Top Tips for IELTS

Read more quickly in IELTS

Lots of people find IELTS reading tough because they cannot finish all the texts. One obvious solution is to learn to read more quickly. Or is it? In this lesson I show you some techniques that may help you. But they are only likely to work if you first understand when and why you should read more quickly.

If you are still “in training”and the exam is some way away and you are reading too slowly. I suggest you take time out to read this old lesson on improving your reading speed first.

Also if you are uncertain about the different skills in reading, I suggest you take a look at this post where I outline 3 key reading skills.

skimming/scanning

Read at different speeds – quick quick slow

You don’t want to read quickly all the time in IELTS. Sometimes you want to read as slowly and carefully as possible – when you are looking for the actual answer (the skill of close reading). Many mistakes happen because people read too quickly.

You only want to read quickly when you are looking for WHERE the answer is or understand general meaning, never for WHAT the answer is. This means you only try to read quickly when you are scanning or skimming the text.

Very generally in the test you 1. skim 2. then scan 3. then closely read. This means you go quick quick slow – a new form of foxtrot!

Always have an end product

The more quickly you read the less well you understand. If you read too quickly and understand nothing – this is time wasted. The simple idea here is that whenever you read quickly you need to have some “end product” – something that is useful for you in finding the answer. This means that underlining and/or notes are often key parts of any fast reading.

Something everyone should do – survey the text and read the questions

Before you start reading, it makes sense to:

Look at the text – see how many paragraphs there are – look at the headings. This can often tell you quite a lot about what the text is about and how it is structured.

Look at the questions briefly – the words in the questions will tell you what the main topics of the text are

A basic way to read more quickly

This is a method shown to me by a colleague. The way it works is that you divide the paper into two halves and then look for “key words” – typically names and dates and numbers and words from the questions. First you go down one column and then the other – ringing the words as you go. The idea is that this help you find the answers more quickly later.

madge-skmming

Possible problems

It is quick. Perhaps too quick. Reading vertically up and down is a good idea because it helps you go more quickly but it also means that you understand very little. You may miss some main ideas simply by focussing on names and dates.

Making it work

I think that this works best when you focus on words within the questions – that way the words you ring are more likely to help you later.

A slightly more advanced method

An intermediate method

This is probably the method I used most in class. It can allow you to understand the general meaning of a text without reading all of it. It is slower than the previous method as you read more, but you also probably get to understand more too.

The idea is that the main ideas come in the introduction, the conclusion and the first sentence of each paragraph and/or the last sentence. So you just read them. You’ll see below that I also pick out names and dates when I’m doing this – that will help later on.

dominic-skimming

 

Possible problems

You are still reading only a part of the text and so you may miss out on some key points – they don’t always come in first and last sentences.

It may take you too long.

Making it work

This is a relatively easy skill to learn. You still need to remember why you are skimming text though – to understand its structure and get the main points of each paragraph. This may mean that sometimes you read on  little after the first sentence when you don’t see the point.

I also suggest making brief (one/two word) notes on each paragraph. So for paragraph E above I’d have something like “US/modern”. Don’t worry about making the notes too exact. You are just trying to remind yourself about what each para is about. You can get confused if you ring/underline too much.

 

4. Think physical. If you sit further away from the text you are reading, you simply see more of it – that way you see paragraphs and headings and the structure of the text which should help your general understanding. You are also simply more likely to focus on larger bits of text than if you sit right up close. The general idea is that you survey the text first.

5.  Focus on what is important. Not everything in the text is equally important. If you’re reading quickly, you’re trying to get the general meaning. Where do you find that? Start with headings, the introduction, the conclusion and the first and last sentences of each paragraph.

More advanced methods for reading more quickly

These methods are more advanced as you need to read more of the text. They’re the best approach as you are likely to understand more but they may be a waste of time if they take too long. Then you may need one of the different approaches below.

1. Read the whole text in group of words

This is an advanced method. You actually read everything but very quickly – it’s probably a skill for very high-level people only. The danger is you go too quickly and understand nothing – time wasted. The idea is that you take a paragraph like this and don’t read it word for word.

As is frequently the way with inventions, the breakthrough came by accident. A French entrepeneur, Georges Claude, had recently set up a business Air Liquide that specialised in the production of liquid nitrogen and oxygen. He discovered that he was also producing industrial quantities of neon as a by-product of this process and this put him into the position of being able to build on other people’s earlier experiments to produce neon lighting. Indeed, in the early years of neon, he had a near monopoly on the new technology, as his ready supply of neon allowed him to find a practical way to seal the gas in glass tubes.

Rather the idea is that you focus on every fourth word or so.  Look at this example below. See the red words and pass your eyes over the black ones.You should get the general meaning of the paragraph, while not focussing on every word.

As is frequently the way with inventions, the breakthrough came by accident. A French entrepeneur, Georges Claude, had recently set up a business Air Liquide that specialised in the production of liquid nitrogen and oxygen. He discovered that he was also producing industrial quantities of neon as a by-product of this process and this put him into the position of being able to build on other people’s earlier experiments to produce neon lighting. Indeed, in the early years of neon, he had a near monopoly on the new technology, as his ready supply of neon allowed him to find a practical way to seal the gas in glass tubes.

Possible problems

This is a skill that only comes with a lot of practice and don’t expect to learn it immediately and you may not have much end-product i.e. understand very little at the end or miss the main points.

Adapting it

Again, to make it work it can help to make brief (one/two notes) after each paragraph to say what it was about. Don’t worry about making them too exact. Here I might have “Claude/breakthrough”

2. Read the whole text focussing on key words

A similar method is to focus on key words (nouns and verbs mostly) and ignore the little words. To make it work best ignore that words that are repeated often and pay attention to places and dates.

Here is an example of how I might read this paragraph. Note that I am mostly reading “chunks of text” and ignoring others. Again you should see that by focussing on certain words you can still understand the general meaning and read more quickly.

Initially when he demonstrated his neon tubes at an exhibition in Paris in 1910, Claude proposed using his neon tubes as a form of indoor lighting to the extent he was nicknamed the French Edison. It did not take long to realise, however, that it’s true potential lay in signage and advertising and the first neon signs were seen in Paris as early as 1913. The great leap forward for the business came, though, when the technology was exported to the United States of America and, in particular, New York which was on the point of becoming the commercial capital of the world. A measure of the new technology’s success can be gauged from the fact that the neon sign industry was valued at $16.9 million by 1931 – a mere 8 years after the first signs for a Packard automobile dealership were set up in California at the cost of $24,000.

Possible problems

This may take too much time in the test itself. You are reading more than before.

Why it can work

It can work because at the end you will have underlined/ringed key words that you can come back to later when you are looking for answers to questions. it shortens the scanning time.

   

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2 Responses to Read more quickly in IELTS

  1. dede iskandar February 14, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Thank you dc ielts, its useful resources

  2. Kazi Mohiuddin August 10, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    Its really helpful. thanks a lot.

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