IELTS Listening Table Completion

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Table completion questions are a common IELTS listening task. In many ways they are similar to form completion questions. However, there are some specific things to think about with these questions.


As with all listening questions, you will have some time to read the instructions and questions before you listen. It is important to spend this time wisely.

Step 1: Read the Instructions

There is only one thing you need to notice from the instructions – the number of words you can write, and whether this includes a number. The instruction will look something like:

Questions 1-10
Complete the table below.
Write ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer.

From the above instructions you should note that you are required to write one word, a number or both for each answer. Typically such instructions require between 1 and 3 words and/or a number.

Step 2: Orientate to the Table

When tables are used in listening tasks (as with reading tasks) the questions will either be in a horizontal or vertical order e.g.

Horizontal Order

Three biggest metro services by comparison in 2013.

Tokyo3.35 bn1 ___
Beijing2 ___ bn3 ___
Seoul2.6 bn4 ___
Vertical Order

Pyongyang and Seoul metro services by comparison in 2019.

Passengers98,0003 ___
Stations1 ___716
Number of trains2 ___4 ___

Although the tables are set out differently, in both cases the listeing will talk about the metro of each city in turn. If you understand the order in which the questions will be answered, then this will help you to follow the audio more easily. Whereas both are possible, horizontally-ordered tables are more common.

Step 3: Read the Table

Having identified the correct order of the questions, you should now read the table in that order. At this point you can do two things:

  1. Identify key words which will tell you when to move to the next question;
  2. Identify the type of words which are missing.
Identifying Key Words

Good key words help you to locate where you are in the listening, and help you to know when to move to the next question. Missing one answer is not too damaging for your score. However missing 3 answers because you didn’t move on could seriously damage your score.

You don’t need to identify key words for the question. You should be listening for this from the very beginning of the recording.

Anticipating the Answer

Another strategy you can use at this point is to anticipate the answer you are expecting to hear. By looking at the rest of the information in the table you can anticipate what part of speech the answer will be (noun, verb, adjective or number). Since the table will contain condensed information, the missing words are likely to be nouns. Where the word limit is two or even three words, some of these nouns may also take an adjective.


Identify the key words in the table then anticipate what type of word you will be looking for. After you can check your answers below.

Cookery Classes

Class Focus Other information
The Food Studio
how to 1______ and cook with seasonal products.
- small classes - also offers 2______ classes - clients who return get a 3______ discount

Bond's Cookery School

food that is 4______
- includes recipes to strengthen your 5______ - they have a free 6______ every Thursday
The 7______ Centre
mainly 8______ food
- located near the 9______ - a special course in skills with a 10______ is sometimes available
  1. verb – possibly prepare
  2. (no good key word) gerund/adjective
  3. (discount) number and per cent
  4. (Bond’s Cookery School) adjective e.g. healthy
  5. (recipe/strengthen) noun – part of the body e.g. muscles
  6. (Thursday) noun e.g. trial
  7. (Centre) Proper noun
  8. (mainly) adjective e.g. Italian, vegetarian
  9. (near) building e.g. cinema
  10. (skills) noun e.g. chef

Step 4: Listen and Write the Answers

Now you are ready to listen for the answers. Remember to move on to the next answer when you hear the key word.

  1. choose
  2. private
  3. 20%
  4. healthy
  5. bones
  6. lecture
  7. Arretsa
  8. vegetarian
  9. market
  10. knife

Step 5: Check Your Answers

Write your answers onto the question paper while you are listening. Remember to write any word which is spelled out on the paper somewhere. If you hear such a word, it is almost definitely one of the answers. Before you move onto the next section, check you have written an answer to all of the questions and that your answers are the correct number of words.

After the test has finished, don’t forget to transfer your answers to the answer paper. If you are doing the computer-based IELTS test, you will still have time to check your answers.


The listening audio and sentence completion questions used here are taken from Cambridge Academic IELTS 13, which can be purchased here.

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