Academic Reading Skills and Strategies in IELTS
What reading skills are tested in IELTS Academic Reading?
This is a test of reading comprehension in a general academic context. The texts used and the skills tested are intended to reflect the target language needs of undergraduate and postgraduate students, without bias for or against students of any particular discipline. Candidates may have to:
- identify the writer’s overall purpose, target audience, sources etc.
- identify and follow key arguments in a text
- identify opinions and attitudes as opposed to facts
- locate specific information
- read for detailed information
- extract relevant information
- distinguish the main idea from supporting detail
- recognise key points for a summary
- group pieces of information in a text in accordance with salient criteria
- extract information from a prose text to put into a diagrammatic representation
- make inferences
- use correct spelling and correct grammar in their answers
How do we read text?
In everyday life we use different strategies or approaches to read different texts. Sometimes we read quickly, skimming for general ideas or scanning for a specific point. Sometimes we read slowly, trying to gain a detailed understanding. How we read depends on the text – its length, its type – and our purpose in reading it.
What is skimming?
When we skim a text we read very quickly. We just look at the headings and subheadings and the first lines of each section or paragraph. We also notice the key words that are repeated throughout the text. Our purpose is to understand the gist – the general idea of the text. Skimming is a useful strategy to use throughout IELTS Academic Reading.
What is scanning?
When we scan a text we are looking for a specific piece of information or specific words. We ignore information that is not relevant to our purpose. Scanning is a useful strategy to apply when the questions ask for specific factual information. It is also a useful strategy to use to find the section of a text about which a question is asked.
What is reading for detail?
When we read for detail we read every word in a text and think carefully about the meaning of every sentence. It is often necessary in IELTS Academic Reading to read a certain section of a text in detail in order to answer a question correctly. Usually a candidate must skim or scan the text first to find the right section and then, having found the relevant section, read for detail.