Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Today, you’ll find out how retrain your brain to find IELTS Reading answers more quickly!

We have another excellent question from a 3 Keys student that was posted in our closed Facebook group:

I have a specific question about underlining key words on the reading test. When I scan the text to look for specific information I end up reading too much because I end up searching for the word that is the main topic of the article. I read too much without answering the question. How can I fix this problem?

Scanning is tough– it’s difficult to look at the passage and not read.

Remember also that when you’re scanning, you have to keep an open mind. You can’t just look for one specific word.

You need to be able to spot parallel expressions. For instance, perhaps the question says ‘school’, but the passage says ‘university’. These aren’t synonyms, but they are similar enough to be parallel expressions!


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One way you can strengthen your ability to spot matching words in questions and the passage is working backwards.

Write the answers first, and then work backwards. Find the answers in the text, and highlight the matching words in the question and the passage. This will help open your mind as far as vocabulary to look for.

Also, when you choose key words to scan for, you need to choose the most unique words in the question, that are hopefully in the passage only once. Names and numbers are the best examples of this.

In addition, try scanning a different way. Go from right to left instead of left to right, and this will prevent you from reading. It will also help you focus on only what you’re looking for.

Scanning is a skill you must practice a lot! You must apply strategies, especially reading, to test practice before exam day.

Also, you need to trust the strategies. You’ll never be 100% sure of your reading answer, because there’s no time to read every word.

Have you tried these reading tips?

Share your experience with us in the comments section below!


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