IELTS Reading Short Answer Tips

In the IELTS Reading Test ‘short answer questions’ candidates have to select words from a text, usually 3 or 4 (but read the instructions carefully) to complete sentences.

The particular skill required here is that of prediction. It is quite possible to figure out what type of word(s) you are looking for just from reading the question.

For example, if the question word used is ‘where’ then you know you are looking for the name of a place, if it is ‘when’ then you know you are scanning for a time, date, day and so on.

Try and answer the question below from the passage provided (by the British Council), but before you answer the question, decide whether what you are looking for is a person, place, time or thing etc…

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the text for each answer.

1 What has been found in some Fancy Foods products?

2 Where can you find the batch number on the jars?



Fancy Foods wishes to inform the public that pieces of metal have been found in some jars of Fancy Foods Chicken Curry (Spicy). The batches of the jars involved have numbers from J6617 to J6624. The batch number is printed on the bottom of each jar.

Most Importantly…

It is very important to remember that all words need to be spelt correctly and that you have followed the instructions about how many words need to be written correctly.

In the above questions, question one was searching for a ‘thing’ (what) – pieces of metal, question two was asking for a location (where) – on the bottom.

Using this technique makes you focus and saves time. More tips for this section type include:


Avoid looking for directly matching words from the question to the passage. Just because the same words are being used does not mean that that is where the answer is, they are usually being used in a different way to distract you and test your understanding.

When you read the questions, underline the keywords and then start thinking about synonyms and paraphrases for these words, this will help you locate the answer in the text.

Don’t let words you don’t know panic you. Try to guess their meaning from the context and what type of word it must be, then calmly continue trying to workout the answer. you can still get it right!

Read the word limit and stick to it. If you write too many words you will not get any marks!

Do not read everything. Time is limited in the exam you will not have time to read every single word in the text. Instead use your skimming and scanning skills to locate the answer and then read that section only carefully.

Avoid giving your opinion, use the text only to give an answer.


Now, you have read our IELTS Reading Short Answer Tips, you may want to read about how to use synonyms and how to paraphrase for higher marks in IELTS Reading too.

These are two skills that are highly important for all areas of the IELTS Reading Test and will also help you in other areas of the test too.