PTE Reading FIB RW

The Pearson reading tests assesses a candidate’s basic comprehension skills in order to determine if they are ready to integrate into an English-speaking environment. This part of the test consists of 5 different task types. Each of these question types comes with its own unique set of difficulties that need to be overcome in order for you to score well in them. In this article we will pay particular attention to the Fill In The Blanks: Reading and Writing question

Fill In The Blanks: Reading And Writing

This type of fill in the blank question requires test takers to choose the correct word from a drop-down menu where three to four other options are present. This type of question is called a fill in the blank, reading and writing question.

It tests your ability to use contextual and grammatical cues to determine which words should be filled in and each correct answer receives a credit.

The length of the texts for this question type can be up to 300 words long, but they are usually around 80 words or so. There are about five to six Reading & writing: Fill in the blanks items in the reading part of PTE Academic, depending on the combination of items in a given test. They are presented together in a single block. You should spend about 2 minutes on each of these types of questions.

How Is This Question Displayed?

You will find a set of instructions at the top of the screen, followed by a reading text with up to 6 blank spaces. Each blank contains a drop-down menu with up to five choices.

To fill a blank, click on the drop-down arrow, which will display a drop-down list. Click on the correct answer to make a selection.

If you want to change your answer you only need to click on a different answer.

Once you are satisfied with your choices, you can select the ‘next’ button to move onto the next question. Remember that reading tasks are not individually timed, so the timer will continue to countdown on the screen.

How Is This Question Scored?

Your score for this question will affect both your reading and writing score. You will get one point for every correct word that you fill in. Therefore you will get full marks if you have answered every blank correctly, and you will only get a partial score if just some of your answers are correct. There is no negative marking for this particular question type, meaning that it is important to attempt every question, since you have nothing to lose by trying. Who knows, your educated guess might just earn you a few points.

Skills Tested In The PTE Reading Fill In The Blanks Question: Reading And Writing

Here is a list of important skills that you need to be able to do in order to score well in this question.

  • identifying the topic, theme or main ideas
  • identifying words and phrases appropriate to the context
  • understanding academic vocabulary
  • understanding the difference between connotation and denotation
  • inferring the meaning of unfamiliar words
  • comprehending explicit and implicit information
  • comprehending concrete and abstract information
  • following a logical or chronological sequence of events
  • using words and phrases appropriate to the context
  • using correct grammar


Strategies For This Question Type

This task is all about word choice, you need to choose the correct word to fit in the blank space, which is why this task also affects your reading score.

Most of the words in the options will be somehow related to each other, the key is to be able to recognize the meanings of each of these words. If you cannot recognize any of the words, then you will have to learn how to determine the meaning of the unfamiliar words.

To be able to answer effectively you need to have some insight into the following:


Context – Surrounding Information

This means using words and information surrounding the blank to get an idea about which type of word is needed.

The woman shouted                 at the little boy. (loudly, calmly, quietly)

This is an oversimplified example just to demonstrate a point. You will not get such easy examples in your actual exam, but just to illustrate, the word ‘shouted’ indicates or implies that we cannot use the words calmly or quietly to complete our sentence. No one shouts calmly, right?

Semantic Difference – What Are The Subtle Differences In Meaning?

Most of the times the options will include one correct answer and three related words or synonyms. The slight difference in meaning of these synonyms will make these options incorrect.

Let’s look at the following groups of words for example:

Example 1:

Smart, wit, intellectual – there is some meaningful relationship between these words, but they all mean different things.

The professors love having long,                      discussions. (Smart, wit, intellectual)

The words smart or clever do not fit logically into this sentence, despite their similar meanings.

Ans: The professors love having long, intellectual, discussions.

Example 2:

Defeat, failure, ruin, loss – these words all have some negative meaning, but their individual meanings differ slightly.

It turns out that both the thrill of victory and the agony of (Defeat, failure, ruin, loss) can have a substantial effect on our cardiovascular system.

In this particular example, we have to use our knowledge that the opposite of victory is defeat.

Ans: It turns out that both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat can have a substantial effect on our cardiovascular system.

Grammar (word form, collocations, word phrase etc.)


Sometimes the blank is part of or one half of a collocation, so you would choose the word which best fits as a collocation.

In short you will need to choose the option that best creates a natural sounding phrase.

A collocation is just a common grouping of words that native English speakers use. There is no real reason behind these groupings. A good example of this is the phrase ' fast food'. We wouldn’t say 'quick food' even though the words quick and fast mean exactly the same thing. Some other common collocations include 'heavy rain, strong coffee' etc.

Common Types of Collocations

1. Adjective + Noun

Correct: deep sleep

Incorrect: low sleep

2. Noun + Noun

Correct: round of applause

Incorrect: group of applause

3. Noun + Verb

Correct: cats purr, dogs bark

Incorrect: cats bark, dogs purr

4. Verb + Noun

Correct: give a speech

Incorrect: send a speech

Pearson's has an official collocations list of 2496 collocations which can be downloaded from their official website.

However, it can be quite difficult to memorize long lists of collocations, which is why I recommend learning them through active reading. When you read try to pay attention to which words are naturally combined together. Take note of the different patterns and as you read make a lot of the different word types. Try to find all the nouns or verbs etc.

