Help students to prepare for the academic reading component of the IELTS exam with attached practice reading test.
This second practice reading test (attached below with answer key and students' answer sheet) will help students to:
- Practise doing an academic reading test in exam conditions.
- Develop techniques for answering questions efficiently in the academic reading component.
- Complete answer sheets correctly.
- Develop techniques that can be applied in all reading tests.
What follows is some advice for helping your students before, during and after the reading test.
Hints for students before the test
- Do not read the whole passage in detail first. The passages are quite long and are not really designed to be studied in detail. Students often make the mistake of reading a passage thoroughly and underlining every word they do not know. The reading test in the Academic IELTS is a ‘superficial’ exercise, in that candidates are required to extract words and meaning at speed.Therefore, those students who read the passages in detail are at a serious disadvantage. (If students insist on reading the entire passage, tell them to skim and underline organizational words. If they spend more than one or two minutes skimming a single passage, they are wasting time.)
- Look at the title of reading passage 1, if there is one.
- Read the instructions and questions carefully.
- Ensure that you understand exactly what is required in each set of instructions. For example, is one word required or more than one word? Can a word/heading be used more than once?
- Remember that the questions will give a summary of the content within a passage. This will help even if there is no title.
- Read one set of questions and then locate and answer those questions. Completion of one set of questions should help you to find those in the next set. The questions/answers are usually in order, so locating the answers to the first and last question in each section will usually show where the remaining answers can be found.
- Leave questions which you are unable to answer. This is a serious problem. Students have effectively 90 seconds to locate and answer a question. If they spend three or four minutes on one question, they are throwing away the chance of a good grade. They may find one answer when looking for another. Many students find this a difficult thing to do but they must be trained.
- Avoid underlining unfamiliar words. Students instinctively want to locate and underline words and phrases they haven’t seen before. This can cause confusion. They should be trained to locate and underline the words/phrases which help with organization.
- Repeat the process for each of the passages.
- Always use a pencil to mark a text rather than a highlighter.
- You may wish to elicit a set of reading rules which the students follow as a class. You can do this as a class exercise.
- You could also put the basic instructions on a chart, as shown below:
- You could give the chart to students in groups and ask them to discuss which point they had difficulty with and then advise each other. They can then do this briefly as a class exercise on a regular basis.
- Or you could give the chart to the students after they have done a test and ask them which items they found difficult.
Monitoring the reading test
- Using a stopwatch if necessary, time the test. Give the students periodic reminders of the time – every 15 or 20 minutes is enough. Remind them of the progress they should have made by this point in the test.
- If the students run out of time, give them extra time to finish the test, but ask them to record where they had reached after 60 minutes.
- While students are doing a reading test, go round the class and check that they are following the basic rules in the chart. For example, monitor the words/phrases they are underlining. If you notice that they are underlining words they don’t know, ask them to erase them. Guide them as to which words/phrases will help them in reading; – organizing words like but/yet/however/moreover/as a result, etc or words that relate to a particular theme.
- Check that the students are writing their answers on the answer sheet as they do the test. Remind them that this is different to the IELTS listening where they would have ten minutes at the end to transfer their answers.
- Point out that answers will be marked incorrect if there are spelling/grammar mistakes or if they have copied words from the question in sentence completions.
- Remind them about spelling, etc several times during the test.
After completing the test
- Ask students to work with a partner and check each other’s answers.They should look for obvious errors such as spelling/grammar/number of words/order of answers, etc. Go round the class and guide them as they do this.
- Point out the ‘cost’ of spelling mistakes – the difference between the correct spelling of one word might reduce their overall grade from a band 7 to 6.5! Remind them of this constantly as it will encourage them to take the completion of their answer sheet more seriously.
Checking the answers
After the students have checked for obvious errors, you can ask them to discuss the answers. This can be tackled section by section, passage by passage, in pairs or groups. You can then discuss it as a class.
Discussion of the entire test can take about an hour – if you are allowing students time to discuss freely. Do not stifle discussion, no matter how heated it becomes, especially if it is in English. Where possible, try to get students to explain the correct answer. Or even get a student who got an answer wrong to explain the correct answer to the class. The more students are able to talk through a problem question, the easier it will be for them to think through similar problem questions in the long term.
Discussion helps students to slow their thoughts down, enabling them to sort through and remove confusing ideas.The more students do this, and with guidance, the clearer their reasoning will become.
Discussion also allows the whole class to think through their individual thoughts and to check the path their reasoning followed.
Marking the test
Some reading tets are easier than others. Therefore, the number of correct answers required to achieve a particulare band differs in each exam. Generally speaking, to achieve a grade of band 7 under exam conditions, candidates should aim to have 28-31 correct answers.
In this particular reading test candidates would require approximately 28 correct answers to achieve a grade of band 7.
Manipulating reading texts
Below are methods of manipulating the reading passages should you not want to use them as a test.
- Take Reading Passage 3. Hand out the passage without the questions and ask the students to read it in whatever way they want. Time them as they read. Tell them how much time they spent ‘reading’ it and compare that with what is expected in the exam.
- Using the same passage, ask the students to decide what type of questions they would ask. What information would they focus on if they were testing reading skills?
- Give the students a reading passage or a whole test, questions and answer key. Ask them to discuss in groups why a particular answer is correct. This will help them see the reasoning behind a question. You can check if their thought processes are correct or whether they have arrived at an answer purely by accident or erroneously. This activity sometimes surprises students and teachers. It also helps students to see patterns and develop thought processes.
- Give students a reading passage and ask them to prepare their own questions. Compare the students’ questions with those in the test.