Introduction to IELTS Reading
This part of the exam lasts for 60 minutes. You will have to do three sections, and answer 40 questions. You get one mark for each correct answer. The passages and the questions are on the exam paper, and you need to put your answers on an answer paper. If you have put your answers on the question paper first, you will not be given extra time to copy them onto the answer paper. You will lose marks for bad spelling and grammar in your answers.
The IELTS is more varied than many other EFL exams, and the types of question and types of reading test can change. So in the IELTS it is very important to regard the instructions as part of the test, and read them very carefully. Even if you are running out of time, do not try to answer the questions before you are sure that you understand what you have to do.
The questions too can be of many different types. You might get multiple choice (usually you need to choose one of four options, or you might be given a statement and asked whether – according to the text – this information is true, false, or not given). You may have to give short answers or put missing words into a sentence. (With these last two, check carefully how many words you can write, and remember that this total includes articles and prepositions, but not punctuation.)
You might also be asked to select titles for the different parts of the text, fill in a chart or a table, or locate answers in a paragraph. (For this the paragraphs are numbered, and remember, the information you need will probably not be described with the words used in that paragraph.) You might also be asked to name the paragraph when the writer given an opinion about something. With this and with finding answers, you may have a choice which says that the information is not given in any of the paragraphs.
Each passage might have questions of one, two, three or four of the question types listed above. You almost always have at least two types.
Remember, with all reading exercises, it is a good idea to look at the questions before reading the passage. Then when you see what might be a possible answer in the test you can remember it and go back to it again when you start answering the questions. In the IELTS reading, time is always a problem. You should not divide the time into three 20 minute sections, but rather give slightly less time to the first test (16-18 minutes) and more to the last test (20-23 minutes).
The reading is either the Academic or the General Training module. You cannot mix up your modules and take (for instance) the General Training reading module and the Academic writing module. When you enrol to do the exam, you must say whether you are doing the General Training of the Academic vesrion of the exam, and you will only do the reading from the version you have selected. Therefore you only need to read the information about both modules if you are not sure which version of the exam you want to do. Otherwise, you only need to look at the information about your version of the exam.
Academic Reading module.
There are theee passages which together contain between 2,000 and 3,000 words, though the three passages will not all be the same length. For example one ‘passage’ might have a diagram or a graph without much text and you will be given questions that test whether you have understood the information being shown. (If any of the words in the diagram are unusual or technical, you will be given an explanation of the meanings.)
Another passage will be the sort of thing that you might find in a magazine or a book. This will be ‘real’ material (material that actually was published somewhere) and is chosen from things that would interest a person studying at university, or is the sort of thing that teachers require their students to read.
One passage is always an argument. Here ‘argument’ means that the writer has an opinion about something, and it trying to prove that this opinion is right. You do not have to disagree or agree with the opinion, but the questions will check that you have understood what the writer is trying to say, and you have understood the way that he has tried to prove his opinion.
With all the passages, you need to make sure that you understand what the text is about and how it is put together. (i.e. Whether it is a narrative, an argument, or presenting facts.)
General Training Reading module
Unlike the academic section, which has three passages of text (or two passages and a ‘non verbal’ section such as a graph or a diagram), the three sections of the General Training module can each have several shorter texts.
Section 1 will have two or three texts. These are from the sort of thing that you would need to understand if you were living in an English-speaking country. For example you might get the sort of instructions you would find on a sign, an advertisement, or part of an instruction manual for a product. You might also find texts from books or magazines. to answer the questions you will have to prove that you can find the important information in these texts, and are not confused by things like idioms or ‘headline’ English.
The second section is often a bit harder, so give it more time. This time there will probably be one or two texts, usually from an instruction manual, or (for example) from a booklet welcoming you to your new job and explaining how the system works.
Section three is generally a single text. It is usually the sort of reading you might find in a magazine. This is often a narrative or a description, though an interview is possible. Again this section is generally harder than the two previous sections, so allow more time to complete it.
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