Sunday, 24 March 2019

The IELTS Reading Test

The reading test format is the same for both the academic and general categories. The test lasts for 60 minutes.It is divided into three passages and each passage is accompanied with questions. In all, you will see 40 questions. So you are expected to read all three passages and answer the accompanying questions within 60 minutes. SCARY? No, you shouldn't be. There are trusted  and tested helpful tips which can enable you to perform excellently well in this test. You will be treated to them pretty soon. Just stick around.

It should be noted that passage 1 is the least complex. Passage 2 is more complex than passage 1 and passage 3 is the most complex.

Helpful Tips For The Reading Test
Tip 1: Allocate your time appropriately to each passage and its accompanying questions. 
One may think that since there are three passages to be read and answered within 60 minutes, then  20 minutes should be spent on each passage and the questions that follow. This may not be appropriate. This is so because, like we have established above, they have different levels of complexities. So, it is recommended that you spend 15 minutes on passage 1, 20 minutes on passage 2 and 25 minutes on passage 3.

Tip 2: Don't treat the passages like a contract document.
When reading, don't do it as if you are reading a contract document, such that you need to understand all the words, phrases and clauses before you append your signature. If you use this kind of approach in the  IELTS reading test, time will race against you. Instead, skim through the passages so as to get the overall idea of the passage. 

Tip 3: Don't get stuck.
Yes, don't you get stuck on any part of the passages that you don't fully comprehend. Remember, read to get the overall idea of the passages.

Tip 4:Don't spend too much time on any question.
Just in case you are not so sure about the answer to a question, don't spend too much time on it. Make  a guess and move on. After you are done answering and you still have time, you can go back and double check the ones you are not sure of.

Question Types in Reading
There are different question types in reading and it's vitally important that you understand these question types so that whenever you come across any of them, you would know how to go about answering them. Here are the question types you will face in your IELTS reading test.
  • Summary Question: I am positive that you know what it means to summarize. Yes, to summarize means to make a lengthy information shorter, but at the  same time ensuring that the main points are retained. In the case of reading, you will be given a summarized passage. The summarized passage contains blanks which you will be expected to fill in, based on your understanding of the passage. The words with which you will fill in the blanks will be given in a box. So you are expected to pick the appropriate words from the box to fill in the blanks.  Consider the example below.

slightly more
Defective gene
less likely
more probable
a little less
X chromosome
It is a common 1._____________ that only men suffer from color blindness. On average 2.__________than 10 percent of men have this problem. Women have two 3.___________. For this reason it is 4.__________ for a woman to suffer from color blindness.

So from the example above, to answer the question (fill in the blanks) for numbers 1 to 4, you are to pick the appropriate words from the box based on your understanding of the passage.

  • True (or Yes), False (or No) and Not given: This is one type of question type that confuses most candidates. In this question type, you will be given statements and then be expected to state whether the statements are True (or Yes), False (or No) or Not given, based on your understanding of the passage.
NOTE: Please always base your answers on the information found on the passage only. You may well be familiar with the topic being discussed on the passage. You may have read about it before then or it may even be on your field of study. But please don't base your answers on any prior knowledge. It must be based ONLY and ONLY on the information on the passage.

Now consider the following questions which are based on a particular passage.

5. The British were the first people to sell glass beads in Africa.

6. The Zulu people believed that glass beads were precious stones.

           Suppose you are asked to state whether the statements in questions 5 and 6 above are True, False or Not given, how would you determine that?

Choose True if the statement is in line with what is on the passage, either explicitly or implicitly. For example, if the passage says that "The British were the first people to sell glass beads in Africa", then your answer would be True for number 1.

When do you choose False? Choose False if the statement contradicts what is found on the passage. For example, if the passage states either implicitly or explicitly that the British were not the first people to sell glass beads in Africa, then number 1 becomes False.

What about Not given? Well, candidates tend to spend so much time on this. Choose Not given if the information is not found on the passage. Don't spend time trying to find an information that is not present on the passage. For example, if nothing was mentioned on the passage about what the Zulu people believe in with respect to the precious stones, then the answer to question 2 is definitely not given.

  • Matching Headings: In this question type, you don't need to read through all the passage. This is because the passage would be divided into sections. That is, each paragraph would be labelled A, B, C, D ........... and so you would have section or paragraph A, section or paragraph B, section or paragraph C and so on. You would be given a box that contains a list of headings and be expected to pick an appropriate heading for each section or paragraph. To choose the right heading for section A, read only section A. To get the right heading for section B, read only section B and so on.
Consider the example below.

List of Headings

I.   Types of food
II.  What is food?

III. Food poisoning

Question: The following reading passage has five paragraphs, A to E. Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings above. Write the correct number i-iii, in the spaces provided for questions 1 to 3.

1. Paragraph A_______________________

2. Paragraph B_______________________

3. Paragraph C_______________________

Now, we are going to consider the first paragraph of the passage and use it to drive home the point.

Paragraph A
Food is any substance liquid or soilid, which when taken, makes an organism to grow, to be healthy and repair worn out tissues.  Example of food are rice, beans, garri, fish, meat, egg, orange, yam, pawpaw e.t.c.


Now, from the example above, what would you choose as the appropriate heading for number 1, paragraph A? The right answer is II. The point is, when choosing the heading for a paragraph, try to determine the main idea of that paragraph. Each paragraph has a main idea as well as supporting idea(s) or sub-idea(s). The fact that a point is mentioned on a paragraph doesn't necessarily make it a main point. For instace, in the example above, mention was made of types of food on paragraph A but that does not make it the main idea. So the long and short of what I am saying is that the main idea on each paragraph is what you should use to determine the respective headings.

NOTE: Always read the instructions before answering. For example, in the exercise above, the instruction says that you should "write the correct number i-iii in the spaces provided for questions 1 to 3". So for number 1, instead of writing "what is food?", you should write II. If yo write the former, you will be marked wrong. Indeed, following instructions is critical to success in the IELTS tests.

  • Multiple choice questions: This is a traditional question type where you are expected to choose A, B, C, or D from a multiple choice. For example: 
Nigeria gained independence in the year
A. 1950
B. 1960
C. 1945
D. 1975

  • Sentence Completion Questions: Here are examples of sentence completion questions.
1. John lives in a _______________ environment.

2. Most  penguins use ____________ to build their nests.

It is very imperative to note that accompanying the sentence completion questions are instructions. The instruction is usually like this: "Write no more than three words for each answer". This is called word limit an area some candidates do not pay attention to. The word limit could be any number of words.

Consider example 1 above. Suppose the on the passage you find the expression: "John lives in a very beautiful and nice environment". And nowthe word limit you are expected to use to  fill that blank is no more than three words (remember, it could be any number of words. So always endeavor to check it out). How would you fill the blank? If you write " very beautiful and nice", yes you are right based on the passage. But at the same time you would be marked wrong because the word limit is not met. So what's the right thing to do? Try to compress the information in order to meet up with the word limit while it is still retaining the idea. In this case, you would be marked correctly if you write "beautiful" or "very beautiful" or "beautiful and nice" or "very nice".

So always read your instructions. I can't over emphasize that.  

  • Diagram Label Questions: In this case, you will be given a diagram and then expected to label it based on the description given on the passage. For example, a passage may be talking about the different parts of a plant and their functions and one of the questions involves a diagram wherein you are expected to label the different parts. It could look like what is found below.

 This type of question also involves word limit.

THE  READING ANSWER SHEET is numbered 1to 40. All answers should be on the answer sheet.

      A1 GRADE