IELTS Reading Tips: Strategies & Comprehension

Let me explain about IELTS reading with regards to comprehending the passage and how to deal with long passages that are difficult to understand. The advice below is for the academic reading passages and also passage 3 of the GT paper, which is also a long passage.


How do I remember everything I have read?

The answer is – you don’t. IELTS reading is not about remembering what you have read or what each paragraph contains.


How can I understand everything if the passage is long and difficult?

The answer is – you don’t. IELTS reading is not about understanding everything. It is about locating answers.

IELTS Reading Tips

When you first get your reading passage, you should skim read it. This means you cast your eyes over the passage to get to know the general topic and content as well as to see the general layout of the passage. This should take about 2 minutes. You are not aiming to understand it, you just want to see what the passage is about before you tackle the questions.

After you skim read the passage, you go straight to the questions. Pay attention to what type of question type it is and remember your techniques and tips for that particular question type. Find a key word or information in the question to help you locate the answer. You scan the passage by casting your eyes over the words to locate the key information from the question. This should be done with speed to spot a word or piece of information rather than understand each sentence. Once you locate the place in the passage that contains the answer, you read the sentences before and after to find your answer. This means you only need to understand those few sentences.  Then you move to the next question and do the same. You don’t need to understand the whole passage at all.

Reading Techniques & Strategies

  1. skim the passage (read quickly to get general content and layout)
  2. read the questions
  3. identify the type of question
  4. remember your techniques and tips for that question type
  5. find a key word or information in the question to help you locate the answer in the passage
  6. scan the passage by passing your eyes over the paragraphs to find the key word or information from the question
  7. when you find the location, read the sentences before and after
  8. always read around the answer to check other information
  9. try to understand the few sentences around the location of the answer
  10. when you find the answer, move to the next question
  11. don’t spend too long trying to find one answer
  12. remember that each answer is only worth one point


IELTS Reading Question Types: Tips and Information

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  1. Hi Liz .
    I just want to thank …. your website is really too helpfull.

  2. Nasser says:

    Hi Liz,
    Unfortunately I get 4.5 in reading, and 5.0 in listening (GT). I need 6.0 at least, please can you help me to get this score.
    thanks a lot

  3. Hey liz,
    I want to take your guidance for ielts . Can you please tell what is your fees structure and how i can pay?

    • My website is free. Visit the main pages and you will find over 300 pages of free tips and practice lessons.

  4. Hi Liz,

    May i understand what do you mean by techniques for each question type. can u brief with an example plz??

  5. Komronkhan says:

    Hi Liz!
    My name Komron, and I am from Uzbekistan.
    Let me ask you one crucial question to you. As you know people either learn American or British English. Is it alright to write on the answer sheet with American spelling words rather than British. For instance: color – colour or programme -program
    King regards

    • For reading, always cope the words exactly as written in the passage. For listening or writing, you can use either US or UK spelling.

  6. Hi Liz,

    Can you let me know if the time to transfer answers to the answer sheet is inclusive in the 1 hour given for Reading section?

  7. Asim Abbasi says:

    Mam kindly clear it

    What is the difference between of GT & Academic test in Reading?

    As i am confused regarding your passages are for GT or AT or both are same in the exams?

  8. hello Elizabeth ,, thanks for this is useful blog i want ask you about different between
    scanning and skimming in IELTS reading .

    best regards ,,,

  9. Mostanser says:

    I had gotten L: 5.5, R: 5.5, S: 6.5 and W: 5 three years ago. Nowadays, due to my practice in Reading and Listening I think my score is around 5.5 yet. when I am doing sample tests I usually find the location of answer correctly but sometime select wrong answer and I think one of my fault is because of not concentrate in reading. Another problem about my practice is refer to my speed in reading texts. Do you have any solution for my these problems. In addition, how much should I training to achieve 6.5 score? Is It very difficult for me to get this score as I describe my condition.
    Thank you for Your help and suitable site and English subjects that share with others.

  10. i m still confused in false or notgiven .can u please help me to solve this problems

  11. maliha tabassum shashi says:

    Thanks for ur suggestion liz. Can you please give me some tips for matching headings for paragraphs? I always make mistake.

  12. Iftekhar Islam says:

    How many questions should I correct to score 8 in reading?

  13. mana chhantyal says:

    what does paraphasing means?

  14. My Score in Other sections is high and i need a high score also in Reading but only i got low score how i can increase it.
    Thank you.

  15. sandeep says:

    i am worrying about reading i got 4.5 in reading while practicing
    what should i do mam?

  16. I practice at home even than my score is not improving

  17. Hi mam, I want to know that when we have to answer in ” TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER” what does it exactly mean??
    Does it mean 2words + 1 number or it means 1word+1number.. Please clear my doubt.
    Thank you Liz mam

  18. Shamim ahmed says:

    Hi, Liz,
    Hope you are well. your tips help me a lot.
    well, I have a question, which type of question I have to answer first in a passage? and is there any hierarchy of difficulty in passage order?


