IELTS Reading Tips | Summary Completion Question

The following guide will help you maximise your score
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    The following guide will help you maximise your score

  • A summary provides a short and clear description of content mentioned in a text or a speech. In IELTS Reading, there will be a summary that will re-tell the main ideas of a text. That summary will have gaps that must be filled using words from the passage or from a list of options.
  • Understanding the general meaning of the passage is a challenge to some candidates, and strong skimming and scanning skills are necessary for the completion of such task.
IELTS Reading Tips - Summary Completion

General notes for the IELTS Reading Test:

  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Read and paraphrase the passage title and questions (say what they mean in other words).
  • Skim the text – read it quickly to get the general idea.
  • Scan the text – read it quickly to find specific information to answer the question.
  • Underline or circle any words, dates or names that stand out.
  • Use your time effectively – approximately 20 minutes on each passage (reading, answering questions, transferring answers to the answer sheet in the paper test).

Useful Tips:

  • Ensure that you read and understand the instructions. If the instructions say you must choose an answer from a list of options, you must use that list. The answers will be preceded by letters, for example A-G, and you may only use those letters as your answers. If you write the word instead of the letter, your answer will be marked as incorrect, and you will not gain a point even if your answer is correct.
  • If the instructions state that you must use words from the passage, they will inform you of how many words you are allowed to use, such as: 'you may use no more than 2 words from the passage'. In this case, you will therefore only be allowed to use 1 or 2 words from the text as your answer for each gap. If you use more than the number indicated in the instructions, your answer will be counted as incorrect, even if it contains the correct answer.
  • If the instructions tell you to use words from the passage, make sure you only use words taken directly from the passage. You may not paraphrase or use your own words to fill in the gaps, or those will be considered incorrect, even if the meaning is correct.
  • Because this question requires you to understand general meaning, make sure that you pay attention to all the information provided, including the title, which should give you an idea of what the text is going to be about.
  • Skim the summary first. Read them quickly to get a basic understanding of their content. Then, read them again in more detail to understand the kind of information and language you need to identify in the passage.
  • Paraphrasing is the key to completing this task effectively and efficiently. Identify the key language in the title and in the summary, and paraphrase that key language (say what it means in other words). The summary will not always contain the same words as in the text, as it will be re-explaining what the text says. Therefore, paraphrasing key words and phrases in the question and title may provide you with words that are actually located in the text. Use your scanning skills to search for those paraphrases in the text, and once you have identified them, read around them to locate the language you need to use as your answer.
  • Some key information you will be able to paraphrase, such as verbs (e.g.: 'cry' could also be 'weep' of 'whine'), but other key information may include names or dates that cannot be paraphrased, although will be easier to identify in the text.
  • Pay attention to the grammar around the gaps in the questions. The grammar being used will be a good indicator of the type of language you will need to choose as your answer (verb, noun, adjective, etc). For instance, if the gap is preceded by 'want to', it is safe to assume the necessary language to fill in the gap will be a verb. Analyse the grammar to predict the type of missing language. If you need to choose an answer from a list of options, make sure that it makes grammatical sense.
  • Answers usually come in order, which will be helpful in locating the information and answers more efficiently.
  • Be very mindful of time – spend 1 or 2 minutes skimming the text, and do not try to understand every single word. The goal is to gain a general understating of the text. Detailed reading only comes in when you have scanned and located key information in the text that will help you decide on your answer for the gap. To help with time-management, read the first and last sentences of the text, and the first sentence of each paragraph will normally describe the theme of the paragraphs.

Pay attention to the helpful notes below:

  • Instructions that inform you of your word limit can be confusing. Here is a detailed explanation on how to interpret them; for example:
  • This means that you can use:
    (1 word OR 2 words OR 1 number) OR (1 word + 1 number) OR (2 words + 1 number)
  • If a number is expressed in letter form and contains more than one word (e.g: 'forty-six'), it still counts as one word. In this case: 'forty-six years old' has 4 words, but 'forty-six' is considered a single word, so 'forty-six years old' equals 1 number + 2 words.
  • Words that use hyphens (-) such 'cold-blooded' or 'fun-loving' count as one word.
  • If you find key words in the questions that are easily identifiable in the text or which you have previously found through skimming the text, answer those questions first, but ensure that you study those parts of the text carefully before deciding on an answer.
  • Do not rush your answers. If you need to choose answers from a list, several options may seem grammatically correct and/or content-appropriate for one gap. It is crucial that you focus on the meaning of the sentence surrounding the gap, so that you can choose the most suitable option.
  • Now is the time to practise this type of question:
  • Opera Singers
    Opera singers use a technique that optimizes breath control so they can sing over a full orchestra without having to use a microphone. In opera, voices are grouped into seven main categories (from highest to lowest): soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto, countertenor, tenor, baritone, and bass.
    Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage in each gap.
    There are seven principal groups of opera voices. Opera singers practise a method that maximises their , so that they can be heard over the music.

  • Paraphrasing:
  • Opera singers practise a method that maximises their ................... , so that they can be heard over the music.
  • practise a method = use a method, use/utilise a technique
    maximises = optimises
    be heard over = sing louder than
    music = musical instruments, orchestra
  • Based on the grammar and the words preceding the gap, it is safe to assume the answer will be a noun.
  • Explanation:
  • Below is the part of the text where the answer is found:
  • 'Opera singers use a technique that optimizes breath control so they can sing over a full orchestra without having to use a microphone.'
  • use a technique = practise a method
    optimizes = maximises
    breath control = correct answer
    sing over a full orchestra = be heard over music
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Nabiollah FarahmandFeb 18, 2024
Very useful! Thank you!
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Elham SevenMar 21, 2024
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Amirhossein EslamiApr 08, 2024
It was so general and practical I Appreciate.
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