Dos and don'ts for IELTS Reading matching headings questions
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Dos and don'ts for IELTS Reading matching headings questions

IELTS Reading matching headings questions

Many students and test-takers get cold feet when they see this task in the IELTS Reading section on the day of the exam. Matching headings seems to be one of the trickiest types of questions in the IELTS Academic exam besides those where you have to answer multiple choice and true or false questions. Today, we are going to share an action plan with you so that you could solve this type of task more easily.

Understanding the task

In the task, you will see a list of headings with Roman numbers, and a number of questions at the bottom. You need to find a suitable heading for each section. Sometimes, a section is a paragraph, or it may include several paragraphs. And, you there are always more headings than sections, for example, seven sections and eight headings or eight sections and nine headings. This also means that some headings will not be used. Remember, you can use each heading only once.

This type of question tests if you are able to understand the main idea of each paragraph. This suggests that in this question type you have to match each paragraph in the reading text to one heading, based on the general information in the text.

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Matching headings type of questions may cause difficulties for many test-takers for a number of reasons:

  • it takes longer for candidates to complete the task;
  • the number of headings is bigger than the number of paragraphs;
  • some paragraphs do not need headings;
  • some headings look similar;
  • some headings may mislead the test-takers because they contain only specific details;
  • some headings may contain the same words as the reading section, but they do not match.

Read further, and we will go through the action plan that will help you match headings more successfully step by step.

READ ABOUT: How to check your IELTS writing

How to answer the questions

In order to answer matching headings questions, you have to be good at skimming. This means you have to able to read a text quickly to get a general idea of its meaning. The answer strategy we offer explains how you can utilize skimming skills to tackle this question type.

Step 1. Quickly read the title and the text.

If matching headings goes as the first task, you will need to read the title and the passage quickly to get the general gist of what the text is about. You should not worry about the words you do not understand.

Step 2. Check how many headings and paragraphs you have in the task.

Remember, there are always more headings than paragraphs, so find out how many of them you will not need to use. For example, in the task below there are 8 headings and only 5 paragraphs, i.e. there are 3 extra headings:

Step 3. Cross out the example paragraph and heading.

There is sometimes an example given for you. Do not waste your time on it, cross it out from the headings and the passage.

Step 4. Read the headings and underline the keywords.

You need to completely understand the meaning of each heading. This can be made easier by paraphrasing, i.e. if difficult, ‘translate’ the heading into simple English.

Underline the keywords in each heading. They are names, places, dates, and nouns, once you have read them thoroughly. This step will help you connect the correct heading to the appropriate paragraph.

READ ABOUT: Tips for note completion questions in IELTS Listening

Step 5. Read the first paragraph quickly. Underline the main ideas. Choose the best heading.

Your aim is to identify the main idea of the paragraph. As a rule, the first one or two sentences and the last sentence introduce and summarise this main idea. Remember, you do not need to know the detail for this type of question. However, the headings are usually worded in such a way that you need to know that thing right in the middle of the paragraph to find the answer.

Next, briefly sum up the main idea of the paragraph in your own words as if you were writing your own heading. Do it in just a few words or a short phrase at the most. You can write this beside it.

The key words are the clues but also synonyms are very likely to be used. When choosing a heading do not just select the first one that seems to match as there may be two that are very similar in meaning. Pay attention to the meaning.

The same words in headings and paragraphs may distract you. However, the similar idea in the paragraph may only be a detail, not the main idea. When matching a heading, ask yourself if it is the main idea of the paragraph.

Step 6. Do the same for all other paragraphs.

The next step is to do the same for all paragraphs that are left. Keep in mind that you can use the same heading only once. If it is difficult to decide on a heading, write several possible ones and a question mark, and move on to the next paragraphs. When you finish with the rest, there will be only a few headings left, so it will be easier for you to choose. Once you have finished the first round, you have read the whole passage, come back to the questions you could not answer. If you were hesitating between two options, it is likely that you have already used one of them for another section or paragraph, i.e. the answer becomes obvious.

When you are reading a paragraph, focus on the main ideas, not minor details or the same words.

In our IELTS Grade online course, we explore examples and provide you with strategies to deal with each type of questions of the IELTS Reading section as well as practice tasks and valuable feedback. It is a complete IELTS Academic self-study course with an extensive Writing practice and detailed analysis, automated instant feedback on writing using artificial intelligence, video comments and a full mock test imitating the conditions of a real exam. You can try the free version to feel the benefits of the course.

What not to do

  • Do not waste your time on reading paragraphs that are not included in the question set for this question type.
  • Do not repeat any headings for answers.
  • Do not choose the heading and the paragraph if the words are absolutely the same. The correct heading would always be paraphrased.
  • Do not read only the first and the last sentences of the paragraph, skim the whole one.
  • Do not write any words in your answer booklet for this section.

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