IELTS listening: completion questions (and productivity tips)

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IELTS listening: completion questions (and productivity tips)

In this tutorial, you will:

  • become more familiar with section one of the IELTS listening test
  • learn how to tackle ‘completion’ questions more effectively
  • find out how to avoid some common pitfalls with this type of question

In section one of the IELTS listening test in the IELTS exam, you will hear a conversation between two people in an everyday social setting.

The conversation has a ‘transactional purpose’. This usually means that one of the people is finding out information from the other. Typical topics of conversations include asking questions about a course, booking accommodation or making an enquiry about an event.

There are ten questions in section one and most or all of them are usually ‘completion’ questions. With this type of question, you have to fill in the gaps to complete a form or a table. In the first section of the IELTS test the answers are usually one or two words long and focus on factual information such as names, places or times. You need to write words or numbers that you hear. Here is an example:

Section 1

Questions 1-6

Complete the table below.

Write no more than one word and/or a number for each answer.

Restaurants in Wickford
Name Useful InformationComments 
The Blue (1) ______Near the ‘Save Money’ supermarketThe food is delicious.


It’s quite expensive.

The staff are very (2) ______. 

The Green PapayaClosed on (3) Thursdays.Excellent food.


Friendly, efficient service.

(4) Reservations are essential.

Main Street Restaurant(5) 210 Main Street. Next to the police station.Quite new.


Easy to get a table.

The prices are (6) ______.

Before the conversation starts, you will be told who the people are and some information about the context. For this example, you might hear:

You will hear a woman who recently moved to the area asking a neighbour for information about some local restaurants.

You will then have 30 seconds to look through the task, and it’s important to make the most of this time. Reading through the questions can help you to make predictions about the answers before you listen. It doesn’t matter if your predictions are correct or not. The idea is that if you know what kind of information to expect, it will help you to extract the key points more easily. Practising this technique will help you to improve.

It’s clear that answer (1) is going to complete the name of the restaurant, and it may be spelled out for you. It’s important to be able to recognise the letters of the alphabet quickly, as you will only have one opportunity to write down the missing word. 

Here is an extract from the audio:

Man: One place you could try is The Blue Truck.

Woman: The Blue What?

Man: Truck. You know, like a lorry. T-R-U-C-K.

Woman: Oh, OK.

You could predict that answer (2) is probably going to be an adjective - perhaps ‘The staff are very efficient’, for example. Then when you listen to the audio, you will be prepared to extract the answer:

Man: Just one word of warning, though.

Woman: What’s that?

Man: Well, the food is delicious, but the staff are a completely different matter.

Woman: What do you mean?

Man: Well, I’ve been there several times and I’m afraid I have to say that they are very unfriendly. I feel like I’m inconveniencing them when I order something. It’s a real shame actually - especially when the food is so good.

Remember that your answers need to be spelled correctly – so if you write ‘THUSDAYS’ instead of ‘THURSDAYS’ for answer (3), it will be marked as incorrect. Pay attention to spelling as you expand your IELTS vocabulary.

Your answers also need to be grammatically correct – so if you write ‘RESERVATION’ for answer (4) instead of ‘RESERVATIONS’, it will be marked as incorrect. If you are correcting your own practice tests, be picky when you are giving yourself feedback! Alternatively, signing up for our online course can help to ensure that your practice tests are being marked accurately.

It’s very important to make sure that you follow the instructions, which in this example are:

Write no more than one word and/or a number for each answer.

If you write ‘TWO HUNDRED AND TEN’ in words for answer (5) instead of ‘210’ in figures, it will be marked as incorrect. If you need to write numbers, it’s usually better to write them as figures not words, because you might make a spelling mistake.

‘Completion’ tasks can also appear in other sections of the test – not just in section one. The completion tasks you find in section one are usually straightforward and involve extracting simple facts to complete a form or a table.

If you encounter this type of task in other sections of the test, you will often need to focus on the main ideas and complete a set of notes – or perhaps a flow-chart – but the basic idea remains the same.

Audio tutorial

You can download or listen to the audio version here:

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