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【Tips for IELTS】Reading



The University Timesで好評連載中の「IELTSテストのコツ」。こちらはBritish Councilの人気講師が毎回執筆しています。「英語版で読んでみたい!」という声にお応えして、英語版をシリーズで公開します。


今回はThe University TimesのVol.34で掲載された、「Reading」に関して【Tips for IELTS】です。

Tips for IELTS Reading


The Reading section of the IELTS exam can be one of the most challenging parts of the test. Unfortunately there is no magic wand that can be waved to suddenly achieve a high-band score. However, there are some things you can do when preparing for the exam to maximise your chances of getting a good mark. Keep reading to find out how.


What’s the difference between Academic and General Training Reading?

The main difference between the Academic and General Training Reading papers is the topic. The Academic Reading test is taken from journals, newspapers and magazines and has more of an academic slant, whereas the General Training versions of the IELTS Reading is less specific and tests English ‘survival’ skills.


However, although they differ in terms of topic, the format of the exam (40 questions in 60 minutes) and the way you approach the test remain the same.


How do I actually read in the IELTS exam?

This sounds like an odd question. However, many people do not realize that reading under exam conditions is different to doing so for pleasure. In the exam, you’re reading to answer the question and nothing else. This involves breaking habits like ensuring you understand every word, and being able to skip words that aren’t familiar to you or don’t seem important to the meaning of the text. You already do this in your own language (do you really understand all the kanji in the newspaper?) and you just need to transfer this skill into English.


What do I read first, the questions or the text?

This is not a straightforward question to answer, as it really depends on what works best for you. Some people advocate reading the text very quickly to get a general idea (skimming – see below) before analysing the questions and then re-reading the text to find the answers (scanning – see below). Others prefer to go straight into analysing the questions and looking for the answers, without skimming the text first. This is a more economical way of using your time (i.e. if you’re running out of time), but you won’t get as much of an idea of what the text is about and you may need to spend more time scanning the text for the answer.


Stronger readers may be able to answer questions accurately without skimming first but if you’re less confident of your abilities, it may be a good idea to take more time to skim the text before you tackle the questions. To determine which approach suits you best, why not try both ways under timed conditions and see which one gets you the best score in the fastest time?


How do I skim?

As mentioned above, skimming an article involves getting the gist of the text’s content at speed without trying to answer any questions. This can be done at first by looking at the title and subtitles, pictures and/or graphs and predicting what the topic of the article is. Next, quickly read the first paragraph, which is sometimes a useful summary of the whole text. Then, start skimming the rest of the paragraphs. To do this, focus on the topic sentence, which contains the main idea of the entire paragraph, and which is often the first sentence of the paragraph. Then read the rest of the paragraph quickly to check that you have a clear picture of its content, and then move on to the following topic sentence at the top of the next paragraph. It is important to remember this should be done at speed, ensure you resist the temptation to read/understand every word.


How do I actually find the answers?

After analysing the question, there are two other reading techniques that come into play. First of all, scanning entails quickly searching through the text for specific information such as numbers, figures and names. To cite an example, should the question ask:


“In what year did the Titanic sink?”


A strong reader would identify the key words in the question then quickly search the text for the answer. A useful thing to know in this situation is that the key words rarely appear in the actual answer in this case, and the answer may contain synonyms such as:


“….the mighty vessel perished on the night of 14th April 1912.”


It’s also important to be wary of distractors (such as the date the Titanic was built) and avoid word-spotting, which is assuming that words that are found in both the text and in the questions automatically link the two.


Finally, reading for detail involves finding the section of the text relevant to the question, and reading it carefully and in depth to find the answer.


What kinds of questions might I have to answer?

There are several different types of question that might be encountered on the IELTS Reading test, the most common of which are outlined in the table below:


Type of exercise
Best reading approach
Completing the gaps in a summary, table or diagram.Scanning for the missing information
Matching headings to sections of the textSkimming to understand the gist, then reading for detail to check.
True/False/Not Given statementsScanning to locate the relevant section, then reading for detail to find the answer.
Short answer questionsScanning for the relevant information
Multiple-choice questionsScanning to locate the relevant information, then reading for detail to find the answer.


Any other advice?

Here are some final tips that could be useful in your preparation:


  • Don’t leave any answers blank but don’t spend too long on any question. If you don’t know the answer, move on.
  • You must transfer your answers to your answer paper in the 60 minutes. There is no extra time for this.
  • Don’t just do practice tests; try to build your vocabulary and read in English for pleasure to practice reading quickly.
  • Spelling in the exam must be accurate. Don’t forget to pay attention to plurals and singulars in particular – this can lose you valuable points.


By Tony Clark & Peter Brereton







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