top of page

IELTS Reading Sentence Completion Tips and Strategies

Sentence Completion questions in the IELTS Reading exam can be a real challenge. Understanding what this question type is all about, the challenges candidates face, and the effective strategies to ace it are vital to your success. In this guide, we’ll walk you through every step with examples from previous real test questions and expert insights.

IELTS Reading Sentence Completion Tips and Strategies - IELTS Luminary

Well, if you are struggling with IELTS Reading, our comprehensive eBooks can guide you through every step, offering tips, strategies, and practice questions. Click here to start improving your score today!

What is Sentence Completion in IELTS Reading?

In the IELTS Reading test, Sentence Completion questions require candidates to complete sentences with missing words. You will be provided with a reading passage, and some sentences will be given with blank spaces. Your task is to find the correct words from the passage to fill in the gaps.

IELTS Reading Tips and Strategies eBook - IELTS Luminary

Structure and Format

Sentence Completion questions come in different forms:

  1. Single Word Answers: You may be required to fill in the blank with a single word from the passage.

  2. Short Phrases: Sometimes, the answer might be a short phrase or a couple of words.

  3. Numbers or Dates: The answer might be a specific number or date mentioned in the passage.

The instructions will usually indicate the maximum number of words you can use.

Here are some examples of Sentence Completion question types for the IELTS Reading exam, along with the corresponding answers:

Example 1:

Reading Passage: "The ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted, covering the town in a thick layer of ash and pumice."


Sentence Completion: "Pompeii was buried in ash and ______ in 79 AD after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius."

Answer: "pumice"

Example 2:

Reading Passage: "The honeybee is a social insect that lives in large colonies. The queen bee is the only female that lays eggs and can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day."

Sentence Completion: "In a honeybee colony, the ______ is the only female that lays eggs, and she can lay up to ______ eggs daily."

Answer: "queen bee, 2,000"

Example 3:

Reading Passage: "The Amazon Rainforest, often referred to as the 'lungs of the Earth,' spans over 2.7 million square miles and contains over 390 billion individual trees."

Sentence Completion: "Known as the 'lungs of the Earth,' the Amazon Rainforest covers an area of over ______ square miles and is home to more than ______ individual trees."

Answer: "2.7 million, 390 billion"

Example 4:

Reading Passage: "The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 transformed the way information was disseminated, leading to a rapid spread of knowledge."

Sentence Completion: "The ______ was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 and revolutionized the distribution of information."

Answer: "printing press"

Example 5:

Reading Passage: "Albert Einstein, born in Germany in 1879, is best known for his theory of relativity. His work has significantly influenced modern physics."

Sentence Completion: "Born in Germany in _______, Albert Einstein's contributions, especially his theory of _______, have greatly impacted the field of modern physics."

Answer: "1879, relativity"

These examples showcase different types of Sentence Completion questions that may appear in the IELTS Reading exam. They test your ability to read for detail, synthesize information, and recognize specific information within the text.

For more in-depth insights on Sentence Completion or any other IELTS Reading topics, our specially crafted eBooks are at your disposal. They're packed with examples, explanations, and expert advice to help you succeed.

Well, don’t worry if you are still confused about this question type. We are going to give you more detailed example answering real test questions.

At first, please read this part of the passage taken from the Cambridge IELTS-18 Academic test paper:

“On top of a striking new exhibition hall in southern Paris, the world’s largest urban rooftop farm has started to bear fruit. Strawberries that are small, intensely flavoured and resplendently red sprout abundantly from large plastic tubes. Peer inside and you see the tubes are completely hollow, the roots of dozens of strawberry plants dangling down inside them. From identical vertical tubes nearby burst row upon row of lettuces; near those are aromatic herbs, such as basil, sage and peppermint. Opposite, in narrow, horizontal trays packed not with soil but with coconut fibre, grow cherry tomatoes, shiny aubergines and brightly coloured chards.

