How Do I Score Well on IELTS® Reading?

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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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The International English Language Testing System (IELTS®) is a standardized test developed in 1989 used to determine an individual’s proficiency in using the English language. The reading portion of the test specifically focuses on your practical skills when reading material written in the English language. The key to doing well on the IELTS® reading test is practice. Developing a habit of skimming and scanning written material will also help improve your score. Your score will also depend upon your ability to follow instructions and finish all questions.

Not a test of your reading comprehension per se, the IELTS® reading test instead tests your ability to find relevant information within the written paragraphs. The most effective way to improve your score on the IELTS® reading test is to practice your reading skills. You can do this by making sure you read every day with a particular focus on factual material, such as newspaper stories. Have a friend quiz you on the important facts contained in various newspaper or magazine articles. You can also find a variety of sample IELTS® reading tests on the Internet, and using those practice tests can help you improve your score.


The skills of skimming and scanning are important when taking the IELTS® reading test. It is not necessary for you to read and understand every word in a testing paragraph, but you will need to have a general idea of what the paragraph is saying and be able to find key words that relate to the questions. To do this, you can briefly skim the questions first to get an idea of what type of information you will be looking for, then skim through the paragraph, underlining or circling any key words or information that relate to the questions you just read. After you have done this, read each question more carefully and scan the paragraph to find the answers you are looking for, focusing on key words or their synonyms.

It is easy to get bogged down in a particular question and to keep reading and rereading a paragraph in order to find the answer. It’s not recommended that you do this, though, as you will lose valuable time that could be used to answer other questions. If you can’t quickly find the answer to a question, move on, and you might have a chance to come back to it later.

There are 40 questions to answer in 60 minutes on the IELTS® reading test. It is important for your score that you answer all the questions. You don’t lose points for wrong answers, and if you don't know an answer, it is always better to guess at a multiple choice answer than to leave it blank. While you are allowed to write on the question pages, remember also to put your answers directly on the answer sheet because you will not be given time to transfer the answers later on.

Make sure you get plenty of rest the night before your test, and eat a good, healthy breakfast in the morning. Wear comfortable, layered clothing so that you will be prepared to adjust if the room is either hot or cold. Most people get nervous before this type of test, but try not to let your nerves get the best of you. Remember, you are not expected to get every answer right, so don’t worry if you come across a question you can’t answer. Just take your best guess and move on.


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