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How to manage time in the IELTS Reading test

Do you know how you’re going to manage your time in the IELTS Reading test?

The official advice from IELTS is to spend 20 minutes per text in the IELTS Academic Reading test (or 20 minutes per section in the IELTS General Training Reading test).

But I know that many IELTS candidates spend too long on one text/section and don’t have enough time to answer all of the 40 questions in one hour.

If you’re worried about spending too long on one text/section in the IELTS Reading test, here are two suggestions about how to manage your time.

How to manage time in the IELTS Reading test Start with the text that’s easiest for you

A good way to manage your time in the IELTS Reading test is to start with the text that’s easiest for you. If you start with one of the more difficult texts/sections, you’ll probably spend longer than 20 minutes on it and have less time for the other texts/sections.

In the IELTS Academic reading test, you don’t have to start with the first of the three texts you are given; it may not be the easiest one.

What you could do is…

  1. take a quick look at all the texts and/or questions; (I mean a really quick look, i.e. no more than one minute)
  2. choose the text and/or questions that you feel most confident with and start there

For those of you taking the IELTS General Training Reading test, it’s probably better if you start with the first of the three sections because the first section is always the easiest.

How to manage time in the IELTS Reading test Don’t get stuck on the difficult questions

As you probably know, in both the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training Reading test some of the 40 questions are more difficult than others.

What you may not know is that each of the 40 questions is worth the same number of points.

The easiest question is worth one point and the most difficult is worth one point.

Because each question is worth the same, it’s important that you spend most of your time answering the questions you do understand because they are the ones you’re most likely to get right.

So, if you’re faced with a reading question that you don’t understand, just leave it and move on to the next question. If you have time at the end of your test, you can have another look at the question(s) you haven’t answered. If you haven’t got enough time, just guess the answer(s).

And don’t forget to keep an eye on the clock! I suggest you follow the advice from IELTS and spend around 20 minutes on each reading text/section.

Do you have any other suggestions about how to manage time in the IELTS Reading test?


9 comments on “How to manage time in the IELTS Reading test

  1. Reading is really difficult job to do. However I feel to get a band 7.0 in reading you must have 30-35 questions correct in your mock tests consistently, otherwise you will end up getting 20-25 right in actual exams. so always try and score more with perfection. (Here i am talking about time management with correct answers too.) Otherwise You’ll attempt a few questions and there will be wrong answers in it too. So please attend all questions accurately and try some tricks for better results as Peter already suggested.

  2. Hi Pete
    I was really struggling with my reading skill
    I practice so hard however it is not getting better
    Do you have any suggestions for me. .? My next test will be at 7 July
    Thank you

    1. Thanks for your comment, Fony, and sorry that my reply has come too late for your test on 7th July.

      I hope you get the band score you need but, if you don’t, you can find more tips for the IELTS Reading test in the ‘IELTS Reading tips‘ category of my blog.

  3. Hello Mr Pete, I just done my Ielts test and I got band 6 though I dint get 5.5 in the reading part because I was caught up by time. Let me hope I will use your knowledge on time management to get the best score.

  4. Thank you Pete for the information,

    I just attended IELTS, General Training, exam one week ago. I prepared myself for writing part with Cambridge exams, and I successfully practiced around 25 one . My goal was to finish the first part of the exam , which was expected to be the easiest, within 10 to 15 minutes. The aim is to save the remaining 5 minutes to the next part. Unfortunately, I surprised that the first one wasn’t as I expected, but much harder than the second one.

    Therefore, my suggestion is to spend 1 or 2 minutes as Pete said to take a quick look for the possible easiest part to start with.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience of the IELTS General Training test, Mahmoud.

      I hope you get the IELTS band score you need, but if you don’t, you now have a strategy you can use when you take the test again.

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