Tips for 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 need 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.
- Grammar. Does the gap need a noun, adjective, verb or adverb? is it plural or singular? Here you need to make sure the 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, 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 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.
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.
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’
Click below to see the text and the task, then check your answers after trying it.
Develop your knowledge of collocations and synonyms
Understanding synonyms and paraphrasing effectively are the most 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