Hey. In today’s blog, we will be continuing our in-depth look at the most problematic types of IELTS reading questions. Today, it’s Information Match Questions. And, although at first glance these questions might seem every different to the Headings Match Questions we looked at last week, as you will soon see, they are actually very similar. Plus, just like Headings Match Questions, the method that is often given to solve these test items is totally wrong. But, before we start looking at technique, let’s start by going through
THE FACTS 🗂
- you are given a piece of information that can be found somewhere in the passage – your job is to locate THE PARAGRAPH that contains the information
- one paragraph can contain MORE THAN ONE piece of information (i.e. you might decide that paragraph A contains the information for questions 2 AND 7. Therefore it, will be the answer for BOTH questions)
- it is possible that some paragraphs will contain NO INFORMATION (never choose a paragraph just because it hasn’t contained any other answers – very often there is a paragraph that DOESN’T contain any answer!)
- Information Match questions DO NOT APPEAR IN THE SAME ORDER as the text (obviously)
- you CANNOT SCAN to find the answers
Information Match questions test your ability to understand the different FUNCTIONS of language i.e. how the writer is using language
So, as I said in the introduction, at first glance, Information match Questions might seem like the opposite of the Headings Match questions. While Headings Match questions ask us to find a summary of a whole paragraph, Information Match questions ask us to locate ONE piece of specific information in a text. However, I think that actually these types of questions are very similar because
- they both require us to read the entire text (or at least most of the text)!
- they test our knowledge of the FUNCTION of language
Also, just like for Headings Match questions, there is A LOT OF TERRIBLE ADVICE about how to answer Information Match questions on the Internet. Let’s look at these instructions (which are taken from a very popular teaching site) to see how they WON’T help you find the answer:
1. You will first have to be able to skim the reading text to get a general meaning of each paragraph.
OK, I agree, it can be very useful to skim a text before you start looking for answers because it will give you a general idea of the content of the passage. However, this is true for ANY type of IELTS question, not just Information Match Questions. Good, but basic advice. Next…..
2. You will also have to scan for specific words within the paragraphs. It is more likely that you will be looking for synonyms (different words that mean the same or nearly the same) and paraphrases rather than keywords from the question statements.
No No No No No No No!
You will never be able to use the scanning technique to answer this type of question. I repeat, you will never be able to use the scanning technique to answer this type of question. Let me give you a clear example of why not.
Evidence #1 🔍 Here are 6 Information Match questions that come from a passage in Advanced Cambridge Objective IELTS titled Animal Communication. The text discusses communication between animals in general, and how the vervet monkeys of Kenya communicate with one another in particular (actually it’s a cool text – you should read it! ) Look at each sentence carefully and decide which keywords you would scan for:
- evidence that animals react to warnings even when they are not in danger
- why animals place themselves in danger
- an account of different reactions to different sounds
- a comparison between the numbers of sounds used by different species
- a classification of sounds according to who produces them
- an instance of one non-human species understanding sounds made by another
Can you see the problem? The keywords inside ALL of the sentences are almost identical. What would you scan for when all of the questions contain almost the SAME WORDS??!!!!
- Questions 1 & 2 use the words in danger
- Questions 3, 4, 5 & 6 ALL contain the key word sounds.
- Questions 1, 2, 3 & 6 ALL use the words animals or species
- Questions 1 & 3 contain the word react/reactions
Clearly, the WHOLE passage discusses the ways that animals make sounds to communicate with each other. Simply searching for keywords here is impossible because all of the questions contain THE SAME KEYWORDS!!!! 🤯
So, what does this mean. If all of the keywords in the questions are the same, what should we be looking for when we read? How are we going to find the answers? Well, we are going to have to look at the FIRST WORDS in each question to understand the TYPE OF INFORMATION WE ARE LOOKING FOR! That’s the point of information match questions – they test your ability to locate sentences that perform a FUNCTION!
