IELTS Reading

IELTS Reading Structure

The reading part of IELTS is one hour long. It consists of three sections each having one or several texts on a various topics. Each section will have 13 to 14 questions for a total of 40.To get acquainted with the type of IELTS Reading questions, please refer to page 2 of this article.

If you are familiar with the structure, then try one of the IELTS Reading Practice Tests.

IELTS Reading can be either Academic or General. The main difference between the two is text topics and and difficulty of the text.

IELTS Reading Academic
Each section of Academic Reading has one exam text. These texts are taken from websites, newspapers and magazines. The texts are intended for a non-specialist reader so you are not required to know specific vocabulary to understand them. Any technical terms in the text will have a definition provided. Each text is approximately 2400 words long (that’s roughly two to three pages). It can contain various illustrations, tables and graphs. The texts will vary in volume, topic, difficulty and style.

IELTS Reading text styles

There are several possible styles:

Narrative style presents you with a story. It has a certain development or a plot present.

Argumentative style will have a discourse about a controversial topic. This text will have points in favour and against the topic. There can be various graphs and other illustrations to support the argument.

Descriptive style of texts often speak of a certain process. This type of text is likely to have pictures of said process, various diagrams and so on.

Below is the score table for Academic Reading

IELTS Reading General
Section One of General Reading may have two or three short texts or several texts that are even shorter. Section Two has two short texts and Section Three has one long text. Each section is about 2400 words long (which is around two to three pages)

Section One has everyday life texts such as timetables, notices, advertisements. Your task will be to find the required information there.

Section Two is about work and various events and activities connected with it. Examples include training programmes, staff meetings, job interviews.

Section Three is one text of general interest of descriptive or instructive style. The first type of text will give a detailed description of some object, event . The second type will provide you with guidance for some process.

Below is the score table for General Reading


According to, 80% of test-takers chose Academic as their module in 2015.

 IELTS Reading Tips

Answers to the questions come one after another, meaning that the first question will have its answer in the beginning of the text, the answer to question two will come after it and so on. Follow this pattern to avoid unnecessary search. However, rarely there are questions that deviate from this pattern. In this case, you will have to go back and seek for relevant information in the part of the text that you would otherwise ignore. Always keep this in mind.

To answer the questions, you don’t have to read the whole text. As a matter of fact, you simply won’t have enough time to. Instead, you look at the questions first and underline keywords. After that, you can use either scan reading, skim reading or combination of both to find question-related sentences. Sometimes you will need to look at the previous or the following sentence. In any case, this will drastically reduce time required to complete the task, as you won’t be reading the whole text.

Both general and academic texts are likely to have vocabulary that is unknown to you. As you prepare for your exam, it is advisable to underline any unknown words to look them up later. Prior to that, try to guess the meaning of it. It can be difficult, but using the context of the sentence you encounter it in and the adjacent ones you can make a pretty accurate educated guess. Remember, you might have to use this technique as it is nearly impossible to know every single words in existence, especially when it comes to academic texts which are full of specific vocabulary.

It is clearly stated on the official IELTS webpage that Reading sections come in order of ascending difficulty i.e. Section One is the easiest of the three, Section Two is more difficult and so on. In spite of this test-takers often find themselves making as many if not more mistakes in the first section. This can be attributed to so called “adjustment period”, during which your mind adapts to the task. To reduce the negative effect of this it is advised to employ one of the mind flexing techniques.

During the exam you can’t afford wasting too much time on a single question. If you get stuck – just move on to the next question, you might have time later on to return. Concentrating on a single question fruitlessly will wear you out both physically and mentally, which in turn will affect your overall performance in the remaining part of the exam. Remember, you cannot compromise your results because of one hold-back. At the very worst you would be guessing the answer, which is much better than wasting five or more minutes on it.


IELTS Reading – Question Types

  1. Matching information involves looking for a specific piece of information in the text. The paragraphs are usually marked by letters A, B, C and so on. You might not need to use all the paragraphs. If any paragraph can be used more than once, it will be stated so in a clear way.
  2. Matching headings has a number headings that sum up the idea of a text section or paragraph. You have to match paragraphs/text parts with headings. There will always be more headings than paragraphs, so you won’t be using all of them. It is likely that one matching will be done for you as an example – pay attention to that not to use the example headings again. No heading and no paragraph can be used twice. NB: this is one of the tasks that deviates from the pattern described here
  3. Matching sentence endings task provides you with the beginnings of sentences which you have to match with their endings. There will be more endings than beginnings. The order of beginnings is the same as one in the text. The idea of the sentence you end up with shouldn’t be different from the source text. Don’t expect to find the same phrases in the suggested endings, they are likely to be paraphrased.
  4. Matching features required to match a pieces of information or statements to a number of options. An example would be attributing famous sayings or opinions to their authors. Some options might not be used, others can be used more than once – this will be mentioned in the task description.
  5. Multiple choice is simple choosing the correct answer out of many. Sometimes you have to choose more than one answer.
  6. True/False/Not given questions provide you with a statement. You have to decide if the statement is true or false according to the text. “True” means that the statement agrees with the information in the text. “False” means that it contradicts it – the statement is the exact opposite of what is in the text. “Not given” means that the statement neither agrees nor disagrees the text, or that there is no relevant information in it.
  7. Yes/No/Not given questions is the same as the previous type of questions.
  8. Sentence completion is a task where you are given a sentence with a gap in it. You have to fill the gap choosing word (or words) from the text. The task clearly states the world limit. Usually it’s up to three words and/or a number, meaning that you can use up to three words plus a digit. It doesn’t mean that your answer has to be no shorter than three words, the answer can be one word only. It means that you shouldn’t exceed the word limit provided. Articles and prepositions are counted as words too. Words that are written through a hyphen (Afro-American, good-looking) are counted as one word.
  9. Short-answer questions require you to respond to factual questions on the text. You have to write the answer with the word limit rules similar to the previous question type.
  10. Diagram completion involves diagram label completion. This diagram is based on the information provided in the text. It can be an illustration of a mechanism, a process, a building and so on. You have to write the words in the gaps that the diagram has. For your convenience each gap has a number. The word limit requirement is similar to the previous tasks
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