IELTS is an international certificate which is aimed at proving your level of English. This test has two different modules: academic and general. Today you will learn many helpful things about the academic type of the test, as it is considered to be harder than the general one. Besides, it is required by many universities abroad. Both modules have some other differences as well, so let’s pay attention to them first.
General vs. Academic
The main difference between the two types of the test is that one of them (academic) is required for those who want to study abroad with the English language. The second one (general) is required for those who want to apply for a new job abroad. It is logical that both modules may have different tasks to complete. For both types of the test, listening and speaking parts are quite the same, whereas reading and writing are totally different. Today we’re going to talk about the differences in reading.
- In academic reading, module candidates have to read many scientific texts and articles, which are filled with specific vocabulary and grammar structures. Despite the fact that texts of academic reading are not written for specialists in a certain field of studies, they are still quite long and hard: the test checks the ability of students to understand foreign literature. At the same time, candidates are expected not only to read and understand, but also to be able to comprehend a large amount of information and determine what is the most necessary in it.
- In the general module, you can find many texts which are shorter and have not so academic topics. For example, there could be a text about a fitness club, an advertisement of a travel agency, a description of its new proposals, a list of office duties etc. The information can be presented in tables, lists, graphs etc.
Structure of the Reading Part
During the test, you have to read 3 different texts of different complexity and answer the questions to them. In total, you have to solve 40 tasks, so each text has around 13 questions. And each correct answer will bring you one point. You have one hour to complete the tasks, and it is necessary to remember that there is no additional time to write down your answers to the answer sheet. So, you have to take care of it when solving the tasks. Or you could also leave 7-8 minutes for it at the end of a reading part.
The Context of Texts
A person who sees IELTS academic texts for the first time might feel slightly shocked. The texts are quite long (2150- 2750 words) and authentic: taken from books, scientific journals, etc. The topics may be very diverse and you may even be unfamiliar with fields of studies they belong to. For example, you may be asked to read the text about ants, plains, chemistry etc. Also, you may not be familiar with all the lexical material, but frankly speaking, it is not so important sometimes. You have to remember two simple rules:
- You shouldn’t be familiar with the given topic, but you should know how to find answers in the text.
- You should not worry about unknown words. Sometimes, they are not important for general understanding of the text. Besides, you can often guess their meanings in context.
Right Methods of Reading
There is also good news for those who want to pass IELTS. As you might have guessed, the time given for reading part isn’t enough to carefully read and understand the text. So, what should students do? First of all, you should learn some useful information about three main types of reading in English and use them during the test:
- In the case of skimming, you should look through the text really fast and try to understand its general idea. For example, if you have to match a couple of abstracts with their titles, this method is perfect for you.
- In this case, you should also look through the text quite fast, but this is in order to find some specific information. For example, you may have 13 questions to one of the texts and, let’s say, one of them requires you to find some date or name of a company. In this case, you shouldn’t read the text word-by-word, but just briefly look through it in order to find these dates or names.
- Detailed reading. This method involves careful study of the information. Again, only certain parts of the text may require you to use this technique.
Now let’s think how a student should act when he or she sees the first text of the reading part. First of all, it is very important to read the title and the first abstract of a text (introduction). It will help you get a general idea about the text. Then you should read the first sentences of each abstract. They are called topic sentences in English and they usually serve as a title for an abstract. The next step is to read questions for the text. You may already know some answers from the introduction paragraph. For others, you will have to use scanning method (in case the question requires you to find some numbers, dates, names etc.) or detailed reading (in case you have to answer questions like “true/false/not given” and you need some time to think about the answer).
How to Prepare
- Try to solve as many tests as possible within limited time frames.
- Train to write down the answers to answer sheet, as many students make mistakes in this part, especially if they are in a hurry. Remember, that only the answer sheet can be checked, not a booklet with your notes to texts.
- Take into consideration that questions are often paraphrased and they might sound a bit different from the text.
- Check different types of question and what they require you to do:
- True/False/Not Given. Do not confuse False with Not Given. In the first case, the given information contradicts that in the text. In the second case, the information isn’t even mentioned in the text. Also, do not use your general knowledge to answer such questions. You should rely on the text only.
- Short-answer questions. Here you should analyze specific information from the text to answer the question. You also have to write it down exactly as it is given in the text.
- Try to read as much literature in English as possible. Everything would work for you: various articles in newspapers, different books, magazines etc. Not only will reading raise the level of your vocabulary, but it will also help you get used to English texts, understand and “feel” them.
- Learn how to work with new words in a text. Some of them may be skipped, but others are important for understanding the general idea of a sentence. You can pay attention to which part of speech this word belongs to. You can also pay attention to different prefixes and suffixes. For example, prefixes un-, ir-, mis– are negative and with their help a word can get its opposite meaning (responsible – irresponsible). The suffixes –ion, -ment, -ness are used to form nouns.
- Do not focus on one question for too long. If you don’t know the answer, skip it and continue working on other questions.
- Always read instructions to the tasks carefully. It may say «YOU MAY WRITE NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER», so a three-word answer will be considered wrong.
To conclude, if you stick to all of the mentioned bits of advice and train your reading step by step, you will surely get a successful result. Good luck!