To improve the speed at which you can complete an IELTS reading test, it is important that you have a clear plan about how you are going to approach the test. The skills you need to effectively answer the questions have just been mentioned – skimming, scanning and reading for detail. However, how you use these skills will determine how effective they are. When the test begins, you should first look at the title of the reading passage if it has one, and any illustrations that may be given. These may give you an indication of what the passage is about. Next, skim the question types – you are not aiming for a 100% understanding of everything, just enough to know what type of questions you will need to answer.
Third, skim the reading passage. Again, you are not looking to understand the entire passage – just enough to answer the question ‘what is it about?’. Then you go back to the questions, use the skills we will present in this course for each particular question type and then scan for the answers using keywords, synonyms or rephrases. Once you have found the relevant section of the passage, you then need to read for detail to confirm your answer. The only exception to this rule is headings questions, where you should skim each paragraph a second time. This will be explained in more detail in the Headings lesson. It is very important that between now and your test, you practice using this approach so that it becomes natural. You will find that with practice, you will be able to complete the reading test in less time.