Improving your reading for the IELTS exam

by / Monday, 03 November 2014

The reading section of the IELTS exam is often one of the most difficult for students.  The academic style of the text can be unfamiliar and the vocabulary is more challenging than everyday English.  Here are some tips to improve your score:

  1. Don’t read intensively – at school and university it’s important that you understand all of a text.  Remember that in the IELTS exam, you only need to understand enough to get the answers to 13 or 14 questions.  This means that the majority of the text will not be relevant.
  2. Improve your reading speed – there are some great apps to help improve your reading speed such as acceleread, which is available in the iTunes store.  It helps you skim faster and understand the details.  You should aim for reading at least 300 words per minute.  When you’re at university in the UK, you will have a lot of texts to read so you will need to be able to read very quickly.
  3.  Focus on what you do understand – it’s natural to look at the text and see all the words that you don’t know.  Concentrate on what you do understand and put it together like a puzzle and guess.  You will never go into the exam and know every word in the text but you can still get the meaning from what you understand.  Imagine that you are talking to someone in a noisy room.  Even though you don’t hear every word, you will probably be able to understand what they are saying.  It’s the same with reading – use what you know and ignore what you don’t.
  4. Practise! –  like any skill, you won’t get better until you practise.  If you don’t like reading as a hobby, practice with something you are interested in.  If you like football, read the newspaper reports on your favourite team, for example.  Start with something short and gradually increase the length of the text.  Time yourself reading and see how long you take.  Remember it won’t happen overnight – you need to practise on a regular basis!
  5. Use the internet – there are a lot of helpful hints and strategies available to you.  For example:
    1.  You can try the demo for free

Improving your reading skills takes time and effort, but is definitely worth it!