In your IELTS preparation, you’ll need to practice a total of 11 IELTS reading question types. In this article, we’ll look at the Match Heading IELTS reading question type in detail and provide you IELTS reading exam tips on how you can answer successfully.
In this post, you will
- Identify what a Match Heading question is
- Identify common problems students make when answering Match Heading questions
- Learn IELTS reading exam tips & strategies for successfully answering a Match Heading question
- Do a Match Heading IELTS reading practice question.
Match Heading Question Type Introduction
The Match Heading question type is one of the easier question types on the IELTS reading exam, because as long as you can understand the general idea of each paragraph, you can answer questions correctly. In this question type, you will see between 5 and 7 headings. A heading is a short sentence that summarises the information in a paragraph. Your job is to match each paragraph to one heading.
Common Problems Answering IELTS Reading Match Heading Questions
When doing Match Heading questions, inexperienced IELTS test-takers will read every paragraph slowly and go back to look at headings, and then attempt to match headings to paragraphs. This is totally inefficient and unnecessary. Let me tell you why.
The first and the second sentences of each IELTS reading paragraph usually give a summary of what the rest of the paragraph will discuss, and often contain keywords that one of the headings has. This means, by just looking at the first and second sentences of the paragraph, you will have a rough idea of what the paragraph is about, and sometimes you can find the associated heading right away
Example: When I skimmed through the list, I noticed that heading iii had similar words corresponding to the nouns in the first sentence of paragraph B – “Farming and soil erosion” (See the example question at the bottom of this post)
Of course, this will not always work. We will talk about the full strategy for this question type in the next section, but many times you will find that there is only one heading containing keywords or synonyms that match the first sentence of the paragraph.
IELTS Reading Exam Tips & Strategies: How to Answer Match Heading Questions
The most essential skill to answer Match Heading questions is skimming, which is being able to read a text quickly to get a general idea of meaning. The following answer strategy explains how you can utilize skimming skills to tackle this question type.
- Skim the first paragraph. When you skim it, read the first one or two sentences and the last sentence to understand the general meaning.
- Once you have a general idea of the first paragraph, you should be able to identify some keywords that are important Usually keywords are found in the first and the second sentences. For example, in the above sample question, the keywords in the paragraph A is government and environmental management
- Browse through all headings and match any headings that are very obvious and you are sure about. Usually by this step, you can already find the answer. However, if there is more than one heading, and you are not sure which one is correct, continue to the next step
- Write all potential headings beside the paragraph. Identify the difference between each of them. Pay attention to any synonyms in the paragraph to keywords in the headings. If you still can’t pick one, move one. The answer will often reveal itself later.
Follow this step by step process for each paragraph.
Using this strategy, you’re certain to find answers efficiently. Remember, this is for some of the easier question types in the reading exam, so you should aim to match each of headings in 1 minute. This way, you will have more time for the more difficult questions.
Also, if you have several question types for the same passage, always do the matching headings questions first, as the headings summarize the text and can help you scan the answers for other questions.
Free IELTS Reading Samples
Let’s do some IELTS reading practices to hone the new skills, tips, and strategies you’ve learned. You are welcome to leave your answers in the comment section.
Here is an example of Match Heading IELTS reading sample question.
Section A The role of governments in environmental management is difficult but inescapable. Sometimes, the state tries to manage the resources it owns, and does so badly. Often, however, governments act in an even more harmful way. They actually subsidise the exploitation and consumption of natural resources. A whole range of policies, from farm-price support to protection for coal-mining, do environmental damage and (often) make no economic sense. Scrapping them offers a two-fold bonus: a cleaner environment and a more efficient economy. Growth and environmentalism can actually go hand in hand, if politicians have the courage to confront the vested interest that subsidies create.
Section B No activity affects more of the earth’s surface than farming. It shapes a third of the planet’s land area, not counting Antarctica, and the proportion is rising. World food output per head has risen by 4 per cent between the 1970s and 1980s mainly as a result of increases in yields from land already in cultivation, but also because more land has been brought under the plough. Higher yields have been achieved by increased irrigation, better crop breeding, and a doubling in the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in the 1970s and 1980s.