That’s right, information match questions are all about HOW a writer is using words. Are they giving you an opinion, or a fact? Are they providing evidence, or giving a reason? This is what you have to think of to when you are looking for the answers to Information Match Questions. 👏
Let’s look at our six questions again and highlight the words that tell us THE TYPE OF INFORMATION we have to look for:
- evidence that animals react to warnings even when they are not in danger (i.e. we need to look for a part of the text that shows the results of research)
- why animals place themselves in danger (i.e. we need to look for sentences that give reasons for why animals put themselves in danger)
- an account of different reactions to different sounds (i.e. we need to look for a detailed description of reactions to different sounds)
- a comparison between the numbers of sounds used by different species (i.e. we need to find a place in the text where the writer compares the sounds of different species)
- a classification of sounds according to who produces them (i.e. we need to look for how sounds are organised into specific groups)
- an instance of one non-human species understanding sounds made by another (i.e. we need to look for a clear example of when one animal understood another – although this time, it doesn’t have to the results of an experiment, it could just be a description)
So, again, let’s repeat to make it clear – in most Information Match Questions all of the sentences in the text will talk about the same SUBJECT (i.e. animals communicating using sounds), so focussing on keywords would make the answers impossible to find. Instead, we need to focus on function – the roles that the sentences inside the paragraph are performing.
HOW TO TRAIN 🏋️♀️
So, if we can’t scan to find these answers, what technique should we use? Well, first of all, I think that all test-takers need to know some of the basic functions that you could be asked to find in the exam. If you don’t know what these functions are, it will be impossible for you to find them! Here is a table of what I think are the most common function words in the IELTS exam:
|FUNCTION WORD||WHAT TO LOOK FOR|
|an example / an illustration / a demonstration||You will need to find a clear example in the text. It’s not enough to find the topic alone, you have to have an example of a phenomenon|
|a suggestion||An idea or theory that might not have any evidence to support it.|
|an account / description||These are detailed descriptions of a particular event (often an experiment or a real-life situation)|
|a way / a method||A description of “how” something happens.|
|a claim||A claim is usually a belief/statement made in the text that could be agreed or disagreed with. However, they are usually presented as facts by the writer.|
|a finding||This will be the result of an experiment|
|a definition||A clear description of a phenomena. This will feel like a dictionary entry.|
|a reference to||These are often tricky. The writer will briefly mention another theory or argument but not explain it in detail.|
|a benefit / advantage||Something good that results from an action or situation|
|an effect / outcome||A result of an action|
|reasons for||Why something happened|
|a comparison of||two or more items clearly compared against one another
A BETTER WAY 🌿
Then, once you have a general idea of what you are looking for, I suggest you use the following method to answer Information Match questions:
- Quickly skim the passage so that you understand the main topic of the text.
- Read each of the questions carefully, PAYING MOST ATTENTION TO THE FUNCTION WORD at the beginning of each sentence. Ask yourself what you are being asked to find – evidence, reasons, comparisons, etc. This will help you locate the correct answers in the text.
- You are now ready to start reading Paragraph A. As you read, ask yourself: What is the writer doing here? Why are they giving me this information? I generally stop in the middle of each paragraph to look at the task items and think, “have I read any of this information yet?” Obviously, for the first paragraph, you will need to check A LOT, and so the process will be slow. However, as you continue through the text, the number of pieces of information will become less, so the process will become quicker.
- If you reach the end of Paragraph A and haven’t located any information, don’t panic. Write down any possible answers, and move to Paragraph B.
- Keep moving through the paragraphs. You will need to part of the paragraph. Remember, just because you locate ONE piece of information in a paragraph, IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU CAN MOVE FORWARD. Some paragraphs will contain more than once piece of information. Learn to read quickly – you don’t have to understand every word, but you should understand the main idea of each sentence.
- When you reach the end of the text, it is likely that you will have one or two pieces of information that you haven’t matched – NOW YOU CAN SCAN! Even I find some information difficult to locate on the first read, but once you have read all of the text, you can quickly go back to try to find the missing answers. There might be some paragraphs that you know the information is NOT in. Focus on skimming over the likely places where the information is. If you run out of time, make sure you write an answer in the space (even if it is a guess!). And, IF YOU ARE GUESSING, it probably is a good idea to write the letter of a paragraph you haven’t used!
So, so those are Information Match questions. In this blog, we learned that:
- scanning WILL NOT help you find the answers to Information Match questions
- you should focus on the FUNCTION of the sentences in the passage
- the FUNCTION you are looking of is usually given in the FIRST words of the question
- remember that some paragraphs may contain more than once piece of information, so don’t stop if you find one answer, remember that there could be TWO!
I suggest you go and practice two or three Information Match Questions right away while these skills are fresh in your mind. And, now that you know the correct technique, if you still have trouble with this type of question, you know that it’s because you still need to improve your language skills. Good luck 🚀