Choosing a Title Type Questions

Choosing a Title

These question types require you to determine a main objective or choose an appropriate title for an entire text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Identify the overall purpose or theme of what you are reading
  • Identify meaning based on context
The main strategy to meet both objectives is identifying the keywords, both in the text as well as in the answer statements.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

The main aim of any organized writing piece will present the topic and aim of the writing in the first two paragraphs.  Conclusions about the topic are summed up in the last paragraph. Don’t waste time reading the body of the text to answer these question types.

SKIM = Reading every other word and line quickly to pick up on main ideas and themes (gist)

SCAN = Search and underline keywords that determine specific meaning or context

Don’t look at individual words. Look at the groups of words and phrases together, they will help you understand the specific details which help build context.

Grammar can be your guide.  In English, we can express purpose by using the infinitive form of a verb  (to determine, to prove).

Answer Strategy:

Read each statement for detail and understanding.  The answers are sometimes deceivingly similar but obviously different, so you need to fully understand each statement in order to choose the correct statement.

Identify the keywords.  Look for verbs, verb phrases and infinitives of purpose.

Once you have identified keywords you must be able to compare them to each other.  How are they different and what do they mean in context? For example; to describe vs to examine.  What is  the main difference in meaning?

Then go back to your keywords and phrases from the text and decide if they better support a description or a detailed examination.

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Classification Type Questions

Classification Questions

These question types require you to sort information.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Comprehend contrasting and comparative details
The main strategies are to activate your vocabulary and paraphrasing skills.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

First, skim the entire text to get a general understanding (gist) of the writing.

You should only spend 60 – 90 seconds in reading the whole text.

Underlining key words is not necessary for this question type.

Answer Strategy:

After skimming the article, look at the statements in the question.

Quickly go back to the text and scan for words and phrases related to those statements in the text.

Compare the answer statements to what is written in the text:

  • Don’t expect the words or phrases to be exactly the same
  • Look for synonyms (words that have similar meaning) and antonyms (words that have opposite meaning)
  • Look for negations of verbs (not) and adjectives (not+adj, un+adj)
  • Look at groups of words and phrases, not just individual words
  • If you still are not sure about an answer, using the process of elimination (what you are sure the answer can’t be) is the best strategy.
NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

List Selection Type Questions

List Selection

These question types require you to match words, information or names from a list to statements based on a text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Scan for gist
  • Scan a text for specific information
  • Identify supporting information or details
  • Understand paraphrasing
  • Use cross-referencing and back-referencing
The main strategies are scanning, identifying paraphrasing and referencing.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

The information in the text will be organized in the same order as the statements you have to match.  So, you will want to begin with the first statement and the first paragraph of the text.  Using the keywords and phrases you highlighted in the answer statements and list, you should be able to locate the corresponding paragraph quite quickly.

Start by scanning the text for gist first.  This will help you to get an idea of how the information is organized in relation to the statements as well as the list you must choose from.  The second time, scan for the specific keywords/phrases which you had highlighted. To increase speed, look beyond individual words/phrases and start looking for paraphrased information that relates to your statements.

If you want to increase your speed further, try working on your speed reading.  To speed read, you would do the two steps mentioned above, at the same time.  Try to scan for gist, keywords and paraphrases all at the same time.  Don’t try reading every word.  It will take a lot of effort to speed read, as your brain must do three processes simultaneously, but with practice, you will find that it becomes natural.

Answer Strategy:

As always, we first start with the statements, reading each for gist and underlining keywords and phrases.  You also want to look at the possible answers in the list.  What kind of information is there?  Names, dates, facts?  Based on the statements and the list, you should have a very general idea about the topic of the passage.

Then you approach the text as you have done so before.  Identifying the keywords/phrases and paraphrased information which is similar to the statements. The good news is, the statements will be in the same order as the information in the text.  So start with the first statement and the beginning of the text, then move down.  You also need to scan the text to identify the location of the names/dates/facts from the list, circling the relevant information so you can refer back to it without wasting time.

Referencing Skills:

Because there are three parts to these question types: the statements, the list and the passage, referencing and comparing the information is critical in choosing the right answer.  You have to have a clear understanding of what the statements say and what the text expresses.  Then you must make sure that you are matching it to the correct information in the list.  To do this, we need to constantly compare each part to one another.

  1. The first technique is cross-referencing. To do this we first compare the statements to the text. By looking for the key ideas in the statement and then locating the same information in the text. Once you have confirmed that the two match, you then cross-reference the statement to the options in the list. When you have picked out your answer, quickly refer back to the information in the text, confirming again that the two match. When you are satisfied that all three match, mark your answer.
  2. Another technique which will help, is to back-reference. To do this, you need to compare the options in the list to the information in the text.

In the video example, the list contained names of different researchers.  The text would have discussed the different researchers throughout the text, meaning that there would not be a single, specific paragraph for each researcher.  Their names would appear in the text, in different paragraphs, many times.  You want to be able to differentiate what information in the text is specific to each researcher. So that you can correctly match the researcher (answer) to the statements.

