Similarities and differences between the Academic and General IELTS Reading test.
The IELTS reading test measures the ability of a prospective immigrant or a student to read several passages and answer the questions that are taken from those texts. This part of the text varies for the academic version of the text and the general training test. While the academic texts focus more on those topics that students would read as a part of their university education, the general reading comprises of texts that are seen and read on a day to day basis in a societal life.
The IELTS reading test is so well designed that the question types are highly specialized,and hence, the test takers need to be aware of the tips and strategies to get a higher band score of an 8.0 or higher. There are certain very important points that a candidate must note in order to give their best performance in this module. Let’s understand the pattern of the reading test with some similarities and differences between the and some quick tips to score 8.0 and above in the main exam. Refer to this link for the detailed interpretation of the IELTS scores.
Differences between the Academic and General IELTS Reading test?
1. First and foremost, it is important to understand the format of the test. Most academic test takers worry about the type of questions that they should answer, as well as the marking patterns.
There would be three reading passages (passages-3) that the academic test takers must read and then answer the follow-up questions. The texts would be medium to long in their length, and on an average, they may range from a single side of a page to approximately two sides of the paper. The number of paragraphs in a single reading passage would often vary from four to seven or eight sometimes. Hence, the candidates must equip themselves to reading fast and intensively. There is a small point to note here – if the answer can be predicted correctly by marking the keywords, then it would not be required to read the whole passage.
There would be a total of 40 questions which are divided into three sections based on the three passages. One mark would be awarded for every correct answer. There is no negative marking on the test. Hence, take a guess if you are not sure what the answer could be. A separate reading answer sheet is provided to the candidates. The answers must be transferred from the question paper on to the answer sheet by the end of the test time.
You will get one hour (60 minutes) to complete the test. Note that no additional time will be given to transfer the answers on to the answer sheet. It is advised to transfer the answers after each and every section to avoid getting tensed at the last moment.
Use a pencil to write the answers. The answers must be legible and readable. Avoid shabby handwriting. Also, take care to write the correct spelling of the answer. In case of spelling errors, the answer would be marked as an incorrect one, and one mark would be deducted. Another point is that the answer should follow the appropriate form of the noun. This means that if the answer is a singular noun, it must be written in the singular form and the same applies to the plural form.
Unlike the academic test, for the general training test, there would be 5 passages that the test takers should read and answer. The passages are relatively smaller and easier to read and understand. The first four passages are shorter compared to the last one, which is longer. There would be 40 questions on the test. Students should answer all the 40 questions, as there is no negative marking in the test.
2. The second important factor that decides the score is the time management. Often, students end up in getting a low score even after preparing and practicing thoroughly because of poor time management skills in the main exam. For getting a score of 8 or higher, learn effective time planning strategies, such as setting an alarm, improving the speed of reading along with learning how to transfer the answers within the time.
Note that only those answers which are written in the answer sheet are marked. The elevators do not look into your question paper and therefore, you should make sure that all the answers are transferred on to the answer sheet. You may write all the answers using uppercase letters or capital letters. It is acceptable on the IELTS test to do this. The ideal time to read and answer one passage is around twenty minutes.
3. Practice all the question types very well before attempting the test, such as
– note completion
-flow chart completion
– sentence completion
Also, learn the technique for each of these question types. Practice makes perfect. Practice atleast two full reading tests everyday to get a band score of 8.0 or over. Evaluate for yourself and see where exactly you are lagging behind. Work on strengthening your weak areas. YouTube channels such as worldofenglishexams provide detailed videos and question papers which are really helpful to crack the exam. The more you practice, the better you can perform.
4. Get the right Strategies:
There are two important ways to approach a question in the IELTS reading test, both for general and for the academic versions. Generally,there are very high chances of getting a score of 8 or higher if the below mentioned strategies are learnt well and applied.
The first technique is called SKIMMING.
Skimming means reading the passage quickly to get an overview of what the paragraph is about. Note that the first sentence of every paragraph is known as the ‘lead sentence’or the ‘topic statement ‘. This gives us the information briefly about the context of that paragraph.
