IELTS Reading Overview and Strategies

IELTS Reading Overview and Strategies

The reading section of the test takes about 60 minutes to complete, including transfer time. The structure of the test is different for the Academic and General versions of the exam.

The IELTS reading test is a race against the clock.  With 60 minutes to read 5 passages and answer 40 questions about them, you must work fast.  You have approximately one-and-a-half minutes per question.  The biggest problem that candidates face is not having enough time to finish the reading completely.

The key to success is to develop fast reading skills, including skimming (to understand the main idea), scanning (to find the location of the answer) and detailed reading (to understand the information well enough to answer the question correctly).

If you were taught in school to read every text slowly and carefully until you understand every word, you must break this habit!

Here are a few videos that we recently put together on IELTS reading.

Do not start by reading the whole text. This will waste valuable time. Instead, you should start by skimming the text to get a general feel for its structure and main ideas. By doing this step, you will save yourself time when finding the location of each answer after you read the questions.

Read with your pen and work quickly.  You should spend no more than 1-2 minutes on this.  Read the first paragraph for an introduction to the topic, and then quickly underline the first sentence in each paragraph.  Don’t be tempted to read further in detail! If you can, quickly write a note in the margin next to each paragraph to help remind you later what’s in the paragraph (eg. you might write ‘causes’ or ‘history’).

Remember, when viewing the text quickly you need to see the main words and phrases rather than all the individual words.

By making this road map, you will get a good feel for where things are in the text – which paragraph is about health effects, which paragraph is about solutions, etc.  You don’t yet need to know what the health effects are, or what the solutions are – just where they are! This is an important time-saver when you move on to look at each question and have to scan quickly find the section of the text which contains the answer.

Important! This is not a natural skill for many readers. It takes lots of practice, but you can practice on almost any text.  Make it a habit!

Studying in Australia FAQ

Studying in Australia FAQ

Starting life in a new country is an exciting and confusing experience. For students who are interested in studying in Australia, the following FAQ questions and answers might help make the transition a little smoother.


Q. Can I bring food to Australia?

No, do not bring any food. Australian airport officials are very strict about food products coming into Australia. Make sure you do not bring any food to Australia otherwise you may face a penalty or fine.


Q. What should I do if my plane is delayed?

First of all, don’t panic. Plane delays are a normal part of air travel. You should speak to the airline company and try to work out the best alternative plan. If you are meeting someone at the airport, try to send them a message via email or phone. You might be able to let your parents know what has happened, so they can be in touch with your contact person.


Q. Where can I stay when I first arrive?

Many students start with homestay as a way to become familiar with Australia. You might also choose to stay in a Youth Hostel or shared accommodation while you settle into Australia. Airbnb is also very common in Australia.


Q. How long before my first classes should I arrive in Australia?

This depends on your own situation. Some people like to be well organized and arrive two to three weeks in advance. This will allow them time to get organized, get to know the city and become familiar with Australia and the Australian accent. Arriving one week in advance is also common. The main thing is that you should not arrive after the semester begins. Some students choose to wait until class actually starts, so they can have a few extra weeks at the end of their visa period.


Q. Is it easy to find a job in Australia?

It is not easy to get a job, but it is certainly possible. You need to have a Curriculum Vitae (CV) which does not contain errors. You can visit shopping centres and restaurants and hand this document to shop managers. Alternatively, you might email this document to the company and if you pass this stage you will normally be asked to attend a job interview. It’s important to consider the ‘hidden job market’. In other words, the jobs that are not advertised. To find these, you need to keep talking to people to let them know that you are interested in finding a job.


What types of jobs are the easiest to get in Australia?

Many students start by working in restaurants and cafes, either as a waiter or waitress. Babysitting, cleaning, and working in retail shopping outlets is also a good option. Keep in mind, many shops are looking for extra workers during the Christmas period – from November to January.


Do I need to go to the first week of classes?

Yes, absolutely. It is very important that you attend the first week of every class you are enrolled in so you can gain all the essential information you need to succeed in the units you are studying. Missing the first weeks is a big mistake.


Should I go to every class?

