PTE Preparation Blog

Fill in the Blanks - How to get the scores you need in one attempt

When judging the appropriateness of a word choice for a blank always check if it meets the grammatical and common sense criteria...

Author: GLS LLP       Date: 10-03-2017

Reading, Fill in the Blanks is one of the easiest item types in the PTE test. Moreover, there are 4-5 questions in this item type; so you are able to build up your reading and overall score. Most test takers manage to score extremely well in this item type. Where test takers do face difficulty is when they come across unfamiliar words in the text and options given. In this blog you will find strategies and tips on how to resolve these difficulties. So read on.

The task

Reading, Fill in the Blanks is a reading item type which has 4-5 questions. There is a single correct answer for each blank. The questions are designed to test your ability to identify words that complete an academic reading text by using contextual and grammatical cues.

For reading, fill in the blank question type, the top section of the screen will contain instructions. The instruction will say something to the effect that "In the test below some words are missing. Drag words from the box below to the appropriate place in the text. To undo an answer choice, drag the word back to the box below the text". These instructions will remain same for all questions in this item type. So, do not waste time reading them but understand and be aware of the instructions when you come across this item type.

Beneath the instruction will be the academic text with 3-5 blanks. This is followed by a blue box with six to eight word options. To fill in the blank in the reading text, you simply click on the appropriate word choice in the blue box and drag it to the appropriate blank in the text and release the click button on the mouse. If you later find that the word choice is not appropriate, simply carry out the above process in the reverse order.


The communicative skill scored in this section is reading.

The reading sub skills tested and that you have to display in this task are Identifying the topic, theme or main ideas; identifying words and phrases appropriate to the context; understanding academic vocabulary; inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words; comprehending explicit and implicit information; comprehending concrete and abstract information; following a logical or chronological sequence of events. Do not be intimidated by number and jargon of sub skills. Whenever you read, you apply these sub skills subconsciously, no matter the language.

You get partial credit for reading, fill in the blanks item type. This basically means that you do not have to fill all the blanks correctly, in order to get a score. You get a score of 1 for each blank that is filled correctly. For example, if there are 5 blanks, and you fill 3 correctly, your total score for the question will be 3. Since there is no negative marking, do not leave any blank empty. If you are not sure of an answer, fill the blank with your best guess.

Strategies and Tips

Before filling in the blanks

Read the text carefully without the blanks. Your goal for this first reading should be to derive the topic/point/idea of the academic text. This will come handy when you try to fill in the blanks with the appropriate word choices.

While filling in the blanks

In your first attempt, fill blanks one by one. Only fill blanks that you are sure of, if you are unsure of any blank, skip it. The reason being once you answer the easy blanks, it will be easier to fill the remaining blanks correctly.

When judging the appropriateness of a word choice for a blank always check if it meets the grammatical and common sense criteria.

When making the word choice, always check if it makes grammatical sense in the context of the sentence. The word choices may contain synonyms. Understanding the grammar of the sentence can help you make the right choice. Furthermore, the grammatical context of the sentence will tell you if the word needs to be singular or plural. To verify if the word makes grammatical sense, check if it maintains relationship with the pronouns (such as they, these, he etc.) and logical connectors (and, but, hence etc.)in the sentence. Other grammatical cues can be derived from the tenses, articles, type of sentence to name a few. Checking for grammar is an art and what strategy you use will vary depending on the sentence and the word choices you have. Overall, you should see that the word choice fits in with the grammar of the sentence.

Next step is to check if the word choice for the blank meets the common sense criteria in the context of the sentence and the text. Common sense criteria checks if the word choice fits correctly and is in line with the larger message of the sentence and the text. This strategy is helpful when you have antonyms in the word choice and both words make grammatical sense. For such blanks, apply the common sense criteria after you have got all the easy blanks right. Re-read the text to get its gist. The word which fits in with the overall message of the text will be the correct choice.

After filling in the blanks

Re-read the text to see if the word choices fit in with the message of the text and make sense. If you have doubts about a blank; apply the trial and error method with remaining word choices and re-read the text to see if it makes sense. Apply these steps, till your word choices reflect the author's intended message in the text and you are sure of your answer.

I hope you found the tips in this section helpful. For complete PTE preparation and practice of reading, fill in the blanks item type, I strongly recommend that you enroll for one of our PTE preparation courses. You will get to practice your skills in an environment that simulates actual PTE test. You will get G-Analytics to tell you what skills you need to focus on most and personal tutor feedback to help you with any difficulties that you face. So you get the scores you need in one attempt.

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