IELTS Reading: Sentence Completion

Learn about Sentence completion questions in IELTS reading with an overview, recommended strategy and practice questions.

Overview

Sentence completion questions test your ability to locate detail / specific information the passage.

Here are some key points about Sentence completion questions:

  • You’ll be asked to complete sentences with words from the passage.
  • The questions are in the same order as the information in the passage. This means that the answer to the first question will come before the answer to the second one.
  • They can be used with any type of passage.

Here are some example Sentence completion questions from a passage about technological advances in the 1920s:

Questions 1–5

Complete the sentences below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet.

1     Ford reduced his ………………………… by using an assembly line.

2     Consumers with ………………………… gained access to car ownership.

3     Ford took measures to prevent ………………………… in his company.

4     Ford increased wages and made changes to the ………………………… in order to stop his employees from leaving the company.

5     The government paid for many new ………………………… to meet the needs of motorists.

Top 14 IELTS Reading Tips (2022)

Maximise your IELTS reading score with these essential tips.

Recommended strategy

Here’s my recommended strategy for answering Sentence completion questions. I’ll use Question 1 to demonstrate the steps you need to take.

Step 1  >  Identify key words in the question

Key words are the important words that help you understand the focus of the question. Key words include names, places and figures, as well as nouns, verbs and adjectives.

Here’s the first question with the key words highlighted:

1     Ford reduced his ………………………… by using an assembly line.

Step 2  >  Scan the passage to find the key words

Once you’ve identified the key words, you can scan for them in the passage. It’s important to keep in mind that synonyms – words and phrases with the same or a similar meaning – are often used in the passage rather than the actual key words from the question, so you need to look for them, too.

Here’s the reading passage. You can see that the key words and/or synonyms for this question have been highlighted:

Americans on the move


In the 1920s, prosperity manifested itself in many forms in the United States, most notably in advancements in technology, which led to new patterns of leisure and consumption. The decade opened up new possibilities of mobility for a large percentage of the US population, as automobile manufacturers began to mass produce what had once been a luxury item, and daring aviators both demonstrated and drove advancements in aircraft technology.

The most significant innovation of this era was Henry Ford’s Model T Ford, which made car ownership available to the average American. Ford did not invent the automobile – the Duryea brothers in Massachusetts as well as Gottlieb W. Daimler and Karl Friedrich Benz in Germany were early pioneers. By the early twentieth century, hundreds of car manufacturers existed. However, they all made products that were too expensive for most Americans.

Ford revolutionised industrial work by perfecting the assembly line, which enabled him to bring down labour costs within the production process. The product was moved from one team of workers to the next, each of them completing a step so simple that they had to be, in Ford’s words, “no smarter than an ox”. His reliance on the moving assembly line, scientific management, and time-motion studies added to his emphasis on efficiency over craftsmanship. Ford’s systems enabled him to lower the Model T’s price from $850 in 1908 to $300 in 1924, making car ownership a real possibility for a large share of the population. As prices dropped, even those on low incomes were able to enjoy the freedom and mobility of car ownership. By 1929, there were over twenty-three million automobiles on American roads.

Ford’s approach had many benefits for his workers, but also some drawbacks. Ford was adamantly opposed to union activity and made every effort to stamp it out, including the use of intimidation tactics. The boring, repetitive nature of the assembly line work also generated a high turnover rate. However, to deal with this issue, he doubled workers’ pay to five dollars a day and standardised the workday to eight hours, which was a reduction from the norm. Ford’s assembly line also offered greater equality than most opportunities of the time, as he paid White and Black workers equally. Seeking these wages, many African Americans from the South moved to Detroit and other large northern cities to work in factories.

The automobile changed the face of America, both economically and socially. Industries like glass, steel, and rubber processing expanded to keep up with auto production. The oil industry in California, Oklahoma and Texas expanded, as Americans’ reliance on oil increased and the nation transitioned from a coal-based economy to one driven by petroleum. In response to the growing popularity of cars, there was a dramatic government-funded expansion of public roadways, which permitted motels and restaurants to spring up and offer new services to millions of newly mobile Americans with cash to spend. New shopping and living patterns also emerged, and streetcar suburbs gave way to automobile suburbs as private automobile traffic began to replace mass transit on trains and trolleys.

