Your Essential Guide to the General Test

Your Essential Guide to the General Test


1.1- IELTS General Reading Test (section 1)

1.2- IELTS General Reading Sample (section 1)

1.3- IELTS General Reading Tips

1.1- IELTS General Reading Test

The IELTS General Reading test has three parts. Each section of the test has three different texts. With each section, the text continues to be more challenging than the last, with different skills to test you on your reading abilities. These come in the form of True/False/Not Give, fill in the blanks, sentence completion, matching headings to sections (of the given text), matching descriptions to terms, matching paragraphs to sentences.

As you can see, the tasks to test you lie in deciphering between T/F/NG, matching tasks and sentence completion.

The overriding skill they are looking for is your ability to comprehend the information you have been given with your reading skills. There is no external information you need to think of, in that all the answers are in the text provided. The examiners are not trying to catch you out, but assess you on your ability to clearly understand information.

So it is crucial to read carefully.

Let’s look at a sample from an IELTS General Reading Test. One of the best places to get sample papers is from the British Council.

1.2- IELTS General Reading sample

In terms of how you handle this section, I would read the question first and then seek the answers. This is because section 1 is shorter and simpler than sections 2 and 3. Whereas sections 2 and 3 are longer and can be more complex, so it would be advisable to read through first and get the gist and eek out any ‘stand-out’ information. The key difference is that with section 1, you are scan reading. With section 2 and 3, you are skim reading. Scanning is looking for specific information. Skimming is collecting the gist of the text. Therefore, read the questions first (one by one) in section 1, to directly find (scan) the answer you’re looking for.

Sample test

With this text, I have highlighted parts of the text that provide key information. When doing the test, you can apply the same method.

Camberwell College Swimming Pools

Camberwell College has one 50m (Olympic sized) pool with a constant depth of 2m throughout, and one 25m pool with a 1m shallow end and a 4m deep end. Both pools may be used by the general public at certain times.

50m Pool

The pool is often used for classes, but the general public may use two lanes for lane swimming at the following times.

Monday: 0630 -1130 and 1900 - 2100

Tuesday: 0630 -1130 and 1800 - 2100

Wednesday: 0630 -1330 and 1730 - 2130

Thursday: 0630 -1330

Friday: 0630 -1330

Weekends: 0900 - 1700

Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by an adult.

Please note that during College holidays, these times will vary. Contact the swimming pool on 04837 393560 for up-to-date information.

25m Pool

The 25 metre pool is available for recreational (non-lane) swimming from 0700-0900 and 1230-1330 on weekdays, and 1000 – 1600 on Saturdays.

Children aged 12 and under must be accompanied.

We regret that the 25m pool will be closed for refurbishment between 21st July and 18th August. The men's changing rooms will be closed for the week beginning 18th August, and the women's changing rooms will be closed the following week. Alternative changing facilities will be made available. We apologise for any disruption this may cause.

For questions 1-5 select:

True if the statement is true

False if the statement is false

Not Given if the information is not given in the passage

1. The general public can only use the 50m pool for lane swimming. True (as stated, the 50m pool is open to the general public 7 days a week)

2. The general public cannot use the 50m pool on Sundays. False (the 50m pool is open on both Saturday and Sunday- ‘weekends 0900- 1700’)

3. Men will be able to use the 25m pool on the 18th August. False (the men’s changing room will be closed from 18th August)

4. The whole of the 25m pool is available to the public during recreational swimming hours. Not Given (be careful with the use of ‘whole’ in the statement here, as this is not echoed in the text. And ‘hours’ is ambiguous too as hours are specified in the text)

5. The 50m pool is open during college holidays. True (the pool is open but with the detail of ‘at varying times’, meaning it is still open but with a more limited access)

1.3- IELTS General Reading Tips

Because of the text type of the general paper, this type of information can be seen and found elsewhere easily. Whilst using sample papers are an important way to practice, there are other ways that will offer you a more dynamic way of preparing for section 1.

Other texts that provide information in a similar way are:

  • Recipes
  • Travel leaflets
  • Event leaflets
  • Medical brochure
  • The Metro’s 60 second interviews
  • City map with directions
  • Shopping lists
  • Transport schedules
  • Set-up guides i.e. furniture, electrical, outdoor equipment

If you are out and about and see any of these, take some with you and practice reading them at home and getting to grips with finding the key information in the language they are using.

Try using these questions as a guide:

  • What are the three most important pieces of information? (when trying to find these, think about what you could get rid of with still keeping sense of the information)
  • How could I pass on the information to someone else in the clearest way?
  • If there is numerical data, what numerical data do I really need to remember?
  • Is the language informative, persuasive, descriptive, opinion based, entertaining?
  • If any pictures with the text, what did you find interesting? Why?
  • What did you learn from the text?