The Reading Module


New Information

Correct answers will usually contain the information listed in the paragraph and question.  Rarely will completely new information be inserted into a correct answer choice.  Occasionally the new information may be related in a manner than IELTS is asking for you to interpret, but seldom.

The argument above is dependent upon which of the following assumptions? A.) Scientists have used Charles’s Law to interpret the relationship.

If Charles’s Law is not mentioned at all in the referenced paragraph and argument, then it is unlikely that this choice is correct. All of the information needed to answer the question is provided for you, and so you should not have to make guesses that are unsupported or choose answer choices that have unknown information that cannot be reasoned.

Key Words

Look for answer choices that have the same key words in them as the question.


Which of the following, if true, would best explain the reluctance of politicians since 1980 to support this funding?

Look for the key words “since 1980” to be referenced in the correct answer choice.  Most valid answer choices would probably include a phrase such as “since 1980, politicians have...”

Valid Information

Don’t discount any of the information provided in the passage, particularly shorter ones.  Every piece of information may be necessary to determine the correct answer.  None of the information in the passage is there to throw you off (while the answer choices will certainly have information to throw you off). If two seemingly unrelated topics are discussed, don’t ignore either.  You can be confident there is a relationship, or it wouldn’t be included in the passage, and you are probably going to have to determine what is that relationship for the answer.

Time Management

In technical passages, do not get lost on the technical terms. Skip them and move on. You want a general understanding of what is going on, not a mastery of the passage.

When you encounter material in the selection that seems difficult to understand, it often may not be necessary and can be skipped.  Only spend time trying to understand it if it is going to be relevant for a question.  Understand difficult phrases only as a last resort.

Identify each question by type. Usually the wording of a question will tell you whether you can find the answer by referring directly to the passage or by using your reasoning powers.  You alone know which question types you customarily
handle with ease and which give you trouble and will require more time.

Final Warnings

Hedge Phrases Revisited

Once again, watch out for critical “hedge” phrases, such as likely, may, can, will often, sometimes, etc, often, almost, mostly, usually, generally, rarely, sometimes.  Question writers insert these hedge phrases, to cover every possibility. Often an answer will be wrong simply because it leaves no room for exception.

Example: Animals live longer in cold places than animals in warm places.

This answer choice is wrong, because there are exceptions in which certain warm climate animals live longer.  This answer choice leaves no possibility of exception.  It states that every animal species in cold places live longer than animal species in warm places.  Correct answer choices will typically have a key hedge word to leave room for exceptions.

Example: In severe cold, a polar bear cub is likely to survive longer than an adult polar bear.

This answer choice is correct, because not only does the passage imply that younger animals survive better in the cold, it also allows for exceptions to exist. The use of the word “likely” leaves room for cases in which a polar bear cub might not survive longer than the adult polar bear.

Word Usage Questions

When asked how a word is used in the passage, don’t use your existing knowledge of the word. The question is being asked precisely because there is some strange or unusual usage of the word in the passage.  Go to the passage and use contextual clues to determine the answer.  Don’t simply use the popular definition you already know.

Switchback Words

Stay alert for “switchbacks”. These are the words and phrases frequently used to alert you to shifts in thought.  The most common switchback word is “but”.

Others include although, however, nevertheless, on the other hand, even though, while, in spite of, despite, regardless of.

Avoid “Fact Traps”

Once you know which paragraph the answer will be in, focus on that paragraph. However, don’t get distracted by a choice that is factually true about the paragraph. Your search is for the answer that answers the question, which may be about a tiny aspect in the paragraph. Stay focused and don’t fall for an answer that describes the larger picture of the paragraph.

Always go back to the question and make sure you’re choosing an answer that actually answers the question and is not just a true statement

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