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IELTS Reading Notes Completion Questions Tips and Strategies

Are you struggling with the Notes Completion Questions in the IELTS Reading exam? You're not alone! This is a common stumbling block for many candidates. At IELTS Luminary, we understand the challenges you face, and we're here to help. In this post, we'll guide you through real test examples, explaining what the Notes Completion Question type is, identifying the problems you may face, and providing strategies to overcome them. Plus, we'll share some special tips to improve your skills in this area.

IELTS Reading Notes Completion Tips and Strategies - IELTS Luminary
IELTS Reading Tips and Strategies eBook - IELTS Luminary

Understanding the Notes Completion Question Type in IELTS Reading?

You know those times when you're taking notes during a lecture or while reading, and you find that some crucial information is missing? That's where the Notes Completion Questions in the IELTS Reading exam come into play. Let's dive deep into what this question type is all about.

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What is the Notes Completion Question Type?

Imagine you're reading an exciting article or book. As you go along, you jot down some notes to remember the essential points. Now, what if some parts of those notes were missing, and you had to fill them in from the text? That's exactly what you'll be doing in the Notes Completion Questions.

Here's a simple breakdown to help you understand:

  • The Passage: You'll be given a passage to read. It might be an excerpt from a book, an article, or an interview. The text contains all the information you need to answer the questions.

  • The Notes: Alongside or below the passage, you'll find notes that summarize the main points. But watch out! Some words or phrases will be missing, and that's where you come into the picture.

  • Your Task: Your job is to find the missing words or phrases from the passage and fill them into the notes. Sounds straightforward, right? Well, it can be, but you have to be mindful of a few things.

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Why is this Important?

The Notes Completion Questions in the IELTS Reading exam might seem like a simple task, but there's more beneath the surface. Let's break down why this question type is so essential:

Understanding Main Ideas and Details

  • A Deeper Insight: These questions assess your ability to comprehend complex ideas. Can you identify the underlying themes, arguments, or messages in the text?

  • Detail-Oriented: It's not just about the big picture. You must also pick up on the finer details and nuances that give depth to the information.

More Than Just Locating Words

  • A Test of Comprehension: It's not a word-finding mission. You can't just look for exact matches between the notes and the text. You need to understand what the text is saying.

  • Synonyms and Paraphrasing: Sometimes the missing words in the notes will be paraphrased in the passage. Can you recognize when two different phrases mean the same thing?

  • Avoid the Trap: Skimming through the text looking for exact words might lead you to wrong answers. The examiners often include similar words as traps. You have to understand the context to choose the correct one.

Understanding Context

  • Grasping the Tone and Purpose: What's the author's intention? Are they arguing a point, describing a process, or narrating a story? Understanding the context helps you select the right words for the notes.

  • Linking Ideas: Sometimes, the answer to a note might be spread across different parts of the text. Can you connect the dots and synthesize the information?

Real-Life Application

  • A Valuable Skill: The ability to take accurate and meaningful notes is crucial in academic and professional settings. It helps in summarizing lectures, reading materials, meetings, and more.

  • Critical Thinking: It requires an active engagement with the text, not just a passive reading. Critical thinking skills are vital in many areas of life, and this question type helps in honing those skills.

At IELTS Luminary, we understand that this task can be challenging. That's why we've created comprehensive eBooks to guide you step-by-step through real test examples and effective strategies. We believe in your ability to excel, and we're here to support you every step of the way.

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IELTS Vocabulary List with Meanings and Examples

What Should You Look Out For?

When tackling the Notes Completion Questions, you want to be on your toes, alert, and ready. Here's a detailed look at what you should focus on:


Finding the right keywords is like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together.

  • Match Words: Look for words or phrases in the notes that correspond directly to the passage. They may not be the exact words, but the meaning should be the same.

  • Recognize Synonyms: Sometimes the passage uses different words with the same meaning. For example, if the notes say "inexpensive," the passage might use "affordable." You'll have to make the connection.

