In the IELTS Academic Reading Test, one of the skills that you will be tested on is your ability to identify main ideas. In order to test your ability to do this, you will often be asked to choose headings for paragraphs. With this type of question, you are demonstrating that you understand what each paragraph or section is about. So what does this task type involve? In this task you have to look for the main idea in each paragraph of the reading passage. You will see a list of headings. You must match a heading with each paragraph. The heading should express the main idea of the paragraph.
You will also notice that there are always extra headings that you won’t use. Another thing to remember is that you cannot use a heading twice. Finally, there may be an example given, so do not use this example heading. So as you can see, in this example the reading passage has five paragraphs. You need to choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings. There are eight headings so you don’t need to use all of them.
As you will also notice, there is an example heading given, for paragraph C. So what is the best way to approach this task? Well, first of all, look at the list of headings and underline the keywords. Check if any of the headings are given as examples. If they are, cross them out so that you are not tempted to use them. Then, go to the reading text and read the first paragraph, underlining the keywords and the topic sentence, if you can find one. Try to sum up the main idea of the paragraph in your head. Then, go back to the list of headings and choose the one that best matches the main idea of that paragraph.
Write the number of this heading on your answer sheet. If you find more than one match, make a note of them and decide on the best one at the end. Finally, repeat these steps for each paragraph. Let’s take a look at another example.
Spend about thirty seconds reading the text. In particular, focus on the topic sentence and keywords throughout the paragraph. In this example, you have three possible headings. All of them look possible.
However, ‘i’ is not the answer because although ‘Whale migration routes’ is mentioned in the text, this is not the main idea. Similarly, option ‘iii’ is not correct, because again, ‘How whale songs are recorded’ is mentioned in the text, but this is also not the main idea of the paragraph. In this case, option ‘ii’ is the correct answer. This heading best summarises the main idea of the paragraph. Now it’s your turn to practice matching the correct headings to paragraphs.
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