Answering Short Answer and Sentence Completion Questions

Contrary to what teachers encourage – to speak in full sentences, answering short answer and sentence completion questions in the correct way is an essential skill in the IELTS Listening Exam in 2022.

Some questions in the exam will allow you to write an answer that is no more than one, two or three words. 

­­­­­­­­ If you write more, you will be marked down, even if the answer is correct!

Therefore, you need only to include the keywords and vital information to provide short answers.

Try to Answer These Questions

Provide NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS

What is the first thing you usually do in the morning?

What is your favourite time of year?

Where is your dream holiday destination?

These should be pretty simple to answer, and as you can see, by only providing a couple of words, you only include keywords to answer the question.

What is the first thing you usually do in the morning? Shower

What is your favourite time of year? Autumn

Where is your dream holiday destination? Anywhere in Bali

And although the last question is correct, it does not adhere to the instructions and therefore would be marked incorrect.

Remember to check your answers and to check the instructions. You can always simplify your answer afterwards. In the listening exam, you have 10 minutes to transfer your response to the answer sheet, so this can give you time to adjust your answers and check for mistakes.

Context

Before listening for the answer, it is best to carefully read the question and instructions to decide on the context. The context is the situation within which something exists or happens, which can help you explain it. For example, when looking at the questions above, we can deduct what type of answer they are looking for…

What is the first thing you usually do in the morning? Activity/verb/shower/go running

What is your favourite time of year? Time/season/date/month

Where is your dream holiday destination? Location/country/place

Before answering the questions, you can prepare what to listen for in the recording so it’s not too overwhelming.

You only hear the recordings once in the listening exam, so it’s good practice to have a strategy beforehand to help you get the best marks.

Distractors

The IELTS examiners like to have some fun, and one of those tools is distractors. You may have noticed these in previous takes you’ve taken. It’s where the recording or text will provide you with information that is incorrect to throw you off or lead or astray.

Distractors are a regular tool in the IELTS Listening tests. They are not only testing to see if you can locate information, but they are checking if you can discern between correct and false information.

It’s worth noting that when these occur, the speaker in the recording will generally correct themselves.

For example, ‘I had a problem in Chapter 2, which I didn’t like. Oh, sorry, I meant Chapter 12. I made a mistake.’

When this occurs, they signposting they have made an error, and the correct answer usually follows.

Only one answer is correct, so you must easily filter the correct from the incorrect.

Sentence Completion – IELTS Listening

We’ve already gone over a few task types of questions in the IELTS Listening. In some of the question types, just like Short Answer Questions, you may need to provide missing information, but we will be looking specifically at completing sentences in this class.

Examples

Complete the two sentences below using the correct verb form.

DOESN’T LIKE

AGREE

AGREEMENT

AGREEABLE

Sharon was furious. She didn’t (…) with anything Paul said.

Freddy was always a peoples person. Everyone knew him as (…).

Which words do I replace?

You will have to complete the final word/words in a sentence for many of the questions. This isn’t always the case. It would be best if you were prepared to complete words in the middle of a sentence.

Choosing the Right Tense

Each sentence you create in the sentence completion exercises must be grammatically accurate. You must also complete the sentence within the word count stipulated. NEVER USE MORE THAN THE WORD LIMITED MENTIONED.

Sharon was furious. She didn’t (…) with anything Paul said.

Freddy was always a peoples person. Everyone knew him as (…).

Try using each word in the gap available if you’re unsure.

Sharon was furious. She didn’t DOESN’T LIKE anything Paul said.

As you can see, this doesn’t grammatically make sense as we are repeating ourselves and doesn’t mention what she didn’t do to Paul and therefore does not answer the question either.

If you’re unsure of the answer, this process of elimination is excellent for the preparation stages and great if you get stuck in the exam and have some time left over.

Eventually, after deducting your answers and trying the others, you should have a reduced list of which you can choose based on which makes the most sense, grammatically.

DOESN’T LIKE

AGREE

AGREEMENT

AGREEABLE

Sharon was furious. She didn’t AGREE with anything Paul said.

Want to try some IELTS Sentence Completion Exercises? 

Try Our Free Course or eBook to try it out for yourself. 

If you complete the whole course, we will provide feedback for free.

Otherwise, you can try out further Short Answer and Sentence Completion Practice on the British Council’s Short Answer Practice Online for Free here.

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