How To Prepare for IELTS - Reading Section

    Updated on: 22 Mar 2023

    IELTS Reading test can be daunting. If you are worried about how to practice for this section and ace it, don’t worry! There are many riding the same boat finding IELTS reading section even more difficult than the writing, listening, and speaking sections. It is a no brainer that it would require a sound amount of practice and concentration to find the right answers. There are several things that you can do for IELTS reading test practice to get better at it. Let’s traverse through the details of the IELTS reading test and know the hacks to IELTS reading test preparation.

    Why Should I Prepare for the IELTS Reading Section? 

    Speaking of IELTS sectional band scores, let’s shed some light on a crucial section of the IELTS - the ‘Reading’ section, and why it is important for IELTS takers to pay undue attention to it. Some learners claim that this section is the trickiest amongst all in the IELTS. With 40 questions and 3 lengthy passages to cover in just one hour, completing this section can get a bit unnerving! Even native English speakers would struggle in attempting this section without a sound strategy. Intense section-specific training, doing reading exercises and regular and rigorous practice are the ways through which a candidate can ace this test. Therefore, it is essential for one to devote adequate time to this section and seriously prepare for it. After all, a good reading sectional band score can make a major difference to your overall score.

    Read more about: IELTS Syllabus

    To help you with your IELTS Reading section preparation routine, we give you some sure-shot tricks to both prepare for the exam and to follow on the day of the test so that you can crack this section easily.

    IELTS Reading Section Exam Pattern

    Before going on to the preparation tips, let’s go through the IELTS Reading section exam pattern first so that you have an idea of what the test pattern is like and the types of questions generally asked.

    Paper Format

    Three reading passages with a variety of questions using a number of task types.


    60 Minutes

    No. of Questions


    Task Types

    A variety of question types are used, selected from the following: multiple choice, identification of information, identification of views/claims of the writer, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching endings of sentences, completion of sentences, summary completion, completion of the note, completion of the table, completion of the flow chart, completion of the diagram label and short-answer questions.


    Texts are taken from books, newspapers, magazines, and newspapers and written for a non-specialist audience. All the subjects are of general interest. They address issues that are interesting, recognizably suitable, and accessible to test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or seeking professional registration. The passages may be written in various styles, such as narrative, descriptive or discursive/argumentative. At least one text includes a logical argument. Texts may include non-verbal materials such as diagrams, charts or illustrations. If texts contain technical terms, a simple glossary is provided.


    During the exam, test takers are needed to transfer their responses on the response sheet. No extra time is permitted for the transfer. Care should be taken while transferring the answers as bad spelling and grammar are penalized.


    Each question is worth 1 mark.


    IELTS General Preparation Tips - Reading

    Now that we know the exam pattern of the IELTS reading section, let’s now begin how to proceed with the preparation for the section. Given below are a few general preparation tips that candidates are advised to follow to ace the section.

    1. Start with the Preparations Early - The foremost preparation tip for IELTS is to start with the preparations early, preferably five to six months prior to the conduct of the exam. IELTS is far from rote learning and is more concept-based, hence cramming at the last minute won't help. You would at least need a time period of four months to gain a strong conceptual base.
    2. Read Frequently -  The only way to practice reading skills is to firstly read frequently. Pay close attention to the words you don't understand and attempt to find out their meanings from the context and then from the dictionary. You can also remember the term by using it in a variety of sentences. Additionally, you can follow the given tips: 
      • Record the terms and expressions used in a number of academic contexts.
      • Avoid spending too much time studying extremely specialized words.
      • Use newspapers, magazines, and news websites to know more words.
    3. Regular Practice - Candidates should make it a point that they study for IELTS on a regular basis. Regular IELTS general reading pratice will help one to achieve consistency and allow one to gain a firm grip over the questions. The best way for the candidates would be to practice at least five questions every day for each section. To keep the preparations more organized, one can make a time-table for IELTS preparation and allot specific slots for individual IELTS sections which they must follow regularly.
    4. Conceptual Clarity -  For an exam like IELTS, which mainly assesses your critical abilities and common sense, you should rule out rote learning and focus on getting your concepts strong. One way to do this is by regularly practicing, analyzing your performance, and clearing your doubts as and when they arise. You could either consult a senior or mentor from time to time if you find difficulties in understanding something.
    5. Devise Time-Management Strategies - While practicing for the test, you should pay attention to your timing. You will notice that there will be questions that take you longer and questions that take you less time. This will give you a fair idea as to how to distribute your time between different segments or questions. Everyone reads and answers questions at distinct speeds and styles, so find out what's best for you; stop following strategies suggested to you by others.
    6. Practice Mock Tests -  One can't stress enough how important it is to solve IELTS reading practicing tests. In fact, it is very easy for people to solve individual questions at their own pace and be convinced that they are good to go. But your knowledge is really tested when you have to solve the same questions within the constraints as that of the exam. Practicing around twenty to thirty IELTS reading test sample papers before the exam will not only help you get used to the difficulty level of the exam and pattern but also increase your speed of answering questions.
    7. Revision - Revision is extremely important to fine-tune your IELTS reading preparations. Many people choose to ignore revising for the exam but it's the only way through which they can retain information properly till the time of the exam. During the course of preparation, one would have learned a lot of vocabulary and practiced several tests and exercises. To retain all these inputs is indeed a mammoth task, and it is only through revision one can clearly remember everything that has been learned.
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    Where Can I Get Study Material for IELTS Preparation?