Often times, people and information will be mentioned many times in a text.  To avoid repetition – which makes reading really boring and difficult to understand – a writer will use specific grammar and vocabulary to refer back to the same thing more than once. In order to identify when something is being referenced, you need to be aware of reference words and the other words/information they are related to.  For example, they may refer to more than one of the researchers by their names in one paragraph and then refer to them as ‘they/them/both/each’ in a different paragraph.

Here are some ways to help identify referencing in a text:

  • Paraphrasing (synonyms)
  • Subject/Object Pronouns (he/she/it)
  • Demonstratives (this/that/those)
  • Relative Pronouns/Relative Clauses (who/when/which/that)
  • Comparative/Contradictory Language (likewise/at the same time/on the contrary/conversely)
  • Clarifying Words (for example/in other words/such as)
  • Ellipsis (leaving out repetitive words or information which has already been mentioned)
NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Yes/No/Not Given & True/False/Not Given Questions

Yes/No/Not Given & True/False/Not Given

These question types require you to decide whether a statement confirms or contradicts information or opinions in a text or whether a statement contains information/opinions not included in the text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Skim and scan a text for specific information
  • Identify supporting information or details
  • Understand paraphrasing
The main strategies are skimming for specific detail/supporting information and understanding paraphrasing.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

The answers for these question types will appear in chronological order to the statements you must answer.  So, you will want to begin with the first statement and the first paragraph of the text.  Using the keywords and phrases you highlighted in the answer statements, you should be able to locate the corresponding paragraph quite quickly.

Answer Strategy:

These question types are not only the most common, but they are notoriously the most confusing.  If you do not follow the strategies, you will waste enormous amounts of time and if you overthink it, you will probably choose the incorrect answer.

True/False vs. Yes/No:

While the strategy for answering these question types are the same, there is a difference between True/False and Yes/No questions:

  • In the True/False questions, you have to decide whether the statement supports or contradicts the information in the text.  This means that you will only have to consider the facts presented.
  • In Yes/No questions, you are considering the opinions of the person who wrote the article, not the facts. Understanding what is expected of you will immediately determine your success.

Not Given:

In both types of questions, you will have the option of choosing NG, which means ‘not given’.  Basically, it means that the statement cannot be confirmed or contradicted because it is not mentioned in the text at all.

While it may seem like it will be easy to decide whether information or an opinion has been expressed in the text, it is much more difficult than you think.  Not only can the language in the statement be misleading, trying to prove something is not found in the text can be time consuming.  These are the questions where most exam takers will either lose time and/or points.

How to do it

As with most of the reading section, you want to look at the possible answers before reading the text.  Look for your keywords and phrases, underlining them for reference. Keep in mind that the answer statements go in the same chronological order as the information in the text.  So when you are ready to start skimming for more details, start with the first statement and compare it to the information in the beginning of the text.  Don’t skip around.  Look for similar keywords and phrases.

Once you have highlighted a part of the text that corresponds to the statement, read the statement and that part of the text more carefully.  Does the statement agree with the information/opinion exactly?  Don’t expect the sentences to be identical, they will be paraphrased.  So, you need to look at their meanings.  Are they expressing the same exact idea, even with different words?  If the answer is yes, then your answer will be either True or Yes.  If the statement and the text are expressing opposite or contradictory information/opinions, then your answer will be either False or No.

Of course, this will require you to be able to identify and understand paraphrasing.  Pay special attention to synonyms and antonyms.  Sometimes we think that two words have the same meaning, however, oftentimes they are only ‘near synonyms’, which means that they have similar meaning, but in certain contexts, may have very different meaning.

In the Diagram Labelling lesson, we used the example of the adjective ‘uncommon’. We might assume that because it contains the prefix ‘un’, which means not, that we can simply paraphrase by transforming uncommon into not common and it will maintain its meaning.  This is not true.  Uncommon and not common can have similar meaning in some contexts but not all. They cannot be used interchangeably, meaning that you can’t always replace uncommon with not common and express the same idea.

Having a healthy bank of vocabulary in addition to knowing how word forms affect the meaning and function of words, will help you to distinguish whether a paraphrased statement confirms or contradicts an original statement.

Also, be aware of negation, whether it is a negative verb, noun or adjective. A statement may imply that something didn’t happen (verb) or doesn’t have a certain thing (noun) or that there is not a certain quality of something (adjective). Be mindful to find supporting evidence in the text.  Sometimes, information may be presented in a positive/negative manner in the beginning of a paragraph, only to be contradicted further down the paragraph.  Being conscious of words which imply, ‘no’ or ‘not’, will help you determine whether a statement truly matches the facts or opinions expressed in the article.

