Saturday, July 16, 2005

Reading Tips

INTRODUCTION:
The Reading Paper lasts one hour, in which time you have to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. It consists of three reading passages, each worth about the same number of points. The themes will certainly be varied: biology, alternative medicine, and language learning, for instance.

QUESTION TYPES:
There are 4 types of question usually found in IELTS papers:

a) Multiple choice.
The multiple-choice questions are familiar to most candidates and so I will not mention them here.

b) Judging whether information in the questions is correct according to the passage (Yes), incorrect (No), or whether it has not been included in the passage (Not Given).

Judging whether information in statements conforms to that in the passage is rather more unusual. Here, you should read the exact wording of the questions very carefully, as it is often the case that words like ‘all’, ‘always’ and so on, will change the meaning of a statement. If a passage states that Australians are, by and large, less religious than the British, it is not true that they are always less religious. This will change your answer from ‘Yes’ to ‘No’. Remember that some information will not be in the text. Most candidates ignore the ‘Not Given’, but there is always at least one answer (and often more) that contain statements not included in the reading passage.


c) Filling in the gaps with no more than three words.
Filling in the gaps using no more than three words means exactly that. Four words will automatically be marked wrong. You should remember that if these form part of a sentence already given, you must ensure that your answer conforms to the syntax.

d) Matching Headings to Paragraphs.
Matching headings to paragraphs causes many candidates a lot of difficulty. Here, you are not looking for particular information but for the general gist of a paragraph. As there usually many options, a sensible course of action is for you to cross out the ones you think are inappropriate as you go along. This enables you to focus on fewer alternatives.

SKIMMING AND SCANNING
To get a score of 6, one usually needs to get about 25 questions correct. This means one has to attempt all three passages. It is unlikely though that you will be able to complete all three. Here are some tips to maximise your chances of reading efficiently:

a) Read the first few questions before you start reading the passage. If you read the whole thing and then attempt the questions, you will find that you cannot remember the information and, so, you will have to read the passage again. This is very time consuming.

b) Always answer all the questions on a reading passage without leaving any blanks. You will not get time to have a second look. If you don’t know the answer, guess!

c) If questions include numbers, nationalities or names, skim the passage until you find the appropriate sentences. This is easy to do because capital letters and numbers stand out.

d) Use your common sense. If you know that answer X is ridiculous, cross it out and don’t even consider it as an option.

e) If you know that you are bad at a particular type of question (such as matching headings to paragraphs), it is probably best to do the reading passage that contains this question last. You will probably not score as well as on the other questions and so it is better to guess here than on ones that you are good at.

SCORING:
Finally, it is very important not to give up. Each Reading Paper is scored differently. If a particular test is harder than usual, the score you will require to get a 6 will be lower. It is, therefore, possible to get a 6 by getting only half the questions right on some papers. So, don’t give up!

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