How do deal with words you don’t understand. IELTS reading


Here’s the first verse in a very famous English poem called ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll. It’s a children’s poem and uses words that the author made up himself.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

The words are meant to be nonsense and have no meaning in English, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t answer basic linguistic questions about them.

How could you describe a tove? It’s slithy

What things do toves do? They gyre and gimble.

What did the borogroves look like? They were mimsy.

Often in the IELTS reading exam, the subject matter will ‘look’ very complex. For example you might read an article about plants or chemicals you have never heard of before, or parts of a machine, anything difficult. Crucially, you don’t need to understand what these terms mean to answer the questions correctly. IELTS exam papers test your English and not what you know about the world.

For more help with the IELTS exam – check out Richard L King’s excellent book, Teach yourself IELTS: Reading



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