Don't overthink it!
Do not assume or infer meaning where it is not stated. If the information in the statements cannot be expressly confirmed/contradicted or identified in the relevant paragraphs, then the answer is always NG. It is not uncommon to have NG for more than one answer.
NEXT: do the quizzes below to check your understanding

Short Answer Questions

Short Answer Questions

These question types require you to answer a question about specific information in a text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Scan for gist and specific information
  • Identify and understand paraphrasing
  • Paraphrase an answer
The main strategies are scanning for specific detail and paraphrasing.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

Using the keywords and phrases you have highlighted in the questions, locate the relevant information in the text as quickly as possible.  These question types require speed reading. Remember that to speed read, you you have to perform a few tasks, at the same time, while you are reading:

You want to do the following as you scan the text:

  1. To understand the gist of the text
  2. Identify the keywords/phrases/paraphrasing to locate specific/supporting  information
  3. Identify/Understand referencing.

Answer Strategy:

As usual, begin by first reading each of the questions. Underline your keywords and phrases. Pay special attention to the type of question words used in the questions (context clues), because they will tell you what kind of information you need to locate in the text.

For example:

  • Who: people
  • What: things/actions
  • Where: places/location/direction
  • When: time/dates
  • Why: reason
  • Which: one of many
  • How: describing
  • How many/much: number/quantity

Once you have considered all the clues in the questions, you move on to locating the relevant information in the text.  Using the scanning and speed reading skills, you should be able to do this part quite quickly.

Once you have located the information, you must then think about how to paraphrase it properly.  You always have to know what is expected in your answer, so read your instructions carefully.  Know your word count requirement (no more than x words).  You cannot afford to make a mistake by not following the instructions.

The answer to the questions will be very clearly represented in the text, you will not need to make one up. Instead, you will identify the answer in the text and paraphrase it so that it meets your word requirement.

The best way to paraphrase is to use word or phrase transformation. We have outlined strategies for paraphrasing in this way in previous lessons. I will just give you a quick reminder.

For example:

The information you need to use as the answer is stated in the text as: ‘…the sky is blue…’.  However, you cannot use more than two words in the answer.

Look at the word forms and word order of the text:

the sky is blue = article + noun + verb + adjective

How can we paraphrase the text to meet the requirement? In this case we simply change the word order.

blue sky = adj + noun

With this simple transformation we have come up with a grammatically correct answer that maintains the meaning of the paraphrased information from the text and meets the word count requirement.

Obviously, paraphrasing is not always so simple but you’ll find that the answers are pretty straightforward in these question types.  Being flexible with your grammar and vocabulary will help you get the right combination of words.  As you can see, you don’t need to just be able to use paraphrasing but also be able to identify when it has been used.

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple Choice Questions

These question types require you to choose the best possible answer to a question about a passage or choose an appropriate ending to complete a sentence.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Understand specific detail
  • Identify and understand paraphrasing
The main strategies are scanning for specific detail and understanding paraphrasing.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

The text for these question types is usually shorter than the other texts or articles and is called a passage.  The best strategy is to first read through each of the questions/statements and all the possible answers before looking at the passage.  Once you have highlighted the keywords and phrases, begin scanning the passage for any words or phrases that are the same.  Underline or circle them.  This will help you to get a good idea of how the information in the passage is organized, which will help you to better find the specific details which will make up the answers.  Remember that the goal is to not have to read the entire passage.  We just want to use it to choose our answers.  Although, you may find it necessary to skim parts of the passage in order to confirm your choice, especially when you think more than one option is possible.

Answer Strategy:

Begin by first reading the questions or incomplete statements and all the possible answers.  As you read through them, underline the keywords and phrases that you will use as you scan the text.  You have used this strategy many times by now, so you should be able to move quite quickly.

After you have highlighted the same keywords in the passage, you should have an idea of how the information in the text is organized.  Now you can more easily locate the details in the text and begin comparing the information to the questions and answers.

A good strategy to use on all multiple answer question types, is the process of elimination. If you can identify specific answer options that are obviously incorrect or irrelevant, cross them out on your exam paper so that you avoid looking at them.

The possibilities that remain will require a bit more thought to determine which is correct.  Oftentimes, they will both seem correct or seem to express the same idea.  However, this is a trick.  There is always a definitive answer.  The exam is purposely challenging you to think critically.  Usually, they will use words or phrases that are very similar, yet there is a tiny difference in meaning which makes a lot of difference.

The key to determining which answer is correct is to consider how the information stated in the text has been paraphrased in the answer.  In this particular case, a healthy bank of synonymous/antonymous vocabulary is really good to rely on.  Knowing how one idea can be expressed or contradicted in different ways will help you understand if the paraphrased sentence has the same or different meaning to what is in the passage.

You will also need to carefully skim the information around the parts of the passage you think the answer is in for answer confirmation.  Context must remain the same in paraphrasing so it is important to have a clear idea of the statements being made in both the text and the question/answer.

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Matching Sentence Endings

Matching Sentence Endings

These question types require you to match the beginning of a set of sentences to a list of sentence endings.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Scan for gist and specific information
  • Identify supporting information or details
  • Identify and understand paraphrasing
  • Cross-reference
  • Use contextual clues
The main strategies are speed reading and cross-referencing.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

The information in the text will be organized in the same order as the sentences you have to match.  So, you can begin with sentence 1.  Using the keywords and phrases you highlighted in the sentence halves, you should be able to locate the corresponding paragraph quite quickly.