Section C All these activities may have damaging environmental impacts. For example, land clearing for agriculture is the largest single cause of deforestation; chemical fertilisers and pesticides may contaminate water supplies; more intensive farming and the abandonment of fallow periods tend to exacerbate soil erosion; and the spread of monoculture and use of high-yielding varieties of crops have been accompanied by the disappearance of old varieties of food plants which might have provided some insurance against pests or diseases in future. Soil erosion threatens the productivity of land in both rich and poor countries. The United States, where the most careful measurements have been done, discovered in 1982 that about one-fifth of its farmland was losing topsoil at a rate likely to diminish the soil’s productivity. The country subsequently embarked upon a program to convert 11 per cent of its cropped land to meadow or forest. Topsoil in India and China is vanishing much faster than in America.
Section D Government policies have frequently compounded the environmental damage that farming can cause. In the rich countries, subsidies for growing crops and price supports for farm output drive up the price of land. The annual value of these subsidies is immense: about $250 billion, or more than all World Bank lending in the 1980s. To increase the output of crops per acre, a farmer’s easiest option is to use more of the most readily available inputs: fertilisers and pesticides. Fertiliser use doubled in Denmark in the period 1960-1985 and increased in The Netherlands by 150 per cent. The quantity of pesticides applied has risen too: by 69 per cent in 1975-1984 in Denmark, for example, with a rise of 115 per cent in the frequency of application in the three years from 1981.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s some efforts were made to reduce farm subsidies. The most dramatic example was that of New Zealand, which scrapped most farm support in 1984. A study of the environmental effects, conducted in 1993, found that the end of fertiliser subsidies had been followed by a fall in fertiliser use (a fall compounded by the decline in world commodity prices, which cut farm incomes). The removal of subsidies also stopped land- clearing and over-stocking, which in the past had been the principal causes of erosion. Farms began to diversify. The one kind of subsidy whose removal appeared to have been bad for the environment was the subsidy to manage soil erosion.
In less enlightened countries, and in the European Union, the trend has been to reduce rather than eliminate subsidies, and to introduce new payments to encourage farmers to treat their land in environmentally friendlier ways, or to leave it fallow. It may sound strange but such payments need to be higher than the existing incentives for farmers to grow food crops. Farmers, however, dislike being paid to do nothing. In several countries they have become interested in the possibility of using fuel produced from crop residues either as a replacement for petrol (as ethanol) or as fuel for power stations (as biomass). Such fuels produce far less carbon dioxide than coal or oil, and absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. They are therefore less likely to contribute to the greenhouse effect. But they are rarely competitive with fossil fuels unless subsidised – and growing them does no less environmental harm than other crops.
Section E In poor countries, governments aggravate other sorts of damage. Subsidies for pesticides and artificial fertilisers encourage farmers to use greater quantities than are needed to get the highest economic crop yield. A study by the International Rice Research Institute of pesticide use by farmers in South East Asia found that, with pest-resistant varieties of rice, even moderate applications of pesticide frequently cost farmers more than they saved. Such waste puts farmers on a chemical treadmill: bugs and weeds become resistant to poisons, so next year’s poisons must be more lethal. One cost is to human health. Every year some 10,000 people die from pesticide poisoning, almost all of them in the developing countries, and another 400,000 become seriously ill. As for artificial fertilisers, their use world-wide increased by 40 per cent per unit of farmed land between the mid 1970s and late 1980s, mostly in the developing countries. Overuse of fertilisers may cause farmers to stop rotating crops or leaving their land fallow. That, in turn, may make soil erosion worse.
Section F A result of the Uruguay Round of world trade negotiations is likely to be a reduction of 36 per cent in the average levels of farm subsidies paid by the rich countries in 1986-1990. Some of the world’s food production will move from Western Europe to regions where subsidies are lower or non-existent, such as the former communist countries and parts of the developing world. Some environmentalists worry about this outcome. It will undoubtedly mean more pressure to convert natural habitat into farmland. But it will also have many desirable environmental effects. The intensity of farming in the rich world should decline, and the use of chemical inputs will diminish. Crops are more likely to be grown in the environments to which they are naturally suited. And more farmers in poor countries will have the money and the incentive to manage their land in ways that are sustainable in the long run. That is important. To feed an increasingly hungry world, farmers need every incentive to use their soil and water effectively and efficiently.
Reading Passage 6 has six sections, A-F.
Choose the correct heading for sections A-D and F from the list of headings below.
Write the correct number i-ix in boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.
List of Headings
- The probable effects of the new international trade agreement
- The environmental impact of modern farming
- Farming and soil erosion
- The effects of government policy in rich countries
- Governments and management of the environment
- The effects of government policy in poor countries
- Farming and food output
- The effects of government policy on food output
- The new prospects for world trade
- Section A _______
- Section B _______
- Section C _______
- Section D _______
- Section F _______