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What's the difference between Academic Reading and General Training Reading?

There are two separate reading tests, one for Academic candidates and one for General Training candidates. Before enrolling for the test, you need to decide which test is best for you. See the official IELTS website for advice. 

The Academic Module can be used for undergraduate or postgraduate study or for professional reasons. 

The General Training Module is commonly used for vocational training programs (not at degree level) or for immigration purposes.

How long does the Reading paper last?

The test lasts one hour (60 minutes). Note: This includes the time needed to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. There is no extra time given for this. Within that time, you must complete three separate sections with a total of 40 questions.

What type of information will I read?

The Reading paper has three separate sections. Each section is a little more difficult than the one before and features authentic reading passages.

The Academic module contains three long texts that are academic in nature, but written for a non-specialist audience. They are similar to the type of texts you may find in newspapers or magazines. The style may be descriptive or argumentative and at least one text contains a detailed logical argument. Texts may contain illustrations. If a text contains technical terms, a simple glossary is provided. The three texts are graded from easiest to most difficult. Each text will have 12-14 items.

The General Training module features a mixture of long and short texts of a more general nature, as well as text related to work situations. The paper has three sections, each of increasing difficulty. Section 1 has 14 items, and Sections 2 and 3 have 13. The sections are organised as followed.

Section Reading texts
1 Two or three short texts of several shorted ones (e.g. advertisements)
2 Two texts related to the workplace (e.g. information for staff)
3 One long discursive text
How is the Reading paper assessed?

You will be asked a total of 40 questions. Each question is worth one mark. In order to assess how much of the reading passages your understand, the questions will usually paraphrase (use different words with the same meaning) the information given in the text. The questions test a variety of reading skills including your ability to do the following:

  • Identify the writer's overall purpose
  • Follow key arguments in a text
  • Identify opinions and attitudes
  • Locate specific information
  • Distinguish main ideas from support details
  • Extract information from a text to complete a diagram, summary, table or set of notes

Note: You do not lose marks for incorrect answers.

What type of questions will I need to answer?

There are 12-14 questions in each section, and you will be asked 1-3 different types of questions in any section. There are several possible types of question. For some tasks, you need to write words or numbers from a reading passage. In others, you need to choose one option from a list and write a letter on your answer sheet. You may also need to decide if sentences are True/False/Not Given or Yes/No/Not Given, based on the information you read.

Task type What do I have to do?
multiple choice

Choose an answer from alternatives A-D.

Choose two answers from alternatives A-E.

Choose three answers from alternatives A-G.

identifying information

Say whether a statement is True/False or Not Given.

identifying the writer's views/claims (Y/N/NG)

Say whether a statement agrees with claims/views in a text (Yes), disagrees with claims/views in a text (No), or whether there is no information on this in the text (Not Given).

matching information

Match the information in the question to the correct paragraph in the text.

matching headings Match a heading from a list of possible answers to the correct paragraph or section of the text...
matching features Match a list of statements to a lsit of possible answers in a box (e.g. specific people or theories or dates)
matching sentence endings Complete a setnence by choosing a suitable ending from a box of possible answers.
sentence completion Complete a sentence with a suitable word or words from the text within the word limit given.
notes/summary/table/flow-chart completion Complete notes/a summary/table/flow-chart with a suitable word (or words) from the text within the word limit given.
labelling a diagram Label a diagram with a suitable word (or words) from the text or by choosing from a box of possible answers.
short-answer questions Answer questions using words from the text in the word limit given.
multiple matching (General Training module only) Match the information in the question to the correct short text or advertisement.
How do I answer the questions?

The instructions and the questions will tell you what type of information you need to locate in the texts, and the type of answer you need to write. Carefully follow all of the instructions on the question paper.

[The above information is taken from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student's Books by Jakeman, V., Cullen, P. and French, A.]

Reading Band Scores

IELTS Reading Scores (Academic)
Correct Answers 39-40 37-38 35-36 33-34 30-32 27-29 23-26 19-22 15-18 13-14 10-12
Band Scores 9 8.5 8 7.5 7 6.5 6 5.5 5 4.5 4
IELTS Reading Scores (General Training)
Correct Answers 40 39 37-38 36 34-35 32-33 30-31 27-29 23-26 19-22 15-18
Band Scores 9 8.5 8 7.5 7 6.5 6 5.5 5 4.5 4

Key Resources

Useful Videos

Top 10 Tips

Watch this video for ten important tips that will help you succeed on the reading module of the IELTS

3 Reading Strategies

In this lesson, you will learn three approaches to the IELTS Reading section and their pros and cons. The goal of this lesson is to help you finish the test on time without compromising your understanding of the readings. Learn how to read less while answering more questions correctly.

How to succeed on IELTS Reading

Get a better score by watching this simple lesson on the IELTS reading section.

Additional Resource

Related Guide

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Australian Cultural Dictionary

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