Short Answer and Sentence Completion in the IELTS Reading

Today we will be exploring Short Answer and Sentence Completion in the IELTS Reading exam..

We usually encourage students to use complete sentences, but this is when we nee­­­d to READ THE QUESTION/INSTRUCTIONS.

If it advises against providing one word or a few words, you will get 0 marks if you answer correctly but do not adhere to these rules.

Short answer questions are designed to check if you can confidently locate specific details when reading and evaluating information.

As you read the questions, it is good to read the questions first and get an idea of what they are looking for. You can do this by highlighting the keywords in the listening exam.

Can you answer these questions below without hesitation?

  • Where do you live?
  • What do you do?
  • Name two of your favourite activities.

Remember to highlight the keywords in the questions to know what you’re searching for to focus on the answer. Ask yourself, are they looking for a date, a name, a verb or an object?

Try answering these questions below, and read the extract from ‘Tackling Ageing May Be The Best Way To…then we’ll go through it together…

  1. What is the condition’s name that describes a person that has two or more health issues?
  2. How much is the approximate spending needed for care in the UK?
  3. What concern is the article conveying?

Over half of UK adults over the age of 65 live with two or more long-term health conditions – commonly known as multimorbidity. People living with multimorbidity not only have a shorter life expectancy, but they may also experience poorer physical and mental health.

Crucially, over half of GP consultations and hospital appointments involve patients with multimorbidity. In the UK, care for people with multimorbidity is also estimated to take up to 70% of health and social care expenditure. With an ageing population, it’s expected that the number of people living with multimorbidity will rise. This could place an even greater demand on the NHS by patients needing long term treatment.

Multimorbidity is currently managed by treating each disease separately. This means people will need to take multiple medications at the same time (known as polypharmacy), and will also have to attend multiple medical appointments for each condition. Not only can this put a strain on the NHS, polypharmacy can also put patients at increased risk of negative drug interactions and unintended harm.

Did you get all the answers? Let’s go through them together to check…

First, you should read the questions and instructions and highlight any keywords as you need to include the essential information in these answers.

What is the condition’s name that describes a person that has two or more health issues?

The question is identifying that we need to find a medical name of a condition that means a person has two or more health issues which can be found in the first sentence: multimorbidity.

How much is the approximate spending needed for care in the UK?

We’re looking for an amount here, either a monetary amount or, as we have approximate, it could be a percentage or number. From the article, we can see that they discuss 70% of care expenditure.

What concern is the article conveying?

Can you identify the tone of this piece? Are they happy about what they’re telling us? It should be evident that there is a worry about resources with words such as ‘strain, risk, greater demand’. Therefore the concern or the point that is trying to put across is; the strain on health services for older people.

Similarly, to short answer questions, we have Sentence Completion Questions…

However, you must CHOOSE an appropriate word or word from a list to complete a sentence for sentence completion.

You can use words in the text, but the sentence must be grammatically correct. So we can put into practice any of the paraphrasing we’ve gone over if you’re becoming more confident.

Again, they WILL paraphrase words from the text to do the same thing. Remember your strategy to highlight keywords and phrases to find the answers.

Here’s an example – Replace the multiword verbs with the options below…

Put off

Turn down

Throw away

Throw Up


I was disturbed by Patricia’s behaviour, so I haven’t seen her since.

We declined Thompson’s Birthday party this year due to the restrictions.

After the party, my son Toby vomited all his birthday cake.

The intern squandered their chance to a full-time position.

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