The Reading Exam

There are 3 passages and about 40 questions. The reading test is an hour so you don’t have a spare second for exam nerves. You need to prepare for this exam by developing an understanding of the different question types and also by developing strategies. You need to try and answer the questions while reading as little as possible.

The texts are often very long and dense. They are on topics ranging from complex scientific issues to articles on psychology and the environment. There can be a lot of complicated vocabulary that you may not know.

Like the other exams, this is trying to test the skills you will need in the real world. If you go and study at university then you need to go to a library and be able to do research and find things relevant to your area. The reading exam is trying to assess your ability to extract specific information from written texts as well as understanding their general meaning.

You need to start building up vocabulary as you need a wide range for this exam. It is important to   build up word sets and collocations. In both the listening and the reading exams you need the ability predict related words and to deal with unknown words.

Read and follow the instructions: check the number of words allowed in each answer. Identify the kind of information you need.
Remember some simple things: spelling is important and so is accuracy in the transfer from the question to the answer sheet.
Predict what you will read: look carefully at the vocabulary used in the question. Think of other words with similar meanings, and words with opposite meanings.
Develop strategies for each question type: it is important to try and make educated guesses and make connections. It’s not easy and takes a lot of practice to do this confidently.

Multiple choice questions

Examine the statements carefully to identify common features, and areas of difference.  Try and use common sense to eliminate some of the answers. Underline key words to save time when scanning the reading passage.


Read the gapped text carefully and think about both the meaning and grammar of suitable words to fill the gaps.  Note down your ideas so that when you read the text you are then reading for confirmation of most answers.

Matching headings to paragraphs

Read the headings first.  Then read paragraph one and return to the headings to choose the most suitable.  You do not usually need to read the whole paragraph.  Often the first sentence is the ‘topic sentence’, which summarises the paragraph as a whole.  Sometime the topic sentence comes later, so you may need to read further.  When you have a good idea of your answer for one paragraph, look at the headings again before you move on to the next paragraph.

True/false/not given

Be careful with statements that have two parts, connected by words like ‘unless’ or ‘because’.  Often both parts of the sentence may individually be true or false, but without a link given between them. Be careful with statements that use words like ‘all’ or ‘always’: the ideas in the text are not usually so extreme.


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