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Reading Exercise 1

Survey the text. Look at:

  • the title
  • section headings and special print
  • illustrations, graphs and tables

Build up an idea of what the text as a whole is about. Then look at each paragraph. There is often one sentence which will summarize what the paragraph is about. This sentence is often the first or last sentence in the paragraph. Do not take more than 2 minutes.

Time: 2 minutes

Answer the following questions:

1) What is the subject of the passage as a whole? 

2) Which paragraph contains information about the larvae? 

3) Which paragraph contains information about the adult beetle? 

4) Which paragraphs contains information about where the beetles live? 

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Notice how with only the title and the illustration you have most of the information in the passage. There may be many words you do not know in this passage but the title told you the topic was the life cycle of something. Above figure shows you what it is and gives you much of the key information.

Looking at the first sentence of each paragraph gives you enough information to answer questions 2-4 above.

You did not need to read every word and you did not need to know every word. This exercise practised surveying the text - which is something you should do with every text no matter what the questions are. This is a major reading skill. Some IELTS questions ask you to find the main ideas in a text. For this you go through the process of looking at the title etc., as you do when you survey the text. You have to recognize that this is what the question requires. In general you cannot answer a question properly unless you know what sort of answer is needed and how to find it. This takes us to the next main process you go through after surveying the text:

Analyse the questions

Ask yourself ‘What is the purpose of this question?’ If you can recognize that the question is asking about the general theme of the passage, then you already know how to find the answer quickly. If the question is asking for specific information, make sure you are clear what that information is (is it a number? a period of time? an activity? etc.) Analysing the question has another meaning too. It means read it carefully to see what form your answer should be in (one word? three words? a number?)

Exercise 1 consists of the simplest kind of question type: open questions. You must answer in a specified number of words — usually no more than three. Often, however, only one or two are needed. Questions 2-4 can all have one-word answers, or simply a number.

Now you have surveyed the text you are better prepared to look for more detailed information. Go on to the next exercise.