I love IELTS reading!! There is nothing about it that I don’t really enjoy. I love doing it and I love teaching it. I also love the fact that when I teach it most of my students have ‘blue sky’ moments when it all suddenly makes sense and their scores shoot up. This is the best thing of all.

There are several problems that can cause anxiety with reading – certain question types, certain topic types, lack of vocabulary and understanding about how certain language features work etc. but the ONE thing that everyone can address easily is the timing and yet it is the hardest thing to get students to do.

It’s simple mathematics – you have 40 questions to complete in 60 minutes so each question only has around 1 minute and the passages get harder so you’ll probably need more time for passage 2 and 3 (the content is not harder but the questions are not as straightforward). So you have to work on a minute per question.

I know that most of you see and understand this but what happens when you start a test practice or the test itself is you forget it and are determined to answer each question and take time to find the answers. What happens next is that you get to passage three and you only have 5 or 10 minutes left! Bearing in mind that these questions are sometimes more tricky then panic sets in and lots of guessing begins to happen. Does this sound familiar?

If you can’t complete 5 or more questions, then your overall maximum score decreases so you are being marked out of 35 or even 30 rather than 40 and your chance of band 7 is greatly reduced.

So here is a different scenario, there is a question in passage 1 that is hard to find – leave it and move on. At the end of that question section come back and look again quickly (chances are that you’ll have found it while looking for other questions) or come back at the end of the passage – still can’t find it? Don’t worry, just keep going. There is another question in passage 2 you can’t find – do the same. There may be two questions in passage 3 – repeat the same process. Now you have completed the whole paper right to question 40 and you have a few minutes to spare – go back and look at those other 4 questions – you’ll probably find one or two of them if you haven’t already got them. Now there are seconds left and there is one question you still can’t find – so just make an educated choice. The result is that instead of guessing five questions you’ve only ‘guessed’ one.

It’s common sense.

Those who follow this system and know what they are doing will typically complete the reading test in around 50 – 55 minutes and have time to check (and perhaps twiddle their thumbs!!).

Another matter of common sense is that if you are making a choice from several options, the more you can reduce those options the easier it becomes to choose, so if you can ‘t do the first move on to the second, third or fourth, the more you can eliminate the easier it is to do the first one!

Finally, and again common sense, if you can’t find the right answer – try process of elimination – it often works just as well.

This is how you can complete all the questions and have plenty of time to do the reading – getting stuck on one question and not moving on? That way lies madness J

Many people are too afraid to do this but those who do, realise that this is the only way to be sure of completing everything. Of course you have to be able to find the correct answers but that’s another issue and having more time will help a lot.

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