    • For the academic test, the passages are the same difficulty level. For the GT reading test, the first one is the easiest and they get more difficult in turn.

  19. Dear Liz

    Unfortunately, IELTS Test usually begins with speaking, and you realize well, dear, that speaking is much more difficult than reading. Why do not the examiners start by the easiest skills in English, namely; reading and writing? Since the initial performance will have deep effect on the spirit.

    • The speaking test is given sometimes before listening, reading and writing, or it is given after. It depends which date you are given.

  20. Jignasha pathak says:

    Thanks a lot…. Your tips is excellent. Hats off to you and hundred times thanks to you for this lessons….:)

  21. When the instructions says “no more than 3 words”, should mu answer always be in 3 words? Would less than 3 words be wrong?

  22. Hi Liz,please help me to improve my band score in reading from 6.5-7.5.i am just stuck at 6.5.For me matching headings and T/F/NG are the most difficult tasks.i alwasy make mistakes in this type of questions.Also i can’t finish it on time,how to manage time in IELTS reading?please help.

  23. Shokhrukh Erkinov says:

    Hello, Liz. My question is that can I get a point despite I have given wrong answer in both listening and reading in addition to correct one?For instance, correct answer is frame. I wrote frame and wheeles. Thanks for your answer in advance.

  24. harpreet singh says:

    Mam people say that we get same papar on the sane date…even if we are general student or acedemic student….. Papar is same for both on same date…. Is it true….if it is true acedemic students get band according to general marking or not

  25. Hlo mam! British council has sent me a preparation book but i have difficulty in solving reading passage 2 that is ‘complete each sentence with the correct ending’. I want to send u the pic of that questions so that u can help me. Plz help me my exam date is 14th jan’16. Plz help me mam. I feel reading is most difficult in all modules. This is my first tym for ielts exam. Plz help me…. 🙁

  26. Dear Liz,
    Hi. As we know IELTS reading test has three sections and in each section there are two or three or even four types of question. I want to ask how we should answer questions for each passage? Do we have to answer questions one by one, or it is better to handle first or even first two questions of each types of question in each passage together?
    Thank you.

  27. what i want to say i love you and i love your smile as you look so friendly …and i enjoy to learn fromyou. you are special teacher that i have never seen ….ur lessons are very helpful ….keep smile all the time you are the best .

  28. ANAS SIDDIQUIE says:

    Hey liz,
    I am very weak in reading section for maching headings and main ideas,so please give me some tips regarding this.

  29. Thanks Liz,for your invaluable informations,I am on your website daily practicing for my IELTS exam this Coming December.Please keep up the good work.

  30. i love u liz

  31. elizabeth harry says:

    Dear Liz,

    I quite appreciate you for your time in analyzing the various tips to a successful IELTS test. I’ve actually sat for the exam once and ended up with a band 6 though I wasn’t privileged to view your site for proper preparation. My major problem was in Listening and Reading especially the last 20 questions. For the Listening, I got confused with the sound of the various speakers and for the Reading, I was dazed with a long passage and difficulty in identifying the answers in the passage even when I tried to read the entire passage. Need your counsel.

    Kind Regards.

    Liz Harry.

    • For reading, you should not be reading the entire passage in order to understand it for any question other than matching headings. Skim reading takes no more than 2 mins and is not aimed at understanding. Your goal is to analyse the questions as much as you can and then locate answers using key words. For listening, you need to get the IELTS Cambridge test books and other practice test books to improve section 3. You will get more comfortable with it as you practice more. Make sure your practice is aimed at specific sections and you are not just doing full test after full test.
      All the best

  32. Muhammed Shamsuddin says:

    Which type of question I should answer first.

  33. Yasir Afridi says:

    Just tell me the reason that why GT candidates are not achieving their desired bands or they have their own examiners who mark them strictly. I want to tell you that I know about GT marking in reading that it is different from AC but that’s another issue my problem is that they correct 34 to 37 in approximately 10 to 15 our institute practice tests but in real council exam they can’t even achieve 6 bands in reading the same is the case for all modules in GT.

    • You would need to review the type of test you gave your students as their practice test in your school. Was the practice test from one of the IELTS Cambridge books from 1 to 10? Which book?

      I am actually unclear which skill you are referring to. All students take the same speaking test that has the same scoring and the same examiners. The examiners don’t even know who is doing GT and who is doing academic because it is irrelevant for speaking. For writing, scoring might be different with practice tests done at your school unless they are marked by an ex-examiner. Only ex-examiners can mark accurately.

