I am talking about the first ever step in the reading module – comprehension. Why is this crucial? Because first when you try to cope with the test and when you try to understand what is this about – you have to know how to comprehend it and how to relate to it beforehand. The following advice will suit for the academic model and for the General module as well.
A lot of students ask me, do they have to remember the paragraphs that they read? The answer is – no. You don’t. Because IELTS test is not about remembering the text, it’s about comprehending understanding and then spotting the right answers and key words in the text.
What about the whole comprehension? Yes, you should try to understand as quick as possible the paragraph that you are reading, but if you find difficulties and if you can’t get the meaning of the paragraph at once – leave it. Try to work out the questions and then return to find key words in the text. My primary advice is to always tackle the questions first and only then proceed to the text, but I know that there are other people who think otherwise. I’m just sharing what’s worked the best for me and my students.
First, when you read the questions you might want to underline the key words there. This works best for pre-intermediate students or students who are not confident in their retention abilities. You just underline the keywords or circle them in order to remember them and try to find them in the paragraphs. You read the question, now you proceed to the text and you skim-read the first paragraph. That means, just trying to grasp that meaning and support the key words.
It’s not necessary to comprehend the whole paragraph and just to – you know – understand it deeply. Just try to spot those key words. Now, on that stage, you must understand what is the type of question you are dealing with. And regarding the type, you must act accordingly. When you spotted keywords, you go back to the question to refresh your memory and to see in what context those key words are put there. You go back to the paragraph in order to read that sentence that contains your keywords. One sentence before it and one sentence after it. Basically, you just need to really try to get deep down to the meaning of just three sentences! On average, of course. And that will help you to tackle all types of questions on the Reading section.
Why is this so important to read the sentences around your actual sentence with the keywords? Because context always matters. And when there are subtle differences between different words and meanings they can actually
gain different shape in different contexts. So, please not only read that sentence which you found your key words in, because this sounds tempting, but it may actually be a trap. But I’m sure, you will do perfect, when your just consciously trying to solve the problem.