IELTS Reading Exam

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How to improve your IELTS score:

To improve your score in the IELTS reading section, you should focus on the following areas:

  1. Understanding the different question types, and how to answer them.
  2. Understanding how the reading test is graded
  3. Developing reading skills such as skimming (which parts you should strategically read) and scanning (best choices for searching for information)
  4. Do lots of practice exams and receive feedback on why choices are incorrect and why the answer is the ANSWER.


The reading test is split into the IELTS Academic Reading test and the IELTS General Reading test. If you know specifically which type of test you will take you should browse to the specific page on this site.


Test Overview

The IELTS reading test takes one hour, and consists of three texts of between 500 and 900 words. There are 40 questions to answered and the texts and questions increase in difficulty.


Common Question Types

The most common types of question in the reading test are as follows :

  • Multiple choice
  • Short answer questions
  • Summary completion
  • Matching headings to paragraphs
  • Identifying the writer’s attitude
  • Table completion
  • Matching causes and effects
  • Sentence completion


How the test is graded

The reading test is graded according to the specifics of the question type and each question is worth exactly the same mark. Incorrect spelling and grammar may result in a wrong answer. In addition, it is important to read the instructions clearly. For example, it is common to read the phrase “answer using no more than three words.” If you ignore these instructions and write four words – you are instantly wrong!


Band Converter for an IELTS test score:

If you would like to convert your score out of 40 into an IELTS band score (0-9) you can use the table below as an approximate guide.


Band Score 0.0 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0 5.5 6.0 6.5 7.0 7.5 8.0 8.5 9.0
Raw score 0 1 2 – 3 4 – 5 6 – 7 8 – 9 10 – 11 12 – 14 15 – 17 18 – 20 21 – 22 23 – 25 26 – 27 28 – 32 33 – 34 35 – 36 37 – 38 39 – 40

Tips, Skills, and Techniques

There is not enough time to read every article in full and answer each question. To do well in the IELTS reading exam follow the key steps below:

  1. Establish the question type (multi-choice, complete a summary)
  2. Establish answer type required (multi-choice, 3 words etc.)
  3. Skim the article
  4. Read questions and underline keywords
  5. Attempt to answer the questions
  6. Scan the article to answer the questions

(Scan for the keywords from the questions, you may need to be scanning for synonyms)


The difference between IELTS Academic Reading and General Training Reading

In theory, both of the tests should be equal in terms of a candidate’s ability to score well. However, the Academic Reading test tends to focus more on articles that are of a more academic nature, whereas the General Reading test uses articles that are of a more day to day nature. These are more like a newspaper or magazine article or may include aspects that someone is likely to come across in their general life such as a bus timetable or newspaper advertisement for an apartment.

Both types of reading exam can be prepared for in the same way EXCEPT the test-taker should focus on only doing practice tests for the type of exam they are taking. The skills and techniques that need to be learnt and developed are exactly the same.

2 Responses

  1. Hiren

    Hello sir,
    First of all i’d like to appreciate your effort.

    I’d like to know whether cambridge practice test books for reading are easier than real test or not?

    Because some if my friends said that you’ll get 2-3 mark less than that i got in these tests. Actually, they found it easy as compare to real test. So, I’m in big confusion that whether i should prefer cambridge books or not.

    Please give your kind advice.


    1. MikeAdmin

      cambridge test books are by far the best materials. They are actual past test papers.
      People may get lower scores in their test due to 1. test stress 2. marks lost due to errors with issues such as spelling that they do not deduct when they grade themselves

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