The IELTS Reading is the second module that you should attempt in your IELTS examination soon after completing the Listening module for your LRW test. Would you like to gain a thorough understanding of the IELTS reading module?

The IELTS reading exam consists of 40 questions divided into three sections. In contrast to listening, there is no extra time in the reading session to transfer your answers to the answer script; this should be done simultaneously.

IELTS Reading

Let’s take a closer look at the types of questions asked in the IELTS reading module, as well as strategies for improving your reading score.

What is the difference between General and Academic IELTS reading?

Academic reading passages cover more specialised academic topics and are similar to articles found in newspapers or magazines. In contrast, the General reading section covers more general, everyday life topics or is related to work in some way.

Students who take the General IELTS test for work or permanent residency purposes attempt General reading, while students who take the Academic IELTS test for study abroad attempt Academic reading.

What type of passages comes for Academic Reading?

Academic reading can include passages on topics ranging from environmental science to history and business. These passages are frequently taken from professional and academic scientific journals, research papers, textbooks, reports, and newspapers. Test takers would need a rich vocabulary to excel in academic reading. Academic reading passages may also include technical terms and visual materials such as charts and graphs.

The purpose of the Academic reading is to determine whether your English language skills are appropriate for an academic environment, as this test is taken for the purpose of studying in colleges or universities. For Academic Reading, the difficulty level of the Reading passages steadily increases with each passage.

What type of passages comes for General Reading?

The General Reading also includes articles from journals , newspapers and magazines. However, the majority of these passages would be much shorter and include simpler vocabulary. Moreover, these topics will mostly be related to daily life. The first two sections of the General reading paper are commonly taken from advertisements, guidebooks, notices,magazines and employee manuals.

There will be two or three brief, straightforward articles about topics related to everyday life in Reading section 1. Reading section 2 would be of shorter writings that are often in some way tied to the workplace, such as job applications or business handbooks.  Finally, Reading section 3 would cover a longer, more challenging, and more abstract academic or topic.

The General reading is quite difficult from the first passage to the third passage, unlike Academic reading, which consistently gets harder as each reading passage gets longer.

Similarities and differences between Academic and General IELTS

There will be three reading sections in both tests, with a total of 40 questions based on them.The vocabulary complexity level varies between the two types of reading.
There is a total time limit of one hour to complete the entire test with NO EXTRA TIME ALLOWED to transfer the answers to the answer script.The number of questions/ items per part differs. General Reading has 14 questions/ items in Reading section one and 13 questions/items in Reading section two and three.
Each question/item is worth one mark, and there is no negative marking.For Academic Reading, Reading section one to three contains 12-14 questions/items per part.
The passages and questions are mostly ordered from the easiest to the hardest. A few types of questions differ. For instance label the diagram is a question type asked only in Academic Reading.

How long is the IELTS Reading test?

A candidate has 60 minutes to complete the IELTS reading. As there is no additional time to transfer the answers to the answer script, a student should devise a strategy. Some students simultaneously transfer these answers as soon as they find the right answer. Others, on the other hand, wait until they have completed the entire test and then find time to transfer.

When attempting to read, time management is critical regardless of method. Because the total test time is one hour, you should spend 20 minutes on each of the three reading sections.

What is the best time management strategy for IELTS Reading?

An effective time management strategy is the most critical aspect that a candidate should keep in mind when they attempt reading. Initially, it’s better to give a gap between the three Reading sections when practising so that you are not stressed and do not experience the anxiety of completing the reading test.

Though the 20-minute rule for each reading section is widely used, it is inadequate, especially if you are an average or below-average reader. So lets formulate a slightly variant time strategy:

Reading section 1 : 16-17 minutes.

 As the first section would be mostly short and the least difficult, it can be completed in 16-17 minutes.

Reading section 2: 18-19 minutes. 

Section two is longer and more difficult than section one, so it requires a few more minutes to complete.

Reading section 3: 23-24 minutes. 

The third passage would be the longest and also the most difficult.As a result, it is preferable to devote as much time as possible to this section.

What happens during the IELTS Reading test?

Here are some of the major things to understand while taking IELTS Reading test:

  • As the reading test takes place after the listening, you will already have your IELTS answer sheets.
  • The IELTS Reading Booklet will be given to you by the staff. Do not open the booklet unless instructed to do so.
  • Then you will be given instructions on how to complete the top portion of your answer sheet.
  • When the time comes, the staff will instruct you to open your booklet and begin reading. There will be a downtime timer to keep track of the time, and the invigilator will give you a heads-up on how much time is left.
  • For the computer-based test, you should type your answers while answering the questions.