Quickly read it and highlight the keywords (important words that signify the meaning of the paragraph – such as Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, etc). The detailed keyword identification technique can be watched in the following video . when Skimming the text, highlight the main points and write short notes around the paragraph,so that you can identify and match the answer. Skimming does not mean intensive reading. So do not read each and every word in the text.
The second strategy is SCANNING.
As the name suggests, scanning is reading thoroughly. Word by word. Here, we look for the accurate answer. Scanning has to be followed only after the question is read and thoroughly understood. First read the question, mark the keywords and then go back to the passage, and using the details and hints that we have written using the skimming, we have to find the right answer. For example, if you predict that the answer that you are looking for is a noun, quickly go to the paragraph and circle all the relevant nouns. Then compare and check if that is the noun that is suitable for the given question.
Alternatively, you can have another approach in which you need not read the passage at the start. Directly read the question, understand the given idea clearly from the question, try to mark the keywords and predict the answer, and then read the passage and look for the correct answer. Not only is this technique easy to follow, but it also helps you locate the right answer without spending a lot of time on reading the passage at the start. Hence, it all depends on choosing the right approach, practicing and mastering the strategy.
5. Learn how to identify the synonyms and the tenses.
This is a very vital factor that aids to get a high score. IELTS is all about synonyms. Thus, the more accurately you identify the synonyms, the easier it is to find the answer. Synonyms, otherwise known as Parallel expressions are words that mean the same, but a different word is used. For instance, if the verb in the question says ‘buy’, you may find the word ‘purchase’in the text. Hence, be aware of how to locate these synonyms.
In addition to this, every test taker ought to understand that they have to look for the meaning of a sentence and not just matching the keywords. Yes, it is a fact that the keywords from the question should match with those seen in the text, but this does not mean that the meaning can differ. Be very careful while checking the meaning, especially for the question types like true/ false / not given, yes/no/not given, etc.
For the general training reading, though the texts are short, a lot of times, the words are given as synonyms. So, it should not be assumed looking at the length of the text that the answers are directly seen. Another important factor is the tense of the given question. The tense of the question should match with that of the text. In majority of the cases, although the meaning matches, the tense would mismatch. This must not be considered as the right answer. Let me cite an example here.
Let’s say that in the question you find that ‘Scientific research gives the evidence of artificial intelligence’ and in the passage you find that ‘ artificial intelligence is a concept that is going to be tested’ it means that as of now ,there is no proof of artificial intelligence. This is called INFERENCE, which is a powerful skill to get the correct answer.
Yet another strong skill is decision making. As a test taker, it is your capability to zero down on what the answer. Sometimes, more than on answer could be matching the question. This particularly happens in the question type ‘matching the list of headings’ . The aim of this question type is to give a suitable title for each and every paragraph. At times, mire than one title seems to be appropriate for the text. So, don’t just match the keywords.
Read the paragraph completely and then select the right title and eliminate the wrong ones. This process is called selective elimination. If more than one title seems to be fitting in the context, it is better to first write both the titles and later eliminate the one which is not appropriate. Likewise, in the case of true/false/not given, if you are not getting the answer within one minute or so, it is advised to write the answer as not given and move to the next question. This might save time to understand and solve the rest of the questions.
Lastly, if you notice that you are spending too much time on any given section, it means that the final few minutes of the test would be crucial for you. So, track the time regularly in the exam hall. As per the standard instructions of the IELTS exam, no electronic gadgets will be permitted to the exam hall. Yes! Not even a watch! You might be wondering how to know how much time is left? There would be a digital clock in the exam hall which will help you with this. Moreover, the invigilators and exam conducting authorities would be giving time hints specifying how much time has elapsed and how much time is left for the completion of the test.
Sometimes, there is a risk of the IELTS results put on hold because the candidate did not write their name as per the passport. Hence, take care to ask the concerned person beforehand. Also, there is a separate shading space for the ‘language code’ on the top right corner of the answer sheet. The language code is a three digit number specifying the language chosen at the time of filling the IELTS application form. This would also be verified at the exam centres before permitting the test taker into the exam hall. Preserve the details such as yohr candidate number very carefully till you get your test report form.
Hope this article helps to understand the differences between the academic and general IELTS reading test.