  • Use Context: Understanding the surrounding text can help you identify the correct keywords. Focus on the context to ensure that the words you choose truly fit the missing information.

Number of Words

The instructions might tell you to write "NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS." Here's why that's essential:

  • Follow the Rule: If the instructions say two words, don't write three. Even if your answer is correct, adding an extra word can cost you marks.

  • Choose Wisely: Sometimes, a single word or a short phrase will fit. Think carefully about what best fills the gap. For example, if the answer is a date, "20th century" would be considered two words.


Grammar isn't just about making your writing look good. It plays a key role in finding the right answers.

  • Fit the Sentence: The words you choose should complete the sentence in the notes grammatically. If the sentence doesn't make sense, you might have the wrong answer.

  • Watch for Plurals: Pay attention to singular and plural nouns. If the note says "animals," make sure the word you choose aligns with that plural form.

  • Consider Tense: If the note is in the past tense, the missing word should also be in the past tense. Matching the tense ensures that the sentence is coherent.


The Notes Completion Questions are like a treasure hunt where you're seeking out missing pieces of information. But with careful attention to keywords, word limits, and grammar, you can skillfully navigate this task.

Remember, practice makes perfect. And don't hesitate to delve into our IELTS Reading eBook for in-depth guidance and real test examples. We're here to ensure you've got the skills and confidence to excel.

Challenges You May Face

When we're taking on the Notes Completion Questions, it's like setting out on a journey. There's excitement, but there might be some bumps along the way. Let's talk about those challenges:

1. Identifying Keywords

Think of keywords as signposts leading you to the right answers. But sometimes, these signs might be a little hidden.

  • Why Is It Hard?: You're looking for the exact words, but the text's playing hide and seek with synonyms or using complex terms.

  • What Can You Do?: Don't worry; we've got your back! Practice honing your skills in recognizing synonyms and context clues. Like building any muscle, it gets easier with time and exercise.


2. Time Management

Time flies, especially during exams. Managing it while reading the entire text can be like running a race against the clock.

  • What's the Hold-up?: Sometimes, you might get caught up in details, rereading sections, or second-guessing yourself.

  • Our Tip: Keep calm, and practice skimming and scanning techniques. Finding that sweet balance between speed and comprehension is key, and our IELTS Reading eBook might just be the coach you need!


3. Paraphrasing Skills

Imagine someone telling the same story but using different words. That's paraphrasing, and it's a clever trick the text might use.

  • Why's It Tricky?: If the text says "economical," the note might use "cost-effective." It's like a word puzzle, isn't it?

  • We've Got You Covered: Developing a robust vocabulary and understanding different ways to express the same idea will go a long way. We'll guide you through it with examples, exercises, and insights.

Effective Strategies to Answer Notes Completion Questions

Hey, friend! Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Notes Completion Questions? I get it, but guess what? We've got some strategies up our sleeves that might just turn things around for you. Let's explore them together:

Read the Instructions Carefully

First things first, let's not dive headfirst without checking the depth, right? The instructions are like our roadmap.

  • Why It's Crucial: It's like the rulebook. If it says "NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS," we can't break that rule!

  • Our Tip: Take a moment to read and digest the instructions. It's like the starting block, ensuring we're heading in the right direction.


Skim the Passage

Now, we're not asking you to read every single word. Think of skimming as flying over the text, catching glimpses of the main ideas.

  • What's the Magic?: By getting the gist of the text, you can narrow down where the answers might be hiding.

  • How Can You Do It?: Practice skimming through various texts and summarize them in a sentence or two. It's like flexing your summarizing muscles!


Locate the Keywords

Remember those pesky hidden signposts? Well, keywords are our treasure map to locate them.

  • Why It's a Game-Changer: Keywords are like a flashlight in the dark, leading you to the right spot in the text.

  • What Can Help?: Practice, practice, practice! The more you hunt for keywords in different texts, the sharper your keyword-detecting skills will become.


Use our Comprehensive Guides

You're not alone on this adventure! Our IELTS Reading eBook is like your personal guidebook, filled with expert tips and techniques.

