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If you’re planning to live, work or study in Australia, your ability to read written communications such as emails, letters and instructions is very important. 

When you take the IELTS, you will be assessed on your English reading abilities and given a reading band score of 0-9. This reading band score also contributes to your overall IELTS score.

What is the IELTS Reading test?

The IELTS is made up of four tests, each test focusing on one key English comprehension skill. The four test categories are:

  • Reading

  • Writing

  • Speaking

  • Listening

The IELTS Reading test is 60 minutes long. Test takers are given three written passages to read and asked to answer 40 questions based on these passages.

What types of questions will I be asked?

There are a few different question types that you may be given during your IELTS test. Examples of the types of questions you may be asked are:

  • Multiple choice

  • Identifying information

  • Matching information 

  • Sentence completion

  • Summary, note, table or flow-chart completion

  • Diagram label completion

  • Short answer questions

IELTS Reading test: How to manage your time?

No secrets to how your Reading band scores are calculated

For each of the 40 questions that you answer correctly, you will receive one point. When the test is over, the points you receive will be added up to reveal your ‘raw score’. Your raw score (meaning the number of questions you answered correctly) is then used to determine your reading band score. 

To understand how many points you need to score for your target band score, see our raw score conversion tables.

IELTS Reading band scores explained

10 tips to improve your reading band score

Why IELTS is the most recognised English test

Tip 1: Understand the band descriptors

Before booking your IELTS, it’s a good idea to read and understand which skills are needed to achieve each band score. The IELTS reading band score descriptors explain in detail what the different band scores mean. For example:

Reading band score 6 - ‘Competent user’

Band description: User has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

Tip 2: Try some practice questions

Download some free practice questions to help you understand what to expect on test day. There are sample questions available for each question type, as well as answer sheets to check your responses. 

Completing sample questions at different points during your study journey can help you identify which of your skills are improving and which need more work.

Tip 3: Join an IELTS Masterclass

A free IELTS Masterclass delivered by an IELTS expert can help you prepare for test day by covering topics such as:

  • Tips for boosting your IELTS score

  • What to expect during each test

  • Experiences from former test takers

  • Detailed scoring information

Take special note of any information related to the Reading test and write this down to look at again later.

Tip 4: Plan your time

As the IELTS reading test is only 60 minutes long, it’s important to plan your time well before even stepping foot in the test centre. Plan to spend no more than 20 minutes on each of the three passages you are given. 

Keep in mind that the passages do get harder as the test progresses. If you can, try to spend only 15 minutes on the first passage in order to give yourself more time on the more complex passages.

Tip 5: Read the test questions first

With only an hour to complete the test, it is unlikely that you’ll have time to thoroughly read (and re-read) every passage and still have enough time to answer all 40 questions. 

One trick to save time is to read the test questions before the test passages. By reading the test questions first, you can identify which keywords you need to be on the lookout for in the passages.

Tip 6: Improve your reading speed

The faster you can read the test passages, the more time you will have to think about your answers. Techniques that can help you improve your reading speed include:


‘Skimming’ is when you quickly look over a passage to get a general idea of its topic. Key areas to look at are the title, headings and topic sentences. Topic sentences are usually the first sentence in each paragraph, and they summarise what the paragraph is about. 


‘Scanning’ is when you look over a passage quickly in order to identify important keywords. When you find the words you’re looking for, read a few of the sentences around it to understand the detail and context. 

As an example, if one of the questions asks about a specific person, you can scan the text to look for their name. This can help you find the right answer without having to read an entire passage.

Tip 7: Expand your vocabulary

Test takers with large vocabularies will usually have an easier time reading test passages than those with smaller vocabularies. If you have trouble understanding the test passages, you may not be able to answer the questions correctly and may receive a low band score. You can improve your vocabulary by:

  • Reading from a variety of source materials

  • Listening to English speaking podcasts or TV shows

  • Looking up any words you don’t understand

  • Practising using the new words you’ve learned

Tip 8: Find a study partner

If you know someone else who is taking the IELTS soon, consider buddying up for study sessions. Some ways to improve your reading skills with a partner include:

  • Reading an article and discussing its themes

  • Comparing answers to sample questions

  • Discussing any new words you’ve learned

Tip 9: Check your spelling

If you know someone else who is taking the IELTS soon, consider buddying up for study sessions. Some ways to improve your reading skills with a partner include:

  • Reading an article and discussing its themes

  • Comparing answers to sample questions

  • Discussing any new words you’ve learned

Tip 10: Attempt every question

Make an effort to answer all 40 questions on your reading test. Any questions left blank will receive zero points. Even if you’re not sure about a question, answer it with your best guess to increase the chance that you’ll receive a point.

Need help booking your test?

Ready for test day? Book your IELTS test today and get one step closer to living, working or studying in Australia!

Whether you need to find out who accepts IELTS, or you want to know how to access free official IELTS practice material, we're here for you. Contact us if you have any questions about your booking, or need support getting ready for your test. 

Boost your reading band score with IELTS Reading Assist

Complete an official mock reading test and receive personalised feedback within 3-5 days from an IELTS Expert.