      Take time to think about where the problems lie.
      All the best

  34. Abdelazim says:

    Please I wanna find a native speaker to practice simulate ielts speaking test and raise my English speaking level
    I try to add some on Facebook but no one accept my friendship request
    Please if you can suggest someone to me I’ll be grateful to U. If not please tell me how to find someone and how to make friendship with English people

    • I wish I could give you advice but I don’t generally deal with English language, just IELTS skills. Facebook groups for English are useful – don’t aim for facebook friends, find the groups instead. Just type in English chat or something like that and join a group.

  35. Prajjwol Baral says:

    I am very much grateful to you. I found a lot of tips regaring every tests. i want to ask you a sample answer for writing 1 and 2 so that i can use the same vocabulary in every answers.

  36. Hi Liz,I am Sumedh and I am from India.I gone through your articles and videos and found it really helpful.Can you please post the videos specially for Reading as my reading is poor.


  37. Hi Liz, After see your website looks like very helpful, Actually i am based in DILI Timor Leste, i have take Several times of IELTS but i always Failed in Listening, is there any technique that may help me . need your Advise

    • The main techniques involve getting to know each type of question in listening so that you have a clear strategy. Being able to hear paraphrases and listening out for the answer being altered – so always keep listening even if you think you heard the answer. Also being good a spotting key words in questions and options for multiple choice. Did you take a look at the listening section on this blog? Watch the 25 tips video and then look through the MCQ video as well. I’ll put up more tips over time.
      All the best

  38. Duc Nguyen Minh says:

    Dear Liz,
    My name’s Duc from Vietnam. I have always visited your website. Your skill video lessons and tips are extremely useful and helpful.
    Thank you very much, Liz!

  39. hari pathak says:

    Dear Liz,
    Thanks for everything ! I am your regular follower and I would like to ask you for the tips regarding the sentence filling type. I am really weak and depressed with sentence filling because, while practicing, I always get less than 50 %. Could you please help me ? I have my exam on 1st August. Thanks !

    • The key is identifying different types of key words. Make a note of which words in the sentence you are likely to hear – these are words that can’t be paraphrased. Make a note of key words that show the types of answer – a noun, verb, adjective etc. Then look at words which can be paraphrased – common verbs, common nouns. It sounds like a lot to do in a short time but with practice these things become second nature. Sentence completion questions come in order so notice the order of information when you are preparing and move quickly to the next question. Also be realistic, you are more likely to get 8 out of 10 in section 2 than in section 4.
      I hope that helps

      • hari pathak says:

        Thank you liz ! One more question- is this tip applicable for both reading and listening section?Actually, I was talking about the reading test. And thank you so very much for your fast response. You are the best IELTS teacher among those I have found in web. Love you and your every lesson. Thank you again.

        • Yes, it’s the same techniques for both reading and listening. Words that can’t be paraphrased easily or you know you will hear, can help you identify the sentence(s) which contains the answer. Paraphrasing skills help you understand the answer. Knowing if you need a noun, verb or adj or name will help you find the correct answer. So, you need all three skills.
          All the best

  40. your site is much usefull for the Exam…Thanks lot for it..

    I have poor reading skill..How do i develop it..

  41. Faraidoon says:

    Dear Liz,

    Thanks very much for your invaluable, interesting and free tips and explanations regarding IELTS.
    However, I believe that if you could posts videos or short courses on reading tips, especially the ” which paragraph contains information”, it would be grateful, as this might be the most challenging exercise I’ve ever seen.
    Please continue your very informative style of teaching which I think makes your blog the most successful ones among all the other IELTS sites, and this opinion has come after a thorough comparison of a couple of other web pages dealing with IELTS.

    Kind regards,


  42. Dear Liz,

    Are there any practice test which delas with diagram labeling, maps, etc? I find it difficult for these type of questions.


    • You can get practice using the IELTS Cambridge books or other practice test books.
      All the best

  43. Joshua says:

    hello Liz thank you for all the information and tips. I find a difficulty when I want to locate the suitable paragraph for the answer in reading test

    • The key to finding information in paragraphs is your ability to paraphrase and also scan the passage. You must also be able to identify key words in the sentences that will help you find the location in the passage. The key words might be words that need to be paraphrased before you try to locate them. The more you analyse the sentences in the question, the easier it will be to locate the information. There is no easy way to do these questions, but analysing the sentences completely before trying to locate information is your best step.

    • Joshua says:

      thank you so much but how I can paraphrase each sentence in short time and how I can improve my skills in this task because my Ielts exam is going to be after 1 week my problem is with the time

      • You focus on paraphrasing key words. Go through the practice lessons and find the key words than help you locate answers and key words that help you choose the right answer.

  44. Akshay Patel says:

    Very useful….thanks… But what type of traps could be there ? Can you help us?

    • If you take a look at the exercises I have put up, you will see the common traps. Most traps are testing your ability to spot correct paraphrases and avoid obvious words that are copied from the question but that don’t actually have the correct meaning.
      All the best

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