This post focuses on how you can improve your reading skills.
I am often asked by many of my close people and students on how I managed to achieve a band score of 8.0 in Reading. Well, the fact with getting a good band in Reading Module is that you need to be extremely hard-working. This means there is no short-cut here. So, for those who have no intention to work hard, this post will do no good to you. However, if you can really work hard and under pressure, I can suggest you a set of ideas which may help you to master your skills in Reading Module.
Steps you can follow:
- Learn vocabulary using a targeted article topic, then read an article focusing on those vocabularies.
This technique helped me a lot to cover a number of difficult articles. One of those articles was on a research on linguistic development in the human mind. When I saw the article at first, I was completely puzzled and began panicking. Then I thought about it from a reverse angle. I took a notebook and gathered almost all the unknown vocabularies. Then I studied their meanings, parts of speech, some synonyms and so on. Later, when I studied the article, it was clear to me. I had no problem reading it fluently and I understood nearly everything.
As an example, when I did IELTS in British Council, they provided me some topic lists and every day we, the students, used to discuss and learn vocabularies of a particular topic, such as The Internet or Genetics or Child Psychology. Then our trainer used to give us assignments to find out some similar topics or parts of the topics covering at least 1000 words from the internet. Then we used to find the vocabularies in the newfound articles. This helped me a lot to increase not only my vocabulary power but also speed-reading.
- IELTS Reading has unknown vocabularies/topics, but mostly with an explanation. Do you know it?
You need to remember this clearly in the exam hall. Most of the unknown words/topics have some kind of explanations but candidates mostly miss them. You must develop your skills to find the explanations. Sometimes the explanations are in brackets, sometimes within two hyphens, sometimes referenced under the article with an asterisk (*). Sometimes, they are given in the next sentences as definitions (Definitions start with verbs/verb phrases like means, refers to, i.e. explains, etc.).
Let’s take a look at a sample Reading text excerpt from Cambridge IELTS 12 Test 6.
On page 46 of the book, please find the Reading Passage 3 entitled The Benefits of Being Bilingual.
In Paragraph C, line 8 and 9 says, “When the colour and the word match… .. ..”. Now, many of the candidates may find it too difficult to understand. Look carefully. You will see the explanation in brackets (i.e., the word ‘red’ printed in red). This is one of the numerous ways to find the meaning easily.
- Reward yourself to motivate yourself.
Remember that there are very few people who will spare some time for you to help you practice Reading. So, you are literally alone here. So, you need to motivate yourself to read more and more. I used to reward myself every day. One example is that I used to set a target of reading at least 4/5 pages from a magazine, journal, and book in English on selected topics. If I could successfully complete the day’s targeted reading, I used to go to one of my favorite coffee shop in the town to have some local delicacies and a hot cup of coffee. This might sound unusual or funny to many people, but I’ll request you to give it a go. I did this for a month or so. Before that time my reading score was around 6/7, but after a month it developed to 8/9! Motivating yourself surely helps.
- Use note-cards / word cards.
Using or making some note-cards or word cards can also help you in developing your reading skills. I did this with some small cards made from art-papers. Usually, art papers are much thicker than normal papers. I cut an art paper to make 7/8 note-cards or word cards.
From each Cambridge reading passage I practiced, I used to make note-cards for learning 5/10 new words every day. To do this, I maintained the following steps.
- Select a passage. For example, you can take the Cambridge 12 Test 5 Reading Passage 1, entitled “Cork”.
- Find some new words. They should be completely new to you. Highlight or underline them. For instance, on page 16 paragraph 1 and 2, in the passage “Cork”, you can find words like millennia, trunk, cellular, replicating
- Now write some words in the note-cards. Write one word only in the middle of each note-card.
- Go to the opposite side of the card, in the blank space; write the part of speech, definition, translations and a sentence using the word. You can also add some synonyms and antonyms if you want. Here is an example:
If you continue to do this, there is a guarantee of improvement in your reading skill.
- Repeat previously practiced reading articles once or twice.
One of the most important things to do is to repeat whatever you have practiced before. If you don’t do that, you will forget whatever you have learned. So, never miss the opportunity to do some repeat reading. I always prefer to practice from Cambridge University IELTS publications because I believe they produce the best IELTS materials due to the fact that they are the designer of this course. So, if you have some previously worked out IELTS reading tests, do them again.
- Appear in short mock tests:
After every two or three days, you need to appear in some form of mock tests. You can take a reading test and complete the Reading Passage 1 section in 15-20 minutes. Then you can check how many answers you got correct. Continue to do this for a couple of weeks or a month and get familiar with exam stress. These short mock tests actually help you a lot to prepare for the actual test of 60 minutes.
- Learn as much as possible about all the question types:
This is very important! I know many good students who happen to share with me their experience of IELTS exam where they felt panic because of their lack of knowledge about all the question types. Some of them did not bother about it much; others skipped some important question types because they thought it might not appear in the test. It did appear later on in the exam and they could not manage it properly. So, it is my earnest request to all IELTS candidates to be careful and knowledgeable about all the questions types. To do this properly, you may need to appear in at least 10 mock tests. So, don’t be afraid and learn more about the question types.
Hope this post helps you.
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