Top Tips for IELTS

Train your reading skills – how to read more quickly


One of the difficulties in IELTS reading is being able to read the text quickly enough. The good news is that it is not an impossible skill to master and that there definite techniques you can learn to improve your reading speed. Here I suggest 3 different ways to improve your reading speed, all of them work – if you practise them.

How does this work in the test?

The ideas I suggest here are training ideas – something to practise before the test. The idea is that you use these ideas to build up your reading speed before the test. Once you get there you should naturally just read more quickly.

Skimming and scanning?

This is not really the same as skimming or scanning – this is just reading everything but quickly. It is a useful test skill for these reasons:

it will stop you getting stuck on hard and probably unimportant words – lots of time can get wasted that way

skimming and scanning tell you where the answer comes, they don’t tell you what the answer is normally. To do that you need to read closely but you also need to read quite quickly

Understanding why you read slowly

Remember when you skim, you only need to understand general meaning

There are a number of possible reasons why you might read too slowly. Here are a few of the most likely possibilities:

  • you want to understand every word
  • you read words one by one and not in groups of meaning
  • you find a difficult word and stop reading forwards
  • you go back and read the same sentence twice to be sure
None of these habits are bad habits – if you are reading closely for meaning. They are, however, bad habits if you are reading quickly for meaning. The key is to understand that you only have to get the general meaning of a passage as you skim read.

How to read more quickly – Use your finger

Learn to read down the page, not just across the page

Normally, it is not good advice to use your finger if you want to read more quickly as your eye moves more quickly than your finger. Here the idea though is different. You don’t move your finger across the page, you move it down the page slowly but steadily. You should find that your eye starts moving more quickly to keep up with your finger.


  • place your finger in the middle of the page at the top
  • as you read, move your finger slowly but steadily
  • don’t stop moving your finger when you get to a difficult word/sentence

How to read more quickly – Use a piece of paper

Keep on reading forwards, not backwards

The idea here is quite simple: you keep reading forwards and do not allow yourself to read backwards when you get stuck. This works because one reason why you might read too slowly is that you keep going back to read something a second time. To help you read forwards and not backwards, you physically block out the words you have just read with a piece of paper.


  • take a piece of paper/card
  • place it on the page
  • whenever you finish reading a line, move the paper to cover that line

How to read more quickly – Tap your finger and read 3 words at a time

Don’t just read one word at a time, read groups of words

This is another “trick” that quick readers learn automatically. The idea again is that you don’t try and read words one by one, but you try and read 3/4 words at the same time. This makes sense because your brain doesn’t store and process individual words, but words in groups. It works in practice because you are in fact more likely to understand “difficult” words if you read the other words around them at the same time.


  • place your finger on the page
  • move it across the page, tapping every 3rd or 4th word
  • tap to a rhythm, don’t slow down if you get to a difficult word
  • move your eye to follow your finger

Practice suggestion

In general, the people who read most quickly are also the people who read most. So, the very simple practice suggestion is to make reading part of your daily routine. I don’t mean IELTS reading, just reading for pleasure or information. Here is what I suggest:

  • read a book for at least 15 minutes a day
  • don’t allow yourself to use a dictionary at all
  • how many pages can you read in that time?
  • keep a record
If you find yourself reading for more than 15 minutes, excellent. That almost certainly means you have begun to read for pleasure and have stopped worrying about what very word means.

More connected lessons

Reading is a complex skill. That means that there are several different mini- skills included in it. To learn to read well it helps to understand and practise all of them.

Learn about the different skills

IELTS reading skills – an introduction

A skimming exercise

A skimming exercise with true false not given practice

Ways to scan more effectively

Scanning skills in IELTS

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32 Responses to Train your reading skills – how to read more quickly

  1. Liz November 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm #


    • Akinniran O. Oke. August 27, 2016 at 5:43 am #

      Liz, I have been to your site too. My wife and I took the exam. we didn’t make it. She is thinking of giving up on the exam. I don’t want her to. Reading is a big issue. We just need 6, 6, 6, 6. But reading… it’s always an issue. I hope you guys can help us.

  2. Gowri February 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    excellent tips

    • Anonymous October 26, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

      thanks a million

  3. LuckyAli March 27, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    That’s nice

  4. Tony July 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm #


  5. cladius November 12, 2014 at 6:03 am #

    Great ideas, thanks a lot.

  6. Anonymous November 13, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Great information, thank you!

  7. Majd January 4, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    Hi Dominic, thanks for the tips.
    Just to make a general idea, what is the average speed (pages per 15 minutes) that are required for IELTS reading tests?

  8. poojaswinder sidhu January 12, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    Great ideas, thanks

  9. Angel Roche March 4, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Excellent article

  10. dami March 22, 2015 at 7:49 am #

    Hi Dominic, thanks for the tips. Wish me luck for the real test

  11. Anonymous April 7, 2015 at 6:11 am #

    Excellent advices.

  12. tee July 16, 2015 at 1:12 am #


  13. Jay July 30, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    Excellent Tips – very help.

    Thank you

    You may know or not – You are doing a big job

  14. Rose M August 20, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    This is so helpful to me. Thanks for sharing this.

  15. Hiren September 29, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Thnx this is too much helpfull 4 me..
    Thank You So Much……

  16. The Wall October 21, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    Thank you very much. It s a good help.

  17. faizan October 27, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    Its good. idea of reading book without vocabulary.. good one ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Tom Chang January 4, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    thank you

  19. Amanada January 20, 2016 at 8:07 am #

    Great help..Thanks a lot..

  20. lakky January 20, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

    Good job.this will be my 5 times of writting this test with the last one in 2014 with a band score of 5.5, though I had 7 in speaking with 5 in each module.

  21. WU BEIHU March 9, 2016 at 7:15 am #


  22. kenM April 6, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    These are excellent direct to the point tips.

  23. Ali April 28, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    I am preparing to sit in IELTS exam and my major problem is reading, all of your above mentioned causes were my main drawbacks. Your valuable points helped me considerably.
    Thank you very much

  24. Mohamad May 11, 2016 at 7:11 am #

    the best advice you said is read groups of words. thanks for all what you said.

  25. Gopi Krishna July 9, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    Great tips.. I will try those.

  26. Adil July 12, 2016 at 4:21 am #


  27. Anonymous August 4, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

    Good job!!!

  28. Toby Johny August 22, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    superb tips ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks boss

  29. Aravindhan September 20, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Thank you your website is very helpful. i adapted many techniques and its working well.

  30. Amy February 28, 2017 at 8:10 am #

    Thank you so much!

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