IELTS Reading Resolutions: How to free yourself from traps in MATCHING FEATURES questions?

Matching is always one of the hardest question types in IELTS test because it requires you the good understanding of what the text is talking about. However, in terms of matching features questions, I think they are difficult but easy. In fact, difficulty arises from the fact that the questions do not follow the order of the text so you may have to look around to find the answer. Fortunately, as this kind of questions requires you find elements in the text that match a list of people/places, it will be very simple for you to find the correct parts using these specific names of people/places. In this blog, I will show you how to deal with this question type step by step. Besides, I will introduce you what pitfalls are waiting for you in matching features questions and tactics to tackle them.

What is matching feature questions look like?

You probably used to respond to questions like these:

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.11.49 PM

Source: IELTS Cambridge Practice Tests 10 – Test 2

You will be given a list of people (or sometimes places) and you have to match them to items in the text.

Question-solving procedure

To solve this kind of questions, you should concentrate on the names/dates/places and underline them in the text every time they occur.

So, assuming that you have finished skimming the topic heading, the questions and the passage along with underlined keywords, what you should do next are:

  1. Solve name by name: The reason to do that is because questions are not placed in order. Thus you may waste time finding the correct parts for the questions while it’s very easy to start with a specific name in the text.
  2. Scan the text for those names to find the parts with relevant information
  3. Read these parts carefully for main idea and look for synonyms in the text
  4. Use these synonyms and main idea to check back with the question and find the commensurate names/places.
  5. If you are not sure about your choice, mark it with a “?” and review it when you complete all matching or when you find the more appropriate answer.

Before giving you an illustrative example, I will show you traps that you are likely to fall into.


Traps and ways to avoid them

There are two traps that I intend to highlight here.

1- Word trap

Examiner may sometimes use words in questions that exactly the same with ones in reading passage, but the meanings is different. If you only focus on matching word and forget to check whether the meanings of sentences are equivalent, you probably walk into the trap. For example:

Reading passage:  “The first step was the construction of a working model of a steam locomotive by John Fitch in the United States in 1794”


A. John Fitch

1. legally protected the design of the working model of the steam locomotive

If you only match word, you may choose 1. However, if (1) is true, it is accepted that Fitch legally protected the design of a working model of a steam locomotive while in fact, what he did is constructing it. Hence, (1) is not true.

So what we should do to avoid this trap?

It’s obvious that you should not do word match for this type of questions. Instead, read the context so that you will not lack the point. Additionally, you could also overcome this pitfall by reading for synonyms. For example, if the question is “used animals and not steam to power a form of railway”, it is no good if you look for the word “animals” in the text. This is because the answer is given by these words:  “The Corinthians did not consider using steam to power this prototype of the railway but instead used horses and oxen”. In this case, “horses and oxen” stand for animals.

2- You may use more than one name once

Don’t be trapped into using each name just once. It may be that some names have two or more correct answers. So make sure that you read the question’s instruction carefully. If you can use any name/place more than one, you will see 2 letters NB in the instruction.

Illustrative example

I will take a reading passage from Cambridge IELTS practice Test Vol 10, Test 2, passage 2 “Gifted children and learning”


Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 11.11.49 PM

You can see that there are 5 questions with 5 names and no further requirements so I can infer that one question will be matched with one character.

The topic heading is “Gifted children and learning”, so none of them will be keywords.

Now, I will underline keyword in questions:

18: less time, exercise, accurate

19: self-reliance, reach, goals

20: channel, feeling, assist

21: benefits, support, close relatives

22: really successful, considerable, subject

Then, I will skimming through the reading passage to underline names and keywords.

Now, I will start with the first name – Freeman. Scanning this name in the text we find it in paragraph A and no other ones contains it. The answer can be found in this sentence: “For example, a very close positive relationship was found when children’s IQ scores were compared with their home educational provision (Freeman, 2010).”

close positive relationship -> benefits

home educational provision -> appropriate support from close relatives

The words in italic is our keywords, so A is the answer of question 21

Continue with the next name Shore and Kanevsky and do the same thing, we find these name in paragraph C. As we scan paragraph C we find this sentence following their names: “(Shore and Kanevsky, 1993) put the instructor’s problem succinctly: ‘If the [the gifted] merely think more quickly, then we need only teach more quickly. If they merely make fewer errors, then we can shorten the practice’.”

Compare these keywords with ones in question, we have:

fewer errors ~ accurate

shorten the practice ~less time, excercise

So B is the answer of question 28.

Now, let’s do the remaining questions by yourselves. As you are practicing, just do it slowly and apply my strategy, don’t worry about time. If you have any concerns, please leave questions in the comment box.


In this blog I have shown you the effective way to deal with matching features questions.  Overally, you should solve these questions name by name, use these names to find the parts containing relevant information. The, read these parts carefully to recognize main idea and keywords which are synonyms of the keywords in questions. Finally, compare these keywords in passage and question to find the answer.

You shouls also remember to avoid word trap and read the question’s instrument carefully.

That’s the end of my post.

Thank you for visiting my blog

See you in my next post




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