The IELTS Reading Test is a test of proficiency in ‘Reading and understanding’ the English language, and though it is named as ‘Reading Test’, the candidates have to write the ‘Answers’ based on the topics given to read! The ‘Reading Test’ is different for both the IELTS Academic Test and IELTS General Test. Though in both the cases it takes 60 minutes to complete, the subject matters are entirely different for the two. The allotted time is 60 minutes, and candidates get 3 passages to read and asked 40 questions carrying 1 mark each. The basic contexts given for reading, in the case of the Academic Tests, are some selected passages from books, magazines, journals, and newspapers. The General Test reading passages are excerpts collected from different types of notices, advertisements, magazines and are not academically oriented.
The pattern of questions is of different types, starting from short-answer type questions to multiple-choice questions, completion of sentences, headline matching, identifying or clarifying the view of the writer of the relevant passage given to read and so on. After completing reading a candidate has to write his answers on the answer sheet given, no extra time is provided whatsoever.
So, what a candidate has to do actually?
He has to execute his skill of understanding or to be exact ‘Grasping’ the contextual idea of the passages given. Then he needs to answer maintaining perfect sentence structure with a suitable grammatical application. Using a wide range of vocabulary adds a feather in the crown of course.
The most desirable skills being reading quick and grasping the central idea accurately, the ‘Speed of Reading’ has to fast enough to save time. Moreover, at least 10 minutes should be kept in reserve for checking the answers written in haste. A minor error could result in a major upset, there is no denying to that considering the high standard of the test. So high levels of concentration and special skill of writing at a great speed with no errors at all are not less than mandatory.
How to achieve all that at a time?
Firstly, one has to develop the art of skimming, i.e. quick reading of the text and understanding what it is about. When we read the daily newspaper, we usually skim through it. Our busy life schedules do not allow us the liberty to read the newspaper thoroughly. While skimming, you have to capture the central idea as much as possible. Precisely to score well some basic skills are required, like:
- You have to be a very good skimmer.
- At the same time, you have to be a very good scanner, i.e., scanning through the text for finding specific information such as names, figures, etc.
- Do have a clear notion about skimming and scanning. They are two different techniques, but both are very useful. To grasp the idea quickly, skimming is the skill you need. However, when you are looking for particular information for answering a question, scanning would be the skill you need.
- Trying to understand the whole passage and spending time for that is not wise.
- A ‘Rich Vocabulary’ is almost a must.
- Finding the ‘Keywords’ quickly and accurately does matter a lot.
- A ‘Good Knowledge’ of English grammar is essential.
- A lot of practice maintaining time would make you an eligible candidate.
- Expertise in answering every type of question holds the key to success.
- Reading a lot of texts, which replicate the passages in the test would make you better prepared.
- Mock tests are extremely useful. You would get a lot of sample test materials from the Internet.
- Quick Reading is very important, but it needs a lot of practice to ‘Reading and understanding’ at the same time.
- You can practice reading the questions first, then start skimming for answers. For some candidate, it works better than reading the passage first and then reading the questions. Follow the method that suits best for you.
- While preparing yourself, do take the help of the study materials available on the Internet for the ‘Reading Test.’
- During the test, before you start reading the passages, read the ‘Instructions’ with full concentration. Strictly follow every instruction; it is immensely important.
- It is often found that the sequence of questions follows the information in the passages. It would make your life easier, so have a keen eye and watch out for this.
- While preparing for the test, experiment with different strategies that you might find on the Internet. There are no hard-and-fast rules about the best strategy. Stick to the one that works best for you; the one which works for somebody else, might not work with you, though.
- Often students/candidates lose concentration midway. If you are prone to losing concentration, work extra hard or even take suggestions from some experienced persons.
- While writing quickly, often candidates are found to misspell even most common words. If it is true with you, try to amend yourself.
- Practice becoming exact with your answer, as every word gets counted.
- Everybody has some strengths and some weaknesses, use your strength at best but do rectify your weaknesses.
- Though you are advised ‘Don’t try to understand the whole passage,’ ignore this advice while preparing yourself. Because you don’t know beforehand which portion of a passage you would need to understand; so play safe.
- When you are dealing with something, it always comes to ‘Test of your Nerve.’ So if you are a nervous person keep practicing a lot; face as many mock tests as possible. I hope for the best to happen, but stay prepared for the worst.
- Knowing grammar is good, but the right application of grammatical structure during the test is something else. So practice ‘Twists and turns’ in grammar and do take the help of an expert.
- Most importantly, on the Internet and your surroundings, you find hundreds of ‘Free advice.’ Be extremely choosy for picking up the right advice that suits you.
It may sound strange to anybody that the IELTS Reading Test is not exactly a ‘Reading Test’ only. However good you may be at reading, if you can’t write the answers ‘Accurately’, you would lose marks for every mistake you make. So while preparing for the test if a candidate makes hard practice focusing on ‘Skimming and Scanning’ and ignore writing the answers it would result in a horrific outcome for certain. So anybody with the misconception as mentioned above should perceive well about the fact that to score high on the reading test, a skill of writing good English with a great range of vocabulary, good hold on the English grammar, accuracy in Spelling all are needed apart from expertise in reading.
In the ‘Reading Test’ candidates initially, require to write answers on the question papers and then finally on the answer sheet. Remember, during the test, there would be no extra time allotted for transferring the answer on the answer sheet. Hence every second gets counted; any wastage of time would result in lowering the score. Another point worthy of mentioning is that reading too fast may cause you to miss some important points thus compelling you reading again. So, if you get a chance to talk to a successful candidate, you would understand that he took a well-balanced approach. Putting much stress on one issue and ignoring others cannot bring success. Only a well-balanced approach, both while preparing and while taking the test is yielding for anybody and everybody