IELTS General Reading Test

One of the requirements for Canadian immigration is a language test. For English language testing, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) accepts two tests- the CELPIP and the IELTS.

The IELTS or International English Language Testing System is an English language test. It is owned and administered by the British Council, The International Development Program or IDP, and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

There two types of IELTS exams: Academic and General Training. For Canadian Immigration, most test-takers usually take the General Training test. In 2019, immigration was among the top five reasons for taking the IELTS General Training test.

The IELTS General Training test differs from its academic counterpart in two sub-tests. One of these sub-tests is the reading test.

The reading test is the second test, following the IELTS listening test. Alongside the listening and writing sub-tests, it comprises the first of two parts of the IELTS examination.

This article on the IELTS General Reading test is one of four articles in the IELTS series. To learn more about the format and how to increase your chances of doing well, read on.

What Is The Test Format Of The IELTS Exam?

Since its inception in 1989, the IELTS exam has been in a paper-based format. In other words, the first part of the IELTS exam that contains the listening, reading, and writing sub-tests need to be accomplished on answer sheets. To date, the British Council, IDP, and Cambridge only allow the use of pencils.

After completing the test, test-takers can receive their results within 13 days after the examination. This is the average waiting time for the results of the paper-based test.

For the IELTS tests in the recently-introduced computer-based format, the waiting time is shorter. Often, the waiting time is three to five days following the exam.

The British Council and IDP introduced the computer-delivered IELTS exam sometime in 2019. Since then, the computer-based format of the IELTS exam has been made available in more than 80 countries. Some of these countries are India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, and parts of the Middle East.

IELTS General Reading Test Format

The reading test consists of 40 items or questions. The questions in the test focus on the three reading passages of varying lengths and topics. This part of the test usually takes 60 minutes.

For the IELTS General Reading test, there are two sections and one that mimics a reading task in real life. An example of this is a pamphlet or an advertisement.

IELTS General Reading Vs. IELTS Academic Reading

The reading test and the writing tests are different for the Academic and General IELTS tests.

IELTS Academic Reading

The reading test for the IELTS Academic test consists of three sections. All passages in these sections are fact-based articles on different topics of interest.

Each passage will be the focus of about 13 to 16 questions.

IELTS General Reading

In the IELTS General Training Reading test, there will still be three sections. Only the third section will be a long factual passage, similar to those in the IELTS Academic Reading test.

The first section often consists of two or three short passages on certain topics. One of these passages or tasks may be in the form of a pamphlet or advertisement.

The second section also consists of two to three short passages. Each also focuses on different topics. However, for this part of the reading test, the usual topic of discussion is often about school or work-related concerns.

What Score You Might Need To Aim For

IRCC measures English or French test scores against the Canadian Language Benchmark or CLB. The CLB is the standard measurement for language usage in Canada.

Different tests yield different scores. To date, only the CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) has a scoring system that has a one-to-one correspondence with the CLB.

The score you get from the IELTS is convertible to a corresponding CLB score. If you wish to see the conversion, the Canadian government’s site has a table of different tests, scores, and the CLB equivalents of those scores.

For Canadian immigration, the score you will need might depend on the immigration program for which you are applying.

CLB 7: Most Express Entry Programs And Provincial Nominee Streams

The immigration programs of the Federal Express Entry system are for skilled workers. This is also true for the skilled worker streams of the various Provincial Nominee Programs.

If you are applying for any of these programs, you will need to get CLB 7. For the IELTS, CLB 7 is equal to 6.0. This is for all the sub-tests of the IELTS, including reading.

6.0 in the IELTS is a requirement for:

  • Applicants of the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
  • Applicants of the Canadian Experience Class (CEC, with NOC 0 and A occupations)
  • Applicants for PNP streams for skilled workers and professionals

To get 6.0 in the reading test, you need to get 30 to 31 items correct.