The 1920s not only witnessed a transformation in ground transportation but also major changes in air travel. By the mid-1920s, men – as well as some pioneering women like the African American stunt pilot Bessie Coleman – had been flying for two decades. But there remained doubts about the suitability of airplanes for long-distance travel. Orville Wright, one of the pioneers of airplane technology in the United States, once famously declared, “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping.” However, in 1927, this skepticism was finally put to rest when Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, flying from New York to Paris in thirty-three hours.

Lindbergh’s flight made him an international hero: the best-known American in the world. On his return, Americans greeted him with a ticker-tape parade – a celebration in which shredded paper thrown from surrounding buildings creates a festive, flurry effect. His flight, which he completed in the monoplane Spirit of St. Louis, seemed like a triumph of individualism in modern mass society and exemplified Americans’ ability to conquer the air with new technology. Following his success, the small airline industry began to blossom, fully coming into its own in the 1930s, as companies like Boeing and Ford developed airplanes designed specifically for passenger air transport. As technologies in engine and passenger compartment design improved, air travel became more popular. In 1934, the number of US domestic air passengers was just over 450,000 annually. By the end of the decade, that number had increased to nearly two million.

__________

“U.S. History” by OpenStax is licensed under CC BY 4.0. A small excerpt was extracted from Chapter 24 and edited. This textbook can be downloaded free from https://openstax.org/details/books/us-history.

Here are the key words from the question as well as the words used in the passage:

QuestionPassage
FordFord
reducedbring down
using
assembly lineassembly line

Step 3  >  Read carefully

Once you’ve found the relevant part of the passage, read it carefully and decide on your answer. You should always read the sentences before and after the sentences that contain key words to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Here’s the relevant part of the passage:

Ford revolutionised industrial work by perfecting the assembly line, which helped him bring down labour costs within the production process.

Labour costs seems to be the correct answer. However, it’s very important to make sure that our answer fits within the word limit for the question. We can see that the instructions say to write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer. Labour costs fits within this word limit, so we can safely choose it as our answer.

Final tips

Here are some important final tips:

  • Remember that the questions are in the same order as the information in the passage. This means that the answer to the first question will come before the answer to the second one.
  • Remember that all of your answers must be words from the passage.

Practice questions

Now it’s your turn to practise. Answer the remaining Sentence completion questions from the passage using the steps outlined above.

Americans on the move


In the 1920s, prosperity manifested itself in many forms in the United States, most notably in advancements in technology, which led to new patterns of leisure and consumption. The decade opened up new possibilities of mobility for a large percentage of the US population, as automobile manufacturers began to mass produce what had once been a luxury item, and daring aviators both demonstrated and drove advancements in aircraft technology.

The most significant innovation of this era was Henry Ford’s Model T Ford, which made car ownership available to the average American. Ford did not invent the automobile – the Duryea brothers in Massachusetts as well as Gottlieb W. Daimler and Karl Friedrich Benz in Germany were early pioneers. By the early twentieth century, hundreds of car manufacturers existed. However, they all made products that were too expensive for most Americans.

Ford revolutionised industrial work by perfecting the assembly line, which enabled him to bring down labour costs within the production process. The product was moved from one team of workers to the next, each of them completing a step so simple that they had to be, in Ford’s words, “no smarter than an ox”. His reliance on the moving assembly line, scientific management, and time-motion studies added to his emphasis on efficiency over craftsmanship. Ford’s systems enabled him to lower the Model T’s price from $850 in 1908 to $300 in 1924, making car ownership a real possibility for a large share of the population. As prices dropped, even those on low incomes were able to enjoy the freedom and mobility of car ownership. By 1929, there were over twenty-three million automobiles on American roads.

