General English Reading Test Taking Tips
1. Read the questions first. This is a test with a time limit. You are not trying to understand everything; you are trying to answer as many questions correctly as possible within that time limit. By reading the questions, you will know what to look for in the text. Do NOT read the answer (choices) section, as this will just confuse you and waste time.
2. Figure out what type of question it is. Will you be looking for context clues for a definition, synonym, or antonym? Cause and effect relationship? The author’s purpose (entertainment, information, persuasion, etc.)? The main idea and/ or details? A timeline or sequence of events? A character analysis (for example, how did the character feel in paragraph 4?)?
All About Keywords
1. Circle the key words if you are allowed to write on the test paper. If you are not allowed to, write them on a sheet of scrap paper. These are the numbers, nouns, 5W and H words, etc. that tell you what information you need to find.
2. Scan the text looking for those keywords, synonyms, or (in the case of 5W and H words) transition words which match the words you have circled. For example, if one question begins with “why”, you should look for words and phrases like: because, for the reason that, so, as a result, etc.
3. Underline those keywords in the text (if you can write on the test booklet) and reread the question you think it might answer. Now, carefully reread the sentence with underlined words. Most texts on timed tests will have the answer in the sentence with the keywords. If not, almost all of the rest will have the answer in the sentence before or after the sentence with the keywords. Only a few will require you to keep reading.
4. Once you have found the answer to the question in the text, read all of the possible answers following the question. Choose the answer which best answers the question.
NEVER do This!
No matter what, do not spend too much time on one passage or one question. When you do reading tests, you’re often under a time crunch. There is a lot to read, and plenty of questions to answer in a short time. If you don’t understand something, spend a little bit of time trying to figure it out, but not too much. Go on to the next reading passage, or set of questions. Come back to it at the end if you have time.
Don’t get stuck on any one thing and not finish a lot of the test because of it.
Advanced Level English Reading Test-Taking Tips
If you are an advanced level student and want some pro tips for English reading tests, here is the section for you!
1. There may be more than one good answer for English reading tests, but one will be best.
2. Other answers are distractors—they seem correct, if you are reading quickly, but one detail in the answer makes it incorrect.
3. Watch out for answers which include a direct quote from the text, but are unrelated to the question.
4. If you are not sure which answer is best, cross out the ones you know are wrong. Then, you won’t have to remind yourself again.
5. Watch out for other tricks, such as the question giving you one paragraph, but additional correct information is in another paragraph. The correct answer will only include information from the paragraph named in the question.
Always Follow the Instructions
Follow the instructions! This seems obvious, but you may be worried about finding the answers and don’t notice the instructions. On the IELTS, the reading portion has written answers. If you:
misspell your answer,
use incorrect grammar,
or make other mistakes, such as:
write an answer which is too long
choose one answer but you should choose two
answer “true” to a Yes/ No question
Your answer will be incorrect, even if it is really correct.
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