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IELTS Reading: Better vocabulary equals a better band score

In this blog, I’ll be focussing on showing you how you can improve your Academic and General Training Reading band score by thinking about vocabulary.

One of the skills you will need to use in the Reading test is that of paraphrasing. Paraphrasing is using different words to express the same idea. The questions in the Reading test will not use exactly the same words as in the test. They will use synonyms or paraphrases.

I will look at an example text and highlight key language and the use of paraphrase. This will help you to locate the correct answer.

Here’s the text:

Page 56 of Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

(Click to enlarge)

Let’s look at the words in bold in the above text. What questions could they help us answer and why they are important to understanding the paragraph as a whole?

  • understanding latter part will help to answer any question about when the Garden City Movement began.
  • as a reaction to will help to answer any question regarding why it began.
  • laid out his ideas this helps to understand where he shared his ideas (in the book To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform)
  • economically viable towns – this tells us something related to the economy of the new towns. From the context we can guess that this is positive in meaning.
  • surrounded with a belt of undeveloped land – this describes the town and what is around it. We may know the meaning of belt in the context of clothes which can help us guess the meaning here. Undeveloped is the opposite of developed.
  • gained attention and financial backing – here we get the idea that something positive took place related to attention and money.

Now let’s look at meaning.

Which of the expressions in bold in the text above have a similar meaning to:

  • a. got assistance in the form of money
  • b. outlined a concept
  • c. the last half
  • d. a response to
  • e. an area of land

You can find the answers at the end of this blog.

Now let’s turn to look at a question based on the text above.

According to the paragraph, the Garden City Movement

  • A  came just before the Industrial Revolution
  • B  was held back by a war and a lack of funds
  • C  resulted in cities that were larger than they had been before
  • D was designed to combat problems caused by modernisation

Let’s look at each option in turn.

A  came just before the Industrial Revolution.

We know that the Garden City Movement ‘arose in the latter part of the 19th century as a reaction to the pollution and crowding of the Industrial Revolution.’

The Movement happened as a reaction to (response to) the effects of the Industrial Revolution. It didn’t come before but after the Industrial Revolution.  

By understanding the paraphrase we are able to see that option A isn’t correct.

B  was held back by a war and a lack of funds.

The idea gained enough attention and financial backing to lead to the creation of Letchworth…

Funds is a paraphrase of financial backing (assistance in the form of money). Lack of funds means there was no money.

We know that the idea did get funding (financial backing) so B is not the correct option.

C  resulted in cities that were larger than they had been before.

‘Howard believed that these towns should be limited in size and density, and surrounded with a belt of undeveloped land.’

The towns were not larger, they were limited in size and the further area around them was not developed.

D was designed to combat problems caused by modernisation.

‘… as a reaction to the pollution and crowding of the Industrial Revolution.

As we can see, the Movement was designed to help fight the problems (paraphrase of pollution and crowding) caused by modernisation (paraphrase of the Industrial Revolution).

The answer is D.

By understanding paraphrase, we were able to decide which options were not correct and confirm the correct answer.

To get a better band score in your Reading test it is vital you look at each of the options and think of different ways of saying the same thing (paraphrase), this will help guide you to the correct part of the text and the correct answer. If you can’t find the correct answer because you don’t know a particular paraphrase you may still be able to arrive at the correct answer by being able to disregard/ignore the incorrect options.

Good luck and remember, the more you practise the easier it gets and the better you get.


Answers to reading exercise

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