Question type 1 of 9: Headings questions in IELTS reading

Question type 1 of 9: Headings questions in IELTS readingQuestion type 1 of 9: Headings questions in IELTS reading. On this page, we will look at the first of the 9 types of question used in the IELTS reading test – matching a heading to a paragraph.

What do I have to do for Headings questions in IELTS reading?

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You are given a list of headings and need to match one heading to one paragraph for each question. Here’s an example:

Questions 1 – 5

Reading passage 1 has six paragraphs, A-F. Choose the correct heading for sections A-D and F from the list of headings below.

  1. Isolation of major cities
  2. The importance of the black market in the economy
  3. Motivation for garden-based production
  4. Philosophy of production
  5. Consumer ethics

1. Paragraph A
2. Paragraph B
3. Paragraph C
4. Paragraph D
EXAMPLE: Paragraph E Answer: i
5. Paragraph F


What is this question type testing my ability to do?

Headings questions are designed to test your ability to understand the main idea presented in each paragraph. You will need to use synonyms for words given in the list of possible headings, and you will need to skim the paragraph quickly in order to find the correct answer.

What are the best steps for answering Headings questions in IELTS reading?

There are 4 steps that we recommend following for this question type:

Step 1 – Eliminate: The majority of headings questions will give you an example, which means one of the possible headings and one of the paragraphs will NOT be used, so eliminate them. Put a clear line through the heading that has been used as an example, or if you are taking the Computer Based Test, just keep in mind which heading has already been used.  You should also make sure you are clear on which paragraphs or sections you need to find a match for. In the example given at the top of this page, you should have noticed that you do not need to find an answer for Paragraph E (it was the example paragraph).

Step 2 – Skim: Quickly look through the first paragraph you need to match a heading to. Your aim is to identify the main idea, which doesn’t mean you understand every word in the paragraph. A good rule to follow is that once you skim a paragraph, you should be able to tell someone else what’s it’s about in just 5 or 6 words.

Step 3 – Compare: Now go back to the remaining list of headings, looking for a heading that best matches the main idea you identified in Step 2. Reject any headings that are not relevant or focus only on supporting information. For example, if the main idea of a paragraph is ‘the role of a teacher’ and the heading refers ONLY to ‘attending meetings with parents’, you have only found supporting information, not the main idea, and therefore this is not the correct heading.

Step 4 – Select: Now choose the answer you think is correct. Sometimes you will find that you have followed Step 3 but there are two possible answers, both of which seem equally likely. At this point, make a note of BOTH the possible answers and move on to the next paragraph (starting at Step 2). As you complete the rest of the questions, you might be able to logically work out the correct answer for previous because one of the options you had selected fits better with another question.

What useful tips are there for this question type?

  • TIP 1: There are always more headings than paragraphs
  • TIP 2: There are often examples given (either one or two paragraphs)
  • TIP 3: If you are given an example, it might not be the first paragraph
  • TIP 4: Some of the headings are deliberately similar – look for the slight differences
  • Tip 5: If the heading and the paragraph use a lot of the same words, it’s probably wrong!
  • TIP 5: You will not be required to use the same heading more than once
  • TIP 6: You DO NOT lose points for a wrong answer, so if you don’t know then put your best guess

What are the common errors with this question type?

There are a number of common errors with this question type that cost points. The most common error is when candidates match a heading that only supporting information in the paragraph, not the main idea. Remember you are looking to match the main message. Related to this, another common error is when candidates match individual words – it’s a common IELTS trick to put the same words in the paragraph and in one of the headings, but the heading doesn’t actual refer to the main idea.

Now practice!

Click the link in the table below to test your skills with headings questions in IELTS reading

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