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Headings for IELTS reading test

For many students this is the most difficult question type in the test and can waste a lot of time. Here you have to choose the most appropriate heading for each paragraph from a selection given to you. There are more headings in the list than you actually need.

Probably the best way to fully understand why each paragraph has been written is to read the whole paragraph but this takes time. Remember you have, on average, one and a half minutes per question and so quicker ways should be tried. There are several methods that are important to know about.

 

Method One:

The main idea of a paragraph is expressed in the topic sentence and this is often the first sentence in a paragraph. Reading this could be enough to pick the correct heading.

 

Method Two:

The last sentence of each paragraph provides a conclusion to the main idea in the paragraph and can lead to the correct heading.

Although, methods one and two can work very well they are not foolproof. Sometimes, these sentences can result in the wrong heading being picked. One reason this can happen is because there might be one or more sentences before the topic sentence, linking the new paragraph to the previous paragraph. If you only read the first sentence you might pick the heading for the previous paragraph.

In the same way the conclusion might be linking the existing paragraph to the next paragraph. This might end up with you choosing the heading for the next paragraph rather than the one you are reading.

However, if you have read the first and last sentences, but are still unsure, the third method might help.

 

Method Three:

Information in the middle of the paragraph develops the main idea through an example, a definition, an analysis of the idea, a description of the point being discussed and so on. Through this you might understand more clearly (perhaps more easily than the topic sentence) what the main idea is and, therefore, what the heading should be.

 

How to pick a Heading

Example 1.

If the heading takes the form of a question then the paragraph must answer the question. If it doesn’t, it cannot be the right heading. Look at the paragraph about the Northern Lights. The first sentence in the paragraph answers the heading question. The other sentences add further detail to the answer.

 

Heading : What causes the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral colour, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.

 

Example 2.

The next heading is not a question but clearly states the paragraph must have information about problems concerning the asteroid theory. The first sentence introduces the main idea, the asteroid impact theory and problems associated with it. The other sentences develop the problems.

Heading : Problems with the Asteroid Theory

Whilst an asteroid impact has gained ground over most other theories, there still remain problems with the theory. Palaeontologists have yet to find dinosaur fossils dating to the time of the impact, and some evidence suggests dinosaurs may have already been extinct before this event. In fact dinosaurs had been steadily declining for tens of thousands of years before the Chicxulub asteroid impacted.

 

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