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IELTS Reading: Matching Sentence Endings

Updated: May 3

Explanation of this question type

The instructions will contain two lists:

· A list of incomplete sentences.

· A list of possible sentence endings.

Your task is to match them together based on the information in the reading text.

There will be more sentence endings than beginnings so you won’t need them all.

Here’s an example from a past test paper:


Skills needed

This type of question tests your ability to:

  • Scan for key words.

  • Recognise grammatical structures.

  • Identify synonyms & paraphrasing.

  • Use context to make predictions.



Key tips

1) The answers appear in the same order in the text as the order of the list of incomplete sentences.


2) Use a process of elimination to select the correct answers.


3) Don’t read the text until you’ve studied the incomplete sentences and the sentence endings.


4) You don’t need to read the whole text in detail, just the relevant sentences.


5) All the sentence endings will appear in the text but not all will match one of the incomplete sentences.


6) Synonyms and paraphrasing will be used. You are matching meaning, not the exact words.


7) The grammatical structure of the two halves of the sentence must match. If they don’t, you have the wrong match.


The Strategy

This is the method I find most effective in answering matching sentence endings questions. I’ll show you how it works in practice in the example test question below.

# 1 Read just the incomplete sentences to start with and try to understand what they mean.

# 2 Highlight key words. This will help you to focus in on the meaning and identify the words you will later scan the text for.


# 3 Now read the sentence endings to get their general meaning.

# 4 Next, start looking for possible matches. Many of the possible sentence combinations will clearly be wrong due either to meaning or grammatical structure. You can eliminate these immediately.

Here’s what to do.

a) Go to the first incomplete sentence and read it carefully.

b) Look down the list of sentence endings and note those that could be a potential match. Write their letter next to the incomplete sentence you’re considering, e.g.

1. B, C, F

2. A, E

You will probably spot at least one obviously correct match straight away and certainly many that can’t be correct and can be quickly eliminated.

This won’t take too long and you’ll end up with a comprehensive list of potential correct answers. Doing this first will narrow down your search considerably when you come to look for the right answers in the text.

(Having completed many past test papers in order to develop this strategy for you, I’ve found that I can generally predict the correct ending for about 50% of the sentences before even reading the text. The remainder I can usually narrow down to two possible answers.

Now I’m a native English speaker, of course, but you should also be able to achieve almost the same level of success if you follow the strategy and heed the tips.)

Another advantage of starting this way is that you don’t yet need to think about possible synonyms and paraphrasing that are bound to be present in the text.

# 5 Now it’s time to find the location of the first answer in the text.

Return to the first incomplete sentence and scan for the key words you identified earlier. If there are names, numbers, places or dates that you haven’t already highlighted, include these as key words as they’ll be easy to spot.

I also found myself skimming at the same time to get a general understanding of the text. I wouldn’t normally recommend skimming and scanning together as they are two separate skills but do so if you can and it works for you.

Watch out for synonyms and paraphrasing.

# 6 Once you’ve found the right part of the text, read around the key words for the information to enable you to select the correct answer.


# 7 Double-check that the matched sentence is grammatically correct and fill in your answer sheet. Then, cross through the sentence ending in the list to eliminate it from further consideration.

# 8 Repeat this strategy for the remaining incomplete sentences. Remember that the rest of the answers will come in order in the text.

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