IELTS General Reading Test

The IELTS General Reading test is slightly different in format to the Academic Reading test and is taken for a different reason.

We’ll start by discovering why you would choose the General test and then, I'll give you all the information you need to understand the test, including samples from real IELTS test papers.

Here’s an outline of what we’ll be covering: 

  • Why take IELTS General Reading
  • Test format
  • Types of text
  • Links to my step-by-step strategy pages for the 12 question types
  • Sample tests

Why Take IELTS General Reading

When choosing which IELTS exam to take, the most important consideration is why you need an IELTS qualification.

IELTS General Training is for people wanting to work in or emigrate to the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada or New Zealand. It is widely accepted for,

  • Visa and employment applications 
  • Education at high-school level 
  • Non-academic training such as practical vocational courses

Your test result is used by various institutions to help them decide if you will be able to study, work or live successfully in the country to which you are applying.

The British Council website has a very useful search facility that will give you valuable information on employers, governments, immigration authorities and professional bodies around the world that accept IELTS, and the minimum band score requirements for each.

It will also tell you which IELTS test would be most appropriate for the industry you want to work in.

Find it here.

The Test


60 minutes

Test Format

The IELTS General Reading test is made up of three parts and a total of 40 questions. You are recommended to spend 20 minutes on each section.

Here is the structure of the 3 sections and an idea as to the types of texts they will contain.

Section 1 – two or three short factual texts related to everyday life (e.g. hotel evacuation procedure, a series of related advertisements, a course outline).

Section 2 – two short factual texts related to work (e.g. job description, staff training, disciplinary procedures).

Section 3 – one longer text of greater complexity (e.g. general interest texts from books, newspapers, magazines, company brochures or handbooks).

All the topics will relate to everyday life in an English-speaking country.

There are 12 main types of questions:

1)  Matching Headings                  7)  Summary Completion

2)  Multiple Choice                        8)  Matching Sentence Endings

3)  Short Answer                           9)  Sentence Completion

4)  Name Matching                       10)  Matching Paragraph Information

5)  True/False/Not Given              11) Table Completion

6)  Yes/No/Not Given                    12) Diagram Labelling

Click the links to see a step-by-step strategy and ‘how to’ example for answering each type of question.

This wide variety of question types is used in order to test a broad range of reading skills.

Skills Assessed 

The Reading test is designed to assess your ability to:

  • Read for gist 
  • Read for main ideas 
  • Read for detail 
  • Understand logical argument 
  • Recognise writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose


Each correct answer is awarded 1 mark. Your score out of 40 is converted to the corresponding IELTS band scale level.

Sample IELTS General Reading Tests

These sample IELTS General Reading tests come from one of the official IELTS websites where they can be downloaded for free. There's a link to it below.

They cover three different question types:

  • Matching Headings
  • Matching Features / Name Matching
  • Short Answer Questions

Use them to get familiar with the layout of the instructions and as practice tests to improve your skills in preparation for your reading exam.

I've added a PDF of each sample test that you can download to make it easier to work on.

All the answers are at the bottom of the page.

Sample Test 1 – Matching Headings

Download PDF of Sample Test 1

Matching Information questions come in various forms and can all be answered using my Matching Paragraph Information strategy.

Click this link for my Step-By-Step Strategy for Answering 'Matching Headings' Questions.

Sample Test 2 – Matching Features / Name Matching

Download PDF of Sample Test 2

Matching Features and Name Matching are slight variations of one type of question and can both be answered using my Name Matching strategy.

Click this link for my Step-By-Step Strategy for Answering 'Name Matching’ Questions.

Sample Test 3 – Short Answer Question

Source of sample tests: IELTS Essentials.

Download PDF of Sample Test 3

Click this link for my Step-By-Step Strategy for Answering 'Short Answer' Questions.


  Test 1 – Matching Headings 

      1   v              

      2   vii              

      3   ii             

      4   iv   

      5   i

  Test 2 – Matching Features

   34  A                      38  A 

   35  C                      39  F

   36  H                      40  D

   37  C

  Test 3 – Short Answer

   4   pieces of metal 

   5   (on) the bottom 

   6   $5

   7   (the) retail manager  

   8    $50,000

Words in brackets are optional - they are correct, but not necessary.

Click this link to find out more about the Academic Reading Test.

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More Reading Test Pages

IELTS Reading Test – Understand the format, question types & marking system & know what skills are assessed. Also learn success strategies, key reading skills & discover top tips.

IELTS Reading Skills – Master the skills of skimming, scanning & detailed reading. Understand the importance of topic sentences & how to use context for meaning & unfamiliar words.

Top 7 IELTS Reading Tips – Each tip will take you a step closer to the high score you want. They are the key to top marks in your test.

9 More Tips For IELTS Reading – Learn valuable practice techniques & discover a secret that may gain you extra marks.

IELTS Reading Practice – Discover the top 5 things you must do to prepare for your reading test.

How to Complete the IELTS Reading Test in 60 Minutes – Top 6 Recommendations.

IELTS Academic Reading  – Why you should take IELTS Academic Reading, test format, text types & sample tests.

IELTS General Reading  – Why you should take IELTS General Reading, test format, text types & sample tests.

Reading Practice Samples – Short activities to improve your reading skills & help you learn topic vocabulary.

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