How to Score Band 9 in IELTS Reading

IELTS Reading is considered a tough module, if not the toughest, by most of the students. Voxcel offers IELTS Coaching in Ludhiana and helps students to improve their reading band score.

Various reasons derail students from achieving their dream IELTS reading score. A lot of students from Ludhiana, Punjab, come to us to improve their reading scores. What we teach them is going to be discussed in details.

Skim and Scan –

The term Skin and Scan in IELTS reading has been used extensively and every Tom, Dick and Harry talk about it – but, again, most students don’t score their required band score in their exam. If it’s the right way to find the answer, why countless of students always get the wrong answers?

It’s a good way, but it has been ‘Misunderstood’ completely.  The focus of students is mostly on reading each and everything or sometimes just on finding a particular word. BUT, they don’t try to understand/ read the line in which that particular word is given. Many times the ‘same word’ is used in the entire passage and it leads students to mark the wrong answer.

Here’s the trick. When you think, you have found the right location, examine your sentence and question carefully. IELTS examiners love to trick their students, so not every student with less preparation can score the needed band score.

“If skim and scan were easy, IELTS reading average band score would be perfect 9”

Matching words and not meaning –

It is the sole reason why the majority of the students score low band score in reading and consider the IELTS reading section as a ghost. This problem is very common among the majority of the low band score learners.

Mostly this is the reason why students do poorly in True/False/Not Given section. What students often do is they try to match particular words of the question with paragraphs and if they can match most of the words, they write the answer according to their understanding.

The main reasons for this –

  • Assuming
  • Limited Vocabulary
  • Not Reading the next line

This is an entirely wrong approach, as IELTS reading is designed by the experts to test your English understanding and your range of vocabulary. The IELTS examiners take around 2 years to prepare one IELTS reading module. This process maintains the difficulty level equally for all modules.

IELTS tests your level of English understand, not just your speed of finding a particular word. Many students commit the blunder of not following it and fail to score at least band 6 in academic reading and band 7+ in GT reading. Students usually fail to mark True/False/Not Given and they fail to understand the process. The answer is simple – ‘Match meaning, not words.’

For Example:-

Paragraph – It is one of the biggest tragedies knowing to humans.

Question – It is the biggest tragedy known to humans.

So what’s your answer to this? True/False/Not Given

I hope you haven’t said TRUE because it is the wrong answer and here lies the problem. As you see that you can match the entire question with the paragraph, but the question turns out to be ‘False’.


To understand, read the question first. Most students just read it passively and assume the answer. This deduces their band score in the IELTS reading module. The question says that tragedy is the biggest known to humans. The ‘biggest’ implies that no other tragedy is above or even equal to the tragedy and all other tragedies are below it.

HOWEVER, in the paragraph, it is given that “it is one of the biggest tragedies” – which means that there is more than one tragedy (hence tragedies – plural form) of the same magnitude. It means two or more (numbers don’t matter here) are on the same level; hence, it contradicts with the question. So the answer comes out to be ‘False’.

Let’s take other examples:-

Paragraph– Dogs have four legs.

Question – Dogs have four thin legs.


Paragraph – Dogs have four thin legs.

Question – Dogs are four-legged animals.

Take your time to mark before reading the passage further.

I hope now you have marked your answers before checking the answers.

The answer to the first question is ‘NOT GIVEN’ and the second answer is ‘True’

Have you guessed both the answers correctly? If not, don’t worry; I am going to explain them as well.

For the first question, the paragraph states, “Dogs have four legs” and the question is asking you to verify that “Dogs have four thin legs”.

Noticed a difference? Maybe, try again? Oh, yes, it’s the word ‘thin’.

If you read the paragraph, you can’t judge if the dogs have thin or thick legs. Hence, the answer comes out ‘Not Given’.

Remember, ‘Not Given’ is a combination of two words: Not + Given, where ‘Given’ implies some information of the question will be found in the paragraph and Not signifies that you can’t verify some information from the paragraph test. It can be one word; but if you can’t verify it, it is Not Given. Just don’t assume.

Never Assume –

This is the most common mistake and probably the biggest mistake students make while attempting the reading module. They try to assume the things to complete the sentence per their understanding.

But, this approach is completely wrong.

You have to remember that this is a language test and not your General Knowledge test; so anything you know about the topic is irrelevant.

Every question has to be attempted in the paragraph. Just remember that anything and everything that is given in the paragraph is the truth for that section and anything that is not mentioned in the paragraph should not be assumed.

For example – If in the paragraph the author says that the dog’s meow, you simply have to accept it; although we know that dogs bark, but whatever the author says should be considered the ultimate truth and your answers of the questions should be solely based on it.

Not Reading Further –

You must have heard or even experienced it yourself that the reading was easy, but still, somehow you did not get the band score you were hoping for.

It happens frequently. Believe me, if I say even students having band 9 in other modules can’t score 7 in the General Training module.

Most students wonder why? But have you ever assessed the real problem? What can be the real possible reason for this? You may be surprised as the most frequent mistake pupils make is that they are NOT READING THE NEXT LINE.

Many students, when they think that they have found the answer, they quickly select that option and they do not read the next sentence. Frequently, what happens is that the next line they change the answer.

For cite: – The search first reveals that fossils were found in 1700. However, later it was established that they were discovered in 1702.

Question – The fossils were first found in ______.

If you have filled 1700, your answer is incorrect. The correct answer is 1702. 1700 would have been correct if the sentence or paragraph would have ended at ‘1700’. But the next line changed the answer. This is how students lose precious marks. This thing is not limited to blanks, but also all other types of questions.

Paragraph – Researchers believed that the presence of these creatures was harmful to the forests. But the new findings revealed that the existence of these was, in fact, essential for the survival of the forests.

