Why time is important
Time is a key part of the reading test. A Band 8 or 9 candidate can skim read or speed-read a passage a lot faster than a Band 4 or 5 candidate. Your ability to quickly read the passages and locate the relevant information to answer the questions is one of the reading skills being assessed. So it is important to have a strategy for the test and to practice the skills of skim reading and scanning a passage.
Remember also that you need to transfer all of your answers onto a separate answer sheet within the 60 minutes that you have. You are NOT given any extra time for this at the end. It is very important to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes when you are transferring your answers and that you don’t make any spelling mistakes.
Should I read the questions first?
One question I’m often asked is whether you should start by reading the questions first. My advice is to only very quickly look at the questions just to satisfy your curiosity and no more. You will absolutely NOT be able to ‘guess’ any answers or answer the questions without reading the passage. This is a common problem you will only find in practice tests that aren’t written by trained exam writers (see ‘Bad advice’ below). In the IELTS test, you will have to read the passage to find out the information you need, so reading the questions in detail first will be confusing and may make you feel anxious about what you don’t know. It is also a waste of very valuable time.
The images below show what I think is the best way to use your time in the reading test.
Bad advice about IELTS reading
By far the most common problem with IELTS reading is following bad advice and using the wrong materials to practice. If you use the wrong materials, you will not develop the skills you need to build to manage your time in the test. People who tell you that you can answer quickly by just ‘matching words’, or that you can quickly eliminate the silly options, are not using IELTS materials for their practice.
My free book
You can read more about this in chapter 5 of my free book: https://www.keytoielts.com/product/ielts-teacher-the-key-to-ielts-success/
You can build your reading speed with Vocabulary teaching apps: https://www.keytoielts.com/ielts-apps/