IELTS Reading Tips And Techniques To Increase Your Reading Speed

ielts reading speed reading tips

One of the challenges in IELTS reading for test-takers is reading quickly. Each IELTS reading test comprises of around 900-2000 words (with 40 questions). So, many IELTS candidates fail to finish the IELTS reading test because they are slow readers.

While taking the IELTS reading test you need to find out ways in which you can improve your reading speed and achieve the desirable band score. You have to be conscious that while taking a reading test spanning over 2000 words, you are given only 60 minutes to read. You will not have sufficient time to gather every detail. Therefore, it is important to practice well before appearing for IELTS test so that you get a hold on it.

The good news is that there are definite techniques you can learn to improve your reading speed. Here, I suggest some tips and techniques which will help you to improve your reading speed. All of them work if you practice them regularly.

This article will discuss:

  1. Exam summary
  2. Golden rules for IELTS Reading
  3. Why some people read more slowly than others
  4. Techniques to improve reading speed
  5. Skimming (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced Skimming Techniques, and seven skimming tricks)
  6. Scanning

IELTS Reading Exam summary

  • The academic reading module takes 60 minutes.
  • There are three reading passages consisting of around 2000 words.
  • The texts can be on a range of different topics. At least one of the texts will contain a detailed logical argument. The texts become more difficult to understand, progressively.

Golden rules for IELTS Reading Exam

  • Answer the questions quickly and accurately. If you can’t do a question quickly,  leave it and return later
  • As the passages are long, you don’t have to read them in detail. Skim and scan them to grasp the relevant information.
  • The level, the texts, and the tasks become difficult, progressively. Therefore, attempt the easy questions as quickly as possible, to give yourself more time for the difficult questions.
  • You have around one and a half minutes for each question.
  • Do not panic if you can only do just three questions out of seven. Go through them again and again, but quickly.
  • When you finish one passage, check your answers and try to fill all the
  • The questions usually follow the order of information in the text.
  • The questions are usually paraphrases of the text so look for the meaning in the text, not the exact words.
  • The questions test your general understanding (G) and specific detail [S].
  • Some question types are used to test how you deal with specific information and general meaning. For example, a multiple-choice question can test for detail or understanding of the whole text.
  • The questions do not test your knowledge of English, but your ability to use English.

Why some people read more slowly than others?

There are several reasons why you might read at a slow pace. Here are a few possibilities:

  • You want to get to know every single word
  • You read words one by one and not in groups of meaning
  • You read and say the words quietly at the same time
  • You go back and read sentences two or three times to make sure you completely understand every
  • You think about the ideas too deeply or in too much detail

You can also check more IELTS reading materials

How to improve IELTS reading?

In general, we read at a faster pace when we are getting the general meaning of the text (skimming) or looking for specific words or phrases (scanning). Using these skills is very important, but if we just use these techniques all the time, we will miss out on important details and get the answers wrong. Let’s learn to use the following techniques effectively:

  • Skimming: Skim the text to obtain general information. Think about the general information and not the detail. Don’t underline.
  • Scanning: Scan for specific detail only: don’t concentrate on the meaning of the text. If you start to read, or even to skim, you will find it more difficult to locate the right
  • Skim and read: Skim a text, and stop at particular points to Use the questions to guide you around the text.
  • Scan and skim: When you scan a text for a specific word, your eye touches the other information lightly. Because your focus is on scanning, your eye skims the text naturally and does not slow you down. You need to practice to build confidence


Bask skimming techniques

  1. Skim the title and the questions.  They give you a summary of the passage
  2. Skim the words only, i.e. the nouns, main verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Do not look at words like the, a, in, is, Underline the words in a few paragraphs. Then read them again.
  3. Skim only the basic structure of the sentences/clauses: the subject, verb, and the object (if there is one). Don’t look at adverbs and adjectives.
  4. Without reading the text, mark the connecting words, e.g. moreover, also, however, etc. Practice until you can see the connecting words automatically when you look at a paragraph. Then you do not need to mark them.
  5. Skim so that you recognize common types of paragraph organization, like effects, causes, methods, etc.
  6. Skim only the nouns in the text to give you a general picture. Be clear about the differences between a noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. Learn to recognize them and know what their functions are in the sentence.

Intermediate skimming techniques

  1. Read the first sentence of a paragraph and then skim the beginning of each sentence in the paragraph. This will show you the general theme of the paragraph.

See the text organization below. For example:

“His career was rather chequered, spanning a period of 30 years. He … After resigning, he … Not long after he … Van Damme then ….”

The referring word ‘he’ carries the information through the subsequent sentences.

