IELTS Reading Question Types

Matching Information

Read a list of statements and match a statement to each question.

Summary Completion

Complete a paragraph by finding the correct missing words.

True, False, and Not Given

Decide if a statement is true, false, or not given.

Matching Headings

Choose the correct title from a list for each paragraph.

Short Answer

Answer questions about the reading passage in three words or less

Multiple Choice

Choose the correct answer from a list of choices.

IELTS Reading Guide

I. What is IELTS reading

In IELTS reading you will have 1 hour to read three articles and answer 40 questions.  There are 13-14 questions about each article.  Each reading passage gets harder than the one before it.  So, the first reading passage is the easiest, and the third is the hardest.  However, all questions are worth 1 point.  Therefore, answer the easiest questions first.

Look at the chart below for a summary of IELTS reading.

IELTS Reading Summary

Reading Overview

II. How are you graded?

  • Each question is worth 1 point.  There are no 1/2 points.
  • You have to follow the instructions exactly to be correct.  Do not go over the word/number limit.
  • Spelling and grammar (singular/plural nouns and verb tense) must be correct.
  • Proper nouns (names of people and places) need to be capitalized to be correct.
  • Even a small error will cause you to get the question wrong, so be careful and always double check your answers for spelling and capitalization.
  • Look at the chart below to find your reading band score.

Reading Score Chart

Reading band scores

III. How to improve your reading band score

Above all, practice is the key to improve your band score.  You can use some of the tips below to speed up your progress.

  1. Find and use key words
    • Key words are the most important words in an IELTS question.  Underline key words as you are reading the question.
    • Example question with key words underlined: Why were early ballpoint pens not produced commercially?
    • In this question, 'early ballpoint pens' and 'commercially' are underlined because they are important words in the question.  The next step is to search the reading passage for a part that mentions 'early ballpoint pens' and 'commercial' production.
  2. Synonyms and parallel expressions
    • Often, IELTS examiners use synonyms or parallel expressions when writing questions.  A synonym is a word that has the same meaning as a word in the IELTS reading passage.  A parallel expression is a group of words that has the same meaning as a group of words in an IELTS passage.
    • When searching for key words, remember to also look for synonyms of the key word.  Search for the meaning of the key word instead of the actual word.  For example, if the key word is 'large', you should search for any word that also means large (big, huge, substantial, immense, enormous, etc...)
  3. Skimming and scanning
    • Skimming is when you read quickly to understand the general meaning of a passage.  You should skim to find exactly which paragraph is likely to contain an answer.
    • Scanning is when you read quickly to find a specific word or idea.  You should use scanning to quickly find the sentence that is likely to contain an answer.
  4. Time management
    • You only have 60 minutes to complete IELTS reading.  You cannot have any extra time.  Therefore, it is important to answer questions quickly.  All questions are worth the same; 1 point each.  Do not spend more than 2-3 minutes on one question.  If you cannot find the answer, skip the question and come back later if you have time.
    • If you cannot find the answer for a question, make a guess.  There is no extra penalty for making an incorrect guess, so you should guess and hope you get lucky for questions that you cannot find an answer!