  • What's Inside?: Step-by-step explanations, real test examples, and insider techniques to tackle these questions with ease.

  • How Will It Help You?: It's like having a mentor by your side, breaking down each challenge and guiding you through it.

Real Test Example

Dear IELTS candidates! Grab your favorite reading spot, because we've got something special for you. We've taken a snippet right from Cambridge IELTS – 18 Academic paper, Test 2, Passage 1. Why? To give you a real taste of what the Notes completion questions in the IELTS Reading exam look like. So, sit back, read the text carefully, and let's dive into how these questions appear in the actual test. Ready? Let's go!


For centuries, historians and archaeologists have puzzled over the many mysteries of Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument that took an estimated 1,500 years to erect. Located on Salisbury Plain in southern England, it is comprised of roughly 100 massive upright stones placed in a circular layout.

Archaeologists believe England’s most iconic prehistoric ruin was built in several stages with the earliest constructed 5,000 or more years ago. First, Neolithic* Britons used primitive tools, which may have been fashioned out of deer antlers, to dig a massive circular ditch and bank, or henge. Deep pits dating back to that era and located within the circle may have once held a ring of timber posts, according to some scholars.

Several hundred years later, it is thought, Stonehenge’s builders hoisted an estimated 80 bluestones, 43 of which remain today, into standing positions and placed them in either a horseshoe or circular formation. These stones have been traced all the way to the Preseli Hills in Wales, some 300 kilometres from Stonehenge. How, then, did prehistoric builders without sophisticated tools or engineering haul these boulders, which weigh up to four tons, over such a great distance?

According to one long-standing theory among archaeologists, Stonehenge’s builders fashioned sledges and rollers out of tree trunks to lug the bluestones from the Preseli Hills. They then transferred the boulders onto rafts and floated them first along the Welsh coast and then up the River Avon toward Salisbury Plain; alternatively, they may have towed each stone with a fleet of vessels. More recent archaeological hypotheses have them transporting the bluestones with supersized wicker baskets on a combination of ball bearings and long grooved planks, hauled by oxen.

As early as the 1970s, geologists have been adding their voices to the debate over how Stonehenge came into being. Challenging the classic image of industrious builders pushing, carting, rolling or hauling giant stones from faraway Wales, some scientists have suggested that it was glaciers, not humans, that carried the bluestones to Salisbury Plain. Most archaeologists have remained sceptical about this theory, however, wondering how the forces of nature could possibly have delivered the exact number of stones needed to complete the circle.

The third phase of construction took place around 2000 BCE. At this point, sandstone slabs – known as ‘sarsens’ – were arranged into an outer crescent or ring; some were assembled into the iconic three-pieced structures called trilithons that stand tall in the centre of Stonehenge. Some 50 of these stones are now visible on the site, which may once have contained many more. Radiocarbon dating has revealed that work continued at Stonehenge until roughly 1600 BCE, with the bluestones in particular being repositioned multiple times.

But who were the builders of Stonehenge? In the 17th century, archaeologist John Aubrey made the claim that Stonehenge was the work of druids, who had important religious, judicial and political roles in Celtic** society. This theory was widely popularized by the antiquarian William Stukeley, who had unearthed primitive graves at the site. Even today, people who identify as modern druids continue to gather at Stonehenge for the summer solstice. However, in the mid-20th century, radiocarbon dating demonstrated that Stonehenge stood more than 1,000 years before the Celts inhabited the region.

Many modern historians and archaeologists now agree that several distinct tribes of people contributed to Stonehenge, each undertaking a different phase of its construction. Bones, tools and other artefacts found on the site seem to support this hypothesis. The first stage was achieved by Neolithic agrarians who were likely to have been indigenous to the British Isles. Later, it is believed, groups with advanced tools and a more communal way of life left their mark on the site. Some believe that they were immigrants from the European continent, while others maintain that they were probably native Britons, descended from the original builders.

