How to Improve Your IELTS Reading Speed

I get asked this at least five times a week by my IELTS reading students. Many of them feel disillusioned by the test.

‘How can I get through all three passages in one hour? It’s impossible.’

Click here to find out more about all the IELTS reading test question types

The IELTS Reading test has three passages and 40 questions. Each passage contains about 900 words, so multiply 900 by your three passages and you’ve got to read about 2,700 words and answer 40 questions in 60 minutes!

This is the single most important factor in raising your IELTS band score. Slow readers don’t score well.


It’s impossible to read around 2,700 words in 60 minutes – if you read slowly.

Slow readers will struggle to finish the IELTS Reading test in time.

Slow readers know they read slowly.

Consequently, slow readers get anxious before and during their reading test and underperform.

So how can slow readers improve?

The answer is simple. Slow readers need to practice reading quicker.

This is a skill that needs built up over time. It can’t happen overnight.

This is tough, but here are proven techniques that can can increase your reading speed:

  1. Chunking Technique

Fast readers read groups of words together. They don’t read words individually. If you want to improve your reading speed, it’s essential you practice this skill.

Try reading three words at the same time as your eyes make their way down the page. Notice how you progress down the lines more quickly and still understand the meaning.

This is the most efficient tool you can practice to increase your reading speed.

Practicing this may sound daunting but it’s not. Incorporate the following technique into your daily reading practice and you’ll boost your IELTS Reading speed fast.

With a pencil draw two parallel, vertical lines down your page. This separates your text into three separate sections.

Now concentrate on reading each section with a glance; don’t read individual words.

Also, cover the text below with a blank piece of paper, so your eyes don’t wander from the task.

As you finish reading each line, move the paper downwards.

Notice how much quicker you read one page.

Practice this three times per day: morning, lunchtime and night.

   2. Timed Speed Reading Practice

Once you have practiced the chunking technique, take things one step further. Set your timer and practice in one minute block, using chunking technique.

Once you notice your speed and confidence increasing, try two minutes and so on.

These gradual increase in time will increase your concentration and speed.

You can also try a reading speed timer such as Freereadingtest by AceTimer. It’s a wonderful tool to incorporate into your daily IELTS reading practice.

Remember increasing your reading speed for IELTS is part of a longer process. Don’t expect results overnight, but if you stick with it, you will see rapid results.

   3. Set Goals and Read More

If you set yourself achievable goals,you’re more likely to achieve them.

‘The problem with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.’ (Bill Copeland)

This is so true. How many times in your IELTS practice have you felt overwhelmed? How many time have you felt like your working all the time but not improving?

Most of my IELTS student over the past fifteen plus years have told me a similar story. Don’t fall into the trap.

Write down your goals on paper and stick to them. I find writing them out and pinning them above my work desk helps me stay focused. But… whatever works for you is fine.

  4. Practice comprehension on the first read

Slow reader spend large amounts of time re-reading. This can be down to a number of factors such as lack of vocabulary etc. but often is is because of a lack of focus.

Train yourself to zero in on the passage and eliminate re-reading as much as possible.

Practice all four techniques above and rapidly imprive your reading speed for the IELTS Reading exam.

I also recommend you have a look at my other articles about the IELTS Reading test questions types:

How you can improve on IELTS Multiple Choice questions today!

Multiple Choice Questions

True, False, Not Given

How to stay focused in IELTS reading

Paragraph Headings

Summary Completion Section

Sentence Completion Section

Choosing a Title

Flow Chat Completion Questions


Matching heading quest


MAtching Sentence Endings

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