Comprehensive Guide to IELTS Reading Test

IELTS Reading Test

IELTS Reading is the second section of the standardized English language proficiency test IELTS lasts for 60 minutes. Typically, the IELTS reading test consists of three to four passages which are of increasing difficulty with a total of 40 questions. 

In this guide, let’s have a deep dive into the major aspects of IELTS reading test listed below:

  1. Getting Started with IELTS Reading
  2. IELTS Academic Reading and IELTS General Reading
  3. Exam Pattern
  4. IELTS Reading Question Types
  5. IELTS Reading Score Calculation
  6. How to prepare for IELTS Reading (Strategies, and Tips)
  7. FAQs

The IELTS reading section is one of the toughest modules for many IELTS test-takers, especially for non-native English speakers. 

1) Getting Started with IELTS Reading

The IELTS reading test is designed to assess a variety of reading skills, including how good you are at:

  • Read the general sense of a given passage
  • Reading for the main ideas
  • Reading for details
  • Understanding inferences and implied meaning
  • Recognizing the writer’s opinions, attitudes, and purpose
  • Following the argument development

Most applicants face hurdles while they attempt this section on the test day as it deals with synonyms, vocabulary, paraphrases, etc.

However, the reason behind this is being English as a second language and not given much importance among most countries including India and China.

The aspirants who understand the IELTS reading test format are at an advantage. Ensure that you’re familiar with two versions as both tests are graded in exactly the same way. 

2) IELTS Academic Reading and IELTS General Reading

 As mentioned above, there are two versions of the IELTS test: IELTS Academic and IELTS general training. If you don’t know which version you prefer, check with the experts to which you plan to apply. The reading section varies between the two versions.

However, the Academic and General Training Reading checks range in some important ways. Let’s test their precise features, alongside some unique IELTS questions for both variations of the test, so you can get an experience of what to expect.

The IELTS academic and general training reading papers do share some specific features. For instance, both contain 40 questions and lasts for 60 minutes. However, the reading passages differ from one to another, the strategy for answering questions is very similar. Furthermore, the IELTS reading question types are the same for both versions.

Both versions of IELTS reading tests differs in some ways. For more information about the difference of topics you might see in IELTS academic reading and IELTS general reading, check out our blog post on differences between IELTS academic and general reading.

3) Exam Pattern

Up to now, you came across IELTS reading and its versions, let’s look at the patterns of both versions now:

IELTS Academic Reading Exam Pattern

Timing60 minutes
Number of Sections3
Number of Questions40
FormatConsists three long texts ranging from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical.
Question TypesFilling gaps in the passage or a table, matching headings to diagrams or charts, sentence completion, short answer questions to open questions, multiple-choice questions.
MarksFor each correct answer, you will receive a mark, out of 40, scores are converted into the IELTS 9-band scale.

IELTS General Training Reading Exam Pattern

Timing60 minutes
Number of Sections3
Number of Questions40
FormatExact from magazines, newspapers, books, advertisements, notices, company guidelines, and handbooks.
Question TypesFilling gaps in the passage or a table, matching headings to diagrams or charts, sentence completion, short answer questions to open questions, multiple-choice questions.
MarksFor each correct answer, you will receive a mark, out of 40, scores are converted into the IELTS 9-band scale.

Now, let’s move into various IELTS Reading Question types for both IELTS academic and IELTS general training.

4) IELTS Reading Question Types

As discussed earlier, the question types differ between ielts academic and IELTS general training.

IELTS Academic Reading Question Types

The IELTS reading academic comprises three reading passages with a total of 2,150-2,750 words. The passages are taken from magazines, books, journals, and newspapers.

The topics are of general interest and the texts have been written for a non-expert audience. The passages deal with the issues that are related to the aspirants entering the graduation and post-graduation programs.

At least one text contains a detailed logical argument and one of them may contain materials that are non-verbal including graphs, diagrams or illustrations.

A glossary is provided to understand the technology if there are any n the given passage. 

Clear instructions with examples were provided to understand the unfamiliar question types. You can write on the question paper but cannot take away from the test center. Of course, the positions of the questions vary based on the question type.

The types of question types you can expect in the academic reading test of IELTS include:

  • Short-answer questions
  • Sentence completion
  • Multiple choice
  • Choosing a heading for a paragraph
  • Identification of writer’s views/claims – yes, no or not given
  • Matching lists/phrases.
  • Identification of information – true, false or not given
  • Notes/summary/diagram/flow chart/table completion
  • Classification

In the given 60 minutes, you should answer all the questions. Moreover, there will be no extra time given at the end to transfer the answers.

