IELTS Reading Tips | Short Answer Question

How to master the Short Answer Question
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    How to master the Short Answer Question

  • This type of question focuses on test takers’ ability to identify specific word or a phrase within the text. This may be a stressful task for some, as it requires both skimming and scanning skills.
  • Objective: You must identify specific word or a phrase in the text that answers the question.
  • Skills Used: You will need to skim and scan the text for specific content and choose the word or phrase that accurately answers the question within a word limit indicated in the instructions.

You can follow the steps below:

  • Read the Instructions Carefully
  • The instructions in this task will tell you how many words you may use to answer such question type. For example, if the instructions ask you given ‘no more than 2 words and/or a number’, then you can write only up to 3 words out of which there can be maximum 2 words and 1 number. You cannot have 3 words or 1 word and 2 numbers or 3 numbers etc. However, it is perfectly fine to write only 1 word or 1 number or 2 words as well since those would fit within the 3-word capacity.
  • Read and Understand the Questions
  • Because you are looking for specific information in the text, it essential that you read the questions carefully and understand what they mean. Ask yourself what is it that the question statement requires? For instance, if the question is ‘When was Albert Einstein born?’, you will directly understand you are possible looking for a year or full date of birth.
  • Paraphrase the Short-nswer Questions
  • When you paraphrase a sentence, you say what it means using other words, looking in particular at key words or phrases; for example:
  • 'In which geographical location were the first representations of flip-flops found?'
    In other words: 'Where in the world were flip-flops seen for the first time?'
  • If you explain the questions in other words, you make sure you understand them better, and you can see more easily where the meaning is expressed in the text.
  • Skim the Text
  • To skim the text means to read it quickly to get the general idea. This is a good way to familiarise yourself with the content, since you will need to find specific words to use as your answer. Reading the text quickly should help you notice certain words that might be helpful when looking for answers in the text. This will also give you a broad idea about the nature of information in each paragraph thereby helping locate rest of the question types as well.
  • Scan the Text for Information
  • To scan a text means to read it quickly while looking for specific information. You don’t need to read or understand every single word, as long as you are able to identify specific information that helps you answer the question, including synonyms to key words you have paraphrased.
  • Choose the Correct Answer
  • After you’ve made sure you understood the question, and you have skimmed and scanned the text for specific information, you can choose the word or phrase that answers the questions. You must choose the exact word or phrase from the passage. If the final sentence is grammatically incorrect, this means your answer is wrong.

Useful Tips:

  • You must read the instructions carefully. They will tell you the maximum number of words to use in your answer, as well as whether you are expected to use words and/or numbers.
  • When paraphrasing the questions, think of synonyms to key words and/or phrases in the questions. For example:
  • 'As of 2020, there have been 46 presidents in US history.'
  • As of 2020 = up until 2020, from (year) until 2020
    46 presidents = forty-six presidents (key information, may not be rephrased, but number is important to locate)
    US history = history of the US/United States, since the creations of the United States/US
  • When thinking of a way to paraphrase the questions, think of the type of words you might need to look for. For example, if the question refers to a description of sort, you may need to look for adjectives or adverbs, depending on what is being described. If the question requires finding an object or location, you may want to look for nouns.
  • The advantage of skimming the text is that scanning becomes easier, as you are familiar with the content. You then do not need to understand all the words in the text, as long as you identify specific information to answer the questions.
  • The answers will come in order, so this should help you find the answers more easily, as there is no need to go back and forth in the text.
  • Make sure you write the exact word or phrase as given in the passage. If you need to change the word from singular to plural or its tense for example, then you have chosen a wrong answer.
  • Now is the time to practise this type of question:
  • The use of flip-flops dates back to around the year 4,000 BC. Early displays of flip-flops can be found in artwork in Egypt.
    Write ONE WORD ONLY from the passage in each gap.
    In which geographical location can the first representations of flip-flops be seen?
  • Explanation:
  • The key information in the text is underlined here:
  • Early displays of flip-flops can be found in artwork in Egypt.
  • We found the phrases ‘early displays’ and ‘be found’, two of the synonyms we found. The last word is an indicator that the ‘geographical location’ is the ‘country’ of ‘Egypt’.

  • Paraphrasing:
  • geographical location = place, country, city, in the world, area
    first representation of flip-flops = first displays, first signs of/first model of/original flip-flops
    be seen = be found, be discovered, be encountered
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