PTE – Reading – Fill In The Blanks

The PTE reading task consists of a number of tasks that assess a candidate’s reading comprehension skills. In this article, we will take a closer look at the PTE: Reading Fill In The Blanks Question.

Here’s a detailed look at what you can expect:

Fill In The Blanks Format

There are two types of fill in the blank questions present in the PTE Academic exam.

The first type is question which has a single correct answer for each blank. You have to choose correct answers from a selection of words, present in a block. There are more options than there are spaces.

The reading texts for this item type are up to 80 words in length. There are usually four to five Reading: Fill in the blanks items in the this part of the PTE Academic Exam, depending on the combination of items in a given test. All questions will be presented together in a single block.

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

How Is The Fill In The Blanks Question Displayed?

You will find a set of instructions at the top of the screen, followed by a reading text that contains between 3 to 5 blank spaces. Below the text is a blue box with 6 to 8 words in it.

There will always be more words in the box than there are blank spaces, which means that you will not use all of the options

In order to enter an answer you just need to select a word from the box, by clicking on it. Then hold the left button of the mouse down and drag the word to the blank where you want to place it. You can also drag words between blanks. If you want to change your selection, simply drag that word back to the blue box and make another selection.

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.

Here is how this question will appear on test day:

How Is This Question Scored?

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.

What Skills Are Tested In The PTE Reading Fill In The Blank Question Type?

This type of question tests your ability to recognize natural sounding English by assessing your word choices. Basically it tests your knowledge of common collocations.

Here is a list of essential skills that you need to be able to perform in order to score well in this type of 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 event

Strategies For This Question Type

There is enough time to read through the text in detail, so do not just skim through quickly and start answering before you have understood 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 the options that remain for the more difficult questions.

This question is all about making a correct word choice and there are a number of strategies that you can use to do this.

Use Your Knowledge Of Grammar To Answer.

Use language clues as well as word knowledge to fill in the blanks. Determine the type of word you are searching for, is it a noun, a verb, an adjective, a preposition or an adverb. Usually PTE reading fill in the blank questions have just two types of words missing, for example, there might be verbs and adjectives missing or nouns and prepositions. In order to identify which type of word is missing you need to pay attention to the grammar of a sentence.

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)

Pay Attention To Connections And Referencing.

Pay attention to the pronouns and logical connectors in the text and choose words that maintain the right relationships Since different types of linking words are used for different functions, a good understanding of both sentence and paragraph structure can aid in your understanding of the type of word you need to add. Learn to recognise how different connectors or linking words connect different parts of a paragraph

(Add linking words table)

Use Your Knowledge Of Collocations

 Pay attention to conventional phrasing. Choose words that normally appear before or after the particular words on either side of the blanks.

You need to have a good understanding of collocations in order to do this.

What Are Collocations?

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 note 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.

Make sure you that you recheck your answers to make sure that the now complete sentences make sense.

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.
  • Use the words surrounding the blank to predict the type of word needed. You need to have a good understanding of how articles and prepositions 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.
  • 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.

Let’s take a look at the following examples:

Science blogs serve a dual purpose. First, they connect scientists to each other,                      as modern-day intellectual salons. Even 2                scientific papers are now beginning to .             blogs as references. Second. they connect scientists to the general                offering a behind-the scenes                    at how science progresses.


1. public     2. formal      3. look     4. view     5. world     6. cite     7. prescribed     8. serving

Answer Explanations:

1. We use the word 'as' to talk about two activities happening at the same time. This means that we need to find a verb. The only verb that fits in a grammatically correct way is serving

2. for Q 2 scientific papers is a noun which should be preceded by an adjective. The only adjectives available in the options are public and formal. So we will keep both as possible options (since they both seem to fit logically into the blank)

3. ‘scientific papers are now beginning to Q.3               blogs’

The word to followed by a blank is an indication that a verb is needed for the blank for question

 Here scientific papers is the subject of the sentence and blogs is the object. Basic sentence structures follow a subject verb object pattern, which means that we are missing a verb for the blank. There are three verbs available look, serving and cite

‘scientific papers are now beginning to look  blogs’ – is grammatically incorrect

‘scientific papers are now beginning to .serving  blogs’ (gerunds and infinitives) is grammatically incorrect

‘scientific papers are now beginning to .cite  blogs’ is correct

4. The general public is a common collocation, which also means that the answer for Q2 must be formal

As is 5 a behind the scenes look is a common phrase used by native speakers