IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks
Reading
IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks

In my last reading blog, I looked at how you can manage your time while completing gapfill tasks by searching for synonyms and by approaching the task in the most time-effective way. Today I want to share two more tips to help you get to the right answer, even if you don't know all of the vocabulary in the sentence. These two techniques work particularly well if the gapfill task is quite short, or you are trying to find an answer you have missed on reading the text for the first time. My first tip is to consider what type of word is missing in the gap. This is, of course, not particularly helpful advice if your knowledge of word forms and syntax (arrangement of words in a sentence) is generally a little shaky, but I would really recommend that in that case you do some grammar revision. You could use Grammar for IELTS to do this.  I work with a lot of university students who still struggle to use verbs, nouns and adjectives correctly and who have to spend a lot of time re-writing their work and correcting mistakes as a result. So, if you invest some time in revision now, you’ll not only perform better in all four parts of the IELTS exam, but also have less work to do in your future studies and career. If you already have a solid understanding of word forms and word order, you’re ready to apply this technique. My second piece of advice is to simply ask a direct question instead of trying to keep the sentence in your mind. It’s really interesting that my students can usually remember if I ask them “What was the question?”. However, when I ask them “What did the article say?”, there is usually a lot of rustling of paper, scanning for the right paragraph and reading of the answer involved. For whatever reason, our brains seem to find it easier to deal with questions than with chunks of information and we can make good use of this fact in the exam.  So, how does this all work in practice?  Let’s look at some examples:    For the first gap, we see that the gap happens right after an adjective (colourful) and before a verb (was created). Both of these facts tell me that the word I’m looking for is most likely a noun. To make absolutely sure I pick the right answer, I can now form a question: “What was created (by rubbing the ochre against pieces of quartzite)?” (You don’t need to remember the bits in the bracket as you read, but they will help you eliminate ideas later on.) In reading the relevant passage I spot this sentence: ‘First, the pieces of ochre were rubbed on quartzite slabs and crushed to produce a red powder.’  I’m pretty sure that this is the right sentence, since it’s the only place where the word quartzite occurs. I may not know the words ‘ochre’, ‘quartzite’, ‘slab’ and maybe not even ‘rubbed’ or ‘crushed’, but I do know that ‘produce’ means the same as ‘was created’ although the grammatical form is a little different. The key part of the sentence is thus ‘produce a red powder’. The answer to my question “What was created…” is ‘a red powder’. I don’t need ‘red’, as I already have the synonym ‘colourful’ in the given words and I am only looking for a noun. I am also only allowed to use one word for each of the gaps. So, the correct answer is ‘powder’. Let’s do one more example:  In the second sentence, I see ‘were’ right before the gap. This is tricky because this could just be the verb ‘be’ followed by an adjective, adverb or a noun, or it could be ‘half’ of a passive. So, I need to look a little more closely at the rest of the sentence. The use of ‘and then crushed’ shows me that it is indeed a verb in the 3rd form (past participle) as ‘were’ relates to the missing verb and to ‘crushed’. Now I could ask a question like this “What happened to the animal bones (in addition to being crushed and added)?” In the text I find the word ‘bone’ in this sentence:  ‘This was combined with ground-up mammal bone, the traces of which show signs that it was heated before being ground.’ Looking at this as a teacher, I would guess that a lot of my students probably don’t know the words, ‘ground-up’, ‘mammal’ and ‘traces’, but we can actually ignore that fact, as we’re looking for a past participle to complete the sentence. I can see three of them in the sentence: ‘combined’, ‘heated’ and ‘ground’. If I look at my question now, I see that added (combined) and crushed (ground) are already part of the question, so the only remaining (and correct) answer is ‘heated’. Well, I hope you have found this useful. Let me know on Facebook or Instagram if there is anything IELTS-related you would like me to cover in one of my upcoming blogs!  Sophie  

Sophie Hodgson

17 July, 2020

IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks

IELTS Reading: Using word forms and questions to complete gapfill tasks

In my last reading blog, I looked at how you can manage your time while completing gapfill tasks by searching for synonyms and by approaching the task in the most time-effective way. Today I want to share two more tips to help you get to the right answer, even if you don't know all of the vocabulary in the sentence. These two techniques work particularly well if the gapfill task is quite short, or you are trying to find an answer you have missed on reading the text for the first time.

