Join me as I give you tips and techniques for you to get the score you want in the reading section of the IELTS Academic exam. See you in class!
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Now, can I teach you reading? No! What do you need to be a good reader? Obviously you need understand the grammar, but this is not the most important thing, because you can usually infer the grammar from the context. So what is the most important thing? Vocabulary! And vocabulary is something that will have to learn for yourself.
Now, there are various ways to memorise vocabulary, but there is no "best" way. It depends on how you memorise best. Do you like to memorise through spaced repetition? Do you learn best through writing? Or flashcards? Or mnemonics? Do what works for you. But there is only one way to make sure that really learn the vocabulary; repeat and use.
Repeat. You must repeat the word several times over several days or weeks to remember it. Unless there is a clear cognate (the word is very similar in your own language) or base lexi then it is unlikely that you will remember the word after only memorising it once.
Use. Unless you use the word in context, either in speaking or writing, then you will have more difficulty recalling it and using it in an exam. Memorising a word is one thing, but unless you know how to use it it is useless.
Now we know that the texts in the exam are "real" texts and have been chosen for non-specialist readers, so you won't need to be an expert in a particular subject to understand them. So, the best way to practice is read, read, read. And again, if you have lots of reading materials in English learning books, throw them away! Read about things you are interested in. Enjoy it! Do you like history? Then read National Geographic magazine, or a history website.
So now let's look at some specific techniques for the IELTS exam.
The reading section it is 60 minutes long, and the maximum score is 40, divided into bands, so 35 is an 8, 30 is a 7, and 16 is a 5, for example.
In this section the Academic version is different from the General version because it contains three long texts which range from descriptive and factual to discursive and analytical, and also contain diagrams, graphs or illustrations. What does this mean? It means that you need to be able to understand longer texts which contain many different ideas and jump from one idea to another, and you will also need to be able to understand non-verbal information.
FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS
Again, the most important thing, and I am going to repeat this a lot, is FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. For example, if the word limit is 3 words and you write 5, you will be marked incorrect. If the question asks you to copy words, then copy them exactly.
WATCH YOUR TIME
The next most important thing is to watch your time. The exam is 60 minutes long and you have to answer 40 questions, so if you spend 35 minutes on one text then you will not have enough time for the other two texts.
THE BEST APPROACH
Now, in what order do we do the exam? This is the recommended order;
- Skim the questions
- Read the text
- Answer the questions in order
Well, first we skim the questions, which means that we quickly, and it is important that it is quickly, read the questions. This gives us some focus for our reading. Now, we read the text. We don't want to read it quickly, but we also don't need to understand every single word. Now, we start to answer the questions in order. If you can't answer a question then mark it on the paper and move on to the next question, you can come back to it later if you have time.
Two important things about the IELTS reading;
- Do not read the whole text just to answer one question
- The questions are in the same order in the text - do not go back to the beginning to answer each question
Finally, don't panic. This is very important. If you don't understand some vocabulary, or you miss a question, don't worry. Focus on the next question and move on.