If the facts surrounding the architects and construction of Stonehenge remain shadowy at best, the purpose of the striking monument is even more of a mystery. While there is consensus among the majority of modern scholars that Stonehenge once served the function of burial ground, they have yet to determine what other purposes it had.

In the 1960s, the astronomer Gerald Hawkins suggested that the cluster of megalithic stones operated as a form of calendar, with different points corresponding to astrological phenomena such as solstices, equinoxes and eclipses occurring at different times of the year. While his theory has received a considerable amount of attention over the decades, critics maintain that Stonehenge’s builders probably lacked the knowledge necessary to predict such events or that England’s dense cloud cover would have obscured their view of the skies.

More recently, signs of illness and injury in the human remains unearthed at Stonehenge led a group of British archaeologists to speculate that it was considered a place of healing, perhaps because bluestones were thought to have curative powers.

Questions 1-8

Complete the notes below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 1-8 on your answer sheet.


Stage 1:

●   the ditch and henge were dug, possibly using tools made from 1……………….

●   2………………. may have been arranged in deep pits inside the circle


Stage 2:

●   bluestones from the Preseli Hills were placed in standing position

●   theories about the transportation of the bluestones:

        –   archaeological:

               o   builders used 3………………. to make sledges and rollers

               o   4………………. pulled them on giant baskets

        –   geological:

               o   they were brought from Wales by 5……………….


Stage 3:

●   sandstone slabs were arranged into an outer crescent or ring



●   a theory arose in the 17th century that its builders were Celtic 6……………….



●   many experts agree it has been used as a 7………………. site

●   in the 1960s, it was suggested that it worked as a kind of 8……………….


Dear reader, before we unveil the solutions, why not give these questions a shot on your own? Trust us, there's nothing like firsthand experience to truly grasp the concepts. So grab a pen and put on your thinking cap! It's more than just a practice run – it's your chance to get a real feel for the IELTS Reading exam. You've got this!


The correct answers are:

  1. (deer) antlers

  2. (timber) posts

  3. tree trunks

  4. oxen

  5. glaciers

  6. druids

  7. burial

  8. calendar

Correct Answer Explanations

1. (deer) antlers: In the context of Stonehenge's construction, the passage specifically points to the use of deer antlers to dig the ditch and henge. Can you imagine Neolithic Britons using these primitive tools? This detail gives us a vivid picture of the innovative methods of that era.

Distraction: You might find other materials or tools mentioned, but "deer antlers" are unique in this context. Other items, like sledges, rollers, or oxen, relate to later stages of construction and could confuse you if you're not careful about the chronology.

2. (timber) posts: Correct Answer Explanation: The text talks about deep pits from the Neolithic era that might have once housed timber posts. This information provides insight into the architectural thought of the construction. Can you picture how these posts might have looked?

Distraction: Timber posts could be confused with other structural elements mentioned throughout the passage. Various other materials and construction methods might lead you astray if you don't carefully associate 'timber posts' with the specific stage of digging the ditch and henge.

3. Tree Trunks: In the construction of Stonehenge, tree trunks played a crucial role in the creation of sledges and rollers, tools theorized to have been used to move the massive bluestones from Wales to Salisbury Plain. This specific detail is essential in understanding the remarkable human ingenuity required to transport these heavy stones without modern machinery.

Distraction: There might be confusion as you read about other theories and methods of transportation. The passage discusses various ideas like floating the boulders on rafts or using wicker baskets and ball bearings. The mention of tree trunks might seem minor, but it's directly related to the building of sledges and rollers, distinguishing it from other unrelated details.

4. Oxen: The passage explores the idea that oxen, a robust breed of cattle, were employed to transport the bluestones on a combination of ball bearings and long grooved planks. This utilization of oxen illustrates a possible method that could have been within the capabilities of the builders, highlighting their ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Distraction: Again, other means of transportation are mentioned, such as floating the stones on rafts or towing them with vessels. There may also be distractions in focusing on the types of tools or materials like deer antlers or tree trunks used for other purposes in the construction. However, the explicit mention of oxen pulling the stones aligns perfectly with the question's context, differentiating it from other elements in the passage.

