IELTS Test: About the IELTS Reading section

So, you have your IELTS test coming up and you want to prepare for the Reading section? You’ve come to the right place! Here, we explain everything you need to know about this section of the test. Plus, we’ve provided access to some handy practice materials too!

About IELTS Reading

There are four parts to an IELTS test: Speaking, Writing, Listening and Reading. The Reading section takes around 60 minutes to complete and includes 40 questions for you to answer. The test content differs depending on whether you are taking the Academic or General Training test.

General Training Reading vs Academic Reading IELTS test

The General Training Reading section content covers topics of more general interest than the Academic test. The Academic test is more tailored to those entering university or higher education.

About the General Training IELTS Reading Section
There are three parts to the General Training Reading section which break down as follows:

Section 1: This contains 2-3 short factual texts. The topics in the texts are related to everyday life in an English-speaking country, such as Canada.
Section 2: This contains two short factual texts on work-related issues, including anything from applying for jobs, company policies, pay and conditions, workplace facilities and staff development.
Section 3: This contains one longer and more detailed text on a topic of general interest.

About the IELTS Academic Reading Test
The Academic Reading section includes three long texts typically taken from newspapers, magazines, books and journals. No specialised knowledge is needed on the subjects in the reading texts. The reading texts have been chosen specifically for those entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

Practice materials to help you succeed in your IELTS Reading section

We have a range of practice and learning materials to help you get the score you need in the Reading section of your IELTS test. Simply follow these quick links below to access them!


Accessible via our IELTS events & webinars page

We run regular webinars to help you prepare for your IELTS test. These include Reading section specific webinars which give you a better idea of what to expect in the Reading section of your test. Use the link above to view our upcoming webinars and sign up.

IELTS Study Pack

Sign up to the IELTS study pack here

The IELTS study pack offers webinar updates straight to your inbox, plus free resources to help you prepare for all areas of your IELTS exam, including the Reading section.

Road to IELTS

Sign up to the Road to IELTS here

Road to IELTS is our comprehensive e-learning and online assessment tool, providing expert advice, sample tests and interactive practice activities.

Free Learning Apps

Download free from the AppStore: IELTS Learning App
Download free from Google Play: IELTS Learning App

Learn more about each section of the IELTS test, including the Reading section, and practice your skills ahead of the exam. This App has tons of resources and is completely free to download.

How much preparation should I do for the reading section of the exam?

It is important to prepare as much as possible.  Make sure you take practice reading tests so you know exactly what to expect on test day and also what level you are at.  It’s difficult to give an exact amount of hours as everyone learns at different speeds, but it is certainly worth over preparing!

Top tips to remember when completing your IELTS Reading test

You don’t need to have knowledge on the reading topics

The Reading section contains a wide variety of topics, but you don’t need to have any knowledge of these areas to answer the questions successfully.  All the answers will come from the reading passage.

Focus on the questions first

Try not to spend a lot of time reading the text first, try to focus on the questions. Read the questions carefully and highlight any important words (for example: names, dates, numbers, adjectives & adverbs).  Once you have done this, scan the text to find the section that contains these keywords.  You should then read this section carefully and compare information here to the information in the questions.  If you can’t find the answer, slow down and read the section you need to again.

Synonyms & paraphrasing are important 

A lot of the Reading section is a test of your understanding of the main ideas of the passage. When you see important words in the questions, you will also see similar ideas in the passage but expressed in another way through synonyms and paraphrasing. If your knowledge of vocabulary is wide, it will help greatly in understanding the ideas in the reading passages.

Manage your time

There are 40 questions in the test and you have 60 minutes.  If you spend too long per question, you will not be able to finish the test in time and you may have some unanswered questions. If you are having difficulty with a question, leave it and move on.  This will help you to progress steadily through the test.  Allow some time at the end of the test to go back to any questions you have not answered and ensure you answer these (even if you have to guess!)

Still yet to book your IELTS test?

Register online now with British Council. We have over 80 test centres located across Canada, so are sure to have one near you. Use our simple online booking platform to register for your test online today and start your IELTS journey.

Find your nearest test centre here by following the link and selecting the province you live in.