Pascal Hardy, an engineer and sustainable development consultant, began experimenting with vertical farming and aeroponic growing towers- as the soil-free plastic tubes are known – on his Paris apartment block roof five years ago. The urban rooftop space above the exhibition hall is somewhat bigger: 14,000 square metres and almost exactly the size of a couple of football pitches. Already, the team of young urban farmers who tend it have picked, in one day, 3,000 lettuces and 150 punnets of strawberries. When the remaining two thirds of the vast open area are in production, 20 staff will harvest up to 1,000 kg of perhaps 35 different varieties of fruit and vegetables, every day. ‘We’re not ever, obviously, going to feed the whole city this way,’ cautions Hardy. ‘In the urban environment you’re working with very significant practical constraints, clearly, on what you can do and where. But if enough unused space can be developed like this, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t eventually target maybe between 5% and 10% of consumption.’ ”

Now, notice the questions that appeared in the exam, based on the given text above:

IELTS Writing Academic Task 1 Report Tips and Strategies eBook - IELTS Luminary
IELTS Writing Task 2 Essay Tips and Strategies eBook - IELTS Luminary
IELTS Reading Tips and Strategies eBook - IELTS Luminary
IELTS Speaking eBook - How to Achieve a High Band Score in IELTS Speaking - IELTS Luminary
IELTS Vocabulary List with Meanings and Examples

Complete the sentences below.

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

Write your answers in boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.

 Urban farming in Paris

1. Vertical tubes are used to grow strawberries, …………………… and herbs.

2. There will eventually be a daily harvest of as much as …………………… in weight of fruit and vegetables.

3. It may be possible that the farm’s produce will account for as much as 10% of the city’s …………………… overall.”

Before looking at the solutions, try to answer these questions on your own. This practice will help you learn and understand better.

We hope you have tried yourself and found these answers:

We hope you have tried yourself and found these answers:

1. Correct Answer: lettuces

2. Correct Answer: 1,000kg

3. Correct Answer: (food) consumption

But if you can't answer these questions, don't worry! That's exactly why you're reading this post, and we're here to help. We'll provide the correct answers, show you how to find them, and explain what might have distracted you.

Well, not only on the Sentence Completion type, if you are stuck on any question type, check our IELTS Reading eBook. It offers step-by-step how to answer each question type ensuring 100% accuracy, giving you the tools and confidence, you need to excel. Grab your copy now!


Let's take a look at the questions and the corresponding correct answers, and analyze why they are correct, as well as what might distract a candidate from choosing these answers.

Question 1:

"Vertical tubes are used to grow strawberries, …………………… and herbs."

Correct Answer: lettuces

Explanation: The correct answer can be found in this sentence from the passage: "From identical vertical tubes nearby burst row upon row of lettuces; near those are aromatic herbs, such as basil, sage and peppermint." This clearly states that vertical tubes are used to grow strawberries, lettuces, and herbs.

Possible Distractions: The mention of other plants growing in narrow horizontal trays might confuse some readers. They could mistakenly think that other plants like cherry tomatoes or shiny aubergines are grown in vertical tubes. The candidate must carefully read the context to avoid this error.

Question 2:

"There will eventually be a daily harvest of as much as …………………… in weight of fruit and vegetables."

Correct Answer: 1,000kg

Explanation: The passage that supports this answer is: "When the remaining two thirds of the vast open area are in production, 20 staff will harvest up to 1,000 kg of perhaps 35 different varieties of fruit and vegetables, every day." This explicitly states the weight of the daily harvest.

Possible Distractions: Other numbers in the text might distract a candidate, such as the 3,000 lettuces picked in one day or the 2,000 refrigerated kilometers the produce usually travels. The specific focus on weight and the context of the eventual harvest should guide the candidate to the correct answer.

Question 3:

"It may be possible that the farm’s produce will account for as much as 10% of the city’s …………………… overall."

Correct Answer: (food) consumption

Explanation: The relevant part of the text for this answer is: "But if enough unused space can be developed like this, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t eventually target maybe between 5% and 10% of consumption." This explains that the urban farming could account for a significant percentage of the city's food consumption.

Possible Distractions: The text discusses several aspects of urban farming, including the costs, sustainability, and techniques. Some candidates may get distracted by these details and select an incorrect term related to these themes. The context of the question and focusing on the specific percentage in relation to the city should help in identifying the correct answer.

It is true that IELTS Reading can be challenging, but with the right guidance, you can conquer it! Our eBooks are tailored to address every aspect of the reading test, ensuring that you're fully prepared. Invest in your success by exploring our eBooks today.

Key Challenges in Sentence Completion

Let's dive into the key problems or challenges that candidates face during Sentence Completion in the IELTS Reading exam and elaborate on each in extensive detail.

Understanding Context

Understanding the context in Sentence Completion refers to the ability to grasp the meaning, theme, or the specific point being made in both the sentence with the blank and the passage from which the answer must be drawn.


  • Complex Sentences: Sentences might be complex and convoluted, making it hard to identify the exact context.

  • Paraphrasing: The wording of the question might be paraphrased, requiring candidates to recognize synonyms and related terms.

