Many students fail to finish the IELTS Reading test because they read at a very slow pace. The two main reasons for this are poor exam technique and slow reading speed. In this post, I’ll teach you how to improve your IELTS speed reading.
IELTS Speed Reading
Did you know that your brain does not process words individually?
Instead, it processes them in groups of 3-5 words together. These are sometimes called ‘chunks’. Unfortunately, many of us are taught at school to read each word individually. Also, when reading in another language we often read and think about the meaning of every word.
The answer to this is to practice reading words in groups.
Let’s look at one of the previous paragraph as an example:
Did you know that /your brain does not process/ words individually? Instead it processes them /in groups of 3-5 words together. /These are sometimes called ‘chunks’./ Unfortunately, many of us are /taught at school to read /each word individually/. Also, when reading in/ another language we often/ read and think about /the meaning of words individually.
Try reading the paragraph above, not as individual words but as groups of words. I’ve added slashes in between groups to help you.
This might seem unnatural at first, but with practice you will be able to do it very naturally and increase your reading speed dramatically.
Practice IELTS Speed Reading
Try spending 10-30 minutes a day reading with this method. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every word, just keep going. Don’t let your eyes rest on one word and don’t worry about words you don’t understand.
Make a note of how many words you can read in 5 minutes and after a week or two you will see a significant improvement.
The other big advantage of this is that you will really improve your grammar and vocabulary because you will notice how words and phrases group together. You will begin to see patterns and collocations and this will help you improve, not just reading, but your overall level of English.
I should say again that this takes lots of practice, but it is well worth the time and effort.
Advantage of Speed Reading
Just like any other skill, speed reading can be learned and perfected with practice. When you learn how to read faster you will enjoy the following advantages:
- You will be able to understand the general meaning of the whole text and each paragraph much more easily and quickly. This will help you find the correct answers more effectively.
- You will enter the exam with more confidence than you did before.
- You will have more time to think about your answers and make sure they are the correct ones. You will also have time to check your answers at the end.
Should I always read quickly?
In general, we read at a faster pace when we are getting the general meaning of the text (skimming) or looking for specific words or phrases (scanning). Using these skills is very important, but if we just use these all the time, we will miss important details and get the answers wrong.
Often when we are establishing the correct answer, we need to take our time and read every word carefully.
There are several different kinds of IELTS reading questions and each requires a different technique and a different mix of skimming, scanning and reading carefully. I would highly recommend reading each of my lessons on each question type to help you improve.
IELTS Speed Reading Exam Tips
- You don’t have to read the whole text for every question. Only read what you need and then move on.
- Don’t worry if there is a word you don’t understand. If you do see one you can either guess what it means from the other words and sentences around it or ignore it. There will always be a number of words that even native speakers won’t understand.
- In general, the easier questions are at the start of the paper and the more difficult are toward the end.
- If you say words silently or say them very quietly when reading, stop this. It increases the time it takes for you to process a word.
- Read the questions before you read the text. This will help focus your mind on what you are looking for.
For more help with IELTS Reading, you can sign up to my free reading challenge:
I hope you find it useful. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below or email my team at firstname.lastname@example.org.