IELTS Reading Practice- the short answer question

IELTS Reading Practice- the short answer question

This article will focus on how to answer the short answer question task. The answers are provided after the 'Strategies' section. Avoid looking at this until you have had a go at the test and done so in the 60 minute time limit.


  • 3 top tips
  • Worked example with answers
  • Strategies
  • Skills tested

The way to succeed with the IELTS reading test and all IELTS tests, is to not seek out tricks and hacks. These curb-cutting offers will mean you don't learn the real way to approach the reading test, and you would therefore be unprepared on test day.

Like most things, it takes real practice, analysis of your own mistakes, writing in exam conditions, and working on your weaknesses.

All of these methods could take you weeks and even months. But isn't it better to work on your preparation with honest methods and ace the rest. Rather than risking having to re-take the test.

3 Top tips

1- Timing is key

You have 60 minutes to answer 40 questions. Split your timing up into 3 sections- 20 minutes for each section. This includes 3 minutes to check your answers.

2- Vocabulary

Having a good bank of vocabulary is key to doing well on the reading test. In some ways, it tests just that- your range of vocabulary, because you are having to deduct meaning from a piece of text which heavily falls on the language used. Having the skill to spot or know synonyms, and be able to paraphrase is crucial for the reading test.

3- Decisions

If you are faced with a hard question, which is likely, don't waste time suffering over it. Instead, move on to what is easier and return to the question after. Toiling over a question will only to two things- waste time and get you in a panic.

Sample test

The sample I am using is not IELTS material. It is however, material from the iGCSE exam. The iGCSE is available in over 150 countries and it is much more known amongst international students. Many students whose first language is not English, take the iGCSE. I prepared students from Turkey and Kazakstan for example, who were sitting their iGCSE.

A reason larger than this, is that the iGCSE is actually very good practice material to improve reading skills. The test itself uses short extracts, the exam requires a strong vocabulary muscle and paraphrasing skills are key. Not to mention, locating the correct information.

Of course, IELTS materials are best practice with. However, practicing the skills of the reading test with other texts, is an opportunity to practice your reading skills.

Sample text

Test questions

  • At this point, note down your answers as you most prefer (Notepad [laptop or physical version], Word document, Google docs, written down)
  • Do this in test conditions and give yourself 60 minutes

Strategies to answer the questions

  1. Skim reading to scan for information is something you'll need to become very good at, simply because you are under the clock
  2. You don't need to use long, overly wordy sentences- the answers tend to be short, so focus on providing answers that are clear and short
  3. Look for shared and connected meaning between text and questions. You may not know every single word but take your skills from paraphrasing and combine it with the vocabulary you do have, and you will find the answer.
  4. The answers will appear in the same order of the text- so answer in the same order!
  5. Underline keywords in the question to help you answer- these are often nouns or noun phrases
  6. Only focus on the part of the text that the question relates to
  7. Read the question twice
  8. You are not required to give your opinion, so make sure you are only finding the answer in the text

Answers to test questions (above)

How to practice these reading skills

  1. The ability to skim the passage and understand its overall meaning- note down in a few words what each paragraph is about if this helps- but be strict on just the few words
  2. The ability to scan for specific information. (Think of it as when you are going food shopping, your eyes skim the aisle so you find the right one, then you walk down it and scan for the item you are after)
  3. Ensure you understand the question
  4. Being able to identify key words
  5. Being able to think of synonyms and the paraphrasing of key words- so that you can lead yourself to the answer in the text