My first tip is to consider what type of word is missing in the gap. This is, of course, not particularly helpful advice if your knowledge of word forms and syntax (arrangement of words in a sentence) is generally a little shaky, but I would really recommend that in that case you do some grammar revision. You could use Grammar for IELTS to do this. 

I work with a lot of university students who still struggle to use verbs, nouns and adjectives correctly and who have to spend a lot of time re-writing their work and correcting mistakes as a result. So, if you invest some time in revision now, you’ll not only perform better in all four parts of the IELTS exam, but also have less work to do in your future studies and career. If you already have a solid understanding of word forms and word order, you’re ready to apply this technique.

My second piece of advice is to simply ask a direct question instead of trying to keep the sentence in your mind. It’s really interesting that my students can usually remember if I ask them “What was the question?”. However, when I ask them “What did the article say?”, there is usually a lot of rustling of paper, scanning for the right paragraph and reading of the answer involved. For whatever reason, our brains seem to find it easier to deal with questions than with chunks of information and we can make good use of this fact in the exam. 

So, how does this all work in practice? 

Let’s look at some examples: 

Reading Exercise from Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

 

For the first gap, we see that the gap happens right after an adjective (colourful) and before a verb (was created). Both of these facts tell me that the word I’m looking for is most likely a noun. To make absolutely sure I pick the right answer, I can now form a question: “What was created (by rubbing the ochre against pieces of quartzite)?” (You don’t need to remember the bits in the bracket as you read, but they will help you eliminate ideas later on.) In reading the relevant passage I spot this sentence:

‘First, the pieces of ochre were rubbed on quartzite slabs and crushed to produce a red powder.’ 

I’m pretty sure that this is the right sentence, since it’s the only place where the word quartzite occurs. I may not know the words ‘ochre’, ‘quartzite’, ‘slab’ and maybe not even ‘rubbed’ or ‘crushed’, but I do know that ‘produce’ means the same as ‘was created’ although the grammatical form is a little different. The key part of the sentence is thus ‘produce a red powder’. The answer to my question “What was created…” is ‘a red powder’. I don’t need ‘red’, as I already have the synonym ‘colourful’ in the given words and I am only looking for a noun. I am also only allowed to use one word for each of the gaps. So, the correct answer is ‘powder’.

Let’s do one more example: 

In the second sentence, I see ‘were’ right before the gap. This is tricky because this could just be the verb ‘be’ followed by an adjective, adverb or a noun, or it could be ‘half’ of a passive. So, I need to look a little more closely at the rest of the sentence. The use of ‘and then crushed’ shows me that it is indeed a verb in the 3rd form (past participle) as ‘were’ relates to the missing verb and to ‘crushed’. Now I could ask a question like this “What happened to the animal bones (in addition to being crushed and added)?” In the text I find the word ‘bone’ in this sentence: 

‘This was combined with ground-up mammal bone, the traces of which show signs that it was heated before being ground.’

Looking at this as a teacher, I would guess that a lot of my students probably don’t know the words, ‘ground-up’, ‘mammal’ and ‘traces’, but we can actually ignore that fact, as we’re looking for a past participle to complete the sentence. I can see three of them in the sentence: ‘combined’, ‘heated’ and ‘ground’. If I look at my question now, I see that added (combined) and crushed (ground) are already part of the question, so the only remaining (and correct) answer is ‘heated’.

Well, I hope you have found this useful. Let me know on Facebook or Instagram if there is anything IELTS-related you would like me to cover in one of my upcoming blogs! 

Sophie

Language Activity from Sophie

 

Sophie Hodgson

Sophie has been supporting students on their IELTS journey since 2003 and feels privileged to have watched them succeed. While most people probably do not like taking tests, Sophie believes that preparing for the IELTS exam can be both interesting and fun. She loves language and structure and enjoys exploring both with her students to help them achieve their aims.

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