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A Guide for IELTS Reading Sentence Completion Question

You will be given some incomplete sentences with gaps in them. You will need to complete the sentences by filling the gaps based on the reading text. This question is highly dependent on vocabulary. You may not get the exact words that you are looking for. Always you need to stay aware of paraphrases and synonyms. Look at the actual test question below:

IELTS Reading Sentence Completion

Source: Cambridge English IELTS Past Papers

In the example above, you can see that the instruction sentence is telling you two important things:

  1. Choose no more than two words

  2.  Select the words from the passage for each answer. 

That means you can use one word or two words, but not more than two words to fill a gap. And your answer must be there in the passage. That means, in the reading text, you will find the required words that you need to fill the gaps.

Common Problems

There are some common problems that students face when they answer this question:


Ignoring Instruction Sentence

Some students tend to ignore the instruction sentence. Whereas in the instruction, it is clearly mentioned how many words you are allowed to use to answer each question.

Using Words from the Passage

Sometimes you will find the instruction sentence saying 'using words from the text', or 'from the text', which means you can change neither the word nor the word form that is used in the reading text. In this case, you must choose the words from the reading text only. you are not allowed to use synonyms or paraphrases to answer this question. Many students miss this important trick, they go for synonyms or paraphrases, and end up throwing easy marks. 

It is a common tendency for many students to look for the matching words in the reading text with the words they find in the question sentence. They tend to forget that most of the time they need to search for synonyms and paraphrases.

Solution Tips

Look at the instruction sentence at first. Check how many words you are required to use to answer each question.


Take a close look at the instruction whether you are asked to use the same words as they appear in the reading text or you need to be aware of synonyms and paraphrases to answer this question.

Your answer has to be grammatically correct. Check which forms of words will be there in the gaps, it can be verb, adverb, adjective, noun etc. Check our discussion on essential grammar for IELTS. It will give a boost to your grammar skill for the test.

Read the incomplete sentence first and try to predict the answer before you read the passage.

When you scan for your answer in the reading text, keep the meaning in your mind, not any specific word. Because if you remember just the meaning, you will stay alert to catch any synonyms or paraphrases that represent that meaning in the text. Otherwise, you might be biased to find a specific word, and you will miss the synonyms or paraphrases.

You might like the following resources:

How to paraphrase a sentence

Essential grammar and vocabulary for IELTS

Check the other question types with detailed discussions for the Reading section:

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