How to crack matching headings in IELTS reading

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How to crack matching headings in IELTS reading

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What comes to your mind when you hear the word “heading”? An idea in the form of a couple of words that hints at what you can expect in detail later on? Yes, that is exactly the purpose that a heading serves. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, candidates taking IELTS Reading might not agree. The section, called ‘match the heading’, frequently causes difficulties.  If you are facing similar problems, read on.

A heading simply helps the reader understand the overall idea of a given text. The same goes with ‘match the heading’ type of questions in IELTS. Students often find this task tricky due to the confusing choices presented and closely related options that are provided as answers. However, by following the steps below you can ensure accurate answers. 

What should be done: Try to match the heading that reflects the main idea of a paragraph. Identifying and marking the keywords will help you do that.

What should be avoided: Do not look for the words that match the heading verbatim. It is most likely a trap. The options are always paraphrased just to confuse you further. 

One more important thing to remember is that there will always be more headings than paragraphs.

Too much information to process? Don’t worry! Below is an example of how to apply these tricks successfully. Let’s get started:

Passage:    Celebrity, privacy and the media

A  Celebrities and the media have a distinctly ‘love-hate’ relationship and, whilst they recognize their mutual dependency, striking a balance between their respective interests is an on-going challenge for both groups.

B  In the world of sports, entertainment and politics, celebrities depend on the press, social media, photography, radio and television to raise their public profile and afford them the visibility essential to success in their highly competitive professions. For example, top-class sports celebrities rely on income from commercial sponsorship to pay for expensive coaching, fitness and training facilities. In the entertainment business, glamorous award ceremonies and opening nights of much-anticipated films not only provide the cast with what is undoubtedly an enjoyable and well-deserved celebration of their success, but also an opportunity for valuable exposure to their fans as well as to influential figures in their industry.

C  At the same time, sales revenues from advertising and audience ratings are boosted by stories about famous figures, which range from casual gossip to carefully researched information, depending on their purpose and target audience.

D  The conflict between these compatible interests lies in deciding how much access the media should have to the daily lives of the famous and the amount of privacy any individual should be entitled to.

E  This clash had been intensified in the first two decades of the 21st century by recent developments in communications and digital science. There can be little doubt that the dramatic expansion of online social media has made it possible to spread rumours, true or false, instantly across the globe. This has significantly increased the power of the press to enhance or damage the reputation of any public figure. Due to advances in high-tech photographic equipment, it has become easier than ever for photojournalists to intrude on the private lives of well-known personalities without their knowledge or agreement. This has led, on many occasions, to legal battles between the media and celebrities to determine whether newspapers should be entitled to publish images of high-profile personalities taken when they are not appearing in public. Another example of how the press has used dubious methods to obtain information about famous personalities is ‘phone hacking’, or listening in to private phone calls, which has also resulted in a number of court cases.

F.  In court, a judge may decide what the press is allowed to publish about well-known figures by taking ‘public interest’ does not simply mean the number of people who would like to know more about the private lives of high-profile personalities, but how much society, as a whole, would benefit from this information.

Task: Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list given below:

  1. The reputation of famous politicians
  2. The commercial advantages of reporting on celebrities
  3. The legal position
  4. Privacy and digital technology
  5. All publicity is good publicity
  6. Conflicting demands of the press and famous figures
  7. Celebrities benefit from the publicity
  8. Fame versus privacy


A   ___vi___

B   ________

C   ________

D   ________

E   ________

F   ________

Source: Improve your skills, reading for IELTS by Jane Short

Skills required:

  • Identifying the parts of the text that gives the main idea of each paragraph.
  • Understanding the difference between the main idea and the sub-points.

Steps to follow: 

  1. Skim through the paragraph to identify the main idea.
  2. Underline all the key points of paragraph A which can be: 

Celebrities, media, love-hate relationship, mutual dependency, the balance between interests, an on-going challenge

  1. Read the headings one by one. Each time ask yourself whether it describes one of the key points of the paragraph or not. For example, in paragraph A, they have used words like celebrities and media, which can be replaced with synonyms like famous personalities and press respectively. Then they have used the term “love-hate relationship” which can be something opposite or conflicting.
  2. Analyze the list of headings and use the elimination method. Keep crossing out options that cannot be your possible answer until you are left with the options that are closest to your answers. This makes it easy for you to decide.
  3. Paragraph A matches with option (vi) as we can see the key points match with the option: celebrities/media=famous personalities/press, love-hate relationship=conflicting demands, mutual dependency
  4. Now you match the rest of the paragraphs with their appropriate headings.

Submit your answers below and we will let you know if you have cracked it!


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