IELTS General Reading Question Types

The IELTS general reading as the academic reading module takes 60 minutes with 40 questions, and each one worth 1 mark.

The readings are 2,150-2,750 words, each text being harder than the one before. 

The passages in the IELTS general are likely to have to deal with daily in the native English speaking nation. 

These texts are likely to have to deal with daily in an English speaking country.  The passages are taken from official documents, advertisements, booklets, timetables, newspapers, books, instruction manuals, and magazines.

Section 1:

This section consists of 2-3 short factual texts with topics taken from day-to-day instances of an English speaking nation. For instance, a passage can be a sequence of advertisements.

Section 2:

This section consists of two factual texts focusing on issues related to working like a job application, staff training, company development, employee pay, company policies, and company conditions.

Section 3:

This is the most difficult and longer section when compared with the other two. It deals with a topic of general interest.

The types of question types you can expect in the general reading test of IELTS include:

The next section that we step-in is IELTS Reading band score calculation.

5) How do we calculate IELTS Reading Score Band?

IELTS Reading score band is calculated based on the number of correct answers you have out of 40 questions. Furthermore, there is no negative marking for wrong answers. As you know IELTS scores are given in a unique scoreboard ranging from 0-9. The scores can be in the form of decimals including 6.5, 7.5 and so on. 

IELTS Reading Score Academic

Correct AnswersBand Score

IELTS Reading Score General Training

Correct AnswersBand Score

If your score is 6.25, then it will be raised to 6.5 and if your score is 6.75 then it will be raised to 7. Moreover, there are chances where the score is decreased as if you got 6.1, then it will be given as 6.

6) How to prepare for the IELTS Reading Module?

Preparing for IELTS reading test is one of the major tasks that every test-taker should take care of.  Effective preparation is the key to crack the reading section of IELTS. 

Even native speakers should spend some time on practicing distinct question types. Additionally, following some proven and exceptional IELTS reading tips helps you score higher.

IELTS Reading Preparation Tips

In order to score in IELTS reading, developing an effective IELTS reading strategy is equally important. The key to creating strategies is recognizing the text in the section that relates to the question.

Some essential tips that you can implement during your IELTS reading to improve IELTS reading score:

  • Understand the framing of the passage
  • Skimming
  • Scanning
  • Know the Difference between question types
  • Read the instructions before every task
  • Be mindful of the time

Click on IELTS reading tips to look at their deep insights. Moreover, these tips can help you in clearing the reading module without putting much effort into it.

Common Mistakes of IELTS Reading

There are some common mistakes in IELTS reading, that can cost a lot and yet they are silly mistakes. However, most mistakes are made in hastiness or unawareness and of course due to time factor.

  • Ignoring Instructions
  • Using Question Booklet Instead of Answer Sheet
  • Reading Entire Passage
  • Ignoring the order of questions
  • Lacking in finding keywords
  • Unknown Vocabulary
  • Time Management
  • Ignoring the main idea
  • Unaware of the elimination method
  • Grammatical mistakes

Click here to have a deep look at common mistakes of IELTS reading and tips to avoid them in order to attain a good band in IELTS reading.

Click to Boost your IELTS Score

IELTS Reading Test FAQs

1) How long does the IELTS reading test take?

The IELTS reading test lasts for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

2) Can we write on IELTS reading question papers?

Yes, you can. But you cannot take away the question paper from the test center.

3) How many questions are there in the IELTS reading module?

40 questions.

4) How many reading passages are there in two versions of IELTS reading?

There are three reading passages in both the IELTS academic and IELTS general training.

5) How long should I spend on each reading passage?

Divide time equally and spend an appropriate 20 minutes on each passage.

6) Is there any difference between IELTS academic reading and IELTS general reading?

Reading test is different for both IELTS academic and general in terms of content and difficulty. The passages and questions are easier in the IELTS General Training module than IELTS academic.

7) Do I have extra time at the end to transfer my answers to the answer paper?

No. You’ve to answer and transfer answers to the answer sheet within 20 minutes.

8) Is it essential to skim and scan through the passages?

Skimming and scanning skills are crucial in the IELTS reading test, but it may be better to read the questions first. Through a quick look at the questions you can  get an idea and save time later.

9) Is spellings important?

Yes. take care of spellings, else for each wrong spelling, you will get a mark down.

10) Can I use capital letters?

Yes, you can but not mandatory. For the reading section, capitalization is not very important.

11) Do I lose a mark if my answer is wrong?

No. But, have a guess and answer all the questions.

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