What is the IELTS Reading Test?

Welcome to the IELTS Reading Preparation Course

You've taken the first step to getting the score you need for the IELTS Test - congratulations!
This short course has been designed to give you an excellent idea of what to expect in the test and to help you be as ready as you can be in order to succeed.


At English One we have been preparing students to take the IELTS test for over a decade; and we’ve taken all the information, strategies, tips and tricks we’ve shared with our students and saved them here for you to learn too. What follows is a comprehensive collection of useful information that you will be able to use during the test to reach the band that you need.

Here’s what we’re going to share with you:

  • What you can expect in each section of the test
  • Which of your English skills you’ll be tested on
  • The different types of questions you will encounter during the test
  • The specific strategies you need to use to approach each question type in the test
  • How to best deal with the different challenges you’ll encounter during the test

What is the IELTS Reading Test?

The Reading test consists of 40 questions and you have 60 minutes to complete the test. A variety of question types are used in order to test a wide range of reading skills. These include:

  • reading for gist
  • reading for main ideas
  • reading for detail
  • skimming
  • scanning
  • understanding a logical argument
  • recognizing writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose
  • completing a table, diagram or a summary

The Academic Reading Test

The Academic version includes three long texts which cover a variety of topics like history, biology, technology, science etc. While the subject matter is quite academic, it has been selected for a non-specialist audience. In other words, you don’t need to have any knowledge of the topics to succeed. However, the texts are recognizably appropriate for anyone entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or those seeking professional registration. During the test you may encounter technical terms, charts or graphs. The texts are authentic as they are taken from books, journals, reports, magazines and newspapers.

For each of the three passages, you will be expected to answer between 10 to 14 questions.

The General Training Reading Test

The General Training version requires you to read extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English speaking environment. The main difference is that the passages in the General Training test are shorter and have simpler vocabulary.

The test gets progressively more challenging. The first section usually has two to three short and simple articles that relate to everyday life. In the second section you can expect two short passages that typically relate to work in some way. And the third section commonly has a more abstract or academic topic.

While the General test has slightly easier questions, you do need to get more of them correct in order to reach a higher band.


NEXT: What you need to know about the Reading test in order to achieve the score you want

IELTS Listening Test Guide

IELTS Listening Test: An Introduction

What you need to be aware of for the test.

This lesson will help you to be better prepared for the Listening Test. The idea here is to make sure that you know what to expect from the test, and what actions to take during the test.


  • Understand main ideas and specific details
  • Recognize the attitudes, opinions and purpose of people speaking
  • Follow the development of a conversation, process or argument
  • Recognize paraphrased information
  • Understand a range of different accents and pronunciation features
  • Multi-task


  • You can expect a variety of question types:
    • Completion (notes, form, summary, table, chart)
    • Diagram/Map Labelling
    • Matching
    • Multiple Choice
    • Short Answer
  • You will have one minute to look at your questions before each recording begins.
  • There are 4 sections and 4 recordings. Each recording will only be played once .
  • You will lose points for spelling a word incorrectly.
  • You may hear US or UK spelling. Write what you hear if they spell it out for you.
  • For short answers, you may use either spelling in your answers, though you must be consistent (choose either US or UK, not both).


If you miss an answer, do not go back to it! You do not want to lose your connection to the audio otherwise you will miss all the answers that follow.
If you find that you have missed information, when you transfer your answers to the answer sheet, take a guess. If you leave an answer blank, you are guaranteed to get 0 points. If you guess, at least you have a chance to get even a partial answer.
If you don’t know an answer, do not leave a blank space on your answer sheet. Not only are you guaranteed zero points for a blank answer, but you put the rest of your answers at risk, too. If you leave a blank space on the answer sheet, in your rush to transfer your answers, you are very likely to accidentally write the answer to a different question in that blank space. This would make all the answers that come afterwards, incorrect. It seems like a silly mistake to make, but it is very common. The stress of the time limit and the intense focus on the answers and spelling, can lead to making simple mistakes which will adversely affect your band score.

IELTS listening test

NEXT: Begin learning about the different question types in the test

Matching Type Questions

Matching Type Questions

In this lesson we look at questions that require you to make connections between different pieces of information.
Matching tasks: Don’t cross out the options you’ve already used. This may seem like a fast way of doing the task but it can lead to mistakes. Instead, reconsider all the options for each question. This way you’ll have the opportunity to correct your own mistakes by seeing if each word option is a better fit for another question.

IELTS Reading Test Guide

IELTS Reading Test: An Introduction

What you need to be aware of for the test.

This lesson will help you to be better prepared for the Reading Test. The idea here is to make sure that you know what to expect from the test, and what actions to take during the test.


  • The questions get progressively harder as you advance through the test: so aim to spend less time on the first two sections so that you have more time for the hardest section at the end.
  • The Reading test isn’t just about reading – it’s about vocabulary too. Most of the answers will be paraphrases of the questions or synonyms of the words you encounter: you need to be constantly increasing your vocabulary range while preparing for the IELTS test. (Here are two useful strategies to improving your vocabulary: article 1, article 2)
  • But also don’t stress about the vocabulary: you don’t need to understand every word in the sentence to understand the meaning of the sentence.
  • Pay attention to any glossaries at the end of the passage: sometimes there will be important words in a passage that are considered specific knowledge of a certain subject, so a glossary is included to help you. 
  • Don’t read the text first: start by reading the questions – this will save you time and also help you locate possible answers as you’re reading.
  • After you’ve read the questions, skim the text of the passage: you’re just looking for answers – you don’t need to read every word of the passage.
  • Underline important phrases or sentences while you’re reading: this will help you save time locating answers later.
  • Typically the answers follow in the order of the text: so when you find the answer to, for example, question 3 – you know that the answer for question 4 will come next in the passage.
  • Spelling counts! Make sure that you don’t make any spelling mistakes when writing your answers. Use the text to guide you where you can.
  • Try answer every question: there are two reasons for this – firstly, you aren’t penalized for incorrect answers so choose the most likely answer. Secondly, if you leave an answer empty you may fill in the rest of the answers in the wrong places!
  • When you can, cross out the obviously wrong answers: this can prevent you getting confused and save you time.
  • Don’t spend too much time on a challenging question: if you’re struggling to answer a question, move on and come back to it later. Because you only have 60 minutes you don’t want to spend too much time on one question and then not have enough time for the rest.
  • If you come across a subject in the test that you know well, ignore your knowledge of the topic: the test is checking your knowledge of the text, not the subject matter. Don’t let something you already know influence your answers.
  • Make use of the many IELTS practice tests available to you: like anything in life, you need to practice in order to get better. Use our list of good practice tests to improve your IELTS skills and get used to working in exam conditions.
  • Use practice tests both ways: firstly, do a practice test under exam conditions (give yourself 60 minutes to complete it). This will show you your score and any improvements you’ve made. Secondly, do practice tests without a timer so you can focus on improving your skills.

NEXT: Begin learning about the different question types in the test