IELTS Reading Short Answer Questions: Lesson and Tips

IELTS reading short answer questions

In the IELTS reading short answer questions, you are expected to answer the given questions in short answers. 

In this guide, let’s look at the IELTS Reading Short Answer Questions in detail.

The major areas you’ll cover in this article include:

  • How to do the short answer question in IELTS Reading?
  • Identifying the common problems most students make in answering short answer questions
  • Learn IELTS reading exam tips & strategies for answering the short answer questions in IELTS reading
  • IELTS Short Answer Questions Sample Passage

The instructions given will specify your answer length. Besides, you will have to answer about a given passage in three words or less. Moreover, your answers will directly come from the given reading passage.

Let’s have a look at a sample IELTS reading short answer question.                                         

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet. 1.

Which bird is the largest………………

How to do the short answer question in IELTS Reading?

The short answer questions are perhaps the easiest among the IELTS reading question types. You can find answers to the given questions easily by comparing them to the other types. 

Skills Tested in Short Answer Question of IELTS Reading

This section assesses your ability to:

  • Skim the passage and understand the meaning quickly
  • Scan for specific information
  • Understand the given question
  • Identify keywords
  • Think of possible synonyms and paraphrases of keywords

Besides, these questions are also known as ‘comprehension’ questions and are very common in English classrooms around the globe. This is the major reason why most students tend to do quite well. 

Common Problems in IELTS Reading Short Answer Questions

There are some common problems that students make while answering the short answer questions in IELTS reading.

Word limit is the major problem that most IELTS test-takers face while attempting the IELTS reading short answer questions. This is because the answer which exceeds the word limit will get the answer wrong.

Don’t answer in 4 words and allow them to penalize you. IELTS tests your vocabulary and paraphrasing capabilities and therefore instructions are very crucial and should be followed.

The next major issue is with Paraphrasing and Synonyms. If you are unaware of the synonyms, you will tend to search for keywords in the text matching directly to those in the questions. This is absolutely a waste of time.

Do not read every word of the given text. As mentioned earlier, the questions of IELTS reading tests your ability to skim and scan for particular information.

Don’t waste time trying to understand any unknown word in the given text. Furthermore, do not spend or panic too much time thinking about the word and its meaning.

You have to overcome these common problems in the short answer questions of IELTS reading to crack the section effectively.

IELTS reading exam tips & strategies for answering the short answer questions in IELTS reading:

Tips to Crack IELTS Reading Short Answer Questions

Follow the tips below to answer the short answer questions of IELTS reading:

Read the given instructions carefully and understand how many words you can write.

Don’t forget to recognize the main idea behind the IELTS exam. Being in a hasty mindset, a test taker might forget the main idea of the exam like how the examiners are planning to test the proficiency levels of the test taker.

Remember that comprehension passages maintain a question order. You are prone to lose valuable time if you are not concerned about the question order.

Keywords are important things to answer the given questions. But the most common mistakes done by the test takers in IELTS reading short answer questions are neglecting ‘negations and transition words’.

Pay attention to the question words (who, what, who, when, where, which and how). 

  • who = person or group
  • what = thing
  • why = reason
  • when = time
  • where = place
  • which = thing
  • how = way of doing something

Make sure that your answer doesn’t exceed the word limit. It’s super-important.

The super important tip for IELTS Reading short answer questions is maintaining the word limit.

The order of questions can help you. Answer for question 4 will be between answers for questions 3 and 5 in the text.

Some answers are likely to be among them if text introduces new terms.

Getting trapped in this unknown vocabulary is one of the biggest problems. Answering questions is more important than the word. Otherwise, it will consume all your precious time. Therefore you don’t need to understand the meaning of every word used in the passage.

Strategies for IELTS Reading Short Answer Questions

Here are the strategies to crack the short answer questions of IELTS Reading:

  • Read the instructions given carefully and note the word limit.
  • Understand the questions (which means you exactly know what you’re looking for)
  • Underline the keywords in the given questions on the question paper.
  • While reading a passage, one should be clear whether the meaning of a particular word is really important to answer the question or not. If not, just move on.
  • Scan the text to find the paragraph that contains the answer. 
  • Once you find the answer paragraph, attentively read it and search for the answer.
  • Once you’ve found the answer to the given question, make sure that you maintained the limit specified in the instructions.

Experts intensely suggest knowing the mistakes we often make to avoid them and move on to the right answers. 

Following the above-mentioned tips and strategies can help you to crack the short answer questions of IELTS reading effectively.

If you are facing trouble in any other aspect of IELTS Reading, click on the link below to go through our IELTS Reading Guide.

Sample IELTS Reading Short Answer Questions

Sample IELTS Reading Short Answer Question: Festivals around the world

Answer the following questions. Use NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.

  1. Why do people have festivals?
  2. What do people make at the Balloon Festival?
  3. What do thousands of people come to do at the Balloon Festival?


  1. to celebrate
  2. hot air balloons
  3. watch balloons

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