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IELTS reading matching features tutorial

In this lesson I look at the IELTS reading matching features question. I help you along with a suggested strategy for approaching this type of question and show you some of the more common traps.


An example of how it works

The way this reading works is you have to find elements in the text that match a list of people/places

eg, You have a list of names such as

A. George Stephenson

B. Richard Trevithick

C. Archimedes

D. James Watt

E. the Corinthians

F. John Fitch

and you have to match them to items in the text:
Which pioneer

1. was responsible for building a life size steam locomotive

2. legally protected the design of the working model of the steam locomotive

3. created a small scale replica of a steam locomotive

4. was defeated by the limitations of the raw materials available to him

5. understood the potential of steam locomotives to transport people

6. used steam as a form of propulsion

7. discovered how to use steam engines in the manufacturing industry

8. used animals and not steam to power a form of railway

The traps

It may look easy but there are traps.

1. Read the context – don’t word match

Look at this example:

The first step was the design of a working model of a steam locomotive by John Fitch in the United States in 1794

You may think that this means you can match John Fitch with 2. You see “the design of the working model of the steam locomotive” and you match it with “legally protected the design of the working model of the steam locomotive”. Sorry, you just lost a point by not reading the context and the question. We see nothing there that says Fitch legally protected the design.

2. Read for synonyms – don’t match words

Another problem is that you may need to look for synonyms or similar words in the passage and not the exact words in the question. Look at this example:

8. used animals and not steam to power a form of railway

It is no good looking for the word “animals” in the text because the answer is given by these words:

The Corinthians did not consider using steam to power this prototype of the railway but instead used horses and oxen.

This means you need to read for meaning and not just individual words.

3. You are looking for similar words in every question

In every question, you are going to be looking for “firsts” and “steam” and normally “locomotive’. This means it makes no sense to concentrate on these words in the text.

4. The questions do not follow the order of the text

This is one of those tricky question types where you cannot necessarily read the text and expect to find the questions coming in order. You may have to go backwards and forwards as you read: this is where you need to be sure of your scanning skills.

5. You may use more than one name once

Don’t be trapped into using each name just once. It may be that some names have two or more correct answers.

A suggested procedure

You will find your own way to do this exercise, but here is my suggestion:

  1. focus on the names/dates/places: in my example James Watt etc
  2. scan the text for those names and underline them in the text – every time they occur
  3. look at all the questions for all the names
  4. read carefully and look for synonyms in the text
  5. underline/highlight parts of the passage that give the answer –
  6. mark them “?4” if you are uncertain
  7. mark them “4” if you are certain and cross out that question on the question paper

Where next?

Do a full length matching features practice test More reading advice

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2 Responses to IELTS reading matching features tutorial

  1. Van Binh November 20, 2014 at 10:25 am #


    This is quite tough exercise and I think that It is so important for me to look back the explanation of each answer. It help me to understand more clearly about the question and the answer in case I got a wrong answer. By doing this exercise, I interpret the way how to chose a right answer.

    Thank you so much

  2. Carmen November 6, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

    Good evening Dominic, I tried to see the exercise anwers of this practice but theres is a link but I could nos see anything. could you help me?
    kind regards from Mexico ๐Ÿ™‚

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