A quick overview of IELTS General Training Reading

The General Training Reading test requires you to read extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter daily in an English-speaking environment. There are three parts in the test, with Part 1 containing two to three short texts, Part 2 contains two texts and Part 3 contains one longer text.

Sample questions

Multiple choice

There are three types of multiple-choice questions:

  • Choose the best answer from four choices (A, B, C or D)

  • Choose the best two answers from five choices (A, B, C, D or E)

  • Choose the best three answers from seven choices (A, B, C, D, E, F or G)

Each multiple-choice question may involve completing a sentence, where you are given the first part of a sentence and then you have to choose the best way to complete it from the options, or you might have to answer a complete question, choosing the option which best answers it.

The questions are presented in the same order as the information in the reading text. So, the answer to the first multiple-choice question will be located in the text before the answer to the second multiple-choice question, and so on.

Identifying information

When you have to identify information, you will be given a number of statements and asked: “Do the following statements agree with the information in the text?”. When you answer the questions, you write “True”, “False” or “Not given” in the answer boxes.

It is important to understand the difference between “False” and “Not given”. “False” means the passage states the opposite of the statement in question. “Not given” means that the statement is neither confirmed nor contradicted by the information in the passage.

Identifying a writer's views or claims

In this question type, where you have to identify a writer’s view or claim, you will be given a number of statements and asked: ‘Do the following statements agree with the views/claims of the writer?’. You will then select ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Not given’.

It is important to understand the difference between 'No' and 'Not given'. 'No' means that the views or claims of the writer explicitly disagree with the statement, i.e. the writer expresses the view or makes a claim which is opposite to the one given in the question; 'Not given' means that the view or claim is neither confirmed nor contradicted.

Be careful when deciding on your answer that you are not influenced by your own knowledge on the topic area.

This question type assesses your ability to recognise opinions or ideas, and so it is often used with discursive or argumentative texts.

Matching information

In this matching information question type, you are required to locate specific information within the lettered paragraphs or sections of a text, and then you have to select the letters of the correct paragraphs or sections.

You may be asked to find:

  • specific detail

  • an example

  • a reason

  • a description

  • a comparison

  • a summary

  • an explanation.

You will not necessarily need to find information in every paragraph or section of the text, but there may be more than one piece of information that you need to locate in a given paragraph or section. When this is the case, you will be told that you can use a letter more than once.

This matching information question type can be used with any text, as it tests a wide range of reading skills, from locating detail to recognising a summary or definition.

Matching information assesses your ability to scan for specific information.

Matching headings

A heading refers to the main idea of the paragraph or section of the text. In the matching headings question type, you are given a list of headings and then asked to match the heading to the correct paragraphs or sections. There will always be more headings than there are paragraphs or sections, so some headings will not be used. It is also possible that some paragraphs or sections may not be included in the task. This question type is used with texts that contain paragraphs or sections with clearly defined themes.

Matching headings tests your ability to recognise the main idea or theme in the paragraphs or sections of a text, and to distinguish main ideas from supporting ones.

Matching features

You are required to match a set of statements or pieces of information to a list of options. The options are presented as a group of features from the text with each one identified by letters. For example, you may be required to match different research findings to a list of researchers, or characteristics to age groups, events to historical periods, etc. It is possible that some options will not be used, and that others may be used more than once. The instructions will tell you if you can use the options more than once.

Matching features will assess your ability to recognise relationships and connections between facts in the text and your ability to recognise opinions and theories. It may be used both with factual information, as well as opinion-based discursive texts. You will need to be able to skim and scan the text in order to locate the required information and then to read for detail to match the correct feature.

Matching sentence endings

When you have to match sentence endings, you are given the first half of a sentence based on the reading text and you are asked to choose the best way to complete it from a list of possible options. There will be more options to choose from than there are questions. You will then have to choose the correct option to complete the sentence. The questions are in the same order as the information in the passage: that is, the answer to the first question in this group will be found before the answer to the second question, and so on.

Matching sentence endings assesses your ability to understand the main ideas within a sentence.

Sentence completion

In this sentence completion question type, you will complete sentences taken from the reading text. The instructions will make it clear how many words or numbers you should use in your answer, e.g. ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’, ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’. If you write more than the number of words in the instruction, you will lose the mark. Numbers can be written using figures or words. Hyphenated words count as single words. The questions are in the same order as the information in the passage: that is, the answer to the first question in this group will be found before the answer to the second question, and so on.

Matching sentence endings assesses your ability to locate detail or specific information.

Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion

In this summary completion question type, you will be given a summary of a section of the text and are required to complete it with information taken from the text. The summary will usually be of only one part of the passage rather than the whole.

The given information may be in the form of:

  • several connected sentences of text (referred to as a summary)

  • several notes (referred to as notes)

  • a table with some of its cells empty or partially empty (referred to as a table)

  • a series of boxes or steps linked by arrows to show a sequence of events, with some of the boxes or steps empty or partially empty (referred to as a flow-chart).

The answers will not necessarily occur in the same order as in the text. However, they will usually come from one section rather than the entire text.

There are two variations of this task type. You may be asked to:

  1. select words from the text

  2. select from a list of answers.

Where words have to be selected from the passage, the instructions will make it clear how many words or numbers you should use in your answers, e.g. ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’, ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’. If you write more than the number of words asked for, you will lose the mark.

Numbers can be written using figures or words. Hyphenated words count as single words. Where a list of answers is provided, they most frequently consist of a single word.

Because this task type often relates to precise factual information, it is often used with descriptive texts.

Summarising assesses your ability to understand details and/or the main ideas of a section of text. In the variations involving a summary or notes, you will need to be aware of the type of word(s) that will fit into a given gap (for example, whether a noun is needed, or a verb, etc.).

Diagram label completion

In this question type, you are required to complete labels on a diagram, which relates to a description contained in the text. The instructions will make it clear how many words or numbers you should use in your answers, e.g. ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’, ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’. If you write more than the number of words asked for, you will lose the mark. Numbers can be written using figures or words. Hyphenated words count as single words. The answers do not necessarily occur in order in the passage. However, they will usually come from one section rather than the entire text.

The diagram may show some type of machine, or of parts of a building or of any other element that can be represented pictorially. This task type is often used with texts describing processes or with descriptive texts.

Diagram label completion assesses your ability to understand a detailed description, and to relate it to information presented in the form of a diagram.

Short answer questions

In this question type, you are required to answer a question providing a short answer. You will answer questions which usually relate to factual information about details in the text.

You must write your answers using words or numbers from the text. The instructions will make it clear how many words or numbers you should use in your answers, e.g. ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’, ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’. If you write more than the number of words asked for, you will lose the mark.

Numbers can be written using figures or words. Hyphenated words count as single words. The questions are in the same order as the information in the text.

Short answer questions assess your ability to locate and understand precise information in the text.