Again, yes you should. Students who attend every class rarely fail a unit. Even if you are struggling with the unit part of the way through, you should continue, because the unit will be structured in a way that helps you understand more about the topic as you go further into the unit.


Do Australian students live on campus?

Local students don’t tend to live on campus as much as they do in other countries. It depends on the college or university. Often Australian students from the country areas (outside the cities) tend to stay at the student accommodation on campus. International students also make up a large proportion of on-campus students. Local Australian students often share a house or apartment close to campus or live with their parents while they attend university.


What should I do if I’m suffering from Culture Shock?

Culture shock is very normal for international students. In fact, you should expect to feel overwhelmed at times. The good news is that most colleges will have professional councelling staff you can talk to . Make sure you attend a session if you feel it is all too much.

Building resilience as an international student

Building resilience as an international student

Being an international student is challenging. While there are many adjustments that need to be made in terms of food, accommodation and learning style, perhaps the biggest challenge of all is building resilience as an international student. Without resilience, students will start missing classes and fall behind in their studies. When this happens, the educational opportunity may be lost forever.

So what is resilience? According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, resilience can be defined as follows

Resilience: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Recovery and adjustment are some of the key words here. In other words, students need to be able to deal with the unexpected set back they may face and keep moving forward.

Let’s have a look at possible challenges that students need to deal with:

  • Not getting a visa in time to make the start of your course
  • Not finding accommodation which is close enough to the college campus
  • Living with people you don’t know
  • Not having enough money to pay for the books and computer equipment needed to study successfully
  • Not being able to get a job in your new city
  • Being overwhelmed with feelings of homesickness

All of these challenges are stressful. The main issues comes, however, when these issues are compounded by happening at the same time. In English there is an idiom that says when people face major challenges, they can choose ‘fight or flight’.

Fight means keeping strong and pushing ahead despite the difficulties. This is exactly the attitude needed by international students. This is the resilient attitude.

The alternative is ‘flight’. In this case, the student will decide it is all too hard and will give up. Flight means leaving. While this might be the only way to handle some situations, it is certainly not the attitude that will bring success.

Ultimately, the majority of students will be able to overcome to challenges. After all, they are often aged in their late teens and early twenties and are capable of pushing through hardships. The spirit of being young and ambitious is enough to give them the resilience required for success.

Building resilience as an international student is a powerful life skill to learn. Not only that, it builds the exact skills that are required in many modern workplaces. Because being resilient is something that all workers need to solve complex problems and work independently.

So, there is an upside to building resilience as an international student. In fact, it might be the best characteristic you develop while learning in a foreign land.

Preparing for IELTS Speaking

IELTS Speaking ClickStudies

IELTS Speaking ClickStudies

The speaking section of the IELTS exam is the same for General and Academic IELTS. Candidates speak to an examiner for approximately fourteen minutes, and the conversation is recorded. The key to success is to demonstrate your ability to speak fluently, accurately and for an extended period of time. Often IELTS speaking candidates get nervous during this part of the exam and do not do as well as they should. By smiling and acting confidently, candidates can significantly boost their chances of getting a high score.

In parts one and three, candidates are expected to speak for a long time to answer questions. The best way to do this is by following four basic steps. Firstly, candidates should answer the question. Secondly, candidates should provide reasons for their answer. Thirdly, they should give examples. Finally, candidates can give a contrast to demonstrate they have the ability to see both sides of an issue.

In part two, candidates should quickly take notes that answer the relevant parts of a question. For example, if the question asks them to talk about what, when, where and why a festival happened, their answer should cover four parts of the answer. Too often candidates do not cover all aspects of the answer, and therefore lose marks.


Before the IELTS speaking exam

a. Understand the types of questions

– Part One – Personal Questions.

– Part Two – Individual Response.

– Part Three – General Opinion Questions.

Total time – Approximately fourteen minutes.


b. Practice speaking

– Speak English as much as possible.

– Record your speaking and try to self-correct your mistakes when you listen to yourself.

– Transcribe your speaking to check the way that you speak. When you can read your grammar, you might find that you make simple errors that can be fixed. Get grammar help here. 

– Always think about different tenses (for example: past simple tense for completed events, present continuous for events happening now).