The IELTS reading test lasts for sixty minutes and assesses how well you can understand the type of texts you will find in the course of your studies.
The question booklet contains three reading passages (sometimes illustrated with graphs, tables or diagrams) and each passage has accompanying questions. The texts, which tend to increase in difficulty throughout the paper, vary in length, and so does the number of questions on each passage. The passages are usually from 700 – 1000 words long for the academic module and shorter in the general training module. There is a total of about forty questions. Sometimes these come before the reading passage and sometimes after.
There is a wide range of different question types. You may be asked to:
- fill in gaps, for example in a passage of written text or in a table
- match headings to written text or to diagrams or charts
- complete sentences
- give short answers to open questions
- answer multiple-choice questions
Sometimes you will need to give one word, sometimes a short phrase and sometimes simply a letter, a number or symbol.
It is important that you control the time on each reading passage. If you spend too long on one, you may not leave yourself time to complete the others. This is true of individual questions too. You will have to work very quickly; if you cannot do a question, leave it and go on to the next. When sixty minutes have finished you will have to stop writing immediately.
In IELTS you are not reading for pleasure. You must identify what the question requires, find the information quickly and answer accurately. You will not have time to read every word of every passage slowly and carefully. You should not attempt to do this.
This means that you must develop ways to read quickly and efficiently. The first thing to do when you look at a reading passage is to survey the passage to find out what it is about in very general terms. If you understand the general subject it will help you later when you look for detailed information. You will know what to look for and where to look for it.