Understanding General IELTS Reading

Both General and Academic IELTS Reading papers last for 1 hour and contain 40 questions, split over 3 sections. 

Section 1: contains two or three short factual texts, one of which may be made up of 6 – 8 short texts related by topic, e.g. hotel advertisements. The topics are relevant to everyday life in an English-speaking country.

Section 2: contains two short factual texts focusing on work-related issues, e.g. applying for a job, company policies, pay and conditions, workplace facilities, staff development and training.

Section 3: contains one longer, more complex text on a topic of general interest.

A variety of question types such as,  multiple choice, short-answer questions, sentence completion, classification, matching headings/information, identification of writer’s view/claims – yes, no, not given, identification of information in the text – true, false, not given.

Answers and notes should be written on the question paper and then transferred to the IELTS Answer sheet, throughout the exam as there is not extra time allowed at end to transfer your answers, unlike IELTS Listening.

IELTS Listening and Reading sheet



Exam scores needed to achieve +20 visa points

To avoid confusion, extra points for a visa application are achieved solely from your exam scores, irrespective of which exam you choose to sit.

In IELTS: the most common method is to achieve Band 8 scores in all 4 sections of the General IELTS exam, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

As IELTS scoring is not a %, out of 100%,  Band 8 in General IELTS is achieved by the converting your score. For example, in Listening 35/40, Reading 37/40. The lower score in the listening section is because this paper is combination of both academic and general content. Writing and speaking are marked in a more complicated way and so while your IELTS Speaking score should always be Band 8, and above, for native-English speakers, IELTS Writing Band 8 is tricky!

In PTE: this is is an academic exam, designed as listening and note-taking exam and therefore completely different from General IELTS in respect of the tasks you are asked to complete. Although, essay writing is similar in both exams, and marked on the same criteria. Therefore, the aim in PTE is to score 79+ in all of the top 4 scores, Listening, Reading, Speaking, Writing.

So, the best advice I can give is to research both exams, before you choose, rather than only looking at computer delivered, PTE, versus paper-based, IELTS.

How to select the best English exam option.

Scoring extra visa application points through English exam scores is undoubtedly a challenge for many people! Therefore, it is critical that the choice of English exam is taken after doing some research into both exams generally taken, IELTS of PTE. However, this is aspect of the challenge is often overlooked with your choice of exam based on online forums rather than going to source sites, see following suggestions.

On this website:




Online: have a look at the difference between the exam preparation material




English exam choice

Affect of Spelling in IELTS or PTE

I’m often asked how spelling impacts marks achieved in English exams, usually by people who spell badly!  So, if that’s you, it’s important to understand how spelling is filtered into scores for both Academic and General IELTS compared to PTE.


Spelling has the biggest impact in IELTS Listening because if your answer is misspelt, it will be marked as an error!  Therefore, even if you ‘hear’ the correct answer not spelling the word properly, loses a point. To overcome this problem, absolutely necessary to go back to basics and improve your spelling on links, like the following


However, first step, is to stop using predictive text in messages!  In IELTS Writing, spelling is marked as part of the vocabulary (Lexical Resource) component and therefore if you know your spelling isn’t great you can improve one of the other components marked, in writing, to compensate.  The should be no spelling mistakes in IELTS reading as answers are simple copied from the text.




In PTE, spelling is marked as a separate component in Enabling Skills section.  These marks are then filtered into the Communicative Scores, which are the ones that matter!  As a result, in this exam spelling has a wider impact on scores. 


Spelling mistakes


Step by Step Plan for English Exam Success


Step 1:   Choose the exam which matches your own skills = it is important to understand the differences between the types of exams which qualify you for extra visa application points. Therefore, research what each exam is asking you to do to avoid booking an exam which might not be the best, for you.

Step 2 : Set achievable target scores. =    

IELTS Band 7, in all papers / PTE 65+  =  10 points   OR  IELTS Band 8, in all papers / PTE 79+  = 20 points

Step 3 : Make time to study exam preparation material. = Time is often the critical factor required to achieve your English exam target scores.  The truth of the matter is, you MUST find time to start studying. The easiest way to get started is to always use punctuation and capital letters in text messages! 

Step 4 : Complete pre-exam tasks for assessment =  It’s always good to know where the starting point is at the beginning of anything and in the same way, English for Emigration is happy to send you pre-exam tasks, to match your requirements

Step 5 : Schedule your 1 hour Skype tuition = Using either Skype, or Face Time, tuition is offered during the week,  daily from 10.00 – 7.00pm. At weekends, tuition available 10.00 – 4.00pm. 

Step 6 : Book an exam date = When booking your exam on the link below, choose the exam centre closest to you. For IELTS, make sure you book the correct module, General or Academic.