When you do memorize or learn new collocations, make sure you practice using them, by jotting down a few sentences. This will make it easier to commit them to memory.

For example:

It was absolutely ------ (fascinating, joyful)

Absolutely fascinating is a common adverb + verb collocation and sounds more natural than absolutely joyful.

Grammar Basics

Sometimes you have to use your knowledge of grammar and word type to understand which word needs to complete the blank by using grammatical clues surrounding the blank.

You need to have a good understanding of how articles, prepositions and plurals are used in order to be able to predict the type of word needed. Certain prepositions signal that a date or specific place follows. articles like a and or the signal whether or not a singular or plural noun should be placed in the blank. A simple error like using a plural noun instead of a singular noun can result in an incorrect answer, so it is important to practice these grammar topics. If the answer does not fit grammatically, exactly as it is, you probably have the wrong answer.

To understand how to do this you need to practice identifying word types, and you need a good basic knowledge about these word types (nouns, adjectives, prepositions, verbs, and adverbs)

Since the texts are not that long there is enough time to read the text in detail. You need to do this to be able to understand the context of the text.

Attempt the blanks one at a time and answer the ones you feel confidently about first. Leave the difficult questions for the end The more blanks you answer, the fewer options that remain for the more difficult questions.

Use your knowledge of the three key insights mentioned above to make a correct choice.

Re-read the text to check that it makes sense. Make changes if necessary and re-read the text. •

Tips For This Question

  • To score well in this section candidates need to understand a range of vocabulary, collocations, grammar, pronouns and cohesive devices, as well as being able to identify when plural nouns are needed.
  • The words/answers need to fit into the blanks in such a way that the sentences remain grammatically correct. To understand how to do this, candidates require some knowledge about how sentences connect to each other or follow from each other is needed.
  • Attempt all items, even if you are not sure about certain blanks. It is better to attempt it than to leave empty blanks.

To score well in this type of question you obviously need to have to a wide range of vocabulary

How To Improve Your Vocabulary

How well you do in the reading section depends heavily on your understanding of the words and phrases that are mentioned in the texts. You must have a wide range of vocabulary in order to comprehend the texts.

The best way to improve your vocabulary is to pick up words through active reading. Basically, this means finding new words while you are reading out of enjoyment rather than just to pass a test. Find some English reading material that you enjoy, such as books or magazines. This will improve your general reading skills and also help with your vocabulary. Make sure that you check out any words you don't understand and record them.

How to Deal With Unfamiliar Words

Many students panic during the reading test because despite improving their vocabulary, they still come across difficult and unfamiliar words. It is impossible to learn every possible word that could appear in your test, which is why it is also important to practice trying to understand the meaning of unfamiliar words by reading in context. It might surprise you to know that most native English speakers do not understand every single word that we come across. We actually just make an educated guess about what that word means.

You can always look at the root of a word to get an idea of what the actual word means. Many English words are formed by taking basic words and adding combinations of prefixes and suffixes to them. The base word to which affixes (prefixes and suffixes) are added is called a root word because it forms the basis of a new word. The Root of a word is the word part that gives the word its primary meaning. For example, the word lovely consists of the word love and the suffix -ly.

If you understand the root of a word, you will be able to understand the meaning of the complete word, or at least get a better idea about what it might means.

Practice Question

Let’s take a look at the following example:

The is a common collocation, which also m

In the second century of the Christian era, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth and the most civilized _________ (1) of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valour. The gentle but powerful _________ (2) of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury. The image of a free constitution was preserved with decent reverence: the Roman senate appeared to possess the sovereign _________ (3) and devolved on the emperors all the executive powers of government. During a happy period of more than fourscore years, the public _________ (4) was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of this, and of the two succeeding _________, (5) to describe the prosperous condition of their empire; and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important _________ (6) of its decline and fall; a revolution which will ever be remembered, and is still felt by the nations of the earth.


1. ( a) achieved (b) portion ( c) introduce (d) relinquish

2. ( a) doubtful (b) difficult ( c) peace (d) influence

3. ( a) authority (b) arrows ( c) easy (d) taken

4. ( a) administration (b) honorable ( c) secure (d) exposing

5. ( a) collude (b) environmental ( c) chapters (d) enormously

6. ( a) weight (b) circumstances ( c) preserving (d) seven

Check Your Answer

1. portion   2.  influence   3. authority   4. administration  5.  chapters   6. circumstances

Ans 1. The word ‘civilised’ is an adjective, meaning that we should look out for a noun, since adjectives precede nouns or in some cases other adjectives. The only noun among the options for Q1 is Option B – portion, the rest of the options are verbs, and they do not fit the blank in a grammatically correct way.

Ans 2 Similarly to Q 1 we are once again searching for a noun, since the words preceding the blank are adjectives (gentle but powerful). The only noun available among the options is Option D – influence, the remaining words are adjectives which do not fit in any logical or natural sounding manner.

Ans 3 The word sovereign is an adjective that refers to the qualities of a nation as a whole. There are only two nouns among the options for Q 3 arrows and authority. However, the phrase ‘ sovereign arrows’ makes no sense. Therefore, the answer must be sovereign authority, meaning having the authority to act on behalf of the country as a whole.