IELTS Reading: summary completion lesson

7 tips and an exercise for summary completion (gap fills)

Updated:  September 2023

In IELTS reading, the summary completion tasks are gap fill exercises and these are a summary of the text. It could be about 4 to 6 sentences or it could be a whole paragraph. In this case, you need to either choose the correct word from a list, or there may not be a choice of words so you have to decide what words match.

There are 2 types of summary completion tasks in IELTS. In most cases, the answers are in order in the passage. Understanding paraphrasing and how to spot synonyms are key skills that need to be developed here, not just in summary completion tasks but for IELTS reading overall.

What skills are being assessed?

This part of the reading is testing your ability to identify main ideas. The smaller summary completion tasks, which could just be 5 or 6 lines of text, are testing your ability to identify supporting details. You do not need to understand the whole text.

7 tips for summary completion.

  • Think about the grammar. Does the gap need a noun, an adjective, a verb, or an adverb? is it plural or singular? Here you need to make sure the whole sentence makes grammatical sense.
  • Do not spend too much time reading the whole text, just target the information in the main text to fill the gaps. The answers usually come in order.
  • Understanding synonyms and paraphrasing is a key skill for all IELTS readings, especially the summary completion tasks.
  • Underline the keywords and use ‘guessing meaning from context‘ skills if you do not understand words. Click here for a lesson on guessing meaning from context.
  • Skim the summary and then find the part of the text where the answer could be, then read in detail in that area of the text where you feel the answer could be.
  • Understanding collocations and chunks of language is also a key skill to develop.
  • Make sure you read the instructions carefully.

Examples of the two types of summary completion tasks.

The first type of summary task contains a box of words to choose from, you will need to choose the correct words for the gaps. There will always be more words than you need.

IELTS reading

Read the instructions carefully because it usually says for example: ‘write the correct letter from A-K in boxes 23-36 on your answer sheet’  In this case you do not write the word, just the letter.


The second type of summary task does not contain a choice of words. You will need to choose the correct words for the gaps in the text. Always remember that IELTS is full of paraphrasing so you will need to understand synonyms and paraphrased sentences to get the answers.

IETS summary completion

As before, read the instructions carefully because it usually says something like: ‘Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from paragraphs C and D for each answer’

Lets Practice

 Note: This is an extract from a Part 3 text about the ‘Plain English’ movement, which promotes the use of clear English. ‘The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language’, David Crystal, 3rd Edition, © Cambridge University Press, 2010.

The instructions accompanying do-it-yourself products are regularly cited as a source of unnecessary expense or frustration. Few companies seem to test their instructions by having them followed by a first-time user. Often, essential information is omitted, steps in the construction process are taken for granted, and some degree of special knowledge is assumed. This is especially worrying in any fields where failure to follow correct procedures can be dangerous.

Objections to material in plain English have come mainly from the legal profession. Lawyers point to the risk of ambiguity inherent in the use of everyday language for legal or official documents and draw attention to the need for confidence in legal formulations, which can come only from using language that has been tested in court over the course of centuries. The campaigners point out that there has been no sudden increase in litigation as a consequence of the increase in plain English materials.

Similarly, professionals in several different fields have defended their use of technical and complex language as being the most precise means of expressing technical or complex ideas. This is undoubtedly true: scientists, doctors, bankers and others need their jargon in order to communicate with each other succinctly and unambiguously. But when it comes to addressing the non-specialist consumer, the campaigners argue, different criteria must apply.




1. frustration
2. first-time user
3. essential
4. special knowledge
5. legal formulations

Develop your knowledge of collocations and synonyms

Understanding synonyms and collocations effectively are important skills to master. I also advise reading non-IELTS material to help with vocabulary. If you just keep doing practice test after practice test it will be hard to develop this skill.

Work on building your vocabulary and write your own example sentences. Don’t just build a word list as it is easy to forget the words. Investigate the words you learn don’t memorise them.

Here is a good exercise to show you how paraphrasing works click here to see more

Leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Leave a Comment

Don`t copy text!