How to Pass IELTS Reading Fast Without Having a Nervous Breakdown

how to pass ielts reading

The IELTS Reading test is a beast!

There are three sections to complete in 60 minutes, which on the surface sounds manageable enough. 

This is until your find out each section contains around 900 words!

This is a lot of reading in a short space of time never-mind answering the 40 questions as well.

So, how can you approach a task of this magnitude and not go stir fry crazy?

The most effective way is to know what question types to expect and practice them to death.

This post will give you  an idea of the main IELTS Reading questions types and how to approach them.

Different question types on the IELTS Reading exam

  1. Matching Sentence Endings questions

  • Make sure the two parts your choose make grammatical sense

This sounds simple but many students make this mistake.

When you decide on a sentence ending, read the two parts closely, even write the full sentence down, and make sure it’s grammatically sound.

  • Follow the order of the passage

The sentences will follow the order of the passage. Keep this in mind and don’t over complicate the task.

  • Be aware of additional sentence endings

There will be more sentence endings than you need, so be careful when selecting.

  • Paraphrase the sentence beginning

Paraphrasing the sentence beginning will enable you to locate it in the passage more efficiently. 

Practice making quick paraphrases on scrap paper to increase your IELTS Reading band score in this question.

Practice a sentence ending questions here

2. Selecting Factors Questions

  • Paraphrase the options given

Paraphrasing the options gives you more chance of finding the correct information in the passage.

  • Underline key words

Careful key word selection is required for this task. Once you have your keywords scan the passage for the relevant section of the passage.

  • Give the correct number of answers

If the question asks you ‘Which three of the following factors…’ only give three. Often students give more. Don’t make this mistake.

Likewise, if you’re not sure on a third answer, make a guess ad give yourself a chance.

Practice a selecting factors question here

3. Diagram Completion Questions

  • Find the paragraph that corresponds to the diagram

Scan quickly and locate the correct paragraph from the passage.

You can isolate this paragraph and read it closely.

This paragraph contains all the information you need to answer the IELTS Diagram Completion question.

  • Check the word limit on answers

If you’re told to answer ‘one word only, then don’t answer with two words. You will be marked incorrect if you do even if one of the words is correct.

  • Identify the part of speech needed

Do you need a verb, a noun, an adjective or an adverb? Identify and answer accordingly.

Practice a diagram completion question here

4. Flow Chart Questions

  • Be aware that answers don’t always come in order

The answers can be in any order, so be mindful of this.

  • Scan the passage to locate relevant information.

Comprehension is not as important for IELTS Flow Chart questions, so scan and locate the part of the passage that corresponds with the flow chart.

  • Choose your words from the passage carefully

Make sure your word choice is logical. Check the number of words allowed for the question.

These three IELTS Reading tips will help you increase your IELTS score, but you also need to improve your reading technique.

Practice a flow chart question here

6. Table Completion Questions

IELTS Reading Table Completion questions can be tricky, but if you follow these techniques, you will enhance your score:

  • Circle the question command

The question command will tell you how many words and/or numbers required for the answers.

I tell my students to circle this on their test.

If it says your have to answer ‘one word and/or a number’ and you answer two words and a number it will be marked wrong even if one of the words and the number is correct.

  • Familiarize yourself with the context of the table

Take some time to look at the table and think about the context.

This enables you to connect quicker with the passage while reading.

  • Make predictions

Note any predictions above the answer space. You never know, you might guess correctly, and if not, it gives you focused context while reading the passage.

Practice a table completion question here

7. Choosing a Title Questions

  • Read the introduction and conclusion of the passage closely

This tip will enhance your score on the IELTS Reading exam.

The main idea of the passage is found both the introduction and conclusion.

Read carefully and find the idea that appears in both. Once you have done this, write it in your own words.

Then read your titles and make a choice.

  • Read the titles closely for detail

It’s vital you understand each title so take your time and read closely.

  • Careful with time

Students sometimes get stuck on this question and spend too much time trying to find the answer.

As a general rule, read the introduction and conclusion and try and choose a title.

If you can’t, make a star at the side of the question and move on to the next question.

Practice a choosing a title question here

8. Sentence Completion Questions

  • Make sure the sentence is grammatically correct

This is an easy mistake to avoid. Simply scan the gaps and note the part of speech above each.

This way you know what to look for in the passage. If the sentence is grammatically incorrect, erase and try again.

  • Be aware that answers often come in order

Being mindful of this can save you time. Stay focused on the order of the questions in relation to the text and you will increase your IELTS Reading score.

  • Think carefully about the part of speech needed for each gap

Does the gap need a verb, a noun, an adverb or an adjective? Does the gap need a number?

Practice a sentence completion question here

9. Summary Completion Section Questions

  • Be aware that answers often come in order

Being mindful of this can save you time.

Stay focused on the order of the questions in relation to the text and you will increase your IELTS Reading score.

  • Think carefully about the part of speech needed for each gap

Does the gap need a verb, a noun, an adverb or an adjective?

