IELTS Academic Reading Exam Advice


The Reading and Comprehension section of the IELTS Exam assesses the reading skills of examinees and tests them for their understanding of the passages provided. Skills assessed include reading speed; eye for detail; ability to analyse quickly and identify the core concepts; understanding arguments and logic; interpreting the author’s opinion and points of view; and gauging the tonal quality of the passage.

In each exam, there will be three passages and a total 40 questions, carefully designed to test basic reading and comprehension skills. Thematically, these passages could be either analytical or descriptive or discursive, and are taken from a variety of sources, such as magazines, journals, newspapers, or books.


Sources and guidelines regarding the passages:

  1. The three passages in the test could be from journals, magazines, books or newspapers. These passages are chosen for a general/neutral audience with no specialised knowledge required to write about them.

  2. The passage will generally deal with topics that are commonly heard of; are interesting; and which should also require some basic knowledge to understand and respond to.

  3. They could be depicting a range of styles such as discursive/argumentative or narrative, or descriptive.

  4. Out of the three passages, one must be argumentative and logical.

  5. The passages can contain technical terms but they should be accompanied by a glossary. They can also contain non-verbal elements such as diagrams, graphs and illustrations.


Types of Questions in Reading & Comprehension Section




1. Multiple choice

Examinees need to pick the right answer from:

Four options (A, B, C, or D), or

two of the closest options from

five alternatives (A, B, C, D, or E), or

three of the closest options from

seven alternatives (A, B, C, D, E, F, or G). 

To assess a number of reading skills, such as overall understanding of the main points, and detailed understanding of some specific points of the passage.

2. Identify Information

A number of statements associated with the given text will be provided for evaluating “True” or “False.” In these questions, subtle differences should be observed; for example, the difference between ‘false' and ‘not given'. ‘False’ refers to the given statement being completely the opposite of what is mentioned in the text, whereas 'not given' indicates that the given statement is neither confirmed nor contradicted by it.

To assess the examinees’ ability to identify and understand factual information.

3. Identify Writer’s Views or Claims

Examinees will be required to read a number of statements about the author’s point of view or opinion. They will have to respond with ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘not given’ to questions like, ‘Do the following statements agree with the views/claims of the writer?’

In these questions, it is vital to note the difference between ‘no' and 'not given'. 'No' implies that the writer’s opinions are clearly different from or opposite to that expressed in the statement, while 'not given' indicates that the view or claim can neither be confirmed nor contradicted.

To test the examinees’ capacity to recognise opinions or ideas. They are usually asked in case of discursive or argumentative passages.

4. Match Information

These questions require examinees to find specific information from paragraphs or sections of the text that are marked with letters. The information required to be found may be an example, a summary, an explanation, a reason, a description, or any specific details or a comparison.

To test the examinees’ skills to scan bulk text for specific information. These questions are associated with identifying specific information, not the key idea.

5. Match Headings

Examinees have to read the passage and identify the main idea. They are then required to select suitable titles or headings for the passage(s) from a list of options. Test takers have to match the headings to correct paragraphs or sections marked alphabetically.

To evaluate the examinees' ability to identify the theme of a given paragraph or section of the passage. They are also required to distinguish main ideas from supporting ones.

6. Match Features

In these question types, there will be two sets of information. Examinees need to match the information with the right option. The nature of the information could vary, i.e. it could be a finding, or an inference, or characteristics, or any particular event described in the main passage. Similarly the nature of options to match them will vary.

To assess the ability to identify relationships and connections between facts in the passage with opinions and inferences listed under options.

These questions can be asked with factual information and opinion-based discursive texts.

The key is to be able to scan the passage and locate the required information or read for detail.

7. Match Sentence Endings

Examinees get the first part of a sentence based upon the passage and they have to choose a suitable, grammatically correct option from a list of several options to end it.

To check both the grammar and vocabulary knowledge, and understanding of the main idea from an incomplete sentence.

8. Sentence Completion

In these questions, examinees need to complete sentences by adding a specified number of words taken from a specified portion of the passage. These could also be taken from the full passage if instructed. Instructions may be: ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’; ‘ONE WORD ONLY’; or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’.

To test the ability to find information and also to use appropriate vocabulary.

9. Completions:

  • Summary

  • Note

  • Table

  • Flow-chart

An incomplete summary or inference is to be completed by the examinees using their understanding of the passage. This could be taken from a part of the passage or the full passage. The incomplete part could also be a note or a table or a flow chart.

To check the understanding of the main idea of the long passage.

For writing a summary or notes, or table, etc., one must know the variations in the type of word(s) that are appropriate for the given gap (for example, whether a noun is needed, or a verb, etc.).

Articulating appropriate vocabulary in correct form is critical.

10. Diagram Label Completion

Examinees need to complete labels on diagrams taking cue from the passage. Instructions may be: ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’, ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’.

To test the knowledge of logic and flow. Locating and understanding the right words in context and use of proper vocabulary is also important.

11. Short-Answer Questions

Questions generally regarding some factual information or details are asked for a short reply.

To test the ability to find and understand precise information in the passage.

Related Links