IELTS Reading Tips: How to Manage Your Time

Time management is my students' biggest concern in IELTS Reading.

The IELTS Reading Academic module requires you to read three passages and answer 40 questions. You have 60 minutes in which to answer, and you can work at your own pace. But how much time should you spend reading, and how much time answering the questions?

My IELTS Reading tips below are all designed to help you make the best use of your time. Some of them you will be familiar with, especially skimming (Tip #3). Others may be new techniques that you haven’t been taught before.

In my view, these are the most effective strategies for getting through the passages and answering all the questions in IELTS Reading. Try them in your next test.

The article assumes you are familiar with the IELTS Academic Reading test format. If you aren't, read IELTS Reading: Introduction first.

IELTS Reading Tip 1: Preview the questions first

While reading, your brain is working hard to create a picture of what the passage is about. You can save your brain the trouble by reading the questions quickly, before you start reading the passage. The questions provide you with an outline of the contents of the passage, which then allows you to read more quickly because you know what to expect. However, don’t be tempted to start answering the questions immediately without taking the time to skim-read the passage.

IELTS Reading Tip 2: Read the introduction first, conclusion next, body last

After previewing the questions, you can start on the passage itself. I recommend spending no more than five minutes on this stage. What is the best way to approach the passage? I suggest you read the introduction first, and then skip the body to read the conclusion. The principle is the same as for Tip #1. It’s easier to read the body when you know in advance where it’s going. As long as you’ve read both the introduction and the conclusion, it’s not essential to read all paragraphs in the body.

IELTS Reading Tip 3: Don't read every sentence

My next IELTS Reading tip is basically all about skimming. Skimming is when you read a text quickly in order to get the general idea. But how does skim-reading actually work? One technique is to keep your eyes moving forward and avoid ‘backskipping’ when you find a word you don’t know. Another technique is to look for main ideas, which are usually near the beginning of each new paragraph. Once you’ve found this idea, you don’t need to read all of the supporting sentences. A quick glance at the final sentence can help you to confirm if that main idea was the correct one.

IELTS Reading Tip 4: Underline specific information

This next tip is related to scanning, but it’s something you can do while reading and before you start answering the questions. If you find the name of a person, place or organisation, underline it. That’s because these names will almost certainly appear in the questions and you’ll be searching for them later. That’s also the case for technical terms, which usually come with a definition in the text. You can save yourself time by multitasking and marking these words for later reference. Other words that aren’t as specific will probably be paraphrased in the questions.

IELTS Reading Tip 5: Spend no more than one minute per question

This final IELTS Reading tip is very similar to another tip I gave you about IELTS Listening. In both sections, 30 out of 40 correct answers are enough to get Band 7, which is a good score. You must manage your time effectively and attempt all 40 questions, including the 30 easiest ones for you. You don’t want to waste several minutes or more on a tough question which may only be the difference between 8.5 and 9.0. Make sure you don’t run out of time by spending no more than one minute on each question. You can always go back at the end and tackle the really difficult ones again.


IELTS TeacherUse these IELTS Reading tips to manage your time more effectively. Of course, achieving a high score is dependent on other factors too. You should be building up a large vocabulary of academic words, as well as reading a wide range of articles on topics such as history, nature, and science. You'll also find more IELTS Reading-related articles on this site. Read more»