Top Tips for IELTS

“Do I need to read the whole text first in IELTS?”

Do I need to read the whole text first in IELTS is one of the more common questions students ask. This lesson is my attempt to answer it. Put briefly, my answer is that it is a very good idea to do this. I have four reasons for this:

  1. some question types require you to read the whole text (think of the paragraph/heading matching question for example)
  2. reading and understanding the whole text helps you to make intelligent guesses about answers you are not sure about
  3. you save and don’t waste time if you read the whole text first – you waste time by not knowing which part of the text to focus on
  4. if you want to improve your reading, you want to improve all your reading skills – meaning that your score may never improve if you don’t learn to skim a text for general meaning

Explaining my advice – it really does help to know the context

Different teachers do give different advice here. To try and explain why I think this is a good idea, I have made this quick video.


What if it doesn’t work?

I think that this advice is in fact very practical advice – I don’t give it because it is “good teacher” advice. I believe that it really does work in the exam. Some students may find that it doesn’t work. What then?

Practice the skills – 4-3-2

Learning to read a text quickly is a skill and skills take a little time to learn. Don’t expect to learn how to do it immediately. Give yourself a little time. One simple idea is to start off by skimming a text quite slowly – say in 4 minutes. Then, when you can do that, try it in 3. Then in 2. The general idea is that just because you need to skim in around 2 minutes in the exam, does not mean that you need to practise doing that way all the time before the exam.

Make notes as you go

If once you have skimmed the text for general meaning, you can’t remember what it was about, that may be a waste of time. So try making notes as you go – this is practical. How you choose to do that will depend on you. You can write, underline or highlight – use the method that works for you.

It still doesn’t work? – skim the questions and title at least

Okay, if it still doesn’t work, then maybe it is not a technique/skill for you. Try it your way. Different learners do differ and I’m always reluctant to say that something must be done one way. I would say though that it can help to read through all the questions first and look at the title of the text – that way you should get at least some idea of general meaning.

More reading advice

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8 Responses to “Do I need to read the whole text first in IELTS?”

  1. Tien Le April 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Dear DC,

    Thank you for your instruction. It’s so great, I must say. Btw, the video you posted seems not work with IE and FireFox browsers.

    Tien Le

    • Dominic Cole April 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      Thanks for the information. It was working for me yesterday on Firefox! I’ll look into it.

      (I’ve had problems in the past with Youtube simply because they are parts of the world where that is unavailable. I used a Chinese website for this one because I am currently based in China and I hoped that that would be a good compromise. Once I get back to the UK in June/July I will have access to Youtube again and upload a different link to it there. In general, I am looking to add videos to more posts as sometimes the spoken word can be more effective.)

  2. risawa June 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    thanks for your website really useful

  3. Nadir July 11, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

    Thank you so much for the instraction, so effective ๐Ÿ™‚ Could you please tell me how to get 5.5 score in academic Reading, is that easy ? i’m going to take the ielts test next week for the first time

  4. mks July 20, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    Hi DC
    your posts are great.About Reading, i always read the first 1/2 main topic lines in each section of the passage to understand the whole passage in 4 minutes.Is it right way to start reading test.By that it seems i waste 4 minutes from 20 minutes but it also a good approach to get idea of whole passage first as it can help answer heading matching/text matching in sections.What you say about that?? waiting for your reply.

  5. Dane October 22, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Thank you Mr. Cole. Your instructions are clear and easy to follow and they help me a lot in preparation for my test in this December.

  6. Milly Cheong March 28, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    I don’t understand why i struggle with Reading, and i extremely agree that one needs to read with ‘ skill’ that i think i was missing at improving this component.

  7. devenir trader March 7, 2017 at 8:53 am #

    Thanks for finally talking about >Do I need to read the whole text first in IELTS?
    <Liked it!

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