IELTS Academic Reading Overview

IELTS Academic Reading OverviewAre you preparing for the IELTS test? The best way to prepare for the IELTS test is to familiarize yourself with the test format and then practice, practice, practice . . . particularly with the Reading portion of the test, which many students find difficult. Before you begin studying for the IELTS Reading test, make sure that you read this important information on the test format and question types. (Note: there is a General English exam and an Academic English exam. CISL focuses on the Academic English exam.)

IELTS Academic Reading Overview

You will read three passages and then answer questions related to these passages. These passages are taken from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, and are about a wide variety of (non-specialist) topics. The passages  can be description and factual or they can be more discursive, analytical writings. According to the IELTS board, “Each text might be accompanied by diagrams, graphs or illustrations, and you will be expected to show that you understand these too.” Expect to read between 2,150 and 2,750 words in this short time.

IELTS Academic Reading Overview

Questions on the IELTS Reading Test

There are 40 questions. You must mark your answers on a separate answer sheet, and you do NOT have time at the end of the test to transfer your answers.

The questions will test the following:

  • Your ability to make sense of the general ideas of the passages
  • Main ideas
  • Detail
  • Inferences and implied meaning
  • The opinion, attitude, and purpose of the writer
  • Argument development

A variety of question types is used. You may be asked to

  • fill in the gaps of a reading passage or of a table
  • analyze heading and diagrams/chart and then match the two
  • complete sentences
  • provide short answers to questions
  • answer multiple choice questions

Sometimes you will need to give one word as your answer, sometimes a short phrase, and sometimes simply a letter, number or symbol.

Time and Scoring of IELTS Academic Reading 

You only have one hour to read the three passages, so time management is important.

Each correct answer receives one mark.

The test is 40 points total, which is converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores can be reporteded in whole and half bands (for example, your score can be 8 or 8.5). Visit the IELTS website in order to better understand your IELTS scores.

Top Tips for IELTS Academic Reading

Here are some suggestions for improving your IELTS Academic Reading score:

  • Pay close attention to titles and headings.
  • Words that are capitalized, underlined, or italicized are important. Note them while reading over the passage quickly.
  • Be very familiar with the test format before beginning, especially the different question types.
  • You can’t read every word in the time you are given, so don’t try!
  • Don’t spend too much time on questions that you don’t know the answer to. Skip them, move on, and come back to them if you have time.
  • Be prepared to read passages based on topics you might not be familiar with. This is especially important in questions where the word count matters.
  • Pay close attention to spelling the words in your answers correctly.
  • Don’t leave an answer blank: it doesn’t hurt to guess!
  • Check all your answers at the end of the test.

Further Reading

The official IELTS website is a wealth of information. Check out their article on Reading test advice, or take a Reading practice test.

CISL is proud to provide intensive IELTS preparation classes for students who want to take the IELTS Exam in San Diego. Click here to learn how to enroll in CISL’s intensive IELTS test preparation classes, which have no more than EIGHT students per class.