Importance of Reading Skills in IELTS/TOEFL/PTE
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One of the most important sections on any aptitude or language exams such as GMAT, GRE, SAT or IELTS, TOEFL & PTE is the Verbal section, also known as the Reading section. That being said, also one of the most neglected skill while preparing for any examination is Reading skills. We all know how to read and for most people, there has never been an upgrade on the Reading skill. Every year, scores of students come out of the examination complaining about the same thing – I wish I had more time to tackle the exam better.

The simplest way one can create additional time to attempt questions better is to Read better. On any exam, there are two very important aspects to ensure a better performance – Reading Speed & Reading Comprehension. It is common sense that the faster you read; the higher would be the amount of time one shall have to solve questions. Also, the better the Comprehension, the lesser would be the to and fro one will be required to do on the Reading Section.

Hence, the manner in which one reads is a key to one’s performance on the Reading / Verbal section. However, there are certain common problems most candidates face while attempting any Reading based tasks, be it Reading Passages on the IELTS exam or the Critical Reading section on the GMAT. Let’s try and address these issues:

  1.  Reading, but not understanding: This is one very common problem and often students ask this question, that while I was reading the passage, after a certain point in time, I was reading the passage but couldn’t understand what it meant and had to go back to a certain point that I could last remember and start from there again.
  2. Distracted by Random Thoughts: This is an even more important problem faced by many, students as well as professionals. It normally happens when we sit to study, that even a fly or a spot on the wall seems very interesting or there could be some thought, for instance “I wish to have pizza today OR that work still remains OR I wish I’d done that OR ANY SUCH Random thought. It could be that the content is not very interesting or despite our best efforts, we cannot help but drift off to some other thought.
  3. Vocabulary: How many times has it happened that you’ve come across a word which you didn’t understand and tried to gather its meaning based on context? And despite your best effort you haven’t been able to understand what it meant and gave up and moved on to reading further. But, despite moving on, the head still is trying to comprehend what could the word mean.
  4. Lost Between the Lines: Does it happen that while reading a few lines, you suddenly realize that the line which you are reading doesn’t make proper sense? And when you look back up, you realize that you’ve skipped out an entire line?


These problems are nothing but distraction or regression that is often caused while we are reading. These are the issues that affect the Reading Speed & Reading Comprehension – two extremely crucial aspects on the Reading Section. Despite becoming aware of these issues, students often do not realize the importance of overcoming these issues or even worse, fail to overcome these issues!!

So, the question remains what can be done to overcome these issues and improve Reading Speed and Reading Comprehension:

  1. Avoid Pronunciation / DO NOT VERBALIZE: It is often found that non-native pronounce or verbalise the words as they read. This is often due to the fact that since childhood, we’ve been asked to verbalise or pronounce the subject matter to ensure we learn it. However, one needs to remember that on the IELTS, you are not reading to remember or learn, but for understanding only. Also, when you pronounce each and every word, it slows you down when you read, as there is a limit to the number of times you can open and close your lips in a given time frame. Not to mention, there are sets of muscles under the lips and the more they work, the more tired you become. This also results in getting tired. You may often feel exhausted after completing the reading task. This impacts both – The Reading Speed as well as the overall Reading Comprehension.

    A more effective way of reading would be to read with your eyes. People often seem skeptical that it wouldn’t be possible. However, let me use an example to illustrate my point. When you see a movie, you do not explain or dictate to yourself, each and every action or scene that is happening on the screen. The eyes view it and the brain is able to make sense of it. This is happening continuously while the movie is going on. This tells us that the Brain has an immense potential to process information. However, when the brain does not get any information to process, it creates its own distraction. You realize that even when you just sit down to relax, the brain never switches off, it constantly thinks about something. This is nothing but distraction which happens even while reading. When you pronounce everything you read, the brain receives information at a lower speed than the capacity at which it can process information. This results in the brain creating its own distraction and this is often the reason you drift into other thoughts while reading some academic or “boring” text. Thus, reading without pronunciation will help you to cut down on the time taken to read any text. However, be careful, when you stop pronouncing out loud, there is still pronunciation happening in the mind. Kindly avoid any form of pronunciation as pronouncing in the mind will also result in wastage of time as you are sounding out the words in your mind.
  2. Use a cursor: The best use of a cursor is while reading with your eyes. However, with a little bit of adjustment, one can move the cursor a little faster than one is used to. This shall force you to rely on reading with your eyes and will help you do-away the habit of pronouncing each word. This is especially helpful on the examination as you can even underline some information which you may seem important. However, as part of Speed Reading, avoid underlining as well since the goal is to increase Reading Speed.

Combining the steps of “Avoiding Pronunciation” along with “Using a cursor” will help you to not only increase your Reading Speed, But, will help you increase Comprehension, irrespective of the text you are reading.

It takes a couple of exercises to a couple of days to master this for different people. Thus, do not get disappointed if you do not get immediate results. There may be a temptation to go back to the technique you’ve used all your life. Reading Speed & Reading Comprehension using these techniques, all you need is persistence and practice to inculcate the above into your Reading style and before you know it, you’re already reading faster with increased comprehension, something that has eluded you so far.

Hardik Bhandari

Director- Incept Education & Consulting Services LLP