How is marking done in IELTS Reading?

The IELTS reading scores vary from band 0 to 9. There are 40 questions and each question carries one mark. There is no negative marking for the wrong answers, so it’s best to attempt all the questions. Most educational institutions accept an Academic Reading score of 6.5 or 7, and a General Reading score of 7 or higher is usually accepted for permanent residency and employment purposes.

The score and corresponding band a candidate receives for the Academic and General reading tests differ. The IELTS reading band scores are calculated as follows. Use our IELTS band score calculator to know which band you are in.

What are the different types of questions in IELTS Reading?

The IELTS Reading section consists primarily of six types of questions. Let’s take a closer look at each type of question, a sample extract to familiarise ourselves with it, and the most effective method of reading to get the correct answer for each type.

Type of Question : True / False/ Not Given and Yes/No/Not Given
Description : A set of statements will be provided and you have to mark whether they are True/ False or Not Given. 
Example- To see sample questionsclick hereOpens in a new tab.
True If the statement is true, it will precisely match the facts presented in the reading. However, keep in mind that the statements will be paraphrases of what is in the text. False If the statement is false that means it contradicts or is opposite to the information given in the reading. 
Not Given This means that you cannot tell if the statement is true or false from observing the reading as the particular information to decide on an answer will not be available in the text.
Best Strategy: Read the question and underline the important keywords ( keywords are words that act as the identity card of a sentence, mostly would be nouns and verbs). Skim and scan the passage for the keyword. For finding and confirming your answer, read one sentence before and after the area where you found the keyword.If you do not find your answer in the first location, proceed to the second location where you discovered the keyword. Repeat the steps to get the right answer. False self-check strategy: if your answer is false, always ask yourself, “why did you write false?” If you can point out/underline the reason for your answer from the text (such as contradictory or opposite information), you can validate your answer as false.
Type of Question: Multiple Choice Questions
Description: A set of questions based on a reading passage will be provided with three to four options.
Multiple choice choose single answersampleOpens in a new tab.
Multiple choice choose multiple answer sampleOpens in a new tab.
Best Strategy:Read the question carefully and underline the keyword/s.Before reading the options, skim and scan the passage for the keyword/s (once you read the options, it’s easy to become confused with the information provided in the reading passage).Try to find the answer to the MCQ without reading the options first, and then read the options later.It is simpler to eliminate the incorrect options from the given list of options ( one or two options would mostly be unrelated to the question and could be identified easily).
Type of Question: Matching
Description : There are 4 main types of matching questions. 
Matching heading sampleOpens in a new tab.
Matching information sampleOpens in a new tab.
Matching features sampleOpens in a new tab.
Sentence Endings sampleOpens in a new tab.
Best Strategy : Read the first question and highlight the keyword/s.If the reading passage is brief, skim and scan it to find your keyword(s). During the skimming process, highlight all of the passage’s important keywords. Repeat the process until you find your required keyword and the answer to the first question. Now, go back and underline the keyword/s for the second question. Repeat the process; you’ll find it easier to find answers to the upcoming questions because you’ve already highlighted the important keyword/s for each reading passage.
This method is not suitable for longer passages/extracts. For longer passages:
Underline the keyword/s in the first question. Skim through the first two sentences and last two sentences of the first reading paragraph for your keyword/s. (Reading the first two sentences will give you an idea of what the paragraph is trying to convey, and the last two sentences will tell you how the idea climaxes.)Read the second question and then repeat the process of finding keywords by only reading the first and last two sentences of the paragraph.
Type of question: Sentence completion/ short answer
Description :
In sentence completion, you are supposed to complete a given sentence in two or three words mostly.
sampleOpens in a new tab.
In short answer type items, mostly a wh- question is asked and you are supposed to answer in one/two/ three words. sampleOpens in a new tab.
Best Strategy:Read the sentence and underline the keywor/s.Skim and scan to find the keyword/s and only read that particular portion to find the answer.If you don’t get the right answer in the first keyword position, look where the keyword repeats a second time and read that portion.
Type of question: Note, Table, Diagram and flow chart completion
Description: Note and table completion are most common in General reading whereas Diagram and flow chart completion are exclusive Academic reading items.
Note completion sampleOpens in a new tab.
Table completion sampleOpens in a new tab.
Diagram completion sampleOpens in a new tab.
Flow chart completion sampleOpens in a new tab.
Best Strategy:
Mark the keyword/s and scan the passage for them.The answers to flow chart and diagram completion questions will be found in sequential order, so if you find the answer to the first question using the keyword selection method, the rest of the answers will be below it or in the next immediate paragraph.
Type of question: summary completion ( paragraph fill-up)
Description: In the summary completion item, a paragraph is taken from the passage (expect changes in the ordering and sentence construction) and gaps are provided where you should either use the same text from the passage or the appropriate words from the box below.
Summary completion ( selecting from a list of words below) sampleOpens in a new tab.
Summary completion (selecting words from the text) sampleOpens in a new tab.
Best Strategy: Use the keywords to locate the specific passage. Read the passage carefully to find the appropriate words to fill in the blanks.If a box is provided, the gap-filling word is a synonym or a closely related word from the text that matches the word in the box.

