lot unknown words in the texts so trying to work out every one is impractical given the time limit.


When you come across a new word, try to guess the meaning from context, that is look at what comes before and after the word and try to work out its meaning. Only try to guess the meaning from context of words that are important for understanding the text.


After trying to guess the meaning from context and you are still not sure, move on. You can skip words that don’t seem important.


Example: She hadn’t eaten anything all day so, by dinner time, she was famished.


  • Here you can guess that famished means very hungry from the context that she hadn’t eaten all day.

Locating the Answer

The order of the answers in the text depends on the question type. See Strategies and Tips for Each Question Type. When scanning for answers, you will find that they are not evenly spaced through the text.


There may be whole paragraphs that don’t contain any answers and there may be paragraphs that contain several answers.


Reading the text first and making notes of the main idea of each paragraph can speed up locating the answer and avoid unnecessary re-reading.

Predicting the Answer

For written answers, predict the answer by looking at what comes before and after the gap. Think about the type of missing word and the information in the sentence.



At this time of year, the …………… drops rapidly at night. So, bring a warm coat.


You can predict the missing word here is a noun because it is preceded by “the” and is followed by a verb, “drops”. 


For the information in the sentence, the noun is something that “drops rapidly at night”.


Answer: Temperature

Synonyms and Paraphrase

IELTS Reading tests your reading skills along with vocabulary, specifically your ability to recognize synonyms and paraphrase

  • A synonym is a word or phrase with the same or similar meaning.

  • To paraphrase is to re-phrase or re-write something using different words and structures without changing the meaning.

Highlighting key words in the questions and trying to match them in the text is a questionable strategy as the synonyms and paraphrase of these key words will mostly be synonyms or paraphrased. 

For specific examples of the use of synonyms and paraphrase, follow the link... 


Strategies and Tips for Each Question Type

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