Reading module of the IELTS
The Reading moduleof the IELTS consists of a total of 40 questions.
There are three passages, with a total of 2,000 to 2,750 words.
Your first task when you begin reading is to answer the question What is the topic of the selection? This can best be answered by quickly skimming the passage for the general idea, stopping to read only the first sentence of each paragraph. A paragraph’s first sentence is usually the main topic sentence, and it gives you a summary of the content of the paragraph.
Once you’ve skimmed the passage, stopping to read only the first sentences, you will have a general idea about what it is about, as well as what is the expected topic in each paragraph.
Each question will contain clues as to where to find the answer in the passage. Do not just randomly search through the passage for the correct answer to each question. Search scientifically. Find key word(s) or ideas in the question that are going to either contain or be near the correct answer. These are typically nouns, verbs, numbers, or phrases in the question that will probably be duplicated in the passage. Once you have identified those key word(s) or idea, skim the passage quickly to find where those key word(s) or idea appears. The correct answer choice will be nearby.
Example: What caused Martin to suddenly return to Paris?
The key word is Paris. Skim the passage quickly to find where this word appears. The answer will be close by that word.
However, sometimes key words in the question are not repeated in the passage.
In those cases, search for the general idea of the question.
Example: Which of the following was the psychological impact of the author’s childhood upon the remainder of his life?
Key words are childhood or psychology. While searching for those words, be alert for other words or phrases that have similar meaning, such as emotional effect or mentally which could be used in the passage, rather than the exact word psychology.
Numbers or years can be particularly good key words to skim for, as they stand out from the rest of the text.
Example: Which of the following best describes the influence of Monet’s work in the 20th century?
20th contains numbers and will easily stand out from the rest of the text. Use 20th as the key word to skim for in the passage.
Once you’ve quickly found the correct section of the passage to find the answer, focus upon the answer choices. Sometimes a choice will repeat word for word a portion of the passage near the answer. However, beware of such duplication – it may be a trap! More than likely, the correct choice will paraphrase or summarize the related portion of the passage, rather than being exactly the same wording.
For the answers that you think are correct, read them carefully and make sure that they answer the question. An answer can be factually correct, but it MUST answer the question asked. Additionally, two answers can both be seemingly correct, so be sure to read all of the answer choices, and make sure that you get the one that BEST answers the question.
Some questions will not have a key word.
Example: Which of the following would the author of this passage likely agree with?
In these cases, look for key words in the answer choices. Then skim the passage to find where the answer choice occurs. By skimming to find where to look, you can minimize the time required.
Sometimes it may be difficult to identify a good key word in the question to skim for in the passage. In those cases, look for a key word in one of the answer choices to skim for. Often the answer choices can all be found in the same paragraph, which can quickly narrow your search.
Focus upon the first sentence of each paragraph, which is the most important. The main topic of the paragraph is usually there.
Once you’ve read the first sentence in the paragraph, you have a general idea about what each paragraph will be about. As you read the questions, try to determine which paragraph will have the answer. Paragraphs have a concise topic. The answer should either obviously be there or obviously not. It will save time if you can jump straight to the paragraph, so try to remember what you learned from the first sentences.
Example: The first paragraph is about poets; the second is about poetry. If a question asks about poetry, where will the answer be? The second paragraph.
The main idea of a passage is typically spread across all or most of its paragraphs. Whereas the main idea of a paragraph may be completely different than the main idea of the very next paragraph, a main idea for a passage affects all of the paragraphs in one form or another.
Example: What is the main idea of the passage?
For each answer choice, try to see how many paragraphs are related. It can help to count how many sentences are affected by each choice, but it is best to see how many paragraphs are affected by the choice. Typically the answer choices will include incorrect choices that are main ideas of individual paragraphs, but not the entire passage. That is why it is crucial to choose ideas that are supported by the most paragraphs possible.
Some choices can quickly be eliminated. Andy Warhol lived there. Is Andy Warhol even mentioned in the article? If not, quickly eliminate it.
When trying to answer a question such as the passage indicates all of the following EXCEPT quickly skim the paragraph searching for references to each choice. If the reference exists, scratch it off as a choice. Similar choices may be crossed off simultaneously if they are close enough.
In choices that ask you to choose which answer choice does NOT describe? or all of the following answer choices are identifiable characteristics, EXCEPT which? look for answers that are similarly worded. Since only one answer can be correct, if there are two answers that appear to mean the same thing, they must BOTH be incorrect, and can be eliminated.
A.) changing values and attitudes
B.) a large population of mobile or uprooted people These answer choices are similar; they both describe a fluid culture. Because of their similarity, they can be linked together. Since the answer can have only one choice, they can also be eliminated together