The Reading module of the IELTS consists of a total of 40 questions.
There are three passages, with a total of 2,000 to 2,750 words.
Your first task when you begin reading is to answer the question “What is the topic of the selection?” This can best be answered by quickly skimming the passage for the general idea, stopping to read only the first sentence of each paragraph. A paragraph’s first sentence is usually the main topic sentence, and it gives you a summary of the content of the paragraph.
Once you’ve skimmed the passage, stopping to read only the first sentences, you will have a general idea about what it is about, as well as what is the expected topic in each paragraph.
Each question will contain clues as to where to find the answer in the passage. Do not just randomly search through the passage for the correct answer to each question. Search scientifically. Find key word(s) or ideas in the question that are going to either contain or be near the correct answer. These are typically nouns, verbs, numbers, or phrases in the question that will probably be duplicated in the passage. Once you have identified those key word(s) or idea, skim the passage quickly to find where those key word(s) or idea appears. The correct answer choice will be nearby.
Example: What caused Martin to suddenly return to Paris?
The key word is Paris. Skim the passage quickly to find where this word appears. The answer will be close by that word.
However, sometimes key words in the question are not repeated in the passage. In those cases, search for the general idea of the question.
Example: Which of the following was the psychological impact of the author’s childhood upon the remainder of his life?
Key words are “childhood” or “psychology”. While searching for those words, be alert for other words or phrases that have similar meaning, such as “emotional effect” or “mentally” which could be used in the passage, rather than the exact word “psychology”.
Numbers or years can be particularly good key words to skim for, as they stand out from the rest of the text.
Example: Which of the following best describes the influence of Monet’s work in the 20th century?
20th contains numbers and will easily stand out from the rest of the text. Use
20th as the key word to skim for in the passage.
Once you’ve quickly found the correct section of the passage to find the answer, focus upon the answer choices. Sometimes a choice will repeat word for word a portion of the passage near the answer. However, beware of such duplication – it may be a trap! More than likely, the correct choice will paraphrase or summarize the related portion of the passage, rather than being exactly the same wording.
For the answers that you think are correct, read them carefully and make sure that they answer the question. An answer can be factually correct, but it MUST answer the question asked. Additionally, two answers can both be seemingly correct, so be sure to read all of the answer choices, and make sure that you get the one that BEST answers the question.
Some questions will not have a key word.
Example: Which of the following would the author of this passage likely agree with?
In these cases, look for key words in the answer choices. Then skim the passage to find where the answer choice occurs. By skimming to find where to look, you can minimize the time required.
Sometimes it may be difficult to identify a good key word in the question to skim for in the passage. In those cases, look for a key word in one of the answer choices to skim for.
Often the answer choices can all be found in the same paragraph, which can quickly narrow your search.