Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (2022)

Top 5 tips to Improve your IELTS Reading Skills

  • Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (1)Chris Quinn
  • Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (2)October 6, 2022
  • Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (3) How can I improve my English READING skills? How can I improve my English? IELTS Strategies & Tips

To get a high score in the IELTS Reading test you need to build your English reading and vocabulary skills in various ways. Follow these recommended practice activities to increase your reading abilities, even if you only prepare for the IELTS at home. These are important IELTS reading skills to master. Study these IELTS Reading section preparation tips below to improve your IELTS score!

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Tip #1: Read articles about common IELTS Reading topics

To help you read and understand information more quickly in IELTS Reading passages, you need to read articles about IELTS Reading topics in real magazines and news sites.

When you become more used to reading about IELTS topics in real magazines and news sites, you can follow and analyze information in IELTS Reading passages more effectively. In addition, you will not feel so ‘lost’ when you first start looking at an IELTS passage, because you will have learned something about the topic before test day.


One great website to go to is This website has U.S. , British , and Australian versions, so you can also read articles from each of those countries.

At TheConversation, you can read short articles about nearly any IELTS topic. Just click onto one of the menu tabs at the top of the page to explore articles about topics ranging from Arts & Culture to Science & Technology.Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (4)

Or you can search for a specific IELTS topic using the Search box on the right-hand side of the screen.

Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (5)Read about these topics at!

List of common topics in IELTS Reading Passages

Animal Behavior Architecture
Communication Early Human Origins
Educational Theories Environment
Exploration & Discovery Extinct Animals
Geology Human Behavior
Inventors & Innovation Language
Marketing Nature / Ecology
Oceanography Psychology
Transportation Urban Planning

Why it is useful to read ‘real-world’ articles about IELTS Topics

When you read real-world articles, you become more comfortable with the style of writing that is common in the IELTS. Unfortunately, IELTS Reading passages are not like student essays you learned to write in school. IELTS Reading passages are often more ‘loose’ in their organization, with the main point of a paragraph not always found at the beginning of a paragraph. Also, the first paragraph may not clearly describe or point out the purpose of the whole passage. This style of writing is common in magazine and online articles, and is similar to how IELTS Passages present information.

Tip #2: Increase your sciencevocabulary to build your IELTS reading skills

When you read real articles related to common IELTS topics, you also can use those articles to build lists of words and ideas related to that topic. Whenever you read a ‘real-world’ article, always look through it for vocabulary that is related to the topic. Also, look for vocabulary you didn’t know before and write them down; look up their definitions and add them to your list of words to memorize.

This method will let you expand your English vocabulary naturally, as well as use these words in the IELTS Writing and Speaking tests.

Useful website to building your Science Vocabulary

There are two great websites you can visit to learn more about common IELTS science topics. These websites do have articles as long as TheConversation, but they are useful for other reasons.

Inside Science is a U.S.-based website with short articles about a wide variety of science topics. In addition, articles often have photos that help you understand and remember the information better.

Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (6)

BBC Inside Scienceis a U.K.-based website with shorter articles. However, this website has audio podcasts you can listen to. So, BBC Inside Science can help you improve your English listening ability. Unfortunately, this website does not have transcripts of their audio podcasts, so you might find some of the podcast episodes difficult to understand.

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If you want to use a website to help you even more effectively build your English listening skills, read about our 3×3 Method!

Tip #3: Practice summarizing paragraph topics and focus

An important IELTS Reading skills is to be able to understand the main point or topic of a paragraph. So, to improve your hunting skills and to help you answer Matching Paragraph Heading questions, it is useful to practice creating ‘topic’ outlines of passages. This activity can also help you more easily determine the main idea of each paragraph.

To do this, use the following method.

1. Carefully read the first and last sentence of a paragraph and determine what kinds of topic or ideas they share. Write a short note about these topics and ideas next to the paragraph. You might notice that the first and last sentences share a topic but seem to be focusing on different ideas. Maybe the ideas even disagree with each other. That might hint at a shift in the main idea or that the paragraph is presenting two contrasting ideas.

2. Quickly read or skim through the rest of the paragraph to if any new topics of ideas are presented. Write short notes next to the paragraph about these topics and ideas.

3. Look over your notes and see if you can summarize these ideas with just one Short Note. In this Step you are building your skill in ‘synthesizing’ (combining and connecting information to understand larger ideas).

