IELTS Reading Section
Reading section is the second section in the IELTS Exam. Good working habits are the prerequisites to earn good points in this section. It consists of finding words in 3 text extracts to allow you to answer the 40 questions asked. Nothing can be invented or imagined. You have to quickly find the exact words that have been requested. To acquire this challenging work method.
Note: the only difference between the IELTS Academic and General Training Reading sections is the nature of the texts presented (to know more about the presentation of the IELTS, read our article Introduction to the IELTS). Our following advice is thus suitable for all IELTS candidates
IELTS Reading Structure
In this table, we summarise the Reading section’s structure:
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|Format||The IELTS Reading section is composed of 3 sections which correspond to 3 text extracts, presented in an order which increases in difficulty.
The text extracts are taken from books, magazines, and newspapers. The themes are general (consult IELTS themes in our article, “Introduction to IELTS”)
You will have 1 hour to answer 40 questions. We advise you to spend 15 minutes on the 1st text, 20 minutes on the 2nd text and 25 minutes on the 3rd text.
|Questions||You have to answer a series of 40 questions, based on the exercises, in a range of formats (Multiple choices, fill in the gaps, connect the answer to the question, complete the diagram, etc.)
Each correct answer earns you 1 point. You cannot lose points.
All the answers are found within the text extracts
|Answer Sheet||You should answer on the answer sheet handed out at the start of the exam*|
Example of a Reading section answer sheet taken from the official IELTS website.
- Reading passage 1 (Questions 1 to 12)
TEXT: BIOLOGY AND YOUR HEALTH
A What you eat and drink is directly related to your health. But you may not think twice about the possibility of contaminated food or water or a lack of vitamins in your diet. Not long ago, diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies were still fairly common. The first vitamins were identified less than 100 years ago, but today the vitamins found in foods are printed on labels.
B Even today we still face food-related causes of illness. For example, you might hear about an outbreak of food poisoning, and mad cow disease was only recognized in the late 1980’s. Of perhaps greater concern to you are food allergies. Many people suffer from severe, even life-threatening, allergies to foods such as peanuts and shellfish. Beyond questions about the sources of food are questions and concerns about what people eat and how much they eat. For example, scientists estimate that more than 60 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. The health consequences of obesity include increased risks of diabetes, stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer and other health problems. Biology can help you to better understand all of these health-related issues.
C An understanding of biology on many different levels –genetic, chemical, and cellular, for example — can help you make any number of lifestyle choices that affect your health. Why is it important to use sunscreen? What are the benefits of exercise? What are the effects of using alcohol, illegal drugs, and tobacco? Cigarette smoke does not just affect the lungs; it can also change a person’s body chemistry and have strong negative effects on the kidneys. Non-smokers normally have a normal enzyme level, while smokers have lower enzyme levels. Lower levels of monoamine oxidase in the brain can affect mood, and lower levels in the liver could contribute to high blood pressure.
Biology and the World Around You
D In 1995, some middle school students from Minnesota were walking through a wetland and collecting frogs for a school project. The students stopped to look at the frogs and what they saw shocked them. Many of the frogs had deformities, including missing legs, extra legs, and missing eyes. What caused the deformities? Scientists investigated that question by testing several hypotheses. They studied whether the deformities could have been caused by factors such as a chemical in the water, ultraviolet radiation, or some other type of infection.
E Why would frog deformities such as that provoke such scientific interest? The frogs are a part of an ecosystem, so whatever affected them could affect other species in the area. If the deformities were caused by a chemical in the water, might the chemical pose a risk to people living in the area? In other regions of the United States parasites caused similar deformities in frogs. Might that parasite also be present in Minnesota? If so, did it pose a risk to other species?
F At first, parasites were not found in the frogs. However, scientists now suggest that the frog deformities were due to a combination of infection by parasites, called trematodes, and predation by dragonfly nymphs. Science has answered some questions about the cause of the leg deformities. However, scientists now think that a chemical may be connected to the increased number of parasite infections.
G Suppose that the chemical comes from a factory in the area. Is it reasonable to ban the chemical? Should the factory be closed or fined? In any instance like this, political, legal, economic, and biological concerns have to be considered. What is the economic impact on the factory on the area? Is there any evidence of human health problems in the area? Is there a different chemical that could be used? Without an understanding of biology, how could you make an informed decision related to any of these questions?
H These are the types of questions that people try to answer every day. Biologists and other scientists research environmental issues such as pollution, biodiversity, habitat preservation, land conservation, and natural resource use, but decisions about the future are not in the hands of scientists. It is up to everyone to make decisions based on evidence and conclusions from many different sources.
QUESTIONS 1 – 7
Label the missing words on the diagram below using words from the following paragraph from the text:
An understanding of biology on many different levels –genetic, chemical, and cellular for example — can help you make any number of lifestyle choices that affect your health. Why is it important to use sunscreen? What are the benefits of exercise? What are the effects of using alcohol, illegal drugs, and tobacco? Cigarette smoke does not just affect the lungs; it can also change a person’s body chemistry and have strong negative effects on the kidneys. Non-smokers normally have a normal enzyme level, while non-smokers have lower enzyme levels. Lower levels of monoamine oxidase in the brain can affect mood, and lower levels in the liver could contribute to high blood pressure.
Write your answers in boxes 1 – 7 on your answer sheet.
QUESTIONS 8 – 12
This passage has eight sections, A-H.
Choose the correct heading for sections B, C, E – G and from the list of headings below.
Write the correct number i-ix in boxes 8-12 on your answer sheet.
|List of Headings
I Potential Risks on an Ecosystem
ii Domestic Animals at further risk
iii Negative Effects of Smoke
iv Biologists asking questions
v Arthritis and Brain Cancer in young Americans
vi Consequences of American Habits
vii Local taxpayers want a solution
viii Nymphs and trematodes affecting local frog population
ix Factory Workers are taking care of environment problems
8. Section B __________
9. Section C __________
10. Section E __________
11. Section F __________
12. Section G __________
IELTS Reading Strategies
We have already revealed 3 strategies for passing the IELTS exam. Here is a fourth strategy to adopt, specific to the Reading section. It consists of understanding and retaining the 11 most frequently used instructions from the section, which are summarised in the table below:
|Type of Question||Description and Advice|
|Matching sentence endings||
|Summary/note/table/flow chart completion||
|Diagram label completion||
IELTS Reading Advice
- Tip n°1: Even if it seems obvious to you, it is essential to read each set of instructions attentively
Indeed, the instructions change from one question to the next and a badly-composed statement can cost you the point. For example, if it is stipulated that you must “Answer Yes, No, or Not Given”, you must answer in that precise manner. “Yes” signifies that the text confirms the question asked. Answer “No” if the opposite is confirmed. “Not Given” is used if the text does not answer the question. Be aware that you do not systematically use “Not Given” whenever you are unsure. In this case, it is better to search within the text for the passage containing the answer
- Tip n°2: As you only have a limited amount of time to answer all 40 questions, do not spend more than 3 minutes on the question when you cannot find the answer in the text
It is better to skip difficult questions and return to them at the end rather than struggle with them and end up wasting time
IELTS Reading Timing
Managing your time well is one of the key strategies needed to pass the Reading section. You have 1 hour to answer 40 questions and it is up to you to organize your time as you wish. As the texts are presented in an order which increases in difficulty and because the last passage contains the most questions, we advise you to divide your time so that you spend 15 minutes on the 1st passage, 20 minutes on the 2nd passage and 25 minutes on the 3rd passage.