The main goal here is to locate the relevant information as quickly as possible.  These question types require speed reading. Remember that to speed read, you have to perform a few tasks, at the same time, while you are reading:

You want to do the following as you scan the text:

  1. Understand the gist of the text
  2. Identify the keywords/phrases/paraphrasing to locate specific/supporting information
  3. Identify/understand referencing

Answer Strategy:

This is a very popular question type on the IELTS test, so it is a good to get a lot of practice with it – especially since it requires you to read very quickly.

As always, begin with the sentence halves: the beginnings and the list of endings. Highlight your keywords/phrases.

Compare the sentence beginning with the possible endings. Try to use context to help you decide if the two halves are related. Take note on which ones could possibly be linked before reading.

Use your grammar clues to help you decide if any of the options listed do not match any of the beginnings, based on their sentence structure.

For example: if one of the possible endings begins with and infinitive form (to + verb), but only one of the sentence beginnings end with a verb pattern that requires an infinitive, then you have a good indication of them being a match.

You can also use your grammar clues to eliminate the endings that don’t match to any of the sentence beginnings.  The process of elimination is always a key strategy for multiple choice questions.

After you have worked with the possible matches, quickly move on to the text to confirm your ideas.  Try to use your speed reading skills to pick out the keywords/paraphrasing and locate the relevant information.  The statements and the text are in the same order so start at the top.

The sentence halves will be made up of  paraphrased versions of the information in the text, so keep your eyes open for synonymous words and phrases in all three parts (beginnings, endings and text).

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Matching Paragraph Information

Matching Paragraph Information

These question types require you to match information in a question or statement to information located in a specific paragraph in the text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Scan for gist and specific information
  • Identify supporting information or details
  • Identify and understand paraphrasing
  • Speed reading
The main strategies are scanning to speed read.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

The information in the text will not be organized in the same order as the statements you have to match.  So, you can begin matching the statements and paragraphs in any order.  Using the keywords and phrases you highlighted in the questions/statements, you should be able to locate the corresponding paragraph quite quickly.

The main goal here is to highlight the correct information as quickly as possible.  These question types require speed reading. Remember that to speed read, you have to perform a few tasks at the same time while you are reading.

You want to do the following as you scan the text:

  1. Understand the gist of the text
  2. Identify the keywords/phrases/paraphrasing to locate specific/supporting  information
  3. Identify/understand referencing

Answer Strategy:

This is a very popular question type in the IELTS test.  It is a good type to get a lot of practice on, especially since it requires you to read very quickly.

As always, begin with the statements.  Highlight your keywords/phrases.  Then, quickly move on to the text.  Try to use your speed reading skills to pick out the keywords and match the relevant information.  The statements and the text are not in the same order, so match the text to the statements as you come across it.  Don’t waste time trying to do it in order.

The statements will be paraphrased versions of the information in the text, so keep your eyes open for synonymous words and phrases to the ideas in the statements.

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Matching Headings

Matching Headings

These question types require you match a headline which accurately describes each paragraph of a text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Understand the main idea (gist) of specific information
  • Identify key information based on contextual clues
  • Summarize general information
The main strategies are scanning and using keywords for general understanding.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

These question types require you to work backwards. The best strategy here is to limit the time you spend reading the actual text.  You want to rely on the headlines to give you as much information as possible.  We really only want to refer to the text to organize and confirm our answers.

The primary strategy for using the text is to scan the paragraphs for words/phrases that you have identified in the headline.  Once you have located the word/phrase in a specific paragraph, quickly scan the entire paragraph looking for other words/phrases that support the main idea expressed in the headline.  If you cannot find any other words to support the option, then move on to a different paragraph.  Don’t waste too much time trying to overthink an answer.  Don’t add or infer meaning where it has not been expressed.  If you do find more evidence to support the headline, then quickly mark your answer and move on.

Answer Strategy:

So, let’s first look at the possible answers. Keep in mind that obviously the headlines will not be in the same order as the text.  Usually there will also be one headline that is extra and does not relate to either of the paragraphs.

Read each headline carefully so that you have a clear understanding of what is being said even though you have not yet read the text.

To gain awareness of the topic of the text, look for words/phrases that appear in all the headlines.  In the video, we saw that each headline mentioned; research, extraterrestrials or planets.  Though we have no idea what the article says, we know for sure what it is about based on those three words.  We can make certain assumptions or predictions based on this understanding alone.  We can also bring forth any passive vocabulary that we already know and might expect to see in the text.

Once you have compared the headlines for similarities, it is now time to focus in on the differences.  To do this we must identify the keywords in each headline.  The best keywords to look for here, are the words/phrases that indicate descriptions, explanations, actions, facts/figures, opinions, purpose or conclusions.  Highlight the words so that you know what to scan for in the text.

