IELTS reading

1. What is a Diagram?

A diagram is used when a text describes a certain concept which is difficult to visualise through words only, and therefore a visual representation such as a picture or a drawing makes the process clearer and easier to understand.

In IELTS Reading, the diagram completion question requires you to label (to name) different parts of a diagram, using words taken directly from the text.

The technicality of certain terms may sometimes be off-putting to some candidates, but worry not, Benchmark IELTS has got some helpful preparation tips for you, including a sample test to help you practice!

2. IELTS Reading Diagram Completion Example


3. IELTS Reading Tips

  1. Read the instructions carefully
  2. Read and paraphrase the passage title and questions (say what they mean in other words)
  3. Skim the text – read it quickly to get the general idea
  4. Scan the text – read it quickly to find specific information to answer the question
  5. Do not leave any answers blank, as IELTS does not give negative marks
  6. Underline or circle any words, dates or names that stand out
  7. Use your time effectively – approximately 20 minutes on each passage (reading, answering questions, transferring answers to answer sheet)

4. Diagram Completion Tips

4.1 Check the number of words you may use to answer the questions. The  instructions will indicate the maximum number of words that you may take  directly from the text to use as your answer. The instructions may say ‘use no more  than 2 words’. This means you may use 1 or 2 words from the text, but no more than that. For more information on understanding these instructions click here.

4.2 The instructions will suggest you spend 20 minutes on this passage. Keep in mind  that this will not be the only question type for this passage. You will need to answer more than one question type relating to this same passage. If they have been  completed prior to this question type, familiarisation with this passage should help  speed up the process of filling the gaps of this question type.

4.3 The topic of the passage may be related to a previous passage in that same  IELTS Reading test. If that is the case, this should help ease the process of  skimming and identifying information, as you will not be required to adjust to a new  topic.

4.4 Try to understand what the diagram represents. Take the time to understand the topic of the diagram, so you can prepare to read about it in the text. This also includes understanding what the title of the diagram means.

4.5 Pay attention to any written information surrounding the diagram. Such   information may help you understand the diagram better, and therefore understand the  text better.

4.6 The questions will be gaps that need filling-in. Familiarise yourself with all the information provided with the diagram so you can increase your chances of finding the words that fit the gaps. You may paraphrase key words and phrases to  identify in the text, if available.

4.7 Think about the type of word you may need to fill in the gap. Based on the  information available on the diagram, are you looking for a noun? A verb? An  adjective? Remember, you must use words from the text as they appear, so use all the  information available to you to determine which ones to choose as your answer

4.8 To make the most of your time, spend no longer than 1 to 2 minutes skimming the passage.

4.9 When skimming the text, you may want to read the first and last paragraphs to get  the general idea. Reading the first sentence of each paragraph, also known as the    ‘topic sentence’ should help provide you with a sense of the theme of each paragraph.

4.10 Use words taken directly from the text. Once you have skimmed, scanned and located the necessary information, make sure that you use words taken directly from the text, and do not paraphrase them.

4.11 Bear in mind, answers do not always come in order. Skimming and scanning the  text, as well as good familiarisation with the diagram and its description should help  ease the process of identifying the information. Remember you will have been   familiar with the general topic if other questions types on this passage were completed, so this should go in your favour, as well.

IELTS Reading Question Types List

5. Good to Know

4.1 Instructions that give a word limit for answers may cause some confusion. Here is what they mean:


Possible answers: 1 word

2 words

1 number

1 word + number

2 words + number

4.2 Hyphenated words (word that use – ) count as one word. For example, the word ‘check-in’ technically has two words ‘check’ and ‘in’, but it contains a – in between, making ‘check-in’ count as one word.

4.3 Numbers that are included in the text using letters, for instance ‘four  hundred’, still count as one number. So even though ‘four hundred years’ should be three words, it will be counted as: 1 number (‘four hundred’) + 1 word (‘years’)

4.4 You will not be asked to use contractions in your answers (words like ‘don’t’ instead         of ‘do not’, or ‘can’t’ instead of ‘cannot’).

6. Example Question

Text topic

Stationary Consumption in the USA


The first step of making pencils concerns the wood. First, there are blocks of wood that are longer than the pencil’s size. Those blocks get sliced using very tin saws, forming thinner slats.

Machines create grooves that allow space for lead to be inserted in a single slat. A second slat is placed over the first one using glue. Once the glue dries, it can be shaped like the pencil we know. This forms the body of the pencil.

The ferrule, which is a metal ring that holds the eraser, is creased together with the eraser into the pencil, using a tipping machine.




Diagram Completion


1. eraser

2. ferrule

3. lead




The key information in the text is underlined here:

Gaps 1 and 2:

‘The ferrule, which is a metal band that holds the eraser

On the diagram, we can see a circular strip and a red tip attached to it.  The circular strip is the ‘metal ring’ mentioned in the text, and is therefore the ‘ferrule’. The text mentions that the ‘eraser’ is held by the ferrule.

Therefore answer 1 is ‘eraser’, and answer 2 is ‘ferrule’.

Gap 3:

Machines create grooves that allow space for lead to be inserted in a single slat.  A second slat is placed over the first one using glue. Once the glue dries, it can be shaped like the pencil we know. This forms the body of the pencil.

Let’s identify the key word ‘body’ on the diagram in the text. It is mentioned in the second paragraph, as it describes what constitutes the ‘body’ of the pencil, including the use of ‘lead’. The diagram shows that the lead seems to come from inside the wood. Therefore, answers 3 is ‘lead’.

7. Mock Test

The brain is a fascinating yet complex organ that controls thoughts, emotions, memories, touch, motor skills, vision, hunger, temperature, breathing and every process that regulates our body. Together with spinal cord that extends from it, they make up the central nervous system, or CNS.

The brain weighs about 3 pounds in the average adult, and is made of about 60% fat. The other 40% is a combination of water, protein, carbohydrates and salts. The brain itself is not a muscle. It contains blood vessels and nerves, including neurons and glial cells.

The brain is made up of several parts called lobes. The cerebellum is the size of a fist and it is located at the back of the head, between the temporal and occipital lobes. The outer portion contains neurons, and the inner area communicates with the cerebral cortex. The cerebellum is in charge of coordinating voluntary muscle movements and maintaining posture, balance and equilibrium.

The largest lobe of the brain is the frontal lobe. As its name suggests, it is located in the front of the head, and it is involved in personality characteristics, decision-making and movement. Some parts of the frontal lobe are also involved in smell recognition. The frontal lobe contains Broca’s area, which is associated with speech ability.

The parietal lobe helps a person identify objects and understand spatial relationships, in terms of comprehending where a person is in relation to the objects surrounding them. Interpretation of pain and the sense of touch are also associated with the parietal lobe. It is located in the middle of the brain, and inside the parietal lobe is Wernicke’s area, which helps the brain understand spoken language.

The occipital lobe is the back part of the brain that is involved with vision. The sides of the brain, temporal lobes are involved in short-term memory, speech, musical rhythm and some degree of smell recognition.



IELTS Reading Diagram Completion Question

  1. Frontal lobe
  2. Parietal lobe
  3. Occipital lobe
  4. Cerebellum
  5. Temporal lobes
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