name='viewport'/> THE IELTS: IELTS READING TEST - SUMMARY COMPLETION QUESTIONS TIPS AND STRATEGY expr:class='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>


In these kinds of questions you will be given a summary of information from the text and there will be some gaps in that summary.

You will either be given a list of words to fill the gaps with or asked to find the answers in the reading textYour job is to insert some of the words from the list into the gaps, or if asked, to fill the gaps with words from the text. There will be more words in the list than required to fill the gaps.

All of the information contained in the summary will also be contained in the reading text, but they will use synonyms and paraphrasing, so don’t expect to see the same words.

This type of question tests your ability:
- to understand the general meaning of the summary
- to scan for the correct information in the text
- to be able to identify synonyms and paraphrases

This post will:
- look at example questions
- discuss common problems
- give you tips and advice
- provide you with a strategy to use on exam day

1. Example questions

Below is an example of a question that asks you to fill in the gaps with words from the reading text.

IELTS reading summary completion

Below is another example, but this question is asking you to choose the correct answer from a list of options. You should notice that there are more options than answers.

IELTS reading summary completion with list

2. Common Problems

1. This question does not expect you to have a detailed understanding of the text. Some students lose lots of time reading the whole text and trying to understand everything. You don’t need to do this, focus more on the summary in the question.

2. Some students read the summary and then look for the exact same words in the reading text. You are unlikely to find these because the examiners use synonyms and paraphrasing.

3. A common mistake is to ignore grammar rules when completing the summary. If the sentence does not make sense grammatically, then you have the wrong answer.

4. The examiners also try to trick you by putting a word from the text as one of the options. Some students recognise this and think this is the correct answer. It is probably wrong because the answer will normally be a synonym rather than a matching word.

3. Tips

1. Try to predict the answers before you look at the options or the text. This will help you spot the correct answer.

2. Should the gap be filled with a verb, noun, adjective or adverb? If your answer makes the sentence grammatically wrong, then you have the wrong answer.

3. Look for synonyms and paraphrases in the text rather than words that directly match.

4. Don’t spend too much time looking for the answer to one question. If you can’t find it, mark what you think it might be and move on. Focusing on the easier answers is a better use of your time.

5. The answers normally come in the same order as the questions.

6. If you get a list of words, think about the ones that can’t be the correct answer because of meaning or grammar. You can then eliminate these words.

4. Strategy 

1. Read the question carefully. Note how many words you can write (normally one, two or three) and if you should get the words from the reading text or a list.

2. Skim the summary and try to understand the overall meaning.

3. Try to predict the answers before you look at the reading text. Also, think about the word type (noun, verb, adjective) that should be included.

4. If you have a list of words, try to guess which 2 or 3 the answer might be. Pay attention to words that collocate well with the words in the sentence.

5. Identify which part of the reading text the summary relates to. Scanning for synonyms from the summary will help you do this. Look at that part of the section more carefully and choose the correct answer. Remember to be careful with synonyms.

6. Check to see if your word makes the sentence grammatically correct.


Task type and format
Test takers are given a summary of a section of the text, and are required to complete it with information drawn from the text. The summary will usually be of only one part of the passage rather than the whole. The given information may be in the form of: several connected sentences of text (referred to as a summary), several notes (referred to as notes), a table with some of its cells empty or partially empty (referred to as a table), a series of boxes or steps linked by arrows to show a sequence of events, with some of the boxes or steps empty or partially empty (referred to as a flow-chart).

The answers will not necessarily occur in the same order as in the text. However, they will usually come from one section rather than the entire text.

There are two variations of this task type. Test takers may be asked either to select words from the text or to select from a list of answers.

Where words have to be selected from the passage, the instructions will make it clear how many words/numbers test takers should use in their answers, e.g. ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage’, ‘ONE WORD ONLY’ or ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS’. If test takers write more than the number of words asked for, they will lose the mark.

Numbers can be written using figures or words. Contracted words are not tested. Hyphenated words count as single words. Where a list of answers is provided, they most frequently consist of a single word.
Because this task type often relates to precise factual information, it is often used with descriptive texts.
Task focus
Summarising assesses the test takers’ ability to understand details and/or the main ideas of a section of text. In the variations involving a summary or notes, test takers need to be aware of the type of word(s) that will fit into a given gap (for example, whether a noun is needed, or a verb, etc.).
 No. of questions

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