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IELTS Preparation Series 3, Episode 13: Reading Skills and Question Types


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Hello, and welcome to Study English, IELTS Preparation. I'm Margot Politis.

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In the IELTS Reading Test you have to answer 40 questions in 60 minutes - almost 1 question

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every minute. There are 3 separate pieces of writing of about 900 words each. There

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is not enough time to read the texts closely so you need to develop the ability to find

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information quickly.

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This is a skill you'll use all the time in your studies.

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Let's trace how you might find English language TV programs. Because they are on Australia

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Network, you start at their homepage. You look around the page for the word 'English'.

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There's Learning English - click on that. Now you have a number of choices - you can

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either read the summaries as they flick past, or you can go to each program's site. Let's

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go to Passport to English. What's it about? Here's the heading - About Passport to English,

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so this is the paragraph to read. Notice that you only glance at the rest of the page when

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you are looking for specific information in this way.

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Moving your eyes quickly over a page like this is called scanning. The ability to do

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this with a page of text is part of what's assessed in the Reading Test. Let's look at

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a typical reading passage:

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It's best to start by reading the title and sub-title of the text and look for any pictures

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or italicised words. This will tell you what the text is about.

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Childhood Obesity is the title and On Being Overweight and Obese is the subtitle.

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What do you already know about the topic?

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If you've been keeping up-to-date with current affairs you would have heard that some children

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are putting on weight at an alarming rate and this is affecting their health. Parents

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and health authorities are worried.

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At this point you know what to expect - you have previewed the text.

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So it's a good idea to keep up with the news because current issues are often topics for

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the Reading Test.

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The next thing you need to do is quickly look through the questions for the passage.

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There are different kinds, but first we'll look at a multiple choice question.

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According to information in the text, childhood obesity can cause:

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A. early death in children based on a recent study.

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B. breathing problems and diabetes later in life.

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C. an impaired immune system The question says 'According to information

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in the text'. This means you must scan the text to find out the correct answer. You can't

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rely on your general knowledge.

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The key words in the question are 'childhood obesity' and 'can cause'. The word 'cause'

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alerts you that the text will be discussing effects of childhood obesity.

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'Can cause' means likely to happen, so you need to look for any effects mentioned in

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the text as a possible result of childhood obesity

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You need to look out for phrases that match what the question is asking such as 'results

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in', 'shows that', 'causes' or 'leads to'.

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Let's look at the question again:

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According to information in the text, childhood obesity can cause:

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A. early death in children based on a recent study.

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B. breathing problems and diabetes later in life.

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C. an impaired immune system

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Let's look at the first option - A. early death in children based on a recent study.

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The key words are 'early death', 'children' and 'recent study'.

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Now you need to scan the text for these words or words with the same meaning.

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Quickly scanning the first paragraph, you can see no relevant information - it's not

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talking about effects.

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The next paragraph is relevant - 'recent study', 'show that' and 'death'. Let's read the sentence.

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"The findings from a recent study published in the Journal of International Studies on

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Childhood Obesity show that the chances of premature death in adulthood are greatly increased

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because of obesity during childhood."

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Death in adulthood, not in children. So we can rule out A as the answer.

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Let's check C - can obesity cause an impaired immune system?

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There's nothing written about the immune system here - but there is a list of diseases and

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the phrase you're looking for - 'results in'.

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"Research has shown there is a strong link between childhood obesity and obesity in adulthood

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that results in debilitating or life-threatening conditions. These include cardiovascular disease,

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respiratory illnesses such as asthma or even type-2 diabetes."

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So it says diabetes is an effect. What about breathing problems? 'Respiratory illnesses'

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- they're breathing problems.

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So 'B' is the correct answer. Questions in the Reading Test can be about

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cause and effect relationships, so you must be able to quickly recognise the words that

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are markers for this information and how the sentences are structured. Let's look closely

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at the correct answer and the relevant sentence from the passage.

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The answer is: Childhood obesity can cause breathing problems and diabetes later in life.

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The words 'can cause' mark this as a cause/effect relationship. The cause is childhood obesity.

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You can also see childhood obesity in the first sentence from the passage. Even though

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it says 'childhood obesity and obesity in adulthood', it still includes childhood obesity

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as a cause.

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The important synonym for 'can cause' is 'results in'. Another phrase with this meaning that

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could have been used here is 'leads to'.

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So we have the cause - childhood obesity and the cause marker - 'leads to' or 'results

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in'. Where's the effect? In the answer the effect is 'breathing problems and diabetes'.

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Again you need to look for synonyms. There's a list of effects - cardiovascular disease,

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respiratory illnesses such as asthma and type-2 diabetes.

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Diabetes is a clear match and, as we said earlier, respiratory illnesses includes breathing

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problems.

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It doesn't matter that the text includes other effects as long as the two in the answer are

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included.

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Let's look at another type of question.

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There is a short answer question that requires you to answer using no more than 3 words.

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Let's try one.

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Based on recent findings, what can greatly increase as a result of obesity in early childhood?

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The 2 or 3 word answer is in the text. The key words that would help you locate it are

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'recent findings', 'greatly increase', 'as a result of' and 'early childhood'.

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We've already skimmed the text, so we know that we won't find this answer in the first

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paragraph.

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So we check the last paragraph again - there - findings from a recent study. The sentence

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reads:

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"The findings from a recent study published in the Journal of International Studies on

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Childhood Obesity show that the chances of premature death in adulthood are greatly increased

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because of obesity during childhood."

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The question is:

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Based on recent findings, what can greatly increase as a result of obesity in early childhood?

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The answer is premature death.

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Remember that you can't answer with any more than 3 words, so you can't write for instance

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'chances of premature death', even though this is true.

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For the Reading Section of the IELTS Test you need to practise skills and question types.

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There will not be enough time to read all the passages carefully, so you need to develop

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the skill of scanning for key phrases.

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But when you go to our website, take the time to read carefully and you should find yourself

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better prepared for the challenge of the IELTS Test. The address is: australianetwork.com/studyenglish.

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Good luck with your studies.

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See you next time.

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