Tips and Strategies on How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Hi all. I know that one of the most difficult things about the IELTS exam is the reading test. Most students find this test a challenge for various reason. The following is some tips and strategies on how to make not only the IELTS reading test easier but also reading in general.


Many people love to read. However, some people, especially students learning a second language, like English, often find reading difficult and not much fun. Students often focus too much on the meaning of individual words or word accuracy[1] and forget to try to make inferences (guess the meaning of a word or idea) and by doing, so end up not understanding parts of the text and reading slower.[2] This can be very frustrating and not enjoyable. Yet, it does not have to be that way. There are many ways to improve your reading and improve reading speed. Check out the reading tips below which show you ways to improve your reading comprehension.

Tip 1: New words[3]

There are two steps on how to approach new vocabulary. Step 1 is simple. Before reading the text, quickly skim through the text and choose a few words (approx. 5) that keep appearing in the text. Look up the meaning of the words using either a dictionary or a glossary (if the text has one). Then quickly write down the definition that seems to fit with the word in the text. If you have time, use the word in a sentence that you have created and check the meaning of the word compared to what you have written.

Step 2 is just as simple. You do this while reading. When you find a new word, first sound out the word to yourself. That means you try to say the word using the phonetic sounds. Sometimes when you say the word aloud, you find that you actually recognise the word- you just might not have seen the word written down before. Then, look at the structure. See if you can tell the root word or whether it has any prefixes or suffixes which changed the meaning of the word. The next step is very important. Look at the context of the sentence or paragraph the word is in and guess the meaning of the word using the important around it. Only when you have done this, then you can use a dictionary- that is, if you still don’t know the meaning. Also, try and use the dictionary at the end, when you have finished reading. Stopping to look up all the words you do not know will make your reading slower not faster!

[1]Cain, K. & Oakhill, J. V. (1999) ‘Inference-making ability and its relation to comprehension failure in young students’, Reading and writing: an interdisciplinary journal, Vol. 11 pp. 489–503.

[2]Nation K. & Norbury, F. (2005) ‘Why reading comprehension fails: Insights from developmental disorders’, Topics in language disorders, 25, pp. 21–32.

[3] Procter, M. (2014). A system for dealing with new words while reading. Retrieved from:



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