Step 7 : Practice exam strategies and techniques  = Google the wide range of material available online, for what you need to work on.

Step 8 : Sit the exam and wait for your results.

Step 9 : Progress, your visa application!


Step by Step Plan

Pearson PTE Speaking

Somewhat surprisingly, Pearson PTE Speaking is for some people, the most difficult part of the exam. Why is this? The simple answer is a combination of factors which I’d like to share with you:

First, in the exam room there is a significant amount of background noise which can be distracting. Specifically, the person next to you is more than likely answering the same question as you, but is probably slightly out of ‘synch’ with you, which can be extremely off-putting.

Second, you must speak directly into the microphone as your speaking is marked by a computer and you want to make your diction as clear as possible, given the noise around you. 

Finally, because the scoring system is based on algorithms do not hesitate too long ‘gathering’ you thoughts or the microphone will switch of and you will lose the opportunity to record your answer. 

PTE Speaking exam

Tips for Completing IELTS Listening and Reading Answer Sheets

To score higher marks in IELTS Listening and Reading, avoid any errors on the answer sheets by following these tips:


Write in pencil

Read the instructions to each question carefully, and follow them.

Look at the examples given and make sure you understand them.

Read the instructions on the answer sheet carefully, and follow them.

If you make a mistake, just cross it out with a single line, and write correct answer next to it.

Copy your answers carefully when you are completing the answer sheet.

Check your spelling.

Check your grammar (especially in completion questions).

Copy your answers section by section. Don’t try to copy all the answers at once.

Make sure you leave no blanks.

Leave yourself sufficient time to copy answers and to check them.



IELTS – word of warning!

Word of warning to you all, IELTS and Person PTE are exams which should be approached with deadly caution!   Far too often English-speaking candidates under-estimate the complexity of their exam, whilst over-estimating their own language ability.

IELTS and PTE exams are primarily designed to test candidates for whom English is not their first language, non-native speakers.  Therefore, candidates for whom English is their first language, native speakers, are tested on  language acquired from birth rather than language learnt, level by level. In this respect, native speakers are disadvantaged because they do not ‘tick the boxes’ of vocabulary, grammar and skills acquired as you would when you are learning a new language. This is apparent in a failure to understand the criteria assessed, particularly in writing and speaking sections of the exam.

In contrast, native speakers are required to adopt a ‘top-down’ approach in order to better understand which language components score marks, and which do not. This technique is particularly important in the writing paper when each task is marked on 4 distinct criteria.  https://englishforemigration.com/2016/11/22/score-high-task-2-essay-writing/  Subsequently, the overall score is an average of 8 individual marks where one slip-up can result in a lower mark overall. 

Therefore, try not to fall into the familiar trap and simple turn up on the day of the exam expecting to achieve your target scores. IELTS is not designed to be easy and those that succeed do so because of the time and effort spent preparing, in advance of exam day.


What do English Languge Exams test?

IELTS, and similar exams, used by governments and institutions to grade peoples’ abilities in the use of the English language, are often mistakenly understood to be multi-faceted exams on the subject of English. Whereas, these types of exams, simply focus on the candidates’ abilities to use the English language, in a range of different ways. Therefore, these exams are literal exams with no reading between the lines called for.  As a result, what is required, as the basic building blocks of exam success:

Good grammar which involves, correct use of tenses, prepositions, and all the other aspects of English grammar, which for non-English speaking exam candidates have to be learnt.  In contrast, native English speakers, who learn English from childhood, are unaware of these grammar ‘rules’ and therefore have a tendency to make some grammar errors, which impacts on their level of achievement in exam writing and speaking.

Accurate Spelling is frequently not considered necessary nowadays, since the advent of predictive text and spell check. However, it is critical in exam listening and contributes to the overall mark for writing. In the same way, the use of punctuation is very often sadly lacking in people’s everyday life which also impacts on the score for exam writing.

Paraphrasing, rephrasing vocabulary to avoid repetition, is however, the most important skill when using English language, to achieve success in an English language exam. In exam reading, it is absolutely necessary to be able to recognise words with similar meanings, within both the text and the questions. In writing, avoiding repetition is rewarded by higher scores in the vocabulary component of the marking system.


 Founder, Marian Anderson is an expert in English exam preparation

Who We Are

English for Emigration, founded by Marian Anderson, an expert in her field, helps you identify, and correct, any problems that may be preventing you from gaining your target scores in IELTS, or Pearson PTE exams, needed to progress your visa application.

01501 773622 (tel)


Need help with your visa application?

For specific questions about visa applications, the following organisations can help:

www.downundercentre.com www.brazolotmigration.com/ www.overseas-emigration.co.uk

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