5. Glaciers: The mention of glaciers in the context of Stonehenge's construction refers to a theory that posits that nature, rather than humans, transported the bluestones to Salisbury Plain. Some scientists have speculated that during the last ice age, glaciers might have carried these stones from their original locations to the site. This explanation challenges other human-transport theories and demonstrates the ongoing debate and complexity surrounding Stonehenge's construction.

Distraction: You may come across several other human-made methods of transportation within the text, such as using oxen, sledges, rollers, and rafts. These might draw your attention away from the unique glacier theory. The key is to recognize that the glacier theory stands apart as a natural, not human-engineered, method of transport.

6. Druids: In the 17th century, there was a widely held belief that druids, religious leaders within Celtic society, were responsible for building Stonehenge. This theory has captivated imaginations and continues to be a part of the cultural understanding of Stonehenge, even though it has been disproven.

Distraction: As you read on, you'll discover information showing that Stonehenge actually predates the Celtic civilization and the druids by thousands of years. This later information might confuse you and cause you to question the earlier statement about the druids. It's essential to understand that while the druid theory was popular, it's not currently supported by archaeological evidence.

7. Burial: Stonehenge's function as a burial ground is widely accepted by modern scholars. Archaeological evidence, such as human remains and funerary artifacts found in and around the site, supports this theory. While Stonehenge's purpose might have evolved or had multiple functions over time, the use as a burial ground seems to be one of its primary roles.

Distraction: You may come across other speculated purposes for Stonehenge within the text, such as its use as a calendar or healing place. These theories can distract you from the specific evidence pointing to its function as a burial ground. Understanding the archaeological findings that link Stonehenge to burial practices can help you focus on this correct answer.

8. Calendar: During the 1960s, a theory emerged that Stonehenge functioned as an astronomical calendar. This theory suggests that the alignment of the stones corresponds to specific astrological phenomena, such as solstices and equinoxes. By tracking the sun's position throughout the year, Stonehenge could have served as a complex timekeeping tool.

Distraction: Other speculations regarding Stonehenge's purpose, including its role as a burial ground or a place for healing rituals, might divert your attention from the calendar theory. It's vital to recognize the unique details of the calendar theory, such as the specific alignments with astrological events, to differentiate it from other potential functions of Stonehenge.

Special Tips to Improve in this Question Type

We've been on quite a journey, haven't we? Now, before we part ways, we want to leave you with some special tips that are like secret weapons in mastering the Notes Completion Questions. Ready? Let's dive in!

Practice with Real Test Examples

  • Why It's Like Gold: Practicing with real test examples is like having a rehearsal before the big show. You get a feel for what's coming.

  • Our Friendly Nudge: Grab some real test examples, and let's work through them together. Need help? Our IELTS Reading eBook has a whole section dedicated to them.


Time Yourself to Improve Speed

  • Why It's a Winning Move: Timing yourself is like training for a sprint. You learn to pace yourself and stay focused.

  • How Can You Do It?: Set a timer during practice sessions, and challenge yourself. It's like a friendly race with yourself, and guess what? You'll see improvement!


Utilize Our Detailed eBooks and Build Accuracy and Understanding

  • What's the Magic Potion?: Our eBooks are packed with insights, examples, and techniques that we've tailored just for you.

  • Why You'll Love Them?: Think of them as your study buddy, explaining things, offering shortcuts, and cheering you on.

Let's Make It Happen Together!

We know that Notes Completion Questions might have seemed like a mountain to climb, but now you've got the tools, the strategies, and the special tips. And remember, we're right here with you, every step of the way.

Want to keep exploring, practicing, and growing? Our comprehensive eBooks and Personalized IELTS Essay Correction services are just a click away. They're like a treasure trove, waiting for you to uncover all the gems inside.

So, what do you say? Let's turn those challenges into triumphs, together!

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