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Reading task type one: summary completion

Task description

The input for this type of question will be a summary of all or part of the reading text. The summary will contain a number of gaps. All of the information in the summary will be contained in the reading text, although the words used will be different. You will also be provided with a list of words to use to fill the gaps. There will be more words than gaps. These words have been chosen so that only one word will be suitable for each gap (the answer) but other words may appear suitable (distracters).

Your task is to complete the summary using one word from the list for each gap. Because the summary is a paraphrase of the reading text (rather than an edited version), you will need to have a good understanding of the overall meaning and main points of the section summarised, rather than a detailed understanding of the text.

What is being tested is your ability to:

  • skim the text for information
  • paraphrase the original text

Sample task


Complete the summary below. Choose your answers from the box at the bottom of the page and write them in boxes 1-8 on your answer sheet.

NBThere are more words than spaces so you will not use them all. You may use any of the words more than once.

passengers happy float advanced
lifeboats confident dangers ocean
worried inadequate enormous excitement
fast handbook water float
record fast procedures orders
drown size sink safety

The Finest Ship Ever Built
The North Atlantic Ocean crossing on the Titanic was expected to set a new standard for oceantravel in terms of comfort and safety The shipping industry had an excellent safety record on the North Atlantic Crossing over the previous forty years and the Titanic was the finest and safest liner ever built. The Titanic combined the greatest technology of the day with sheer size, luxury and new safety features. The Titanic’s owners were confident that even if the Titanic were letting in watershe would float indefinitely until help arrived. In hindsight we know that the Titanic was not unsinkable and that technology alone could not save lives when facilities were inadequate and humans did not follow safe procedures whether because of arrogance or ignorance.

How to approach summary completion questions


Step 1: Read the instructions carefully. Note that in this case you have to choose your answers from the words provided. Also note that in this case you can use any word more than once. Remember though that every IELTS test is different. So make sure that you read the instructions carefully even if you have practised the type of question before.
Step 2: Skim through the summary to get an idea of the topic. In this case the summary refers generally to peoples’ views about the Titanic in terms of safety.
Step 3: Decide which section of the text the summary covers – in this case mainly paragraphs A and C. In some cases the summary may cover the whole text.
Step 4: Read through the summary, referring to the list of words each time you reach a gap. Select one or more possible words from the list to fill each gap. Reject any words that do not fit grammatically, even if the meaning seems correct. Confirm your choice by referring to the relevant sections of the text.
Step 5: Quickly read through your completed summary to check that it makes sense.

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