You have one hour for the IELTS reading test. You need to read 3 texts of between 500 and 900 words each and answer around 40 questions, which vary in type and increase in difficulty. You write your answers on the answer sheet. There is no additional time to transfer answers from the reading booklet so you must write your answers directly onto the answer sheet.


The most common difficulty with the Reading test is time: it's easy to run out of it! Here are some tips to help your time management.



  • Do several timed practice Reading tests before the real exam. These 'rehearsals' will give you a feel for how long you can take and will develop your skimming (reading for gist) and scanning (reading for specific information) skills.
  • In the weeks before the exam, read as much English text as possible, in newspapers, comics, magazines, whatever you enjoy.
  • With newspaper or magazine articles, think of a heading which summarises the main point of each paragraph. This focuses your understanding of the content and practises one type of possible reading exercise.

During the test

  • You have 20 minutes per text to read and answer the questions. If you haven't finished one section after 17-18 minutes, make an intelligent guess at the remaining answers and go on to the next section. Remember, the sections get more difficult, so if possible, save time on the early ones.
  • Read the questions carefully before you read the text so you know what information you are looking for. You could organise your 20 minutes per text like this:
    • Use 3-4 minutes to read the questions.
    • Then use 10-12 minutes to read the passage and to answer where you can.
    • Use the last minutes to find the answers in the text that you did not find when you first read the passage. The answers are usually in order in the text.
  • Remember to read the instructions carefully. If you are asked to answer a question in three words or less, don't give an answer with more words!

On the Reading paper there are 11 different types of task: multiple choice, identifying information, identifying writers views or claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, note completion, table completion, flow chart completion, diagram label completion, and short answer questions.

PRACTICE Activities

This ELC website gives practice in 9 reading task types on a variety of texts. Tips on how to maximise preparation effectiveness and in exam techniques are also given. In addition, there are specific supplementary materials and practice tests in the CILL library.

  1. Completing a Summary
  2. Completing Sentences
  3. Completing Tables, Charts or Diagrams
  4. Identifying the Writer's View
  5. Matching Features
  6. Matching Headings to Paragraphs
  7. Matching Sentence Endings
  8. Multiple Choice Questions
  9. Writing Short Answers

OFFLINE CILL IELTS materials for reading practice

  • Cambridge University's Practice Exam Papers books 1, 2, 3 etc. These provide complete mock exams for self testing.
  • Cambridge English IELTS Trainer. Further practice materials.
  • Cambridge University's Specimen materials folders.
  • Cambridge University's IELTS preparation course, "Insight into IELTS" by V. Jakeman & C. McDowell.
  • Preparation course "Focus on IELTS" by S. O'Connell, Longman press.
  • The British Council's "How to prepare for IELTS".

*CILL – The Centre for Independent Language Learning, A305 and Z213, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

ONLINE IELTS materials for reading practice This site gives details about the Reading test and task types. This site gives you sample Reading test questions and practice, and a sample IELTS Reading answer sheet. More information can be found about the Reading test here as well as links to practice tests

Newspapers are excellent sources of text. Try any of the following:

Journals and magazines are equally good and may include more specialized or academic vocabulary. Try something in your subject field, something you enjoy, or try one of these:

This site gives BBC news coverage: you can listen or read (or both!).

The link below uses BBC material to help you improve your English.