IELTS Reading: how should you practise?

Here’s a useful question that a student asked me:

Many students complain that they don’t get a high enough score in IELTS reading, and many teachers respond that you need more practice. Dear Simon, could you describe how to practise for reading correctly? I do practise with the Cambridge books and spend time reading newspapers, but with no results.

Here’s my answer:

Good question. First, testing yourself is not the best form of practice. You should test yourself from time to time (e.g. once a week), but spend much more time studying rather than testing. ‘Studying’ means that your aim is to learn something from what you read. For example, when reading newspaper articles, you might learn a new word or phrase, or you might learn how to use a word correctly in a new context. Don’t forget to check things in a dictionary or by searching online, and write new language in a notebook.

The Cambridge IELTS books are a great resource for studying (as well as testing). Try doing some reading tests without a time limit. Allow yourself to use a dictionary to check words, and aim to get all of the answers right. Analyse your mistakes carefully, and make keyword tables.

Above all, remember that IELTS reading is a vocabulary test. Ask yourself what new vocabulary you have learnt this week. Can you point to a page of your notebook and say “I’ve learnt these 10 or 20 new words and phrases this week”? If you can, you are improving.

From ielts-simon.