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IELTS Academic Reading

Module format

IELTS Academic Reading has 3 passages and 40 items (questions). The number of items for any one passage may vary. Each item is worth one mark. The texts and items appear in Question Booklets.


IELTS Academic Reading takes 60 minutes to complete.


One mark is awarded for each correct answer.


The passages are based on authentic texts taken from magazines, journals, books and newspapers. They present the candidates with materials which they might meet on a university course. Passages may contain diagrams, graphs, illustrations and so on. The passages may be written in different styles - narrative, descriptive or discursive/argumentative. The passages address issues which are appropriate and accessible to candidates entering postgraduate or undergraduate courses, or seeking professional registration. At least one of the passages will contain a detailed argument.


The total word count for the three passages is between 2000 and 2750 words.

Task Types

There are 10 basic task types:

  1. Multiple Choice
  2. Short-answer Questions
  3. Sentence Completion
  4. Notes, Summary or Table/Flow-chart Completion
  5. Labelling a Diagram
  6. Choosing Headings for Paragraphs or Sections of a Text
  7. Locating Information
  8. Identification of Writer's Views/Claims or of Information in a Text
  9. Classification
  10. Matching.

What reading skills are tested in IELTS Academic Reading?

This is a test of reading comprehension in an academic context. The texts used and the skills tested are intended to reflect the language needs of undergraduate and postgraduate students. These passages are designed for use with students of all disciplines. Candidates may have to do all or any of the following tasks:

  • identify the writer's overall purpose and/or target audience
  • identify and follow key arguments in a text
  • identify opinions and attitudes
  • identify facts
  • locate specific information
  • read for detailed information
  • extract relevant information
  • distinguish the main idea from supporting detail
  • recognise key points for a summary
  • group pieces of information in a text in accordance with specific criteria
  • transfer information from text into a diagram or chart
  • make inferences
  • use correct spelling and correct grammar in their answers

How do we read text?

In everyday life we use different strategies or approaches to read different texts. Sometimes we read quickly, looking for general ideas or seeking out specific detail. Sometimes we read slowly, trying to gain a detailed understanding. How we read depends on the text - its length, its type - and our purpose in reading it.

What is skimming?

We skim a text when we just look at the headings and subheadings and the first lines of each paragraph. We may notice key words that are repeated throughout the text. Our purpose is to understand the general idea of the text.

What is scanning?

We scan a text when we are looking for specific information or specific words. We ignore information that is not relevant. We use this technique when a question asks for specific factual information. It is also a useful strategy when we need to find the section of a text about which a question is asked.

What is reading for detail?

We read for detail when we read every word in a text and think carefully about the meaning of each sentence. It is often necessary in IELTS Academic Reading to read a section of a text in detail in order to answer a question correctly. Often a candidate will skim or scan the text first to find the right section and then read for detail.


Learning resources, notes and exercises for international students and teachers of English