Sentence Completion Questions in IELTS Reading

When you get sentence completion questions you must fill in the miss word or words with an appropriate word(s) taken from the reading passage. The completed sentence must be grammatically correct. This is a common type of question in IELTS reading. Below is a reading exercise for these types of questions, it is not an IELTS test paper. The passage is a similar level to academic reading.

Skim read the passage below and then spend time reading through the sentences in each question. Preparing paraphrased for words and think about what type of word you need to find to fill in the gap. Remember that answers do come in order.

Water Pollution

Clean and plentiful water provides the foundation for prosperous communities. We rely on clean water to survive, yet right now we are heading towards a water crisis. Changing climate patterns are threatening lakes and rivers, and key sources that we tap for drinking water are being overdrawn or tainted with pollution. NRDC experts are helping to secure safe and sufficient water for people and the environment by:

  • Promoting water efficiency strategies to help decrease the amount of water wasted;
  • Protecting our water from pollution by defending the Clean Water Act and advocating for solutions like green infrastructure;
  • Helping prepare cities, counties and states for water-related challenges they will face as a result of climate change; and
  • Ensuring that waterways have enough water to support vibrant aquatic ecosystems. Qs
    Complete the sentences below with the correct word(s) taken from the passage. Use no more than three words and/or a number.
    1. The keystone to any thriving society is to have ………………. water.
    2. It can be said that a ………………. is currently imminent.
    3. One way to help keep water clean is by the construction of …………………..
    4. Dirty water can be a ………………. as chemicals and other pollutants enter the water supply.
    5. Due to a lack of ……………….., some of our water resources are at risk of pollution.

Dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk, and continues to threaten both quality of life and public health in the United States. When water from rain and melting snow runs off roofs and roads into our rivers, it picks up toxic chemicals, dirt, trash and disease-carrying organisms along the way. Many of our water resources also lack basic protection, making them vulnerable to pollution from factory farms, industrial plants, and activities like fracking. This can lead to drinking water contamination, habitat degradation and beach closures. NRDC is working to protect our water from pollution by:

  • Drawing on existing protections in the Clean Water Act, and working to ensure that the law’s pollution control programs apply to all important waterways, including headwater streams and wetlands, which provide drinking water for 117 million Americans;
  • Improving protections to reduce pollutants like bacteria and viruses, which threaten Americans’ health and well being; and
  • Establishing new pollution limits for top problem areas, such as sources of runoff and sewage overflows.

Questions 1-5

Complete the sentences below with the correct word(s) taken from the passage. Use no more than three words and/or a number.

  1. The keystone to any thriving society is to have ………………. water.
  2. With the increase in water pollution a ………………. is imminent.
  3. One way to help keep water clean is by the construction of …………………..
  4. Dirty water can be a ………………. as chemicals and other pollutants enter the water supply.
  5. Due to a lack of ……………….., some of our water resources are at risk of pollution.


Click to reveal the answers below:

  1. clean and plentiful
    1. In this question, you require the word “and” because it is not given in the sentence. Always check whether it is required or not.
  2. water crisis / crisis
  3. green infrastructure
  4. health risk
  5. basic protection /protection
    1. In answer keys, optional answers are usually written like this – (basic) protection. The use of brackets shows the option or options for extra words in the answer. You cannot do this in your test. You must choose one answer only.

All reading exercises on have been written by myself to help you prepare for your IELTS test.   


Vocab Builder
  • foundation = keystone / bedrock
  • prosperous = thriving / flourishing
  • key = vital / critical / major
  • tainted = contaminated / polluted  / fouled / spoiled
  • advocating = backing / supporting
  • vibrant = alive / energetic
  • toxic = lethal / deadly / poisonous


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  1. Hi Lizz,
    Thanks for the exercise, I scored 5/5 however this is a very easy one. Regarding question one , I know you did not mention how many words to use , normally is not more than 2 words at the real exam .If it would be to choose not more than 2 words what answer could we choose : 1.clean,2. plentiful or 3. clean ,plentiful…does not have to much sense the last one.