CLB 4 For Reading: Federal Skilled Trades Program And Business Immigration Programs; Some Applicants Of The Canadian Experience Class (CEC); PNP Streams For NOC C And D Occupations

All programs of the Federal Express Entry system require CLB 7 (or 6.0 in the IELTS) except one- the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP). If you are applying for this program, you will only need CLB 5 for speaking and listening.

For reading, the minimum requirement is lower. You will only need CLB 4. In the IELTS exam, this is equal to 3.5.

In order to get this band score, a test taker needs to get 12 to 14 items right.

In the case of the CEC, the minimum requirement is also CLB 4 (or 3.5 in the IELTS exam) if an applicant’s NOC skill level is NOC B. 

In addition to applicants of the FSTP and CEC, applicants of different business or investor programs also need to meet the same score as a minimum requirement. PNP streams for NOC C and D occupations also require CLB 4. ‘

In short, the following need to get at least 3.5 in the IELTS General Reading Test to meet the minimum language requirements of IRCC:

  • Applicants of the Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Some applicants of the CEC (with NOC B occupations)
  • Applicants of PNP streams for NOC C and D occupations
  • Those interested in business immigration to Canada

Question Types In The IELTS General Reading Test

guide to ace ielts general reading test

Just like the CELPIP, the IELTS exam measures a test taker’s ability to comprehend and use English. The IELTS reading test aims to gauge your ability to comprehend written English.

Since the main area of assessment is comprehension, the reading test’s questions vary in type. As you prepare for the reading test, you could expect to encounter 10 different question types:

Multiple Choice

For some questions in the IELTS General Reading test, you will be asked to choose the appropriate answer from a set of choices.

In some cases, you may be instructed to select more than one answer. Sometimes, the instruction might also require that you choose three answers out of five choices.

True-False-Not Given/ Yes-No- Not Given

This is similar to the classic true or false question type of many tests.

“True” or “yes” means that a statement agrees with what was mentioned in a passage. On the other hand, “False” or “No” means that a statement directly contradicts what was in the section or passage.

The IELTS adds a critical thinking component by adding “Not given” as a possible response to some questions.

Matching Headings

For this question type, you will see a list containing short phrases. These are the headings of different paragraphs in a section.

Your task for this question type is to match the appropriate headings with their paragraphs. These paragraphs are part of an article. These are often located prior to the questions.

Flow Chart Or Summary Completion

This question type may require you to complete a table with information from the passage found prior. The instruction may also require you to complete a series of responses in chronological order. This order is also based on the information contained in the passage or section.

Here is an example:

At times, you may not have to write words. Sometimes, the answers are already provided. If they are, this question type becomes similar to multiple choice.

Diagram Labelling/ Completion

Other than completing a table or flowchart, you may encounter diagram labelling in the IELTS General Reading test.

Following a passage or section, an image or drawing is presented. Here is an example:

Using the information you have read in the passage or section, you need to label parts of the diagram.

Short Answer Questions

There will be some parts of the test that might contain any of these instructions:

  • “No more than three words”
  • “One word only”
  • “No more than two words per answer”

For these instructions, answers should not be longer than what is instructed. A word may also be a number, spelled out or not.

Sentence Completion

Some questions might require you to fill in the missing words of a sentence or statement. This is sentence completion.

At times, the answers may be listed as choices. In these cases, all you need to do is choose the correct answer that completes the sentence.

On the other hand, you may be instructed to write the words yourself based on the information from a passage or section.

Author’s Claim Or Opinion

This is similar to a Yes-No-Not Given or a True-False-Not given type of question.

For this question type, you need to identify whether a statement agrees or coincides with the writer’s claim or opinion. If a statement is consistent with the author’s view, you need to put “Yes” or “True”.

Otherwise, “False” or “No” would be the correct responses. ”Not given” is also a possible response for statements that were not mentioned by the author in the passage. 

Matching Details

This is like matching paragraph headings. The only difference is that you need to match the given information to the appropriate paragraphs.

The answers would be the paragraphs in which the statements are contained. For instance, if “up-to-date teaching systems” appear in paragraph D of the section, then the correct answer for number 1 would be “D”.