Question – The presence of the creature was ____ for the forests.

If you have answered ‘harmful’, I am sorry to say that your answer is wrong. The correct option is ‘Essential’.

This is the mistake, I am talking about, more often than not we put the first word we find in the answer and don’t even bother to read the next line.

Like here in the first sentence, it has been written that their presence is harmful, but in the very next sentence they contradicted the first view and has written that their existence is in fact ‘essential’.

If you read carefully, you can easily understand that in the second sentence, they have put more emphasis on it and hence the answer.

Limited Vocabulary –

Limited vocabulary jeopardises your chances of scoring high band or the band score you require. Does this mean that you have to cram different and difficult words to enhance your skill? There answer is a big No. You don’t need to memorize words, but you have to increase your vocabulary of words which are rather common in the language of you are familiar with it.

For Example – Words like sceptical/skeptical, subtle, naive etcetera may look difficult to you; however, they are commonly used words in English conversation.

So the question arises that how can you increase your vocabulary? Is there any particular dictionary from where can read all the words?

I hate to say but the answer is ‘No’. The best way to do is by surrounding yourself in an English environment; meaning you have to read English newspaper, listening to English songs and watching English movies. By this, you can easily learn common vocabulary, which you may have known previously.

By listening to songs and watching movies, you will be learning and keeping yourself entertained as well.

This doesn’t imply only on fill-ups, rather it can be used in every type of question.

Let’s take some example and see how it works for True/False/Not Given type questions.

Question – The presence of creatures is essential for the well being of forests.

The answer is ‘True’.

The logic behind this is the same as previously told. You need to read the adjacent line as well. I am not saying that every answer will be like this, but there is a good chance that this tick or type can be used by IELTS.

“Reading module checks your vocabulary. If you don’t understand the meaning of a particular word, try reading the sentence(s) and understand the context. In short, don’t expect to understand every word.”

Even if one question comes in the exam and you get it wrong, it can lower your overall band score.

Hence, to avoid this situation, you must make your habit of reading the next line. It won’t take too much of your time and will increase your chances of getting a high band score.

Multiple Choice Questions –

This often confuses students and in their confusion, they mark the wrong option and end up losing the precious numbers.

So, why does the confusion arise?

The main confusion comes when students can eliminate 2 out of 4 options. The remaining 2 options make them perplexed. It is so because, in the remaining two options, they find the information given in the paragraph, so they are unable to decide which option to choose. It is not as tough as it sounds, you just need to calm yourself down and read options and text carefully.

For cite:-

Paragraph – These birds migrate to the North-West part of Russia during their migratory season.

Question – In which direction do birds migrate?

  1. To the North of Russia
  2. To the South of Russia
  3. In a particular direction
  4. Towards their habitat

Here ‘B’ & ‘D’ options can straight away be omitted, as in ‘B’ wrong information is given and ‘D’ option has not been talked. Now, we are left with 2 options only: ‘A’ and ‘C’.

If you have marked ‘A’ as your option, you are sure to lose your mark because in option ‘A’ they have given ‘North of Russia’, but in the paragraph, it is written ‘North-West part of Russia’, so wrong direction is given, as we know North and North West are two different directions.

Hence, the answer is ‘C’. If you are confused about how ‘C’ is the answer, we will explain.

Analyze all the options and re-read the question carefully. Use critical thinking and observation, rather than assumptions. IELTS reading module is to testify your vocabulary and the level of understanding of the written context.

In ‘C’ it is written ‘a particular direction’, so North West, though not directly given, is still a specific direction; hence, the answer.

MCQs can be solved by the following methods

  1. Elimination method – It is one of the methods to solve the question. Sometimes, the question has the option which is not given in the paragraph, but other 2 or 3 can be cancelled out.

For Example – Tom decided to invite 3 persons to the party: Tim, Nick, and Jimmy. But then, he added 2 more names to the original list.

Question – Which person was not invited to the party?

  1. Tim
  2. Jack
  3. Jimmy
  4. Nick

The answer to the above question is ‘B’. Now many of you would’ve doubted that how ‘B’ is the answer, as Jack is not even mentioned in the paragraph. To answer your query, the question is asking which person is not invited and from the paragraph, we can see Tim, Jimmy, and Nick are invited, so that leaves us with only one option i.e. Jack; hence, the answer.

Question – How many persons were invited?

  1. 2
  2. 3
  3. 4
  4. 5

The answer is ‘D’. Tom first invited 3 and then 2 ‘more’ was added, making the total count to 5.

Let’s try even harder now. Read the question and the context carefully.

Question – How many persons were initially invited?

  1. 5
  2. 3
  3. 2
  4. 1

Here, your answer is going to be ‘B’. Tom initially invited 3 and then added 2 more people in the invitation list. The question asked about the number of people who were invited before adding extra people to the list; hence, the ‘B’ answer.

  1. Other can be the half information questions. In these types of questions, you will have one or two options, which will contain half information from the paragraph. Still, confused? Let’s see the example.

Paragraph – Migratory birds often fly over the ocean and cover the long-distance journey to the North East of the Pacific.

Question – In which direction do the birds move?

  1. South of the Pacific
  2. North of the Ocean
  3. In a particular direction
  4. East of the Pacific

Have you guys picked your answer?

The answer is ‘C’.

If you selected it, well done, but if you didn’t, don’t worry.

This question contains half of the information. For example, in option ‘B’ & ‘D’, the direction is given, but they are not complete directions. In ‘B’, they have given north, and in ‘D’, they have given east; however, in a paragraph, the given direction is North East.

You must be wondering how come ‘C’ is the answer? Well, in ‘C’, although, they haven’t directly mentioned the direction, they have said a particular direction and North East is the one, where birds fly; hence, the answer.

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