IELTS Reading: Tips for Short Answer Question

Students are usually confident enough to answer this question. Because this is a quite familiar question type that is practiced in the classrooms almost all around the world. Moreover, it is a pretty straight forward way to check someone's reading skill. There will be some questions based on the reading text, you will need to answer those questions using specified number of words. Look at the example below from an actual test question:


IELTS Reading Short Answer Question

Source: Cambridge English IELTS Past Papers

Take a look at the example above. You are given a number of questions. You are asked to answer each question using No More Than Two Words and/or a Number, that means you are allowed to use the following:

  • one word

  • one number

  • one word and a number

  • two words

  • two words and a number (e. g. 89 Brown Street)

At the end write your answers in the designated boxes on the answer sheet. 

Common Problems


Because of quite familiarity with this question type, students sometimes feel too much confident. They rush to answer this question as fast as they can, ignoring even very important instruction sentence regarding word limit. Therefore, most of the time they end up with throwing away easy marks.

Forgetting about Synonyms and Paraphrases 

Right away after taking a look at the question sentence, many students start searching for a matching word in the reading text. They tend to forget that there will be synonyms and paraphrases. Examiners know this issue, that's why they use this trick to test your reading skills and lexical resources.

Reading too Details

Many students dive deep into detailed discussion in the reading text for finding each answer. This is a big mistake. You cannot afford to waste so much time for each question. Most of the students spend too much time at the beginning and then run out of time at the end. As a result, some of them even leave some questions unanswered, whereas there is no negative marking for a wrong answer.

Wasting Time for Grammar

Some students go over word limit trying to write a full sentence. They waste both precious time and marks unnecessarily thinking about grammar. whereas, grammar is not important for this question. 

Solution Tips

Ordered Answers

As always the million dollar information is, this is an order question. Knowing this information is a big advantage, because you will not need to go back again to find the next question's answer in the reading text. That means the answer of the third question will appear after the answer of the second question, likewise the answer of the first question will definitely appear before the answer of the second question in the reading text.

Don't ignore the instruction

Read the instruction sentence carefully. Look how many words you are allowed to write for each answer. Many students lose easy marks in this question only because of ignoring the instruction sentence.

Don't worry about grammar 

Grammar is not important for this question. Therefore, don't worry about it, just focus on correct answer within the specified word limit.

Skim, guess, and scan repeatedly

Don't spend too much time in one question. Just keep skimming the text. Wherever you guess the answer might be contained, stop there and scan repeatedly. You will find the answer. Remember, this is your skimming test as well.

Remember about synonyms and paraphrases

Be aware of synonyms and paraphrases. This question is very easy if you are alert on this issue. Because very rarely will there be matching words in the reading text. Always expect synonyms or paraphrases. This is how examiners constantly test your vocabulary skill.

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