How to prepare for the IELTS reading section at home


International English Language Testing System is a standard test that evaluates an individual’s proficiency in the English language. IDP jointly administers it, along with the British Council and Cambridge Assessment English. The IELTS exam is accepted by prestigious universities and organizations across the world. It is taken by individuals who plan to pursue their further studies or those seeking a job in countries like the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

It is one of the most prominent language proficiency tests and is accepted in 3400 institutions in the US alone. IELTS offers two types of exams, academic and general training. The academic exam is for those who wish to pursue higher studies from English-speaking universities. On the other hand, the general training is taken by people seeking employment opportunities in countries where people primarily communicate in English.

IELTS Format

The IELTS exam consists of four sections- reading, writing, speaking and listening. The writing and reading sections are slightly different in the academic and general test, making sure that you prepare accordingly. The entire test lasts for around two hours and forty-five minutes, excluding the time taken by the speaking section. Candidates have the option to take the speaking test up to a week before the actual exam. You can refer to the below-mentioned information for the format of the academic exam:

SectionDurationNo. of questions
Reading60 minutes40
Writing60 minutes2
Listening30 minutes + 10 minutes transfer time40
Speaking11-14 minutes3 parts (number of question)

 IELTS Reading Section preparation

The reading section of the IELTS exam consists of three passages, and a variety of questions are asked based on the given text. If you are preparing for the test at home with self-study, you can go through the below-mentioned steps to accelerate your preparation:

1. Get familiar with the reading section

The reading section consists of texts that are usually taken from journals, books, newspapers etc. These texts may also be accompanied by diagrams, charts, graphs, depending upon the nature of the passage. Here is a general list of the types of questions asked in the reading section:

  • Fill in the blanks
  • Matching tasks
  • True/False questions
  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Diagram completion
  • Short questions
  • Sentence completion

2. Improve your vocabulary

The IELTS reading section might be the most challenging one for some students. It is because of the lengthy passages, tricky questions and limited time. You can reduce this pressure by rigorously working on your vocabulary. You can make a note of the standard terms and words used in the reading passages. It would help if you tried to guess the meaning with the help of the given context and then verify it using a dictionary.

3. Time yourself

When you prepare for the exam on your own, make sure to time yourself as you skim through the passages. You should be able to distribute your time between lengthy and short questions accordingly.

4. Practice tests

Make sure to take as many practice tests as possible. Utilize your time at home efficiently by taking multiple IELTS reading section mock tests, which will eventually improve your speed.

Tips to ace the reading section

Polish your reading skills

To ace the reading section, you have to improve your reading skills and speed. You don’t have to necessarily go through the IELTS reading material to do that since that can get a little monotonous. You can inculcate a habit of reading newspapers, journals, magazines or even novels to work on your skills.

Be confident while guessing

While attempting the IELTS exam, no one is going to have all the answers. It is alright to revisit complex or confusing questions instead of wasting time by being fixated on them. You are expected to have a strong vocabulary while preparing for the reading section. Even if you don’t know the exact meaning of the word mentioned in the passage or the question, you should be confident enough to guess its meaning from the context.

Pay attention to details

Paying attention to minute details and specific instructions in the reading section can help you attain a higher score. It is crucial to understand the demands of the question to be able to give the correct answer. It is beneficial, especially in multiple-choice questions where you have to choose between two closely related options.

Come up with a suitable approach

You need to devise a suitable approach that works for you while attempting the reading section. Students often find it helpful to go through the questions first instead of reading the entire passage. That way, you will pay more attention to the relevant themes and parts directly related to the questions asked.

Work on your skimming skills

It is not feasible to read an entire passage two-three times, given the time constraint. You need to develop the relevant skills that will enable you to skim the passage for important information quickly. You can simultaneously underline the keywords that will help you retain the essential information.


It can be challenging to take out sufficient time for your IELTS preparation, especially if you are constantly stressed because of the application deadlines. It is recommended that students keep aside at least 6-8 weeks to prepare for the exam to avoid this and make the preparation hassle-free.

While selecting the exam date, make sure you have enough time for adequate preparation. Being well prepared will enable you to attain the required band score to get into your dream college or organization. Students can utilize the free online resources available to study for the IELTS exam, including official practice papers. Once you are done with the section-wise preparation, you can attempt full-length practice tests to make you feel more confident about taking the exam.

Author Bio

Abhyank Srinet is a passionate digital entrepreneur who holds a Masters in Management degree from ESCP Europe. He started his first company while he was still studying at ESCP and managed to scale it up by 400% in just 2 years. Being a B-School Alumni, he recognized the need for a one-stop solution for B-School to get in touch with schools and get their application queries resolved. This prompted him to create MiM-Essay, a one-of-a-kind portal with cutting edge profile evaluation and school selection algorithms, along with several avenues to stay informed about the latest B-School Updates.

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