IELTS Reading: The Basics

Home Forums IELTS Reading General and Academic IELTS Reading: The Basics


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      There are two versions of the IELTS exam: Academic and General Training. If you don’t know already which version you need to take, check with the institution(s) to which you plan to apply. The Reading and Writing sections (but not Speaking and Listening) are quite different between the two formats. You don’t want to prepare for the wrong one!

      The Academic and General Training Reading papers do share some features. For example, both take 60 minutes and contain 40 questions. Also, even though the Reading passages are quite different between the two exams, the strategy for answering questions is actually very similar. This is because the question types are generally the same on both versions.

      However, the Academic and General Training Reading exams differ in some important ways. Let’s take a look at their unique features, along with some official IELTS questions for both versions of the test, so you can get a sense of what to expect.

      IELTS Reading: Academic
      Academic IELTS Reading passages cover a wide range of subjects, such as science, history, the environment, etc. You do not need to be an expert in any of these fields. However, test-takers with a large vocabulary have a huge advantage. Academic IELTS Reading passages may contain some technical terms and even visual materials such as charts and graphs. IELTS commonly uses passages from professional and academic journals, textbooks, reports, and newspapers.

      The Academic Reading paper consists of three passages. For each one, you will answer 10-14 questions. Here are some sample Reading passages and questions from the British Council (the makers of the IELTS exam) so you can see what Academic Reading passages and questions look like.

      IELTS Reading: General Training
      Like Academic Reading, General Training Reading also includes articles from journals, newspapers and magazines. However, the majority of the passages are much shorter, with simpler vocabulary. Additionally, the topics tend to relate to daily life. Some passages, especially towards the beginning of the General Training Reading paper, are taken from advertisements, guidebooks, magazines, notices, or employee manuals.

      While each version of General Training IELTS Reading can be slightly different, you can generally expect that the exam will get more and more challenging from beginning to end. In Section 1, there will be 2 to 3 very short (and relatively simple) articles related to everyday life topics. In Section 2, there will be two short texts. These are often related to work in some way, such as a job application or company handbook. Finally, Section 3 will contain a longer text discussing a more academic or abstract topic. This is the toughest article on the General Training Reading exam.

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