“How should I prepare for the reading section?”
This is a very common question. It seems simple, but it’s very difficult to answer because everyone has their own learning styles. A technique that works well for one person may not be right for another person. However, one thing that is true: the most important thing is to build your vocabulary!
I’ll say it again, “Vocabulary.” Students who get the high band scores are the ones with the biggest vocabularies. That means that not only do you have to know the meanings of a lot of words but also you also need to know their synonyms.
Synonyms are important because the test questions require you to identify sentences that use different words to express the same meaning. These sentences are called paraphrases. You will not be able to just “copy and paste” a sentence or phrase from the reading passage.
To understand this more, look at a question that has been adapted from a previous exam paper.
Which paragraph contains the following information?
1. a use for helium which makes an activity safer
Even if you understand the difficult sentences in the question, you will not be able to choose the correct answer by simply finding the same words in reading.
The answer to number 1 is in the paragraph below.
Probably the most well known commercial usage is in airships and blimps (…) But helium is also instrumental in deep-sea diving, where it is blended with nitrogen to mitigate the dangers of inhaling ordinary air under high pressure; as a cleaning agent for rocket engines; and, in its most prevalent use, as a coolant for superconducting magnets in hospital MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners. [http://takeielts.britishcouncil.org]
To answer this question correctly, you have to know that ‘makes an activity safer’ is a paraphrase of ‘to mitigate the dangers’.
This type of paraphrase relies on the use of synonyms. When you understand how the IELTS tests are written and start looking at how synonyms are used, the reading section of the test becomes easier. In the next tip, we’ll give you some ideas on how to build you vocabulary more effectively.