IELTS Reading- Summary Completion

In these kinds of questions you will be given a summary of information from the text and there will be some gaps in that summary.

You will either be given a list of words to fill the gaps with or asked to find the answers in the reading text.

Your job is to insert some of the words from the list into the gaps, or if asked, to fill the gaps with words from the text. .

There will be more words in the list than required to fill the gaps.

All of the information contained in the summary will also be contained in the reading text, but they will use synonyms and paraphrasing, so don’t expect to see the same words.

This type of question tests your ability:

  • to understand the general meaning of the summary
  • to scan for the correct information in the text
  • to be able to identify synonyms and paraphrases

This post will:

  • look at example questions
  • discuss common problems
  • give you tips and advice
  • provide you with a strategy to use on exam day


Below is an example of a question that asks you to fill in the gaps with words from the reading text.

ielts-reading-summary-completion IELTS Reading- Summary Completion

Below is another example, but this question is asking you to choose the correct answer from a list of options. You should notice that there are more options than answers.

ielts-reading-summary-completion-with-list IELTS Reading- Summary Completion

Common Problems

This question does not expect you to have a detailed understanding of the text. Some students lose lots of time reading the whole text and trying to understand everything. You don’t need to do this, focus more on the summary in the question.

Some students read the summary and then look for the exact same words in the reading text. You are unlikely to find these because the examiners use synonyms and paraphrasing.

A common mistake is to ignore grammar rules when completing the summary. If the sentence does not make sense grammatically, then you have the wrong answer.

The examiners also try to trick you by putting a word from the text as one of the options. Some students recognise this and think this is the correct answer. It is probably wrong because the answer will normally be a synonym rather than a matching word.


  1. Try to predict the answers before you look at the options or the text. This will help you spot the correct answer.
  2. Should the gap be filled with a verb, noun, adjective or adverb? If your answer makes the sentence grammatically wrong, then you have the wrong answer.
  3. Look for synonyms and paraphrases in the text rather than words that directly match.
  4. Don’t spend too much time looking for the answer to one question. If you can’t find it, mark what you think it might be and move on. Focusing on the easier answers is a better use of your time.
  5. The answers normally come in the same order as the questions.
  6. If you get a list of words, think about the ones that can’t be the correct answer because of meaning or grammar. You can then eliminate these words.


This is my suggested strategy. There are many different strategies and you should use the one you feel comfortable with. You can also adapt this strategy to what suits you.

  1. Read the question carefully. Note how many words you can write (normally one, two or three) and if you should get the words from the reading text or a list.
  2. Skim the summary and try to understand the overall meaning.
  3. Try to predict the answers before you look at the reading text. Also, think about the word type (noun, verb, adjective) that should be included.
  4. If you have a list of words, try to guess which 2 or 3 the answer might be. Pay attention to words that collocate well with the words in the sentence.
  5. Identify which part of the reading text the summary relates to. Scanning for synonyms from the summary will help you do this.
  6. Look at that part of the section more carefully and choose the correct answer. Remember to be careful with synonyms.
  7. Check to see if your word makes the sentence grammatically correct.

                             Examples of some summary completion

Below is an example of a question that asks you to fill in the gaps with words from the reading text.

Out of Africa: Solar energy from Sahara

Vivienne Walt reports on how the Sahara Desert could offer a truly green solution to Europe’s energy problems.

A  For years, the Sahara has been regarded by many Europeans as a terra incognita* of little economic value or importance. But this idea may soon change completely. Politicians and scientists on both sides of the Mediterranean are beginning to focus on the Sahara’s potential to provide power for Europe in the future. They believe the desert’s true value comes from the fact that it is dry and empty. Some areas of the Sahara reach 45 degrees centigrade on many afternoons. It is, in other words, a gigantic natural storehouse of solar energy.