  1. Ignore and do not underline words you do not know. Focusing on words you do not know will slow you down.
  2. Skim the verbs in each sentence. This shows you if the content of the text is changing
  3. Start at the verb in each sentence and look at everything after that. The verb usually marks the beginning of new information in the sentence.
  4. Cover the left hand or right-hand side of a text and skim. This stops you from concentrating too hard on the meaning.
  5. Skim a text to understand the This can be facts or ideas. For example, skim a text line by line without looking at the meaning and pick out words that form a pattern/ picture or that have something in common. As you skim, remember writers have to avoid repetition so they have to use synonyms to create a theme.

Advanced skimming techniques

  1. Skim the text forwards or backwards and note words which form a general picture: airports, passengers, lounge, fly.
  2. Locate the crux of the paragraph. It is not always at the beginning.
  3. Use your knowledge of different types of sentences and paragraph organizations to predict and move around the passage.
  4. Look at a central point in a paragraph and then allow your eye to wander around the paragraph skimming the nouns, verbs for the general idea
  5. Use the questions to help you navigate the text.

Seven skimming tricks

  1. Use a pencil to help you skim. This helps train your eye.
  2. Skim each sentence from left to right.
  3. When you’re confident, skim left to right and then right to left and so on.
  4. Move a pencil vertically down through the centre of the text forcing your eye to look quickly at the text on either side.
  5. Skim diagonally through the text – top left to bottom right. You could also go backwards diagonally or vertically.
  6. Jump in different directions through the text. Then stop now and again and read
  7. Skim the ends of sentences. A sentence is divided between information which refers to the previous sentence and information which is new. References generally come at the beginning and new ideas at the end. Skim the ends of the sentences.

Example: A man walked into a shop. The man picked up a newspaper. The newspaper …

  1. At all times try not to get caught up in the details.


Choosing scanning words in the questions

  • Choose your scanning words carefully. For example, with True, False, Not Given, read all the statements and look for words that occur frequently. These are likely to be the general subject of the passage, so they will not help you scan.
  • Look for words that relate to the general subject. They can be nouns, names, dates, etc.
  • Keep in mind the basic structure of a sentence: Subject Verb Object. Anything extra qualifies the sentence, e.g. additional clauses, adjectives, adverbs, negative words, comparisons. These words/phrases help you understand the focus of the statement. For example, you should notice a negative word like ignore It is probably not a scanning word, but a word that tests your understanding of the text
  • Look for words and ideas that help you traverse through the text. This is a very efficient tool. Look at the questions together and not in isolation. The questions can often be subdivided: two relating to one area of text; three to another, etc. Connect the questions, group them and use this to help you to jump around the text.

How to scan slowly?

  • Scan from left to right left to right. You must look only for your chosen scanning words. If you don’t, this will be a slow and ineffective technique.

How to scan?

  • To stop yourself from reading every word, start at the end of each line or paragraph.
  • Scan from right to left, right to left through the text. This prevents you from reading the text.
  • Alternatively, scan diagonally through the text from bottom right to top left, or vertically, from the bottom to the top.
  • Move through the text in a zigzag pattern, This stops you from reading. Move faster each time you practice.
  • You can also scan forward, but you must stop yourself from reading the text.
  • When you have gained confidence, scan forwards left to right, right to left and so on. You do not have to waste time going to the beginning of a line each time!
  • Very efficient readers can look at the centre of a paragraph and not allow their eyes to move. Then they take everything around the central point. If a paragraph is long, do it in stages.
  • You will pick up the meaning as you scan. Slowly, you become an efficient reader!

How to mark the text when you skim or scan?

  • Use a pencil so you can rub out mistakes.
  • Only underline keywords: scanning words from the questions and organizing words.
  • Underline as little as possible. Too much underlining makes it difficult to find essential information. Remember more is less.

Completing the answer sheet

  • Fill in the answer sheet carefully. Use a pencil.
  • Mark the end of the first two passages on the sheet with a short line. Aim to complete one stage at a time.
  • Fill in the answers directly onto the sheet and in the correct order.
  • Write clearly. Give only one answer unless the instruction requires
  • Write in the correct spaces and keep within them.
  • Check your spelling, especially common words and follow the word limit.
  • Do not copy words from the question stem or paraphrase from the text. The answer will be marked incorrect.
  • Skim/check your answers when you finish. Choose answers at random to check, or check them backwards. Also, check your answers against the questions to make sure the grammar is correct.

Also check :

Written By

Sowmya is a content writer and is passionate about her job. She currently works on editing and writing engaging content for IELTS Material. She also has experience in the Software Testing Industry and has worked with Wipro for five and a half years.

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