Does the gap need a number?

  • Make predictions

Make a quick prediction for each question based on the surrounding information.

If you can’t make a prediction, note the part of speech above the gap.

This will help you avoid silly mistakes later.

Practice a summary completion question here

11. Reading Paragraph Heading Questions

  • Be aware that there usually are more headings than paragraphs.

Students get used to this type of question in school and think the same rules will apply in IELTS Reading.

IELTS Reading Paragraph Heading questions are much harder and because there are more headings than paragraphs, elimination technique is much less useful.

  • Analyze the paragraph heading before you read the paragraphs

Careful, close reading of the paragraph headings will boost your IELTS band score. Make sure you understand the sentence before you look at the paragraphs in the passage.

  • Be aware that the answers do not come in the same order

Don’t fall into this trap. The answers can come in any order.

Practice a paragraph heading question here

12. True, False, Not Given Questions

In my 15 plus years teaching, Students fear this IELTS Reading question type the most.

You are given a number of statements about the text.

You have to read and decide which are 100% true, 100% false or if the text doesn’t say.

Sounds easy right?


IELTS True, falase, Not Given questions require you to practice numerous skills:

Look a the following example:

You have seven statements and have to choose which are True, False and Not Given.

On the surface, this task looks simply enough, so the why do so many students fear it?

Three reasons Student Fear IELTS Reading Task 1 True, False, Not Given Questions:

  • Students often focus on keywords and not the meaning of the sentence.
  • Student spend too long trying to work out of an answer is Not True and lose valuable time.
  • Students think an answer is True or False because it’s almost True or almost false.

To overcome the above the following action must be taken.

  • To get the correct answer you must focus on meaning (not keywords) and applying this to your reading. Keywords are not enough to get you through this question.
  • Move quickly on to the next question if you feel like your getting lost. Make a note and come back to it later.
  • Before answering the question, ask yourself: ‘Is this a fact?’ The statement needs to be 100% factual to be True or False.

A Word of Warning: Be Super-Careful here!

Not Given answers often contain words from the statements. So, make sure you read closely for meaning.

Let me repeat: Key words alone are not enough to get you though IELTS Reading True, False, Not Given

Practice a true/false/not given question here

13. Multiple Choice questions

Take the following simple steps to improve your skills in IELTS Multiple Choice questions.

1. Make sure you know exactly how many words your answer can be. If you look at the example above it says NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER

In my 15 years teaching the IELTS test, I’ve seen many students make mistakes at this stage.

Nerves often cause students to rush and fail to read the question statement well.

Please take your time and make sure you understand exactly how many words and/or a number the test wants.

Prevent a mistake here by drawing a circle/box around the question statement. Then at the end of the test, take the time to go through your answers again and check to see if your words and numbers match what have been asked. Use the circles and boxes as your guide.

  • Make sure you don’t use your own words. Only use the words from the text.

Students try to over complicate the exam sometimes and add synonyms. This is not necessary. The exact words from the test are just fine.

  • Read the questions and underline key words before reading the passage. Then skim.

Time is not your friend in the IELTS reading exam, so read the questions first and get an idea of what you need to find in the text. If you try to read the passage first, you waste time and may struggle to finish the test in 60 minutes.

  • After skimming, scan for the information you need to answer the question

Say the mantra out loud of you will:

Skim to find, scan for detail. Skim to find, scan for detail.

  • Make sure your answer makes grammatical sense

You’d be surprised how many amazing IELTS students fail to read their answer closely and miss simple grammar errors.

Check the grammar of short answer questions at the end of the test and save yourself some points.

  • Eliminate

You will often be able to eliminate one of even two of the possible answers, making it much easier for you to think about the meaning of the remaining two answers.

Make your IELTS life easier… eliminate.

  • Never leave a question unanswered

You would be surprised how many students leave questions unanswered.

This is madness. You have at least 25% chance of getting the answer correct.

Guess it, you never know!

  • The answers are in the same order as the text

You will not need to go back further than the last question you answered.

Why not cover up the text as you move along?

If large blocks of text confuse you, this will keep you focused.

  • Focus on your skills, not your knowledge

Students can panic when they see a difficult passage heading:


A neuroscientist reveals how to think differently

Okay, you might not know what a neuroscientist is, but don’t worry. You not expected to know the meaning of every word.

Instead focus on your skimming and reading for detail skills.

  • Stay focused on your keywords

Often the passage contains other words from the question.

You don’t need to worry about these. Focus on your underlined key words only. Stay focused.

What Reading Skills will help me crush IELTS Reading Multiple Choice Questions?

  1. Locate the main idea in the text
  2. Reading closely for specific detail

Be careful when reading for specific detail as often more than one answer appears correct.

If this happens, go back to the relevant part of the passage again and read again.

Warning: Make a note beside the test of the number of the question and move on to the next question. Then at the end of the IELTS reading exam, you can go back and try again. Often when you read again, the answer will be more obvious.

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