Why do candidates fail to meet required scores in their Reading tests?

Let me highlight four major reasons why some candidates repeatedly fail the reading test:

1. Overload of information

It is natural for candidates who fail the reading test to frantically search for strategies to improve their scores in books, YouTube channels, websites, and so on. Reading and experimenting with a variety of methods and techniques can confuse and jag your brain. As a result, it’s critical to select only tactics that will help you score well on the actual test.

2. Retaking the exam continuously 

In my personal career as a tutor, I’ve seen a number of students repeatedly take the exam in the hopes of getting a higher band in the reading module. This is a big mistake because your scores will not improve unless you effectively address your weak areas.

3. Taking exam date before preparations 

Another common pattern among candidates is taking the exam date and then studying for the IELTS. When they start learning and realise they need more time, they will try to study and practise each of the modules simultaneously, which is unlikely to help them achieve good bands. It is best to prepare first and then take the exam once you are confident.

4. Overdoing it 

This may sound strange, but doing back-to-back readings without a break can exhaust your brain to the point of shutting down. For example, sometimes students do this and end up in a situation where they can’t even find the simplest of answers. Reading necessitates concentration and a stress-free attitude. As a result, it’s best to take proper brain naps while reading.

5. Inability to accept the reality 

Educate yourself that it is practically impossible to learn a language in a week or two.It is preferable if a candidate understands their current level of English language skills and accepts that it may take time and effort to achieve their desired score range.There is no short route to learning a language.

How to improve IELTS Reading skills to get better scores?

Let me give you a few pointers to help you improve your reading scores:

  •  Instead of only doing practise tests, try reading articles from newspapers, magazines, or online publications to improve both your speed reading and comprehension skills without being bored.
  • If you don’t get the answer to a question even after two minutes of thinking about it, leave it and come back to it later. This will allow your brain to think regarding it while you tackle other questions.
  • While transferring your answers to the answer script, keep an eye out for spelling errors.
  • Learn how to do skimming (flash or speed reading) and scanning (looking for a specific world while skimming) to save time.
  • Never leave any questions unanswered. Even if you’re unsure, write it down. There is a chance it is correct, but if you leave the question blank, you are guaranteed a zero.
  • No matter how confident you are, never begin answering before reading the instructions because then only you will know how many words to write as an answer.
  • Make a habit of highlighting and learning unfamiliar words; this will help you recognise them if you encounter them across them during the actual test.
  • Once you’re familiar with the types of questions and strategies to use, always practise timed reading to improve both your reading and time management skills.
  •  Before beginning the passage, always read the question immediately after reading the title of the text. The question to text method is the most efficient and time-saving strategy for IELTS reading.
  •  Remember that you can usually find your answers in a sequential order from the text for True, false not given, summary completion, related information table completion, and label the diagram. However, it would not be linear for all other types of questions.


It is critical to practise consistently in order to achieve the required reading score. Remember that no strategy is entirely risk-free. However, they can assist you in finding at least a few correct answers in a short period of time. So you can use the time you saved to answer more difficult questions.

Shruthi Raveendran

I am Shruthi Raveendran, a TEFL-certified IELTS/PTE and ESL tutor who has 8+ years of experience working in the education industry. I am a passionate writer, logophile and film enthusiast

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