Once you have highlighted your keywords, focus on one headline to begin matching.  Start with the headlines which seem to have an obvious position in the text.  For example, if your headline uses the keywords; ‘the results were…, the conclusions of…’, then there is a good chance that those details will be contained towards the end of the text, as this is where information is usually summed up.

Scan each paragraph in the text, looking for words/phrases which are similar to the keywords you already highlighted  in the headline.  After you think you have found the right paragraph, scan the entire paragraph again, this time looking for phrases and ideas that further support the meaning expressed in the headline.  If the paragraph does not seem to match that headline, don’t keep re-reading it over again, trying to make it fit.  Quickly move on to another paragraph for a better match.

Be careful not to overthink it.  Don’t infer meaning or draw conclusions that have not been expressed in the paragraph.  Remember that you likely have one headline that will not match any of the paragraphs.  If you can’t find a good match, maybe it is because there isn’t one.  Don’t let this trick waste your valuable time.

Remember that each headline is basically just a summary of the paragraphs.  We don’t need to read for the specific details, we only need to find the headline that best describes the information contained in each paragraph.  Your success will come down to highlighting the right keywords, a good grasp of paraphrasing, quickly picking out words in a paragraph and comparing general meaning.

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Diagram Labelling

Diagram Labelling

These question types require you to label parts of a diagram or fill in missing information in a diagram.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Comprehend detailed information about a process in a text
  • Use contextual or structural clues to predict information
  • Paraphrase
The main strategies are to activate your grammar and paraphrasing skills.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

First, skim the entire text to get a general understanding (gist) of the writing.

Compare the parts of the diagram to the text and try to locate the information in the paragraphs.

Answer Strategy:

Take a little bit of time to examine the diagram or graphic. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I see?
  2. What is it showing?
  3. What is happening?
  4. What is it doing?
  5. Where does it start and finish?

As you ask yourself these questions, take note of the words that come to mind.  Try to apply the words you remember reading in the text to the image.

When confronted with gap-fill answers, the best way to quickly narrow down the possibilities is to look at the structure of the sentences.  Being able to predict what kind of word or words are possible will help you decide on the right answer.

Grammar clues to look for:

  • Articles
  • Word order
  • Verb patterns
  • Active or Passive Voice
  • Comparative language
  • Language that expresses purpose, cause or result

Constantly refer back to the areas of the text which correspond to the parts of the diagram.  Scan for information that is the same or similar to what is missing in the gaps.

A QUICK INTRODUCTION TO PARAPHRASING

Sometimes you will find that the missing words (answers) can be used exactly as they appear in the text.  However, sometimes you have to paraphrase the words in order to meet the answer requirement (eg: No more than two words)

If you find the information in the text is more than you are allowed to write, you need to apply your knowledge of word forms (verb, noun, adjective, adverb forms of a word) to transform the information.  This can be as easy as changing a verb to a noun or adjective into an adverb, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Paraphrasing Parts of a Process:

If the text refers to certain aspects of a process, for example, ‘the flow of water’ and the answer only allows you to use two words maximum, try transforming the words from ‘the flow of water’(noun + preposition + noun)  to ‘water flow’ (compound noun).

More Complex Paraphrasing:

Sometimes, getting the right answer is a bit more challenging.  In this case, you need to fully understand context and really examine the grammar structures of the information as it is written in the text and how it is written in the diagram.  Paraphrasing can be difficult but by using grammar you can manage to find the right answers..

For example:

The text says:  ‘…the result of the test was not common among other researchers’.

The answer says:  The test garnered ______________ among researchers.

Instructions say: Use No More than Two Words

Compare the structures of both sentences. We know that ‘garnered’ is the verb so it must be followed by an object noun.  In the text, the subject is ‘the result of the test’, so we can assume that the object of the answer must be ‘the result’ since ‘The test’ is the subject.

However, we cannot simply write ‘the result’ as this would make the statement read as:

‘The test garnered the result among researchers’.

This is NOT the same as the information in the text.

What we need to do is use the words from the text in a way that follows the structure of the answer statement without changing the meaning. We accomplish this through changing word forms.

Word Transformation:

Compare the sentence structures of the text and the answer.

TEXT: The result of the test (subject) was (verb) not common (negative adjective) among (adverb) other researchers (object).

ANSWER: The test (subject) garnered (verb) __________________ among (adverb) researchers (object).

So what does the answer need to be a complete sentence? An object!  By looking at the text, we know that the object has to be the ‘result’.  Yet, simply using the word result won’t be a complete answer as it still does not match the contextual meaning in the text.  So we have to modify the noun result.

We can modify nouns with adjectives.

Which adjective did they use in the text?  Not common.

What other adjective has the same meaning as not common? Uncommon, right? No!

Uncommon does not have the same meaning as not common.  Uncommon is closer in meaning to rare or unusualNot common, in this context, means not shared or not similar.

So, you need to explore your vocabulary bank for suitable synonyms for the words and phrases used in the text.

Not common = different, individual, varied, dissimilar, mixed, unalike, non-identical.

