IELTS Reading Tips
Don't spend too long on a single question as that will lose you time for answering questions that could be easier for you. Sometimes leaving a question and coming back later can help you answer it too. Leave any questions that you have spent too long on, and come back at the end of the test if you have time. Sometimes, if the question has a yes/no/not given answer, the answer you are looking for does not exist as it could be a not given. Be aware so you don't waste time looking for something that isn't there.
Read the questions and instructions so you don't make a silly mistake. For example, people often will mix the yes/no answers with the true/false answers and write yes as an answer instead of true or vice versa. Strictly speaking you are wrong although you have understood the question and answer.
If the question asks for one answer then give one answer. Giving two is wrong as it asks for one and you will be marked wrong. The type of question where this could happen would be: Give one example of... Writing two examples, to show you really understand, is wrong.
If the question asks for no more than 3 words, use no more than 3 words. Writing 4 words or more is wrong. You won't be asked to do it in 3 words or less unless it is possible so don't worry; it can always be done.
One area that students don't like is that, in the reading test, good grammar and spelling are important. The grammar part is not as important as you can't make many grammar errors in 3 words (the maximum you use in the reading test) but, if you spell something wrong, it will be marked as wrong. People think, quite rightly in my opinion, that the reading should test whether you understand what you read and not how you spell something but these are the rules. So, be careful about your spelling!
One constant discussion I have had with students is whether to read the questions first and then read the passage or read the passage first and then the questions. From my experience with many students my conclusion is that there is no correct answer for this. It depends on a number of variables. It can depend on the types of question and how difficult the questions are. It can depend on how good and fast a reader you are. It can depend on the length of the text and how much time you have. Let's look at these variables.
If the question type is difficult and asking something which is hard to answer then reading the text first can help. Just a quick read through using a technique called skimming (see below for an analysis of skimming) can give you the knowledge of the text that will help you find the answer more easily.
If you are a good, fast reader, then you can read the text quickly, getting good knowledge of the contents without using up too much precious time. This can help you answer the questions better.
If the texts are short then it doesn't take long to quickly read through them. On the other hand, if the texts are short it is easier to find the answers so you may not have to waste time reading the texts to find the answers quickly, especially if time is short.
If time is short then it doesn't matter how complex or long the texts are. You need to get some answers on the answer sheet as quickly as possible. So, you can see that there is not one answer to the problem of whether to read the texts or questions first. What I tell students is to experiment in your practice and see what suits you for the different types of question in different situations. As usual practising your techniques is the key.
Time management is an important thing to be aware of. You have a number of texts to read and 40 questions to answer in 1 hour. If you spend to long on one part, you may find that you have not enough time to finish all the questions and some of those questions could be ones that you could answer quite easily. As I said above, don't spend too long on a difficult answer but also keep an eye on the clock. It's a good idea to have your watch or a small clock on your desk so you know exactly how long you have left in the test at any given time. In addition to this, keep control on how long you spend on each section. Remember the test gets more difficult as it goes on so you will probably need more time for the questions at the end than for those at the start. Maybe a guideline could be:
17 minutes on section 1.
20 minutes on section 2.
23 minutes on section 3.
(If you can do things more quickly all the better as that will give you time to look at questions that you skipped and to check on your answers)
With experience and practice you will soon know how long things take you, and be able to manage your time well.
As I just said, if you have finished the exam with time to spare, DON'T just sit there!! Check what you have done. If you have time after the check, check again. And so on....