Headings matching questions test your ability to summarise information NOT to locate or verify specific information. This means that, unlike T/F/NG or people matching questions, you cannot use key words to help you locate the part of the text that contains the answer.
Instead, you need to think about the overall purpose of the paragraph and it if matches that of a heading.
For example, if the heading is “reasons why people buy more goods in warm weather”, you will need to look for the specific reasons fro the trend in the paragraph, not the actual word “reasons”. Finding headings means you should constantly ask yourself – “What is the writer doing here?”
Most importantly, the “advice” given on most websites to “read the first and last line to find the heading” is the biggest lie ever told to IELTS students. Sure, it might be true that in some paragraphs you can work out the heading from the first line, but this is rare as IELTS passages rarely if ever contain a topic sentence.
I wrote about this in more detail in my previous post about IELTS headings matching (which you can read here) but in one IELTS test I analysed, only ONE answer can be found in the opening sentence and NONE in the final sentence. In fact, for most questions, you will need to understand a string of sentences to find the answer not just one.
The RIGHT WAY to approach heading matching questions
Today we are going to practice approaching these questions in the right way i.e. with the attention and respect that they deserve! This means that we will follow the following general rules:
- Read the title to understand the main idea of the passage
- Look at each heading in the box before you read the text to predict the type of information you would expect to read in a paragraph with that heading
- Start reading from Paragraph A – read at least 2 or 3 sentences before you check for a potential heading. You may find that you can spot the heading immediately thanks to the time you took to predict
- If you cannot find the heading, continue reading until the end of the paragraph. IELTS likes to make Paragraph A difficult, so if you can’t find the answer, make a note next to any potential correct headings and move forwards. You can always come back later.
- Continue working through the paragraphs in this way – remember that although you may find one or two answers in the first line of a paragraph, for most you will have to read half or all to locate it.
- Do not cross off headings as you use them as you may have made a mistake. Instead, cross off the number next to the heading to show that you have already assigned it
- When you finish, check that the extra headings are meaningless
What about time?
If you are concerned that you don’t have enough time to read the full text, then you should consider answering the other questions as you find the heading matching answer. “Slow” headings are usually aways paired with “fast” T/F/NG or matching questions, which you can answer at the same time by using key words to help you. We teach and practice this in our intensive reading courses and in the free daily lessons that are included in all of our packages.