Reading: Get active

How many times have you read a page of a book or a paragraph in an article and had to return to the beginning to read it again? We all do it in our native languages and, of course, in our 2nd languages too. It’s a bad habit that that can cost you time and points in the exam.

In IELTS reading, there is enough time to read everything but there is not enough time to read everything 2, 3 or 4 times. So, the key is to train your brain to read actively. That is, ensure that as you read, you are really absorbing and making sense of the text. To read efficiently, you need to overcome that bad habit of going backwards and re-reading.

Tips to improve your active reading skills:

  • Read dramatically (in your head!). Imagine you are giving a speech. Emphasise key words and don’t rush. Speed is useless if you haven’t understood what you read.
  • Push forward. When you finish a sentence or a paragraph, resist that urge to go back and read it again. Keep moving forward. Practice with paragraphs first, then full texts.
  • Use your pen. Underline, make notes, draw stars, arrows, happy faces, sad faces etc. in the margins. Develop a code or system that is meaningful to you.
  • Summarise. Practice writing brief summaries of paragraphs in your own words.

Remember, active reading is a skill that takes time to develop. Don’t panic if it doesn’t improve overnight. Investing time now in improving your reading efficiency will ultimately help to lift your score in this section. Plus, you’ll get through your novels twice as fast!

Written by a Bayside IELTS expert, Melbourne


Task 2: Health

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task. Write about the following topic:


Despite huge improvements in healthcare, the overall standard of physical health in many developed countries is now falling. What could be the reasons for this trend, and what can be done to reverse it?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words.


In recent years, even though healthcare systems in the developed world have advanced dramatically, there has been a steady decline in individuals’ health and fitness. In this essay, I will examine the causes of this and suggest some ways to reverse the trend.

Without a doubt, the main factor driving the drop in standards of health is lifestyle. First of all, the amount of food we eat has changed significantly in recent years, becoming much higher in fat, salt and sugar. Not only are we eating less nutritious food, but we are eating far too much of it. Portion sizes, particularly in countries such as Australia and the USA have virtually tripled in recent decades. All of this consumption can result in obesity, heart disease and other chronic ailments. In addition to diet, people in the developed world tend to have sedentary lifestyles. In other words, they spend too much time on the computer, in the car or on the couch instead of walking and running in their daily lives. This lack of activity also has dire consequences for health.

There are, however, some simple ways to counter this trend. The key is to start early and educate children from a young age to be aware of nutrition and to value sport and activity. This may mean including physical education or nutrition as compulsory school subjects. In addition to these interventions, governments too can help by subsidising gym memberships or providing more free community spaces for exercise. Workplaces can play a role as well by providing fitness classes or cooking lessons to staff. Ultimately, however, the individuals themselves need to take responsibility for their own wellbeing.

In conclusion, although the rise in health problems may seem like a daunting challenge, the solutions are achievable and, indeed, vital, if people wish to live long and productive lives.

(306 words | Band 9)

Written by a Bayside IELTS expert, Melbourne