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IELTS Reading Section 3: Eliminating mistakes

In IELTS, Section 3 tends to be the most difficult one. It is so in Reading, Listening, and Speaking. Writing has only 2 tasks. Accordingly, the 2nd one - The Essay - is way more difficult than Letter Writing or Report Writing. This pattern of difficulty applies to both, the Academic as well as the General Training candidate.

So, how do you overcome the challenges here? I believe you should adopt the following measures, depending on the exact nature of the problem that you are facing:

A. The passages are too long. By the time I finish it, I forget what I have read.

Does this describe you? Then, most probably, you haven’t been doing much reading in your daily life. Either you are the outgoing and outdoor type, preferring to be with friends, playing games, and so on. Or, you like to spend hours with video games, PS3, playing PUBG, and whatnot.


You need to immediately start developing the habit of reading lengthy passages. Cambridge IELTS books 1–14 have a total of 188 long passages. These are more than sufficient for our immediate purpose. Start reading 2 passages a day - one in the morning and one in the evening. Just read. There is absolutely no need to solve the accompanying questions. At this point, DO NOT make notes on the margin. Read quickly and try to get the gist of it. You are advised not to mouth the words silently. Instead, it should be a mental activity because one develops reading speed in this way. However, you may underline the words/phrases that you don’t understand well. Their meanings should be found out after you you have completed reading the passage.

This exercise, sustained over a sufficient period of time, will

  • Improve the brain’s power of retention

  • Develop reading speed and help you to read long passages quickly, thus solving the issue of taking too long and not being able to complete the paper on time

  • force you to come across unfamiliar words, phrases, collocations, idiomatic use of English, and even complex sentence constructions, thereby increasing your vocabulary and lexical resource

  • widen your knowledge base and enable you to respond to a wide variety of topics, thereby also indirectly help in your Speaking and Writing because the question of “what to say/write” could now be answered

B. The questions are quite difficult here

Maybe the act of reading the passage quickly and retaining it does not trouble you and you are not really put off by difficult words and complex sentence structures? But the trouble is that you get easily confused and find it difficult to solve the questions quickly. In that case, you need to go back to the drawing board and understand

  • how to deal with each question type

  • practice regularly over a sufficiently long period of time

Each IELTS question type demands a different approach. Do not fall for shortcuts and so-called “tricks”. There is a definite and logical progression/thought process to problem-solving. Master it.

  1. Begin by reading the passage

  2. Then read the question

  3. Underlining key words/phrases in the question

  4. Locate the exact area in the passage by identifying loose synonyms of the underlined words

  5. NOW attempt the question

After a little while, your mind will internalize this sequence. And with time, it will make adjustments that it considers necessary, and you will no longer rigidly follow this sequence. And that is exactly as it should be.

For practice, you must attempt only 1 Reading Passage per day - 13/14 questions.

This means that you will complete each Reading Test in 3 days and the entire Cambridge book in 12 days. You can start with Cambridge IELTS 5 (1–4 are somewhat outdated) and have regular exercises till Cambridge IELTS 11. Cambridge IELTS 12–14 should be kept aside for the final 12-day practice (full timed tests) before the examination.

Draw up this 12-day regular schedule of Reading as well as the final one. What are you waiting for?

I believe that if this is strictly followed - over a 1–1.5 month period, for instance, you should do fine. Everything takes time and requires adequate attention, but nothing is impossible. Practice sincerely, for without it nothing is achievable.

As they say, excellence is a habit.

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