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Testing vs Developing

The IELTS reading test is designed to test, not improve, your reading. One common mistake that many of my students make is trying to use practice tests to improve their reading skills.

Doing an IELTS practice test is mainly just going to test your reading skills, just like with listening.

It does not improve your reading very well. In the long-term, it does. Over years and years it will work but it is a slow way to improve.

And because IELTS readings are very boring you will probably lose motivation over time.

The other option is to develop your reading using these 4 keys: read a short passage, read it more than once, do different activities when reading, and take great notes.


The Keys

Key #1: Read a short passage

Don’t use a full practice test! Instead, read a single passage in a reading test or find a more interesting article online in the news or another page you like.

Some suggestions to find interesting readings are:

Key #2: Read it more than once

The reason why you should read something short is so that you can read it more than once.

A whole book or a whole reading test is too long!

And the reasons why reading something again and again improve (not tests) your reading is: you review the same words and improve the same skills.

That’s the whole reason why you should read something more than once to improve your reading.

Key #3: Do different activities when reading

In order to improve your reading skills you have to read in different ways.

One example of this is reading for gist or skimming. This means to read quickly for the main idea.

Practice this one skill again and again and again until you get better at it.

Key #4: Take great notes

In my experience, one of the main differences between passive and active learners is the quality of their notes.

Some students don’t take good notes and expect to learn English just from sitting in the classroom. This won’t work.

Other students take pride in keeping beautiful, detailed notes and reviewing them.

Which kind of student do you want to be?

When it comes to reading, vocabulary is king. And when it comes to vocabulary, the vocabulary notebook is king.

Simple Reading Activities

Here are 10 simple reading activities designed to focus on improving different reading skills that you can practice:

1. Read and write down the keywords in your notebook. Go back after and try to remember what each word means.

2. Read quickly and write down a 1 sentence summary after you finish. Then read again and add another sentence.

3. Read half a sentence and try to write the second half before you read it. Change it up and read the second half of a sentence and try to figure out the first half.

4. Write down all the keywords in a paragraph. Try to use the keywords to rewrite the whole paragraph.

5. Read the first and last paragraph of a reading. Write down what you think is in the other paragraphs then read and check.

6. Read the tapescript of a listening test. Then listen to it without the tapescript and try to remember the words you read.

7. Write down all the words in a sentence you don’t understand. Try writing a new sentence with the words before you understand what the word means. Then look up the word in a dictionary and correct your sentence.

8. Read and draw a picture of what the reading is about (or make a mind map).

9. Write down the question words ‘Where,’ ‘When,’ ‘Why,’ ‘Who,’ ‘How,’ and ‘What’ and try to answer while you read.

10. Write down all the proper names in a reading before you read it. Then read it quickly and fill in why each name is important (you can also write down dates and numbers).

For all of the ideas above you should read multiple times – that’s how you improve!

Do this at least once a day and I promise your reading will improve more quickly than any other method.

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

Do you have any links to interesting readings?

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