How many words for “fill in the gaps” questions in IELTS Reading?

A notepad and a pen with "Fill in the gaps: how many words?" written on one page.
Have you ever wondered how many words you can write in a "fill in the gaps" question? Let's find out!

‘Fill in the gaps’, or some say ‘Fill in the blanks’, is a common kind of question for IELTS Reading and Listening. People are often confused about the number of words to put in each ‘gap’. Some have found themselves making silly mistakes where they found the correct phrases but couldn’t decide on the words to put in the answers.

Let’s put an end once and for all to this confusion!

It’s in the instructions!

To know how many words you can write, you need to read the instructions carefully. In all cases, the number of words will be clearly written in the instructions. For example, the instruction will say “Write one (1) word only for each answer”.

A notepad and a pen.

As long as the instructions allow.

Make sure to not exceed the number of words specified in the instructions. Do not even add an article. For example, if it tells you to write no more than 2 words and/or a number and you write “a beautiful girl”, it is wrong. The correct answer may be “girl”, “beautiful girl”, and “beautiful”.

Pro tip: If you have to choose between an adjective and a noun, when you have to write only one word, the noun is often the answer. (Of course, it depends on the question itself.)

How do you know it is a noun or an adjective? You need to know grammar then. 

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Huyen Nguyen
Huyen Nguyen

Founder of Practice9, creator of IELTS with Huyen. Huyen has 10 years of experience with IELTS, overall 8.5.

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