An important thing to know about the IELTS Reading test is this: you have to read a lot of words. Around 1000 actually, and the idea of having to read so much and answer 40 questions as well may seem impossible. However, please don’t despair. There are some study techniques that can help make this challenging part of the test a bit easier.
“I couldn’t finish the reading,” is a comment often said by students after they take the IELTS test. Of course, it is difficult to get a high score if you do not finish the tasks, so it is very important to improve your reading speed. In other words, you need to read faster.
Why do I read so slowly? It is natural to read carefully (and slowly) when you are reading a foreign language. You may be unsure of the meaning of some words, or worried about missing details. And there are times when reading slowly is necessary. However, in general reading very slowly is a problem because you will get a low score if you do not finish the test, you may start to panic about time during the test, and you may not be able to understand the main idea of an article.
What am I doing wrong? Many people read too slowly because they sound out each word in the mind (or speak softly) as they read, stop when they see an unknown word, re-read sentences to completely understand the meaning before continuing, and several other habits.
So what should I do? Learning to read faster, or speed read, is a key to success in the IELTS test. When you read faster you will have more time to think about the answer choices, and you will have a better understanding of the overall meaning of an article. Before the test, you will be able to read more which will help you improve your vocabulary. In short, all of these things will give you have more confidence.
So, how do I learn to read faster? Good readers read in “chunks”. Chunks are groups of words that our brain can deal with as one unit. Or in other words, you need to stop reading one word at a time.
Look at the previous paragraph again. Reading each word separately looks something like this:
So. how. do. I. learn. to. read. faster? Chunks. You. need. to. read. in. “chunks”. Chunks. are. groups. of. words. that. our. brain. can. deal. with. as. one. unit. Or. in. other. words. you. need. to. stop. reading. one. word. at. a. time.
Slow, isn’t it?! Now let’s try reading it in chunks.
(So, how do I learn) (to read faster?) (Chunks.) (You need to read in “chunks”.) (Chunks are groups of words) (that our brain) (can deal with as one unit). (Or, in other words,) (you need to stop) (reading one word at a time.)
It will probably feel very strange to read in this way at first, but please keep practicing. With some regular practice every day (say, 10 to 20 minutes), you will soon be comfortable reading in chunks. This will increase your reading speed so that you can finish the IELTS Reading test. It will also benefit your writing and speaking, too because you will start to notice how words are put together in English.
It is a good idea to record your reading speed. That way, you will be able to see how much faster you are reading. Simply read an article and time yourself. Divide the number of words by the time to get your reading speed in words per minute.
For example: 360 words / 2 minutes = 180 words per minute
Average readers read at around 250 words per minute, and good readers read at around 350 words per minute
You will need to make sure that the reading is not too easy – it should be similar to the IELTS Reading test. There is some great reading material in the Wordwise library and online. Please ask for advice if you are interested in starting regular speed reading practice.
Speed reading really will help you achieve the scores you want.