IELTS Reading Resolutions: SUMMARY COMPLETION – How to make it done as quick as a wink?

SUMMARY COMPLETION question is typical and it appears quite frequently in real IELTS Reading tests. To succeed in this question, you should acquire the ability to understand the general meaning of the summary, the ability to scan for the correct information in the text as well as to identify synonyms and paraphrases. This article will provide you with a simple but successful strategy and some useful tips to tackle this type of question. 

What do summary completion questions look like?

In general, this question type will ask you to complete a summary of the reading passage by selecting words from (1) a box or (2) the reading passage.

For example:

<Complete summary by selecting words from a box>

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<Complete summary by selecting words from passage>

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Features of summary completion questions

This question type has the following characteristics:

  • the summary may relate to the whole passage or only a part of it
  • there are more words in the box than questions (if you are given a box)
  • the text of the summary will follow the order of the text of the passage
  • the words on the box are not usually the same as in the reading passage

What skills need to succeed in this question type?

To be successful in summary completion question, you need to:

  • Reading skill: You should read a text quickly and understand its general meaning
  • Vocabulary skill: You need this skill to recognize “synonyms” or “paraphrasing”.
  • Grammar: Each word you place in the summary must fit in grammatically, so it’s vital to know whether you need a noun, adjective, verb or adverb.


Question-solving procedure

I still use the keyword technique to find the correct words. To use this technique, you should ensure you have read the topic heading (if any) and skim through all questions and highlight keywords in these questions before look through the passage.

Step 1: Read the instructions to the questions and the summary title very 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. The title of the summary can help you understand what the summary talks about and enhance the probability that you may find the relevant parts while reading the passage.

Step 2: Skim through the summary (questions) ignoring the blanks and underlining keywords

You should do this to understand its general idea of the summary and it may assist you when you find the part including relevant information. Don’t forget underlining keywords which will help us find the correct words later. You should note to underline keywords in the sentence containing the gaps.

<Before come to step 3, make sure you have finished skimming through the passage already>

Step 3: Identify which part of the passage the summary relates to.

You don’t want to waste time looking at parts of the passage that are not included in the summary. To do this, you should look at the first and last questions in the summary.

Step 4: Look at each gap in turn

When looking at each gap, try to predict which word is missing from your understanding of the text. Then see if any of the options match your prediction. Remember to look through all the words.

Step 5: Check with the passage

You should use keyword technique to identify the correct part of the passage but remember you are looking for synonyms. Read carefully the part you identified and find correct words to fill in the blanks.

Step 6: Check grammatical accuracy

You should check whether the words you found meet grammatical requirement. Think about nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.


Tips for summary completion questions

Tip 1

Try to predict the answers before you look at the options or the text. This will help you spot the correct answer.

Tip 2

Use your grammatical knowledge to checking whether the missing word is noun, verb, adjective or adverb. Doing this will help you eliminate a number of words that fail to meet grammatical requirement.

Tip 3

Look for synonyms and paraphrases in the text rather than only do word matching. If you only match word by word, you are easy to fall in word trap of examiner.

Tip 4

Don’t get stuck on any one question. If you can’t find the answer, move on and come back to it later. You should remember that focusing on the easier answers is a better use of your time

Tip 5

The answers normally come in the same order as the questions. For example, if the answer of question 2 is found in the third sentence of a paragraph, the answer for question 1 cannot appear in sentences behind this third sentence.

Now I will give you an example.

Illustrative example

As this is the first example, I will make it simple by taking a passage from Cambridge IELTS test Vol 9 test 4 passage 2. If you do not have it on your hand, please download the ebook here.

Reading passage

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Now, when we read the topic heading “Young children’s sense of identity” we could say certainly that none of these words will be keywords in both questions and the reading passage.

Next, we move to the question and come into Step 1

Step 1: Read the instructions to the questions and the summary title very carefully

As stated in the question, we find that we can only use ONE word from the PASSAGE to fill out each gap. When we read the summary’s title, we would know that this will be the summary of the process of acquiring sense of indenity.

Step 2: Skim through the summary (questions) and ignore the blanks

Now I will skim through the summary and underline some keywords.


  • effect, the world, image, move, face, difficult, research directly, because
  • Western society, linked to, disputes.

Before moving to step 3, I hope you have finished skimming through the passage for main idea and underlining keywords.

Step 3: Identify which part of the passage the summary relates to

It’s time to apply keyword technique.

Assuming that you identified keywords for all paragraphs, what you should do next is searching keywords of questions on the passage.

When you search for words: “effect”, “the world”, “image”, you can firstly see them in paragraph C. Then, you go with the last sentence in the summary with a gap of question 26 with the keyword “Western society”. Scanning through the passage you will see this word in paragraph H. So you can conclude that the answers can be found from Paragrah C to H.

Now continued to find the remaining keywords like “difficult”, “research directly”, you will not find them in C. So you should go further to paragraph D. In this paragraph

Step 4 & 5: Look at each gap in turn & Check with the passage

We will start at question 25. As stated in step 3, the answer for this question stay in paragraph C. The general meaning of this question is when young children face something, they cause the image to move. Now let’s find what they face in the passage. By focusing on the word “image” and strong word “However”, we could find the correct answer is “mirror”. Why do I know?

It’s very simple, I do some word comparison.

image = image (main keyword)

move ~ movement (supporting keyword)

face ~ see

so, what children face/see is mirror

Do the same step for question 26 you find the correct word is “communication” in paragraph D

Empirical investigations ~ research

because of ~ because

difficulties ~ difficult

For question 27, we use the main keyword “Western society” and strong word “Although”, we can find the correct answer is “Ownership” because:

“Western society” = “Western society”

disputing ~ disputes

link ~ linked to

Step 6: Check grammatical accuracy

We can see that all answers are nouns and meet grammatical requirement

That’s the end of my post.

Thank you for visiting my blog

See you in my next post








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