Now, look again for similar words or synonyms that may have already been used in the text.  Look at the sentences just before or after, as the text usually provides an alternative for you to use. Are any of them a good match?  If so, use that word/phrase, or a form of that word.

For example, the paragraph may go on to say: ‘..since the conclusions of the test were mixed…’.

So the answer must be something like ‘mixed result’, right? No!

We can’t forget our basic grammar rules. Making simple mistakes will keep you from getting points even when you know the right answer.

In this case, we need to remember the rules for Plural Nouns.

Context implies that many researchers (plural noun) ran the same test but did not get a singular result, so we need to transform the singular object noun, result, into a plural noun by adding -s.

Finally, we would complete the gap as: The test garnered mixed results among researchers.

Now we have satisfied the two-word answer requirement, completed the sentence in a way that reflects the text information exactly and is grammatically correct.

IELTS word count tips
Numbers and hyphenated words = counted as one word.
Contractions = counted as two words.
.

Paraphrasing takes exceptional skills!
Do not try to paraphrase for the first time during the exam. You need to begin practicing from the very beginning. You will be required to recognize the use of paraphrasing in all 4 sections of the IELTS exam and you will be expected to use paraphrasing in the Reading, Writing and Speaking sections of the exam. It is advisable to seek professional help in order to make sure you can paraphrase effectively to meet your band requirement.
NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Flow Chart Completion

Flow Chart Completion

These question types require you to label parts of; or fill in missing information on a flow chart.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Sequence detailed information about a process described in a text
  • Use contextual or structural clues to predict information
  • Understand specific details
The main strategies are similar to the skills used in Diagram Labelling but with an emphasis on  prediction and scanning skills.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

First, examine the information in the flowchart. Try to understand what it is indicating. Then, very quickly, skim the entire text to get a general understanding (gist) of the writing. Take note of specific topics/themes to help understand how the information is organized within the text.

Next, compare the parts of the flowchart to the text and try to locate the same information in the paragraphs.

Once you have located the information, try to work on an answer. Don’t waste time trying to match every step in the chart to the text. Deal with what you find first, then go back to the text and scan again for any details you haven’t found. Remember that the chart and the text will not be in the same order, so it isn’t likely you will be able to complete the answers in order.

Answer Strategy:

Take a little bit of time to examine the  graphic. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I see?
  2. What is it showing?
  3. What is happening?
  4. What is it doing?
  5. Where does it start and finish?

As you ask yourself these questions, take note of the words that come to mind. Try to apply the words you remember reading in the text to the image.

Continue scanning the paragraphs of the text, looking for keywords or ideas from the chart. While the diagram will have a specific sequence, it is likely that the information in the text will be presented in mixed order.

As you start matching the paragraphs to parts of the flowchart, begin formulating your answers. Don’t wait to match all parts of the chart to the text. Once you have filled in the answers you know, go back to scanning the text for any parts you didn’t find. You don’t want to spend too much time on this task.

In the lesson on Diagram Labelling, we discussed the strategy for gap-fill answers and how the best way to quickly narrow down the possibilities is to look at the structure of the sentences. Being able to predict what kind of word or words are possible will help you decide on the right answer. We also presented a strategy for Paraphrasing. Both of those strategies apply when answering Flowchart question types. If you need to review the strategies, refer to the Tips and Strategies section of Diagram Labelling.

In flowchart question types, we want to extend our prediction skills a bit further. Beyond looking for clues to the answer through grammar, we also want to use context clues. Context clues are words and phrases that imply specific meaning and lend themselves to helping us understand something specific. Even if we have very little knowledge of the topic or process described, we can generally follow along enough to get a general understanding of whatever is happening and in what order.

Using context in conjunction with our scanning skills will help to locate information within the text faster, as well as help you with whatever paraphrasing the answer may need in order to meet the requirement (i.e., no more than two words).

In order to understand context super quickly, we need to keep our grammar/vocabulary skills operating in the background. As you scan the text and the flowchart, look for words and phrases that have really specific meaning or structure, which would be limited to a specific type of answer. Look for words/phrases that may indicate a cause, affect or result, a beginning or end, or quantity. Compound words, capitalization or italics may also be good clues that information is important.

Words That Can Help Us Understand Context and Sequence Quickly:

  • Verbs That Signal Change: increase/decrease, go/return, grow/mature/deteriorate, start/stop/begin/end, rise/fall, change/progress/become, give/take, move/follow/direct, enter/exit, save/collect/gather, narrow/widen/broaden, accelerate/slow down, make/do , cause/affect/initiate, proceed/continue
  • Multi-word Verbs:  recorded on__ , made with__, end up at __, prepare for__, result in__, 
  • Noun Phrases:  a total of___,  the purpose of___, the motion of___, the aim of__, the process/cycle of__
  • Adverbs and Adverbial Phrases: completely, adequately, totally, nearly/almost, always/never, unfortunately, continuously, simultaneously, positioned about __ up, located opposite__, transferred immediately__
  • Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases: in/on/at, to/from, for, of/ with, by, along, above/below, over/under, in front of/behind, to the right/left of__, next to__,  in addition to__, after the completion of__, in the direction of__
  • Conjunctions: because, until, when, but, so
  • Sequencers: next, once, meanwhile, as, furthermore, subsequently, initially, finally
  • Quantifiers: each, both, all, some, half, nearly all, enough, either, none of__
  • Passive Voice: is taken to__, is created by__, be converted into__, be determined by__, __is being measured 

Knowing the meaning of these types of words/phrases and being able to predict the type of words that can follow them, will help you to quickly identify the specific details you need from the text.

