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IELTS General Reading Test

On this page you will learn how to best prepare for IELTS General Reading test.

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IELTS Reading

IELTS General Reading test format

IELTS General Reading test is designed to assess a wide range of your reading skills.

Here is a short overview of the general reading test format:

IELTS General Reading Test
Number of Questions40 questions
FormatExtracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment.
Duration60 minutes including the transfer time.

If you want to see more detailed overview of the IELTS Test Format, visit the British Council website.

How to prepare for IELTS General Reading test?

Let us break it down to 5 simple steps for you:

  1. Obtain a good practice book
    • For instance, we recommend you use one of the Cambridge IELTS practice books
    • If you have obtained a Cambridge IELTS book then flick through the book and see what's there. These books will give you a very good idea about how the real exam looks like.
    • Or why not take a free IELTS General Reading test (provided by that we have prepared for you
  2. Prepare an answer sheet
  3. Make yourself familiar with the IELTS General Reading test format
    • There are 3 reading sections
    • Sections 1 and 2 may have several texts
    • Sections get increasingly difficult
    • About 40 questions in total (never leave anything blank!)
  4. Take the first practice test
    • Start practice with the first test without limiting your time to one hour
    • Understand different types of exercises and questions
    • Determine your weak spots, e.g. the toughest part is commonly the true-false-not given type of exercise
    • Learn some tips (find some below!)
  5. Now, practice under exam conditions – at least 3 times!
    • Use the printed answer sheet
    • Allow only 1 hour to complete the practice test
    • Analyse your mistakes
    • Take at least 3 reading practice tests to feel confident and to find out your score
    • And allow a bit of extra practice to improve your weak areas

These five steps are really enough to get started and repeating them all over again consolidates your knowledge and improves your skills.

IELTS General Reading: Preparation Advice & Tips

Find a good practice book

At first, search for a good book with practice tests. We recommend using the Cambridge IELTS practice books since you can find there full practice tests that have been written by the test makers and therefore these tests are very similar to the real IELTS test.

IELTS Reading
a girl stretching to grab a book from a bookshelf

In addition to a good practice book, use an answer sheet and mark the answers by hand. Make sure you time yourself and allow only one hour to complete all three sections of the reading test.

Mimic the test conditions

It is very useful to practice being in the exam situation. There are many sites offering online practice tests where you can fill in the blanks on the go. Also, you can practice there section by section or even text by text.

Complete several IELTS General Reading practice tests and put yourself under exam conditions.

You may find it useful, however, if you practice taking whole the reading test in a row, not section by section, it means that you practice in exam-like conditions and therefore on the exam day reading part feels just like another easy practice.

Focus on your weakest spots

If you practice like described above, it is easy to find out your possible stumbling blocks. As there are different types of exercises, some might be more difficult than others.

man in trouble

As said before, it's good to practice a whole test in a row. Hovewer, we recommend that after you have completed the practice test, you spend some extra time to analyse your mistakes and make sure you understand where and why you went wrong.

For example, most often true-false-not given type of exercises give headache to students. So, prepare for this type of questions a bit more.

Pay attention to the mistakes you make and learn from them!

If you analyse your wrong answers, then you will also learn more about the logic and get a better grasp of the IELTS reading test. While some sites recommend reading about 1200-word long news articles in 15 minutes to practice for the exam, we advise you just to complete more IELTS General Reading practice tests to get more comfortable with the test format and different types of questions.

Practice until you feel comfortable

Practice until you achieve the score that you are satisfied with on a constant basis. For instance, if you complete about three reading practice tests and your score doesn't vary much (+/-0.5 points), you may feel pretty comfortable that you will be able to achieve a similar score in the real IELTS test.

So, if you score around 8 (+/-0.5) points in your practice tests, then without losing your nerve on the exam day, this would probably be the exam result as well. Therefore, you do not need to worry about the IELTS reading part and you can use your valuable time for studying other parts where you might be weaker.


  1. Skim and scan
    • Look only for the main ideas and scan the text to locate information quickly. So, you don't need to read every word or try to understand the passage, you just need to answer the questions!
  2. Watch your time
    • Don't forget you have strict time limit, so only 60 minutes to read three texts and answer 40 questions. Therefore, skimming and scanning help you a lot. Do not get stuck with one missing answer, just move on and come back when everything else is done. Remember that you won't get additional time for filling your answer sheet, so make sure you manage your time properly.
  3. Check your spelling
    • Check your spelling before writing your answers on the answer sheet. If your answer is spelled wrong, you will get zero points for it. Remember that the sentence has to be grammatically correct when you put the answer in.
  4. Fill all the boxes
    • Don't leave blanks! Your score doesn't change due to incorrect answers. So, even if you are not sure in your answer, try your luck and maybe your guess is right!
  5. Practice, practice, practice
    • Practice makes perfect. You will improve when you practice regularly as you will develop your skills and understand different question types. What is more, the practice of reading enriches your vocabulary, so it benefits to writing and speaking part as well!

Need help?

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