  • Misinterpretation: Misunderstanding the context can lead to choosing words that fit grammatically but are contextually incorrect.



  • Careful Reading: Carefully read the surrounding sentences to get a full understanding of the context.

  • Practice with Variety: Regular practice with various texts can enhance comprehension skills.

Time Management

Time management is vital in the IELTS exam, and Sentence Completion questions can be time-consuming as candidates must locate specific information in the passage.


  • Finding Exact Location: The correct information might be hidden within a large passage, consuming valuable time.

  • Overthinking: Spending too much time overanalyzing the sentence can delay the entire process.

  • Pressure: Time pressure may lead to hasty decisions and incorrect answers.



  • Skimming and Scanning Techniques: Learn to skim the passage for the main idea and scan for specific details.

  • Create a Time Strategy: Allocate specific time for each question type and adhere to it.

Vocabulary Limitation

Vocabulary limitation refers to a candidate’s restricted knowledge of words, hindering their ability to find the exact word or phrase required to complete the sentence.


  • Unfamiliar Words: The reading passage might contain words or phrases that are unfamiliar to the candidate.

  • Synonyms: The word in the passage might be a synonym of the word in the question, requiring a deep understanding of vocabulary.

  • Phrase Matching: Sometimes, understanding the meaning of a whole phrase, rather than individual words, is necessary.



  • Regular Vocabulary Building: Regular reading and vocabulary exercises can enhance word knowledge.

  • Use Context Clues: Even if a word is unfamiliar, using clues from the surrounding text might help infer its meaning.

  • Practice with Real Test Materials: This allows candidates to become familiar with the language level and complexity of the actual exam.

Sentence Completion questions in the IELTS Reading section present a complex challenge that tests understanding, timing, and vocabulary skills. Recognizing these challenges and adopting targeted strategies to overcome them can lead to success. Here at IELTS Luminary, you can find detailed long-form articles, in-depth eBooks, and personalized essay correction services to master these challenges. Make sure you use these resources properly tailored to your need.

Also, if you have any specific questions or need further information on any of these points, please let us know in the comments below! We do read your comments seriously.

Strategies to Answer IELTS Reading Sentence Completion Questions 

1. Skim and Scan

  • Skimming: Quickly read the passage to grasp the main ideas, themes, and general structure.

  • Scanning: Look for specific information, numbers, names, or keywords related to the Sentence Completion question.


  • Time Efficiency: This approach saves time by allowing you to locate specific information quickly.

  • Overall Comprehension: Skimming helps to understand the general context, which aids in answering questions more accurately.

How to Implement

  • Read Headings and Subheadings: They usually contain the main ideas.

  • Look for First and Last Sentences: These often summarize key points.

  • Search for Specific Terms: After skimming, scan for the exact terms or concepts related to the question.

2. Keyword Matching

  • Identify Keywords in the Question: Look for specific nouns, numbers, or distinctive terms in the Sentence Completion question.

  • Find Synonyms or Related Words in the Passage: The answer might not be a direct match but may be paraphrased.


  • Precision: Helps in locating the exact part of the passage where the answer is found.

  • Avoids Misleading Information: Some information might seem relevant but is not the answer. Keyword matching helps to avoid this trap.

How to Implement

  • Underline Keywords: Physically or mentally underline the keywords in the question.

  • Look for Variations: Be aware that synonyms or paraphrased expressions may be used in the passage.

3. Use Grammar

  • Analyze Sentence Structure: Look at the sentence where the blank is to determine what part of speech is needed (e.g., noun, verb, adjective).

  • Match with the Passage: Ensure that the word or phrase from the passage fits grammatically into the sentence.



  • Eliminates Incorrect Choices: Understanding the grammatical requirement helps to dismiss words that do not fit.

  • Ensures Contextual Accuracy: Ensures that the chosen word or phrase not only matches in meaning but also in grammatical structure.

How to Implement

  • Assess the Blank Space: Is it calling for a person's name, a location, a date, an adjective, etc.?

  • Look for Clues: Prepositions, articles, and surrounding words often provide clues about the grammatical form needed.

Sentence Completion questions in the IELTS Reading exam test your ability to understand context, vocabulary, and detail. By understanding the nature of these questions, the challenges they present, and the strategies needed to overcome them, you can improve your IELTS Reading score.

Ready to take your IELTS Reading preparation to the next level? Our eBooks are designed with you in mind, providing everything from basic strategies to advanced techniques. Don’t wait - download your copy and start preparing for success!

bottom of page