    • The instructions given before the questions state:
      “Complete the sentences below with the correct word(s) taken from the passage. Use no more than three words and/or a number.”

  2. Thanks for the excercise and lesson, the word imminent confused me in question 2 and that is why I answered solution instead of wate crisis even when I thought crisis was the answer. 4/5. Nice passage and good questions

  3. thanks

  4. Hello Liz,
    You are doing a great job. I am preparing for IELTS from your lessons for a few days. They are awesome. I have a query regarding the reading section. Since there are many types of reading passages (matching headings, sentence completion, etc.) and each has a different way of solving them, will there be mentioned in the real IELTS test that “answers will come in order”? It’s hard to remember for each type of passages. Or if there is a trick to remember them, do let us know.

    Thanks a million! – from India.

  5. hello Liz,
    why the answer of question 1 is clean and plentiful and not safe and sufficient? clean and sufficient is not given in the passage and can we paraphrase our answers in reading test?

    • Please read the first three words of the passage again.

      • oh, yes. sorry my mistake. thanks for the clarification Liz.
        i am having problems with reading test. my score is just not improving in test. what should do? any tips on improving the score in reading test?
        thank you

        • This is the main page for reading which contains tips and exercises: However, you need to be more analytical in your approach. Make a list of every single error you have ever made in every single test or exercise. Also make a list of paraphrases. Get to know which question types have answers that come in order. Try to be strategic rather than just doing practice and hoping for improvement. Think why you got the answer wrong. If it was due to language, then it is a question of your English level. If not, it is your technique and approach which you will need to work on.

  6. evryone, could u anyone explain me why the answer for Q 4 is not “biggest health risk” ?

    • sorry it is answered after scrolling all comments. thankk u.

      • I appreciate you checking the comments for the answer. You’ll find loads of comments on other pages as well – some are almost like a separate lesson to learn from.

  7. Thank you Liz.. i am finding it very interesting as i practice daily.

  8. Hi liz, you are the best teacher Thank you so much😍Iam going to take my first attempt in 28th July IAM getting so scared.Iam practicing your material 😍it helps me a lot Thank uuuu 🤗

  9. Got everything right but, I spent a long time

  10. 3/5

  11. hi liz, could you recommend the amount of time to be spent on each section as an indicator… for instance, 7 mins for passage 1 in section1 or 15mins for the last passage. I am just looking at a tentative time frame…

    • You’ve got three passages and 1 hour. Your answers are written on the answer sheet during the one hour – there is not extra time. So, try to do the first passage in 15 mins, the second in 20 mins and the third in 25. This is a rough guide. You need to do lots of practice tests at home to develop your own timing to suit your ability. Do tests from the IELTS Cambridge test books because they are authentic. My lessons for reading are for developing skills – use them as you want.

      • Hi liz
        Thanks for your help
        Do the Cambridge test books contain reading
        passages more difficult than your?

        • The IELTS Cambridge test books contain real tests published by IELTS. They are the precise level of the real test. My lessons are just to develop skills as well as awareness of language and technique.

  12. 1 Clean and plentiful
    2. Health risk
    3. waterways
    4. Disease carrier
    5. Basic protection

    I wrote above answers..!! want to know your view on 2,3 & 4

  13. Crisis is plural and the word after it is singular ( water crisis is imminent ) how comes this is the answer????? Can u plzzz clarify?????? Thanx alot

  14. Siddhesh budhkar says

    Hi Liz,

    I came up with the answer “crisis” for Question #2 will that be accepted or it is mandatory to mention water crisis as it already states in the question that ‘with increase in water pollution ‘.. Please help clarify
    And thanks for your helpful Blog.. 🙂

  15. Hi Liz!
    I got 5/5. Thank you for all your practice exercises. 🙂

  16. Hello Liz,

    Thanks for your useful lessons. I have little confusion about choosing words from the topic when many choices are available. I will give some example from the real test.

