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!

7 Tips for Giving Academic Presentations

7 Tips for Giving Academic Presentations

Do you have to do academic presentations as part of your course? If so, you should consider the following 7 tips:

Tip # 1 – Be organized

Audiences like well-organized presentations because they are easy to understand. Therefore, make sure you divide your academic presentations into a clear introduction, body sections and conclusion.

If you have more than one presenter, make sure you and your partner interact with each other effectively and at the right time. This will take some practice to get right.


Tip # 2 – Engage the audience

Make sure people are paying attention to your information. You can do this by keeping eye-contact with as many people as possible throughout your academic presentations. You should also use gestures and friendly body language.

Asking questions at the start of your presentation will keep the audience interested and alert. Alternatively, you could start with a fun fact or statistic related to your topic.


Tip # 3 – Position yourself correctly

The way you stand is essential for the message you are presenting. You should have a confident, upright stance and not get in the way of the projector and slides.

Some body movement is fine, but you should not put your hands in your pocket, scratch your nose or lean against a chair. These are often signs of nervousness.


Tip # 4 – Practise your volume and pronunciation

The volume of your voice should be appropriate for the room and audience. If you are speaking into a microphone for the first time, make sure you practice before the actual presentation and get someone to give you feedback on volume. If possible, do some practice in the actual room where you will give your presentation.

It’s also essential to get familiar with the pronunciation of difficult words, such as names and places. You don’t want to stumble with poor pronunciation during the final presentation.


Tip # 5 – Use formal vocabulary

Academic presentations require formal language. While it’s okay to contract some words (e.g. I’m, not I am), you should aim to use language that is academic, rather than general.

An example of using formal language is not using the word ‘also’. Instead of saying ‘also’, you should use a more academic word, such as ‘furthermore’ or ‘in addition’. Using this type of formal signposting vocabulary will undoubtedly elevate the academic tone of your presentation.


Tip # 6 – Check your slides carefully

Do not overcrowd your slides. You should aim to have approximately 25 – 30 words on each slide, so that most of the information comes from you as you speak. This will keep the audience engaged with you, rather than the slides.

Make sure you use an appropriate and consistent background and stick to an appropriate font style and size. Include images, but make sure you keep the slides clean and consistent. You may need to include references, so check this with your instructor before you start preparing.


Tip # 7 – Practice by keeping to the correct timing

You must stick to the correct timing with presentations, as there are usually many student presentations to get through in a single class, so you don’t want to go over the limit.

As you practice your presentation, keep track of your timing. Presenters should speak for equal amounts of time, so make sure you practice together before the big day.

Finally, giving presentations is a nerve-wracking experience for most students so don’t worry if you feel nervous. Just keep practicing, keep smiling and take some deep breathes. Good luck!

For phrases you can use during your presentation, click this link for Useful Presentation Language.