You can easily test this by doing a reading test and allowing as much time as you need before checking the score. This might be anything up to 2 hours. If you don’t get all the answers correct, or at least 37/40, then the problem is not the time – it’s your ability to get the questions correct. If you manage to get 37 or 38 then I bet when you check it’s a silly mistake like not reading the question carefully enough! Those who achieve 100% in their reading practice and the test are in a very small minority.
If you can do the reading in one and a half hours and you can get most of the questions correct then you now need to think about how to reduce that time to around 50-55 minutes. You have 60 minutes for 40 questions. So that’s around 1+ minute per question. It is not a lot of time but it is enough for you to reach 7 or 8 if you have good language skills and good techniques.
What happens if you take longer to complete the reading?
In the exam, if it takes you longer than 1 hour to do 40 questions, then you won’t finish the test. I was speaking to somebody just the other day and she told me how she had five questions left at the end that she had to guess the answers. That means her score was not really out of 40. Her score was actually out of 35 which means to get Band 7 she could only make 5 mistakes and to get Band 8 she could only make 1 mistake (for GT only 1 mistake and Band 8 is impossible!!).
You can see how it would be difficult to reach band 7 or 8 if you cannot complete the test in good time.
The other thing that happens if the time starts running away is you start to panic. If you are panicking, you will make a lot of mistakes. You won’t find the answers. You’ll start changing your answers. And the examiner won’t be able to read them (if you are doing pen-paper) or you’ll become very confused. I’ve seen all of this both as a teacher and as an examiner. If the examiner cannot read your answer, they will just mark it wrong.
You might also get in a muddle; you might put the wrong answers on the wrong place. I know students who have done this because they got in a panic. Of course, if your answers are in the wrong place, it’s wrong. Examiners do not have time to check your answers and move them around!
You might also get very distracted. You might start looking at other students and what they are doing. I’ve heard this. Some students told me how they got in a panic and then they could see other students who seem to be doing really well and they became even more worried. Being distracted means you may make even more mistakes and then you’ll find it very hard to focus on what you’re doing and getting the right answers. It’s a downward spiral – you start with a small problem and that then escalates into larger problems.
What can you do?
It is easily possible to finish the reading test in less than 60 minutes and have a high band score. You may be thinking now; “No, it isn’t”, but it is easily possible, I promise. If it were not possible, they wouldn’t expect you to do it.
Here are some of the reasons why it might be impossible or seem impossible for you.
There could be a problem with your English level
Maybe you don’t have enough vocabulary
Maybe you don’t have enough knowledge of how reading works or how sentence structures are formed.
Perhaps your general English skills or your reading skills, in particular, are not good enough for the band you desire.
It could be that your techniques in IELTS for reading quickly are not good enough
Maybe you’re not good at skimming or scanning or keywords.
Maybe that you haven’t practised enough. (I see this a lot.)
Or perhaps you are a person who gets into a panic and you can’t control your nerves.
All of these can be improved by practice and learning the right techniques. Having good technique in reading is imperative and then, the more you practise, the higher your score will become.
Practice will shift everything. You will soon realise the point when you can achieve your score easily.
You’ll be more systematic in the way you approach the questions
The questions will seem easier
You’ll feel in control of what you are doing (no more panic)
You’ll feel more confident
One minute will be plenty of time to find the answer
If it isn’t, you’ll be happy and willing to move on to the next and come back later
Once you feel like this you should be getting scores around the band (or ideally a band higher) than the one you want to get. Now you are ready for the IELTS reading test.
Back to the timing issue:
Once you have addressed the issues above and you can answer the questions then DON’T WASTE TIME – this is absolutely critical. Everything you do should directly help you to find the answers. This means it MUST be related to the questions. If it isn’t then DON’T DO IT!
If you can’t find the answer, move on. You have three chances to go back and check again
at the end of the section.
at the end of that passage
at the end of the test
if you work fast, you should be finished in 50/55 minutes
There is plenty of time.
Don’t be a headless chicken running around, looking all over the text. It’s not systematic.
Fix language and vocabulary issues by learning more and then hone your reading techniques and finally don’t waste time. It’s that simple 😊
If you want to talk about your IELTS reading then I’m happy to speak to you and sort out any problems. Just follow this link and choose a time to speak.