    To prepare for IELTS, you can either choose to sign up for a coaching class or study on your own. If you wish to do the latter, you can refer to tons of IELTS study material available both online and offline.

    IELTS Study Material - Online 

    Some sites which give you the best preparation tips and study material for IELTS. These sites also give you the option of IELTS Academic Reading Practice Test With Answers Free Download:. Some of such sites are:

    • - 
    • IELTS Buddy-
    • IELTS Liz YouTube channel-
    • The British Council
    • EngVid
    • IELTS for Free

    Offline Resources 

    The various books which you can refer to for practicing for IELTS are:

    • The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS by Cambridge University Press
    • Official IELTS Practice Materials by Cambridge ESOL
    • British Council for IELTS
    • Barron`s IELTS Practice Exams by Lin Lougheed 
    • Understanding and Using English Grammar: 4th edition by Pearson Longman 
    • Kaplan IELTS Premier with 8 Practice Tests, 3rd edition by Kaplan

    Read more about: IELTS Preparation Books

    IELTS Reading Section

    Sample Questions

    Here a few sample questions too for you to practice. You can also form a general idea of the types of questions generally asked in the exam:

    IELTS Reading Test Preparation Tips

    1. Know the Format - Knowing the exact format of the test is very important. A clear awareness of the types of questions that you will be asked in the test will save you the time to ascertain "what's being asked of you" for each task on the day of the test. So during the week before the exam, make sure you get an informed understanding of the format and pattern of the test.
    2. Timed Practice - Start attempting IELTS reading test exercises by setting a TIMER! Often, the time constraints within the test are what trips test takers up! If you attempt the tests at home in the same conditions as that of the exam, you will be much more comfortable answering questions in a timely manner on the day of the exam. 
    3. Strengthen Your Language Skills - Grammar, spelling and vocabulary MATTERS! A week before the exam, you could try reading more newspapers and other reading materials. You could also increase the count of new words to learn every day during this period, however, make sure you do not forget the words learned earlier. Instead of taking up new words, you could also just revise the words already learned, if that’s what seems convenient to you.
    4. Take Multiple Partial IELTS Reading Practice Tests and Full-Length IELTS Practice Tests - During this one week, your complete focus should be on practicing mock tests and sectional tests. It’s only by solving a considerable number of question papers within the same constraints as that of the exam will the candidate be able to get a firm grip over the pattern and difficulty level of the test. Also, this is the best way to practice what you have already learned allowing you to not just exercise your thinking abilities but also strengthen your concepts. If you manage to practice at least 20 mock tests and sectional tests, attempting the test on the day of the exam will seem like a cakewalk. 

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    Points to Keep in Mind During the Exam

    1. Don’t Expect to Understand Every Word - You should focus only on the words that are related to the question and leave the words you don’t understand. It is perfectly fine if you do not understand a few words. The core meaning of the sentence is important and not that of a specific word or two. However, here are two tricks you can apply if you don’t understand a word in the reading section.
      • Look at the words and sentences around the word for clues to its meaning
      • Try to relate it with the rest of the text
    2. Read the Instructions VERY Carefully - Reading the instructions is a must in reading tests because very specific instructions are given for this section. If you don’t follow these instructions exactly, you might get your answers wrong. For example, a question would ask you to write just “one word.” You must understand that one word means just one word. So, be very careful with articles like ‘a’ and ‘an’. For example, the text might mean ‘an apple’, but if the question asks for one word, simply write ‘apple’. ‘An apple’ is two words and is therefore wrong.
    3. Don’t Panic - Some questions are going to be simple and some are going to be incredibly hard. The key is to not panic when trying to answer a difficult one. The wrong thing to do is to spend a lot of time on a question and not spend enough time on the rest of the questions. If you can’t find the answer to a particular section, move on to the next. You can always return later to the hard questions; in fact, you will often be helped by answering the other questions. To do well in the reading exam, you should have good control both on your time as well as on your nerves. Accept that you probably won’t get all the questions right, and this mindset will assist you to regulate your time and feelings on the test day.
    4. Timing is Crucial - If you spend too much time on one question, you're going to run out of time for other questions. On the other hand, if you attempt to do the exam too rapidly, you're going to miss relevant information and get confused. Therefore, keep a time-limit for each segment. Try to finish each segment in 20 minutes. This breaks down to 16-17 in minutes in reading and replying to questions and 3-4 minutes in checking the responses. 
    5. Ignore Anything You Already Know About the Topic -  Don't create your own knowledge-based assumptions. Please note that you are only being tested for your understanding of the text; your own knowledge of the subject should not affect your responses.
    6. Be Careful When Transferring Your Answers -  A critical error is to spend too much time reading and answering questions, leaving very little time to transfer the responses. It is only natural that when individuals are under pressure, they make silly errors. Therefore, keep adequate time to transfer the responses so that you can put the answers in the response sheet correctly instead of leaving things for the last minute and ending up transferring wrong answers out of panic. 
    7. Leave No Blanks - This may seem to be one of the most evident tips for the IELTS reading test, but you'd be amazed at how many individuals leave blank for answers they do not know. Even if the answer is not known, make sure you answer every question. Maybe you're fortunate and you will get the answer correct. Also, there's nothing to lose as there is no negative marking in the tests.

    First published date: 21 Oct 2019


About author

Yogender Panchal
Yogender is a tech enthusiast with specialization in digital marketing. He is currently working at Gyandhan a leading company which provides Education Loan who are studying Abroad. Playing Volleyball, driving a car, traveling, researching new online marketing trends are some of his interest areas that keeps his rejuvenated.

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