How to teach reading for IELTS

How to teach reading for IELTS

As you know, IELTS has two modules: General and Academic. Reading the section in these modules is different. In the Academic module, your students will have three texts in academic content.

In the General module, they will have several texts (4-6) with general or social content. 

However, your students will have an hour to answer around 40 questions in both modules. 

Types of the questions in the reading section

  1. Match the headings
  2. True/False/ Not Given
  3. Match Paragraph Information 
  4. Summary completion 
  5. Sentence completion
  6. Multiple Choice 
  7. List selection
  8. Match Sentence endings
  9. Diagram/table completion
  10. Short Answer 

Let’s see how to teach your students to answer some of these questions.

Match the headings

Make sure that your students know that:

  • Some of the headings may have a similar meaning
  • Reading the first sentence of the paragraph and trying to match it with the heading usually does not work in IELTS readings
  • Spending too much time on one paragraph will be time-wasting.

Moreover, you should teach your students

  • Not to match the vocabulary, but to match the ideas
  • To start with the shortest paragraph
  • To try to understand the main idea of the paragraph.

True, False, Not given

True: the statement fully matches the idea in the passage

False: the statement contradicts the idea in the passage

Not Given: the whole statement is not stated  in the passage. You will not find the idea in the passage, maybe you will find it partly but not the whole idea.

This is what your students should do:

  • Forget anything they know about the topic; this checks their understanding of the text, not their knowledge.
  • At least one of all three answers are there.
  • Answers are in order, so they should not go back if they found the statement.
  • If they cannot find the answer, it can be Not GIVEN.

Completion questions (summary or a sentence)

You can meet this type of questions either in summary completion or in a gap-fill task. Some students find these tasks challenging. And here are some tips they should know:

  • Read the instructions first to understand how many words they should fill in.
  • Read the sentences or summary to guess or understand what form or type of the word is probably needed: a verb, a noun, an adverb, etc.

    Sometimes summary task has the list of the words from where the candidate has to choose to fill in the gaps. For example, the task may look like the following:

Size, planet, extending, never, frequent, principles, 

The same biological and chemical 1)….. (noun is needed) determine the make-up of all terrestrial life forms, whatever their 2)….. (noun is needed).We often assume that this is the case throughout the universe, we  have 3) ….. (adverb is needed) observed other kinds of organism.

Tip 1. Ask the student to guess the  part of speech of a missing word.

Tip 2. Eliminate obviously wrong words that do not match.

Besides, let me introduce some methods that will improve your learners’ reading skills for IELTS.

Extensive reading 

Make sure your students do enough extensive reading. They can read a number of articles, research papers. It is also crucial for them to read both informative and argumentative articles to understand the tone and the message of the author.  Short articles from newspapers will be useful as well. It is essential that students are able to analyze the structure and the logic of the texts.

Finding key words and phrases

Your students may complain that they lose concentration while reading long and boring texts.  However, there is only one hour for the reading on the exam. Your student will not have time to read the text over and over to focus on it. Teach them to underline keywords and phrases while reading the texts; this instructs the brain to find the link between those phrases, and it helps to understand the message of the text. 

Finding key ideas 

While teaching reading to your students, help them see the sub-ideas in each paragraph. You may instruct them to choose headings to a paragraph to see the flow of ideas in the text. It helps to deal with the lengthy texts.


Teach your students to paraphrase; it is one of the main skills needed for IELTS reading. Assign them numerous exercises on paraphrasing and force them to develop this skill. Paraphrasing is linked to grammar knowledge as well. So, to be able to paraphrase well, your students should have advanced grammar skills. Revisit inversion, conditionals, passive voice, if needed.

And in the end some tips you can give to the students while at the exam:

  • Do not panic if there are words you do not understand.
  • If you cannot answer a question, move on.
  • Come back to the questions you could not answer; you will have developed a different perspective.
  • Do not forget that 1 hour is given for the whole reading section; you will not have extra time to fill out the answer sheet.
  • If you feel or understand that the passage is too challenging, do not spend more time on that, move to other passages and then come back to that one.
  • Look at the questions to predict what the passage will be about and understand the structure of the passage.

Lusine Stepanyan

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