I totally sympathise with students when they tell me how difficult IELTS reading is. First of all, the topics are academically oriented, littered with an infinite number of unknown words. Most of the passages are not fun reads, plus, students need to read and answers all the questions under time pressure. So how can one better prepare oneself for the reading section? Instead of telling you there’s no magic bullet, just go and read more, I will share with you two reading exercises that you can do on a daily basis.
We all know about the two important reading skills: skimming and scanning, and I’m sure many of you have practiced these before. However, in order to speed up your skimming and scanning skills so that you are more capable of locating the correct information under time strain, a simple daily reading exercise will help you.
Choose a quiet time of the day when you can sit down peacefully to practice for about twenty minutes. I suggest you remove any possible distractions such as your smartphone or computer. If you live with your family, tell them to leave you alone for about twenty minutes, so that you can practice effectively and pass IELTS with flying colours. The second step is to select an appropriate reading passage to practice. If you have an IELTS preparation text book or any other supplementary IELTS reading materials, you can choose one from the book. Alternatively, you can also choose any article from on-line news passages such as BBCor CNN. Other websites that you can go and get reading materials from also include The Guardian or the Time magazine.
With the chosen material in front of you, give yourself three minutes to skim the passage and then ask yourself what the main idea is. Challenge yourself to write a one-sentence-long summary after skimming, and remember all this must be done within three minutes. Before moving on to scanning, pay attention to how many paragraphs there are in the chosen passage, this will help you get a rough idea of how many main points there are in the article. Before you start scanning for key points, give yourself an approximate five minutes to complete this exercise. As you scan, read the topic sentence of each paragraph - this is often the first sentence to each paragraph. Then on the margin of the article, write one or two words down to summarise what the main point is of each paragraph.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. I know reading is not a painless experience when it comes to IELTS, but if you practice these two basic reading skills on a daily basis, you’d be a lot more confident when you’re presented with the real exam materials. So, switch off your phones now, and start today!