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IELTS Listening: Sentence Completion

Updated: Apr 20

Sentence completion questions are one of the less common types of IELTS Listening questions but you need to know how to answer them in case you do get one.

They are a type of gap fill question where you must listen to the recording and fill in the missing words in the sentences to complete them. It's very often the ending of the sentence that you'll have to complete but you may also have to fill in words within sentences.

Sentence completion questions can appear in any section of the IELTS Listening test but as long as you have a good strategy to follow, you’ll be able to answer them successfully.

Here are two IELTS Listening sentence completion questions from past papers.

IELTS Listening Sentence Completion – Sample Question 1


The recording for this sample question is a telephone conversation between a member of staff at Burnham Tourist Office and a tourist.

IELTS Listening Sentence Completion – Sample Questions 2


The recording for this sample question is a discussion between two friends about studying with the Open University. Rachel has already done a course at the university, but Paul has not.

I’m going to use this second example to teach you the answer strategy and give you tips and advice on how to overcome the challenges presented by this type of question.



Strategy & Tips

You will have a short time to prepare before the speakers begin talking. Use this time to familiarise yourself with the question and focus your mind on what you need to listen out for.


1) Read the instructions

Read the instructions carefully, paying particular attention to how many words you are allowed to write for the answer.

The instructions for our sample question state that you must,


Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer.


If you write more than two words, your answer will be marked incorrect even if the information you give is correct.



2) Answer order

The answers will come in the same order in the recording as they are listed in the question so, for this question, you will hear answer 27 first, then answer 28 and so on. This makes it easier to pick out the answers than if they were in random order.



3) Predict the answers

Try to predict what the answers might be. This will focus your mind on what to listen out for in the recording.

Occasionally, you may be able to predict the actual word but it should certainly be possible to determine the type of word needed to fill each gap, such as:

a noun, an adjective, a verb


Can you predict what types of words are missing in our sentence completion practice question?

Here are the 4 sentences:

  • Studying with the Open University demanded a great deal of 27 ………………… .

  • Studying and working at the same time improved Rachel’s 28 …………………… skills.

  • It was helpful that the course was structured in 29 …………………… .

  • She enjoyed meeting other students at 30 …………………… .


They will all be nouns.



4) Synonyms and paraphrasing

Synonyms and paraphrasing will be used extensively in the recording. So, you will not only be listening for the exact words that are used in the sentences but also, different words and phrases that have the same meaning.

Rachel is probably not going to say,

Studying with the Open University demanded a great deal of ……. .


She will say it in a different way. For example,

My studies required a high level of ….


These synonyms have been used in this example:

demanded = required

great deal = high level


So, another good use of your preparation time is to underline key words and phrases and quickly think of synonyms that might be used. These are the most likely words to be replaced in our sample sentences:


Studying with the Open University demanded a great deal of 27 …………………… .

Studying and working at the same time improved Rachel’s 28 …………………… skills.

It was helpful that the course was structured in 29 …………………… .

She enjoyed meeting other students at 30 …………………… .


Any clues you can get will help you to understand the recording and identify the information needed for the answers.

We’ll look at the synonyms and paraphrasing that have been used in this question when we review the answers.



5) Grammatical accuracy

Check that each sentence is grammatically correct once you’ve added your answer. If it is not, then your answer is incorrect.

You may have to change the form of a word you identify as correct to make the sentence grammatically correct. For example,

Recording text: John – “I’m so frustrated that the insurance company are taking so long to settle my claim.

Sentence: John found it very (frustrating) that his accident claim was not sorted quickly.



6) Guess if necessary

My final tip is to never leave a blank space on the answer sheet. If you miss an answer, take an educated guess. This gives you at least some chance of getting it right. Don’t stress about a missed answer or it will affect your ability to answer the next set of questions. Just make your choice and move on.


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