4. Move to the next paragraph and repeat Steps 1-3 above until you have written a Short Note about each paragraph in the passage.

Review all the Short Notes you made for all the paragraphs. Can you see how the topic of one paragraph is connected to the topic of the ones before and after it? In this Step you are building your skill in ‘synthesizing’ (combining and connecting information to understand larger ideas) across the entire passage.

When you are practicing summarizing paragraphs, it is okay to be a little uncertain or vague about what the main topic or idea of the sentence or paragraph is. Keep practicing! It takes time and effort to be able to summarize a paragraph quickly and effectively.

Tip #4: Study verbs and adjectives by studying their antonyms & synonyms

Because the IELTS Reading and Listening tests will try to hide information by using paraphrases of vocabulary, it is important to know possible paraphrases for words in questions and passages. Importantly, expanding your knowledge of verbs and adjectives will help you notice when the IELTS tries to hide information by doing Flips in Logic. So, studying both synonyms and antonyms of words is very useful.

Use the AWL to learn synonyms and antonyms

One way to start expanding your knowledge of the synonyms and antonyms of words is to use the Academic Word List (AWL). The AWL is a good place to start because the words in the AWL are very common to IELTS Passages and Lectures.

After you have studied the words on the AWL (you can study them with PELA’s Quizlet Classroom!), go to and type one of the AWL words in the Search Box. Make sure you have selected ‘SYNONYMS‘ in the Search Box.

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Type a word in Search Box. You will see columns of possible synonyms appear below.

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Red words are the most common synonyms for your word.

Orange words are less common.

Yellow words are only used in very specific situations or for specific topics.

However, all of them, Red, Orange, and Yellow, are possible to see on the IELTS.

Be careful using these in the IELTS Writing and Speaking tests, though! Most of the time, you cannot simply change a word to one of its synonyms. Some synonyms are ‘close synonyms’, meaning that their definitions can be close to but exactly the same as the word you are studying. Other synonyms require changing grammar, relationships or other words in the sentence in order to use them correctly. Remember, your goal is to use to help you notice possible paraphrases of ideas between passages and questions.

You can also click onto the definitions above the synonym list to see how the synonyms changed depending on the meaning and use of your word.

Top 5 Tips to Improve IELTS Reading Skills (10)

If you use flash cards to build your English vocabulary, you can write some of these words on the flash card, so that you are reminded of them while you are studying the main word of the flash card.

You can use this technique with new vocabulary you see in practice IELTS tests, too!

Tip #5: Practice speed reading while listening to improve IELTS reading skills

An effective method to help you read more quickly is ‘chase’ a speaker while reading a transcript of their words. Choose a video or podcast you have listened to already—this video or podcast needs to have a transcript or subtitles. Play the video or audio and try to read the transcript as fast as the person is talking. If you person is talking slowly, you can adjust the speed setting to make it more difficult.

The purpose of this exercise to increase your ability to ‘look’ at words without feeling the need to ‘read’ them. It builds your ability to focus on what words you are looking at, increasing your ‘scanning’ and ‘skimming’ speed when you are looking at IELTS Reading passages.

An advanced technique you can add to this exercise is to try and speak the words at the same speed as the other person. This will also help you improve your brain’s ability to process English words more quickly, which will help you increase your speed in searching for and analyzing information in IELTS Reading Passages.

Tip: To make this activity harder, choose a video or podcast that you have never heard before!

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So, to improve you IELTS Reading score, remember these important skill building techniques. Read real-world articles about common IELTS topics, and build your knowledge of the synonyms and antonyms. Practice summarizing paragraphs and passages into short outlines to help you with certain types of questions. Use the 3×3 Method to increase your reading speed so that you have more time to check the accuracy of your answers. Build your IELTS Reading skills using these techniques and knowledge building activities, and you will see your IELTS Reading score improve!

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Do you need to study for the IELTS test?

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Even if you are not in Portland, Oregon, you can join Portland English Language Academy’s online IELTS Preparation class and begin to master the IELTS today. Our 6-week online program will give you access to live classes with IELTS experts, as well as our IELTS Strategy video library and over 35 hours of practice quizzes and tests to help you improve your IELTS skills and get the IELTS score you want.

And if you are in the Portland, Oregon / Seattle, Washington area, PELA is your local IELTS Test Center. Find out more how you can register to take the IELTS test here with us!

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