Once you have found the correct information, use the grammatical structure (as well as the words used by the text) to paraphrase your answer so that it meets your word count requirement.

IELTS word count tips
Numbers and hyphenated words = counted as one word.
Contractions = counted as two words.
NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Table Completion

Table Completion

These question types require you to complete gaps in a table based on information in a text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Skim for specific information
  • Complete a summary
  • Paraphrase
The main strategies are skimming for specific detail and paraphrasing.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

The text strategy for Table Completion is similar to the previous reading strategies.  We want to focus on highlighting key information to gain gist but without reading the whole text.

Highlighting keywords and phrases found in the table will help you find the relevant information quickly, giving you more time to focus on paraphrasing your answer to meet the word count requirement.

It is important to remember that the text will present the information in a different order than the table.

Answer Strategy:

Before looking for keywords and phrases, you first need to understand the table diagram.  Look at the title of the table, the way the information is categorized (look for headlines such as: names/dates, description, results, flaws) in the rows and columns. This will help you understand the information you are looking for.

As you start to look more carefully at the gaps you need to fill in, start to highlight those keywords and phrases within the sentences.  You will use these to skim the text for matching details.

But before you start skimming, consider the grammatical structures and context words in the sentences  for clues of what kinds of words could complete the sentence.  We have already gone into greater detail on how to use grammar and context to help predict answers in other Reading videos, so if you need more guidance, refer back to earlier lessons.

As a brief reminder, here are some key clues to consider:

  • Verb tense
  • Verb patterns
  • Question words
  • Negation
  • Articles
  • Plural nouns
  • Modifiers and Quantifiers
  • Comparative language
  • Language expressing cause/reason/result

Once you have picked out your keywords and have an idea of what words are possible, start skimming and scanning the text.  It helps to underline the keywords or information so that you can find them when you need them.

The information in the table will not be organized in the same order as the text.  In fact, a single paragraph could contain the answers for multiple parts of the table.  Don’t try to answer in chronological order.  Instead, let your keywords guide you to areas of the text. Extract the key information and start to match it to parts of the table.  Or, you can do the opposite.  Tackle each section of the table by scanning/skimming the text or keywords related to the information in that section of the table.

When you have identified the right information to match the sentence, you now need to paraphrase the information so that you meet your word count requirement.

Paraphrasing has been discussed at length throughout this series.  If you need a reminder of how to paraphrase, look back at the previous lessons.

The general goal of paraphrasing here is to take the words or phrases from the text and transform them into different parts of speech so that the meaning/context of the information remains the same even though the grammatical sentence structure has changed. While the idea of paraphrasing seems simple, in reality, it demands a lot of linguistic knowledge and flexibility. We have mentioned before that paraphrasing is the key strategy for all parts of the IELTS exam, and thus it is imperative that you be skilled in it. This requires a lot of practice and it is highly recommended that you get professional help in developing your paraphrasing skills.

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Sentence Completion

Sentence Completion

These question types require you to accurately complete a sentence using words (or a variation of the words) used in the text.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Understand the main idea
  • Identify key information based on grammatical and contextual clues
  • Scan a text for specific words or details
  • Use and identify paraphrasing
The main strategies are scanning and using grammatical/contextual clues clues to paraphrase.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

These question types require you to work backwards. The best strategy here is to limit the time you spend reading the actual text.  You want to rely on the gap-fill sentences to give you as much information as possible.  We really only want to refer to the text to find the relevant words to complete the sentence correctly.

The primary strategy for using the text is to scan the paragraphs for words/phrases/ideas that you have identified in the sentences.  Once you have located the word/phrase/idea in the text, quickly scan the specific paragraph looking for other words/phrases that support the main idea of the sentence. Once you confirm that the sentence is supported by the information, then spend the time necessary to formulate your answer and move on.  If you cannot find any other words/phrase/ideas to support the sentence, then move on to a different paragraph.  Don’t waste time trying to overthink an answer.  Don’t add or infer meaning where it has not been expressed.   Don’t expect to fit the words into the sentence exactly as they appear in the text.  More often than not, you will need to paraphrase the answer slightly.

Answer Strategy:

We begin by first reading the sentences that need to be completed.  Read each one carefully.  Keep in mind that the sentences are presented in the same order as the information in the text.  However, don’t assume that each paragraph in the text contains an answer.  Sometimes multiple paragraphs will be completely void of any of the information in the sentences.  On the other hand, one paragraph may contain answers for more than one of the sentences.