    Passage: The male platypus has a sharply pointed, moveable spur on its hind foot which delivers a poison capable of killing smaller animals and causing severe pain to humans. …… In the same area of the hind foot where the male has poisonous spur, the female platypus only develops two buds which drop off in their first year of life never to appear again.

    Question: no more than three words from the passage
    For example, on the hind feet the male has a …… while the young female has …..

    For the 2nd space, answer is easy to find: two buds. How about for the 1st space? What choices can be correct?

    • The first space would be “spur”.

      • Thanks for your response. Let me share my ideas.

        In this case, we could answer with different ways too, like ” sharply pointed spur” , “moveable spur” or “pointed, moveable spur”. Am I right? I replied as the same as the third one. But the answer was the second choice. Why? Can the rest choice be correct too?

  17. Hi Liz
    I need help regarding general test as I heard in reading answers are in order but in general test I could not find this .
    Is it ?

    • The reading answers are in order for some question types and not for other question types. This is the case for both GT and academic reading. It depends on the type of question.

  18. Dear Liz,

    I don’t understand how you got the answer to # 2? How can it be “water crisis” ? I couldn’t find that word in the paragraph.

    • It is in the second sentence: “We rely on clean water to survive, yet right now we are heading towards a water crisis.”

  19. sibasis das says

    Dear Liz,
    Thanks for your questionnaires
    The answer to Q4 is health risk
    Would that be
    biggest health risk.

  20. Thanks alot Ms Liz

  21. Thank you Liz,
    You are really true hero in the sense that you donated your time to help those who are committed to learn.
    we owe you a lot.
    Big thanks.
    P.s by the way, I got 5/5 .
    I am going to have my second attempt IELTS exam 20th April.
    I will keep you in the loop!

    • Good luck! Make a list of areas that you think are your weakness and spend time working on them before your test.

  22. Cansin bayram says

    Hi, thank for your website:) It is was really great work study for me because I am working and I can study at office. My score is 3/5 but it is really unbalanced. How can I stabilize?


  23. I was very surprised with my result. I got 5/5, I cant believe it. I need to practice more. I think I need to do mini passages first and can you tell me where I can find the sources?

  24. Ashis Barua says

    You’re brilliant and vibrant language teacher.
    I am trying to achieve standard skill in language with you.

  25. I was surprised with my score, 4/5. The activity is quite difficult but I guess you really need to focus. Vocabulary and understanding of the passage are really important. Thanks Ms. Liz.

  26. Hi Liz,

    4th answer should be “biggest health risk” as mentioned in paragraph.
    Why correct answer is only “health risk” and what if i write “biggest health risk”? Will it consider as correct answer?

    • You can’t have “a biggest health risk” – that’s incorrect English. The grammar in the question explains the answer.

  27. Hi Liz
    For Q.1 I thought the answer was ‘clean’. But it’s actually supposed to be ‘clean and plentiful’. Would my answer still be correct?

  28. Hi there Liz,

    I suppose “a green infrastructure” in number 3 sentence would be alright, wouldn’t it?


    • No. There can’t be an article.

      • Thanks Liz for the prompt reply.
        Would this error be due ONLY to the fact that words must be “taken from the reading passage” (where the article is missing)? ‘Cause, in general, “infrastructure” is both a countable and uncountable noun, is it not?
        Sorry for bothering with such trivial matters, it’s just for the sake of better mastering the test’s nuts and bolts 😉

  29. Hi Liz. I got 4/5. not too bad. I’m thinking of getting only 2/5 or 3/5, quite a difficult round but I was surprised with my score. My only mistake was Q4. I answered biggest health risk. When it should be health risk only.

    What I learned from my mistake is that I should not write everything indicated in the passage. I should check also if the answers were grammatically correct! I will apply that to my exam.. Thanks Liz. such a big help!

  30. You are the best english teacher.

  31. Sharnjeet Singh Jaura says

    3 out of 5 .

  32. Hi Liz

    i think i have all 5 correct. just one question , for number 5 i have written ‘ protections’ instead ‘ basic protections’ . will that be still correct?

    Be awaiting your reply
    Many thanks

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