IELTS Reading: The Number One Rule

Record keywords. That’s it. That’s the number one rule for IELTS Reading preparation.

Okay, let’s look a little closer.

The IELTS Reading test is essentially a vocabulary test. It tests your range of vocabulary. If you have a wide range of vocabulary, you’ll understand that “not many people seemed to be concerned” is almost the same as saying “there appeared to be little interest“. If you don’t have a wide enough range of vocabulary, you won’t make that link.

Why does this matter?

Here is a gap-fill question and an extract from a text.

Studies have signalled that ________ are declining in number faster than ever before.

Any study of the history of language shows that languages, like humans, develop over time. According to some estimates, over 7,000 languages are still spoken in the world. This number is an indication of the diversity, vitality and range of human experience in all corners of the globe. But not all those languages are equally healthy. Continuing the metaphor of growth and development, while some languages are robust and powerful, others are in the process of disappearing. In fact, research indicates that languages are dying out at an unprecedented rate. Some believe that by 2100, the bast majority of these languages will no longer exist in the spoken medium. 

  (Copyright Delta Publishing, IELTS Advantage Writing Skills)

Notice that I have underlined the key words and expressions above. What we will look for in the text is not these words, but synonyms and paraphrases of these words.

Studies is a fairly easy one to look for, as the number of synonyms it has are fairly small. Skim the passage and you will see it in the word researchThe rest is relatively simple.

Signal is a synonym for indicateDeclining in number is a paraphrase for dying outFaster than ever before is another way of saying at an unprecedented rate

So the answer is languages

However, you would only reach this answer if you had a well-stocked vocabulary bank. Want to improve your vocabulary bank? This is where the number one rule comes in.

You must record the keywords. Both the ones in the question AND the ones in the text. By doing this, you will reinforce your memory of these new words and expressions. This not only helps with your reading, but your speaking, listening, and writing too. Especially your writing.

All you need to do is open a fresh page in your notebook and write these similar expressions down, like in the table below.

Key words in question —————————————Similar expressions in text

studies—— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— — research

signal —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— —— — indicate

declining in number—— —— —— —— —— ——– dying out

faster than ever before—— —— —— —— —— – — at an unprecedented rate


That’s it. Now keep reading (you should be reading and practicing every day), go back through old practice tests, and try to make that list as long as you can.