IELTS and newspapers
Newspapers are an excellent free online resource for IELTS students both for reading practice and vocabulary; many newspaper articles are very similar to IELTS texts. Generally, they are around the same length, they cover the same general interest topics and they are written for non-specialist readers. You normally read a newspaper article quickly to see if it is interesting or not?
Why read newspapers? It gives you a break from IELTS
Too much IELTS is not good for the soul – and may not be the best thing for your English. If you want to improve your English, it does help to do things that you find interesting and IELTS is not always that interesting. The more you are interested, the better your brain works and the better your brain works, the better you will learn. Newspapers can work here because they contain something for everyone from business, to arts and sport. One idea is just to read the things that interest you.
How to get the best out of newspapers?
- Read regularly
Language is a skill and skills are learnt through practice and typically the best form of practice is regular practice. What “regular” means depends on you, but I would suggest that 15-20 minutes reading 3/4 times a week is a good place to start.
- Focus your reading
One benefit of reading newspapers is that they provide exactly the right type of language needed for IELTS students. This is because it is typically neither very formal nor informal. Also the topics you find in most newspapers are just those topics you will need to write and speak about in the exam.
- Read for general meaning
Know that newspapers are hard – they are written for native speakers and not learners. There is a danger that you will stop the reading process because you don’t understand everything. My tip is don’t try to understand everything; if you get to the end of the article and you understand the general meaning, then that is a real achievement.
Below I suggest a specific “learning” exercise. It works I believe. But the very best thing you can do is just read – read as much as you can, as often as you can. Why? The people, who read best, read most. I’d also add that this type of reading is good training for IELTS – long texts with unknown words won’t scare you.
Find 5 words:
This is the least natural exercise here. The idea is to work on your vocabulary – and think about how dictionaries can help you. You read a text and choose 5 words from it that you want to learn. Here are some ideas about how you can make this work:
- don’t choose too many words – you’ll get them confused
- aim for common words or words you already half recognize. These are most important words as they are the ones you will want to use. To find out how common they are, look in the Macmillan Online Dictionary – the red words are the ones you want most
- look for the words they are used with. Is there a preposition (by, with, to etc.) following it? If it’s a noun is there an adjective with it?
- look in the dictionary again to see what other phrases are used with that word.
- now try and re-tell the story you have just read, using those words. At some stage, you do want to try and use that word yourself.
To sum up reading newspapers regularly is an extremely gainful activity for the students. It a treasure trove that renews its wealth every day before it is on our doorsteps.