IELTS Reading: Summary Completion

Lesson on Summary Completion (Gap Fills)

The summary completion tasks in IELTS reading are a short summary of the text, it could be about 4 or 6 sentences or it could be a whole paragraph. 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 correct use of synonyms are key skills that needs to be developed, not just in summary completion tasks but for IELTS overall.

What skills are being assessed here?

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.

Points to consider:

  • Grammar. Does the gap need a noun, adjective, verb? is it plural or singular? make sure the sentence makes grammatical sense.
  • Do not spend too much time reading the whole text , you just need to 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 key words, 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, you then need to read in detail in that area of the text where you feel the answer could be.
  • Understanding how words collocate or go together 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 from 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’


Try it for yourself

Here is a practice test from the British council, click here to download , go to page 10 and page 14 to see the summary completion tasks..when you have tried it click here for the answers


Key skills for IELTS reading

I would say that understanding synonyms well and paraphrasing effectively are the most important skills to master. I advise reading non IELTS material also to help with vocabulary. If you just do practice test after practice test it will be hard to develop this skill. Work on building your vocabulary and write example sentences. Do not just build a word list, you need to see the new word in a sentence.

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

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Don`t copy text!