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British Council with IELTS, IELTSの情報, Tips for IELTS

2014年03月24日

【Tips for IELTS】Reading

tips_for_IELTS

 

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.29で掲載された、「Reading」に関して【Tips for IELTS】です。

 

Tips for IELTS Reading

 

In this article, we will look at ways of preparing your reading skills so you are ready for the test.  In order to get a good score in the reading section of IELTS, you need to have:

 

  • A high reading speed – you will have to read up to 2,500 words in an hour. Often more, in fact, as you are likely to read some difficult sections repeatedly.
  • An extensive vocabulary – not only general and academic English; you will also need to be familiar with language commonly used in the sciences and social sciences.

 

So, what is the best way to go about building your vocabulary, and improving your reading speed?  I would like to suggest that the answer to both involves reading, but that the kind of reading you will need to do will be very different.

 

 

Learning new vocabulary

First, let us look at a common method for learning vocabulary, which is possibly useful at beginner level, but is not really advisable after that.

 

You need to learn a lot of new words and phrases to get a higher band score in IELTS, and the temptation is to resort to trying to memorise long lists of words.  Books with lists of vocabulary for exams can be easily found in any bookshop, and the internet is teeming with web-sites promoting IELTS academic word lists.  However, there are a number of problems with remembering words in lists:

 

  • The human brain is wired for remembering stories, not lists.  Lists of words with no apparent connection to each other can be very difficult to remember.
  • Even if you do manage to remember a lot of words in an alphabetic list, the chances are that you will very soon forget them again.  Do you remember trying to cram knowledge before your university entrance exam?  How much of this information do you remember now?
  • Isolated words and phrases give you very little information.  Is the new word technical? Formal?  Informal?  What other words is it usually used with?  What kind of texts would you find it in?
  • As well as being inefficient, it is a very boring way to study, and you are likely to quickly become demotivated!

 

 

The solution

The best way to learn new vocabulary is through intensive reading.  IELTS past papers are of course a good resource for this, but other potential sources of useful vocabulary, because they cover topics which often occur in IELTS reading tests, are magazines such as Nature, The Economist, Intelligent Life, Scientific American and History Today.  Publishers of these magazines often have articles available freely on the internet.  The BBC also has Culture and Science pages with articles on similar topics to those which often occur in the exam.

 

 

Reading to learn vocabulary

Reading to learn new vocabulary can be quite time-consuming, slow, and requires concentration, and, of course, access to a dictionary (paper, online, electronic, or other).  It is therefore a good idea to regularly set aside a reasonable amount of time, and find a quiet place to study. Another useful tool is a highlighter pen.

 

To start with, ideally try and choose a topic that you would like to learn more about anyway – this will make your task more motivating. Read through the text or article for a couple of paragraphs, highlighting words that you are not sure about, and see how much you have understood.

Then get cracking with the dictionary. If you are keeping a vocabulary diary (recommended), try to record the definition in English, as well as the Japanese translation; this is useful for learning synonyms and antonyms. Also note the example sentence from the article you are reading, or one from a dictionary, as this will give you some context and help you notice collocations. Below is an example of what you might do with a text; this one is taken from an IELTS reading paper*:

 

“All these activities may have damaging environmental impacts. For example, land clearing for agriculture is the largest single cause of deforestation; chemical fertilisers and pesticides may contaminate water supplies; more intensive farming and the abandonment of fallow periods tend to exacerbate soil erosion.”

 

Vocabulary diary entry:

Topic:                   Environmental damage

New word:            exacerbate  – verb (formal)               

Translation:           悪化させる    

English definition:   make something worse

Example sentence:  “Water pollution tends to exacerbate local health issues.”

 

Note that it can be worth trying to guess the meaning of some of the new words before checking them in the dictionary – it is a useful exam skill, focuses you on trying to understand the passage, and it can be very satisfying when you guess correctly! One way of guessing the meaning of long words, is to try to break them down:

 

Example: “deforestation

 

  1. The core part of the word is “forest”.
  2. “de” is a prefix which has a negative meaning
  3. “tion” is a common affix for nouns

Therefore, you can deduce that this is a noun which has something to do with cutting down forests.  Which it is.