Matching Keywords Or Features

This matching question type usually involves matching information in one list with others in a different list.

For instance, there could be five to six different statements. Depending on the information in the passage, you may have to match these statements to the people who uttered them. The list of people can be found in a different list.

In other instances, it could be a list of discoveries. You would then have to match each with an explorer or scientist.

Some Pointers And Tips For The IELTS General Reading Test

tips for ielts general reading test for canada

As mentioned earlier, your ideal score would depend on the immigration program for which you are applying. While meeting the minimum required score could be helpful, it might be even better to aim for a higher score.

A higher score could add more CRS points for language. This would be beneficial for your visa application- whether it is for permanent residence or a study permit.

Practicing some of the tips in this section could help you make this possible.

Follow Instructions

The IELTS is like any other test in the sense that part of one’s success is a function of following instructions.

Some question types contain instructions. As mentioned earlier, the “short answer” question type might require one to three words per response. Hence, writing more than three words may invalidate an answer.

Skim And Scan

The IELTS General Reading test lasts an hour long. That is for 60 minutes. Within this period of time, you would be reading passages and writing your answers.

One source places the total number of words in the IELTS reading test at about 6,200 words. This also includes the questions themselves. For some, this could be a lot of words to read.

Hence, reading every word to find the answer may not be a good idea in terms of time management. To manage your time as you loom for the correct answers, you could practice skimming and scanning.

To skim is to look over a section or paragraph to get an idea of its gist or main idea. Often, a good place to do this is at the beginning of most paragraphs or sections. This technique could be useful for many question types, particularly those that require matching words and ideas.

Scanning is looking for specific words to answer a question. Granted, distinguishing the right words out of 6,000 others may be too time-consuming. To save time, you might be able to scan keywords by looking at the questions first before reading a passage.

From there, you might notice some recurring words as you quickly read a passage. If this matches a keyword you found in the question, it may be the answer.

Know The Difference Between “No/False” And “Not Given”

In common day parlance, something is deemed false if:

  • It is contrary to the truth.
  • No information on it is available.

For the IELTS, there is a difference between something contradicting what was said in the text and no information being available.

If the former is the case, then the statement would be false. On the other hand, if there is no available information to confirm or refute the statement in the passage, then the answer should be “Not Given”.

For instance, here is an excerpt of a reading passage from the IELTS website:

Given this passage, imagine trying to determine the answer for this statement:

“Marie Curie was famous for her many works”

The passage establishes that Marie Curie was:

  • Famous for her work in radioactivity
  • Awarded the Nobel Prize
  • Was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize

Nowhere did it say that she was well-known for many works and discoveries. The statement neither supported nor refuted what was in the passage. Hence, the answer would not be “False”. The correct answer in this situation is “Not Given”.

Remember Grammar And Synonyms

This technique could help you in situations where you need to fill in a missing word.

For example:

Here, you could see that the missing words are preceded by articles (“the”). Hence, the answer would be in the form of a noun. This narrows down the type of words you need to find.

As well, there could be situations (like in paragraph headings) where you may be unable to find the right keyword that corresponds to the answer. This could be because many words are paraphrased by the creators of the test. This is to test vocabulary.

This is why working on your vocabulary could go a long way.

For example:

In this example, the paragraph seems to be about printing newspapers in different buildings. Unfortunately, these words do not appear in any of the headings.

Understanding the synonyms for “printing newspapers” and other words “different buildings” would lead you towards answering “V”, which is the right answer.


The IELTS General Training Test is an English proficiency test accepted by IRCC. Along with the CELPIP, it is a test of English for Canadian immigration.

The ideal score depends on the immigration program for which you desire to apply. While the minimum score may vary, it could be a good idea for you to aim for the highest score possible.

Take note of the reading test’s question types as you prepare. Also, you could try practicing the tips mentioned in this article.

Good luck with your IELTS General Reading Test!

Choose Canada Magazine

Each member of our team at Choose Canada Magazine has been in Canada for over five years, and has helped dozens of people worldwide find their life in Canada.

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