As you read each sentence, don’t just try to understand what it is saying (though, that is crucial) but also think about what kind of words or information could be in the gaps. Using prediction requires you to activate your passive vocabulary which increases your ability to effectively scan the paragraphs and pick out the related information.  But, prediction takes a healthy vocabulary and  a lot of grammatical skill, especially in terms of sentence structure and parts of speech.

When doing sentence completion or gap-fills, the best way to quickly narrow down the possibilities is to look at the structure of the sentences.  Being able to predict what kind of word or words are possible will help you fill the gap correctly.

Grammar clues to look for in the sentences:

  • Articles
  • Word order
  • Verb patterns
  • Passive Voice
  • Comparative language
  • Language that expresses purpose, cause or result
  • Expressions of quantity
  • Modifiers

Constantly refer back to the areas of the text which correspond to a specific sentence.  Continue scanning for information that is the same or similar, then compare what is in the text to what you see in the sentence.  Ask yourself what information is present in the paragraph but is missing from the sentence  This is a good indication of the answer. Once you identify the missing information, start thinking about how to include those words/phrases in the sentence.

For a deeper look at paraphrasing, please refer back to the Diagram Labelling lesson.

NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding

Summary Completion

Summary Completion

These question types require you to complete a summary paragraph using words provided in a word list.

QUESTIONS LIKE THESE TEST YOUR ABILITY TO:

  • Understand the main idea of a summary
  • Use vocabulary in context
The main strategies are to activate your vocabulary and use grammatical and contextual clues.

Lesson Notes

Text Strategy:

By the time you reach these question types, you will have already answered other questions based on the text so you should have a good general understanding of what the text is about.  It is not necessary that you refer back to the text in order to fill the gaps.  You only need to read the summary, in detail, and consider the possible answers in the word list provided.

Answer Strategy:

We begin by first looking at all the words in the word list provided.  It obviously helps if you know the meaning of all the words, so building your vocabulary as you prepare for IELTS is key.  As you think about each possible word, you need to consider more than just meaning, you need to also think about your grammar; i.e, parts of speech/word class (form).  By now you will have used this strategy many times to find other answers, so, try to move through these question types quickly.

When looking at the words individually, consider the following grammatical functions which may change or effect meaning:

  • Word Class (part of speech): Is it a verb?  Can it be a noun or adjective? What does the word mean in different forms?
  • -Ing Forms: Is it functioning as a continuous verb?  Is it a noun or participle adjective?
  • -Ed Forms:  Is it a regular verb or a participle adjective?
  • Modifiers: Does it describe a verb or a noun? Is it positive or negative?
Being able to identify the answers to these grammar questions forms part of your basic grammar skills
It is imperative that you are able to quickly consider questions such these as you read (and write, and speak, and listen). If you struggle to know the difference between, for example, an -ing verb, a gerund and a participle adjective, in meaning or function, then you must increase your basic grammar knowledge in order to achieve even a low band score in the exam.

Once you have considered the possible meaning and functions of the vocabulary, you next focus on the summary so you can begin plugging in the answers.

The goal is to choose quickly and correctly.  So, you don’t want to spend much time reading at all.  You should read the summary paragraph once just for a full picture of the main idea.  As you read the summary over, try to let your subconscious fill in the gap as you move through the sentences.  Between your memory of the text from previous reads, and your more recent memory of the words in the word list, your brain should naturally be trying to predict the missing word as you go along. Don’t stop reading when your brain predicts a word, just take note and keep going.

If you experienced some prediction as you read, go back to the gaps that your brain has already tried to fill.  Compare the word you have in mind to the structure of the sentence around the gap.  Does the word fit into the grammar pattern? Read the entire sentence, does it make sense?  Does the sentence match what you remember reading in the text?  If you are confident, quickly choose your answer and move on to another gap.  If you have a doubt, look at the other words available on the list.  Are there any other words which would better match the context and the grammar?  If not, don’t waste too much time doubting yourself.  Don’t overthink it.

If you weren’t able to predict naturally as you read, it is okay. You can still move quickly by using the same strategy.  Using the grammatical clues, try to narrow down the possibilities.   By identifying the sentence pattern around the gap, you should find that there may only be one or two words as possible answers.  If you cannot decide between two possible answers, move on and come back to that gap.  Often, you will see that one of the words you thought was possible in one sentence is actually the only word that could work in a different one.  As with all multiple choice questions, the process of elimination is a key strategy to use.

As always, when doing sentence completion or gap-fills, the best way to quickly narrow down the possibilities is to look at the structure of the sentence around the gap.  Being able to predict what kind of word is possible will help you choose the correction option from the word list.

Grammar clues to look for in the summary sentences:

  • Articles
  • Word order
  • Verb patterns
  • Active or Passive Voice
  • Comparative language
  • Verb Tense
  • Expressions of quantity
  • Modifiers
NEXT: do the quiz to check your understanding