Patrick and I met with a very small group of you last night on IELTS Chat. I think everyone will agree that the wisdom Patrick shared with us regarding the reading exam was extremely valuable. (For a full transcript of the conversation, click here.) Be sure to visit Patrick’s website at IELTS Test Online.
Here are some of the points I took away from the evening:
- -When engaging the reading exam, you don’t have enough time to read all passages in detail. It is vital that a student learns how to skim and scan. Skimming involves reading to find out the general gist of a passage. Scanning involves reading to find a specific bit of information.
- -Patrick outlined two strategies for engaging the reading portion of the exam: (1) read the questions in detail, note keywords, then scan the passage for the answers to those questions (2) skim the passage, note the topics, then read the questions in detail and answer them. Patrick said there is no ‘right’ way to engage the questions, the key is for students to experiment as they are studying and find out which strategy works best for them.
- -Patrick’s advice for vocabulary building is for students to make the new words they learn relevant for them. Instead of creating long, boring lists of vocabulary words, students should be writing the words they learn down in the context they see them. So if ‘triumph’ is a new word and you see the word in a passage about your favourite football team, you should be noting the word down in a sentence that reminds you of the passage you read. Doing this will help jolt your memory when you come back to review the new words you’ve learned.
- -If you come across an unknown word on the exam, Patrick suggests following these 6 steps: (1) checking the context of the word, (2) contrast the word with another word or sentence in the paragraph, (3) looking for explanation of the word’s meaning in the sentence or paragraph itself, (4) breaking the word apart into its more basic form (if it has one), (5) logic and finally (6) simply guessing what the word means.
- -T/F/NG questions always appear in the order of the text. So if you’ve found the answer for the first T/F/NG question in the third paragraph of the text, you know that the second T/F/NG question’s answer will not be in the first or second paragraph. This can save you valuable time on the exam! The same phenomenon is true for sentence completion questions.
- -T/F/NG questions can be tricky, particularly knowing when to mark a question ‘N’ and when to mark it ‘NG’. The key is that you need to have definitive evidence that a piece of data is a ‘No’. If you cannot find this evidence, the answer is ‘Not Given’. If you are not sure about a question, leave it blank until the end of your exam. Use the last few minutes to answer this question. If you are still unsure, chances are the answer is NG.
- -Matching type questions must be read very closely. If you’ve skimmed the passage already, certain questions should be clear to you right away. Do these questions first.
- -If you face the headings question type, it is important to remember that the heading represents the entire paragraph, not just a section of it. So you need to be sure that you have an understanding of what the entire paragraph is saying. Do the easier headings first, then attempt the harder ones.
- -If you are having trouble with time, remember to allot yourself no more than 1.5 minutes per question. If you cannot find the answer within 1.5 minutes, skip this question and move on. You can come back after you complete the easier questions and try to find the answer.
- -Another great time saving tip: when you start the exam, first look at the question types. Choose the question type that you find the easiest and read its corresponding passage first. You do not need to complete the passages in the order you see them.
- -Patrick recommends training yourself to read at at least 200 words per minute.