B  A few years ago, scientists began to calculate just how much energy the Sahara holds. They were astonished at the answer. In theory, a 90,600 square kilometer chunk of the Sahara- smaller than Portugal and a little over 1% of its total area- could yield the same amount of electricity as

all the world’s power plants combined. A smaller square of 15,500 square kilometers about the size of Connecticut could provide electricity for Europe’s 500 million people. ‘I admit I was skeptical until I did the calculations myself,’ says Michael Pawlyn, director of Exploration Architecture, one of three British environmental companies comprising the Sahara Forest Project, which is testing solar plants in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Pawlyn calls the Sahara’s potential ‘staggering’.


C  At the moment, no one is proposing the creation of a solar power station the size of a small country. But a relatively well-developed technology exists, which proponents say could turn the Sahara’s heat and sunlight into a major source of electricity- Concentrating Solar Power [ CSP). Unlike solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into electricity, CSP utilizes mirrors which focus light on water pipes or boilers to produce very hot steam to operate the turbines of generators. Small CSP plants have produced power in California’s Mojave Desert since the 1980s. The Sahara Forest Project proposes building CSP plants in areas below sea level [the Sahara has several such depressions) so that sea water can flow into them. This water would then be purified and used for powering turbines and washing dust off the mirrors. Waste water would then supply irrigation to areas around the stations, creating lush oases – hence the ‘forest’ in the group’s name.



Complete the summary below.


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


Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)

Unlike solar panels, CSP concentrates the sun’s rays on boilers by using 1………………… . The resulting heat produces high-temperature 2 …………………, which in turn moves the turbines which generate electricity. CSP plants will be situated in 3……………….. to allow sea water to run in. This, when purified, can be used to wash the equipment. The resulting dirty water will be used for

 4…………….. around the power plant, and in this way oases will be formed.



      Making a change

How easy is it for us to change our lives — and why?


In 1990, a young American named Christopher McCandless gave up his career plans, left behind everyone he knew, including his family, and went off on an adventure. He was 22 at the time. In an act of kindness, he donated all his savings to the famous charity, Oxfam International, and hitchhiked his way through America to Alaska. His

decisions were so unusual for his age that Jon Krakauer wrote a book about them called Into the Wild, and Sean Penn directed a film that had the same title. of course, this is an unusual story. Most college graduates would not do quite the same thing. However, studies do show that in teenage years, people are more likely to try out new experiences. Instead of following the family career path, for example, and working his way up the same organisation like his grandfather did, a 15-year-old may dream about becoming a traveller only to find in his early 20s that this fascination with new places is declining and change is less attractive. This age-related trend can be observed in all cultures.


The reason why people all over the world become less keen to change as they get older may be because people’s lives generally follow similar patterns and involve similar demands. Most people, wherever they are, aim to find a job and a partner. As they get older, they may have young children to look after and possibly elderly family

members. These responsibilities cannot be achieved without some degree of consistency, which means that new experiences and ideas may not have a place in the person’s life. New experiences may bring excitement but also insecurity, and so most people prefer to stay with the familiar.


However, not every individual is the same. One toddler may want to play a different game every day and get fed up if nothing changes at the nursery. Another may seek out and play with the same children and toys on every visit. Young children who avoid new experiences will grow up to be more conventional than others. Psychologists

argue that those who have more open personalities as children are more open than others might be when they are older. They also suggest that young men have a greater interest in novelty than women, although, as they age, this desire for new experiences fades more quickly than it does in women.


The truth is that, as we get older, we prefer the things we know. We tend to order the same meals in restaurants, sit on the same side of the train when we commute to work, go on holiday to the same places and construct our day in the same way. If you are older than 20, remember that your openness to new experiences is slowly declining. So you are better off making a new start today than postponing it until later.



Complete the summary using the list of words and phrases, A-J, below.


Fenn’s Memory Experiments

The groups in the study saw or heard lists of words at 1…………….. & times of the day. After 2…………………. hours, the groups tried to identify these words correctly in a test. Before the test, one group had 3……………….. sleep and chose the words in the evening. The other group had their test in the morning. In three experiments, the results were 4 ………….. : The groups that had slept during the experiment remembered 5…………………. Words.


A more B complex C 12 D Six E Less
F ten G different H No I fewer J Same


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