 

Incidentally, a knowledge of the meaning of prefixes and affixes will be a very helpful tool in your quest to boost your vocabulary.  Another example from the paragraph above is “pesticide”.  The affix “cide” relates to killing (in this case “pests”, such as insects and mice), and you may recognise it from the words “suicide”, and “homicide”.  If you came across new words such as “insecticide” and “fratricide”, in the contexts below, you are now in a much better position to guess what they might mean.

 

  • Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are reportedly developing resistance to insecticides, and this is causing alarm throughout Asia.

 

  • Police investigating the death of the suspect’s younger brother are expected to charge him with fratricide.

 

The next, vital, stage is to review the new vocabulary you have looked up. Research shows that frequent recall is the key to making new vocabulary stick in your memory. So, read the article again – does it make more sense to you now?  Then read it again the next day on the train, without your dictionary – how many of the new words did you remember? Or, think about the topic of the article while you are in the bath – how many of the new words can you recall?  Finally, try to find a different article dealing with the same topic, you should find many of the new words recurring, and recognising them will provide another boost to your powers of memorisation.

 

 

Improving your reading speed

Reading for new vocabulary is a vital part of preparing for the IELTS exam. However, as noted above, this kind of reading is quite slow and laborious. If you only do this kind of reading, you will find that you get stuck in a very slow reading style, and you will also develop an irresistible temptation to look up every new word you come across. Obviously, in the exam, you don’t have a dictionary, and you need to be able to read very quickly! So, what can you do?

 

As with running, reading in a foreign language can feel like a lot of hard work when you start, and it is a habit that is easy to give up. In both cases however, once you are in a rhythm, you will find yourself getting used to it, and then hopefully enjoying the experience more and more. The key is to find something you look forward to reading, and then to read as much of it as you can, as quickly as you can. This is called ‘extensive reading’. Choosing a topic or genre you are interested in is absolutely key. In the author’s case, reading French football magazines was what led to becoming a confident and fluent reader of French. If you enjoy reading stories, thrillers and mysteries are a good choice.

 

First, find a book or text which is at, or slightly below your level, stick it in your bag, pocket or tablet, and read it whenever you have a few moments free. Let us imagine that you have chosen an Agatha Christie novel. The aim here is to get to the end of the story and find out who the guilty party is.  Resist all urges to look up new words, and tell yourself, “I am reading this book to improve my fluency.” An added benefit of this approach is that you will automatically start practising the skills of inferring meaning from the text (“Ah, the butler has no alibi – I bet he is the one who did it!”), and guessing the meaning of words that you don’t know (“I thought ‘reception’ was a place in a hotel, but this passage seems to be describing a party. I guess it must also have the meaning of ‘wedding party’”) – both these are very useful reading exam skills.

 

You may be asking yourself, “Where can I find this kind of reading material?” Graded readers are one good source (they are available in large bookshops, or you can order them online), and there are now a huge number of free graded reading resources online, from sites such as the BBC, and British Council LearnEnglish.

 

So, to summarise, you need to prepare yourself for the reading exam by using two distinct strategies:

 

  1. Intensive reading to learn new vocabulary
  2. Extensive reading to improve reading speed, and your skills of inferring and guessing from context.

 

Not only will these strategies prepare you for the test, they are also likely to make you a better reader of English for life, unlike the cram today, forget tomorrow exam strategy outlined at the beginning of this article.  Reading is not just about improving vocabulary and reading speed either, of course.  The information you learn from intensive and extensive reading will not only help you in the speaking and writing sections of the IELTS exam, it may also enrich and change your life.

 

Happy reading!

* Academic Writing Sample Task taken from www.ielts.org

 

By Robin Skipsey

 

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