Ford’s approach had many benefits for his workers, but also some drawbacks. Ford was adamantly opposed to union activity and made every effort to stamp it out, including the use of intimidation tactics. The boring, repetitive nature of the assembly line work also generated a high turnover rate. However, to deal with this issue, he doubled workers’ pay to five dollars a day and standardised the workday to eight hours, which was a reduction from the norm. Ford’s assembly line also offered greater equality than most opportunities of the time, as he paid White and Black workers equally. Seeking these wages, many African Americans from the South moved to Detroit and other large northern cities to work in factories.

The automobile changed the face of America, both economically and socially. Industries like glass, steel, and rubber processing expanded to keep up with auto production. The oil industry in California, Oklahoma and Texas expanded, as Americans’ reliance on oil increased and the nation transitioned from a coal-based economy to one driven by petroleum. In response to the growing popularity of cars, there was a dramatic government-funded expansion of public roadways, which permitted motels and restaurants to spring up and offer new services to millions of newly mobile Americans with cash to spend. New shopping and living patterns also emerged, and streetcar suburbs gave way to automobile suburbs as private automobile traffic began to replace mass transit on trains and trolleys.

The 1920s not only witnessed a transformation in ground transportation but also major changes in air travel. By the mid-1920s, men – as well as some pioneering women like the African American stunt pilot Bessie Coleman – had been flying for two decades. But there remained doubts about the suitability of airplanes for long-distance travel. Orville Wright, one of the pioneers of airplane technology in the United States, once famously declared, “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping.” However, in 1927, this skepticism was finally put to rest when Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, flying from New York to Paris in thirty-three hours.

Lindbergh’s flight made him an international hero: the best-known American in the world. On his return, Americans greeted him with a ticker-tape parade – a celebration in which shredded paper thrown from surrounding buildings creates a festive, flurry effect. His flight, which he completed in the monoplane Spirit of St. Louis, seemed like a triumph of individualism in modern mass society and exemplified Americans’ ability to conquer the air with new technology. Following his success, the small airline industry began to blossom, fully coming into its own in the 1930s, as companies like Boeing and Ford developed airplanes designed specifically for passenger air transport. As technologies in engine and passenger compartment design improved, air travel became more popular. In 1934, the number of US domestic air passengers was just over 450,000 annually. By the end of the decade, that number had increased to nearly two million.

__________

“U.S. History” by OpenStax is licensed under CC BY 4.0. A small excerpt was extracted from Chapter 24 and edited. This textbook can be downloaded free from https://openstax.org/details/books/us-history.

Questions 1–5

Complete the sentences below.

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet.

1     Ford reduced his ………………………… by using an assembly line.

2     Consumers with ………………………… gained access to car ownership.

3     Ford took measures to prevent ………………………… in his company.

4     Ford increased wages and made changes to the ………………………… in order to stop his employees from leaving the company.

5     The government paid for many new ………………………… to meet the needs of motorists.

Answer sheet

Enter your answers below.
__________












Feedback

Click below for the answers and explanations.
__________

Question 1

The correct answer is “labour costs”.

Here’s the relevant part of the passage:

“Ford revolutionised industrial work by perfecting the assembly line, which helped him bring down labour costs within the production process.”
Question 2

The correct answer is “low incomes”.

Here’s the relevant part of the passage:

“As prices dropped, even those on low incomes were able to enjoy the freedom and mobility of car ownership.”
Question 3

The correct answer is “union activity”.

Here’s the relevant part of the passage:

“Ford was adamantly opposed to union activity and made every effort to stamp it out, including the use of intimidation tactics.”
Question 4

The correct answer is “workday”.

Here’s the relevant part of the passage:

“However, to deal with this issue, he doubled workers’ pay to five dollars a day and standardised the workday to eight hours, which was a reduction from the norm.”
Question 5

The correct answer is “public roadways”.

Here’s the relevant part of the passage:

“In response to the growing popularity of cars, there was a dramatic government-funded expansion of public roadways, which permitted motels and restaurants to spring up and offer new services to millions of newly mobile Americans with cash to spend.”