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Strategies to face Fill in the Blank questions

By DET Practice - TADE Hub
May 15,2024 | 15:23 PM

Fill in the Blanks is a new section added to the Official Duolingo English Test from April 02 2024 including six to nine questions. At first glance, Fill in the Blanks is the same as Read and Complete and DET takers need to fill in the missing letters to complete the word. However, the key difference is that each question is one independent sentence, which has no connections to others. In each sentence, there is only one blank to complete.

Fundamental information

  • Task: After reading the sentence on the screen, students complete the unfinished word
  • Timer: 20 seconds for each sentence
  • Frequency: One section of 6-9 sentences
  • Sub-scores: Literacy and Comprehension

When the sentence appears, the timer starts. DET takers have 20 seconds to complete each sentence, when the time finishes, even if students haven’t filled in the blank yet, it will automatically move on to the next one.

A unique step-by-step strategy

Step 1: Review the sentence quickly

Recommended timer: Around 5 seconds

noun phrase sample, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Website, DET Preparation Materials, DET Preparation Course
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The purpose of reviewing the sentence quickly is to get general content, which may help us fill in the Blanks correctly. In our above example, we can tell that the sentence is about something in the sky or outer space. If DET takers know the word “meteor”, it’s super easy to fill in the blanks because “meteor shower” is a noun phrase. Otherwise, we will likely lose scores for this sentence. Similar to Read and Complete, the score DET takers get for this item type predominantly hinges on students’ vocabulary. If we have come across some words somewhere, and we face those words in DET questions, students may get scores as we recall our memories from the subconscious mind. 

Step 2: Utilise grammar clues

Recommended timer: Around 15 seconds

As we already reviewed the sentence to understand the context and general idea, it’s time to utilise grammar clues to fill in the Blanks. 

There are various basic grammatical structures such as “adj + noun” – adj offers more information to describe the noun, or “S + adv + V” – adv provides details to the sentence that we have the following example. “act _ _ _ _ _” is definitely an adverb because we have “have to” as the main verb right after it. Now, it’s so easy to guess that the blank is “actually”.

Adverb sample, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Website, DET Preparation Materials, DET Preparation Course
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Here is another example of using the Reduced Relative Clause. When you initially look at the blank, what is the word that pops up in your mind? Yes, it could be “originally”, “originate” or “originating”? If we count the number of missing letters, “originating” is the best choice. But how could it be that word? Let’s look at the below sentence.

A disease, which is originating in a remote area halfway around the world can travel to the U.S. in as little as 72 hours.

It is easy to understand for now, isn’t it? It is a Reduced Relative Clause and people cut the words “which is” because it doesn’t necessarily have to be there and the meaning of the sentence is still the same. We already shared the top 05 advanced Grammatical structures, students should learn and apply to practice not only in Speaking and Writing question types but also in Fill in the Blanks.

Reduced relative clauses sample, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Website, DET Preparation Materials, DET Preparation Course
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Another example is here that we have a Passive Voice sample. We have the model verb “are” the adverb “often” and the word “by” right after the blank. As a result, the blank has to be the main verb to create a Passive Voice sentence. The blank is “instigated”.

Passive Voice sample, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Website, DET Preparation Materials, DET Preparation Course
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Special note:

In case you forget, we need a large vocabulary bank to increase our chances of filling in the blanks correctly in both Fill in the Blanks and Read and Complete. The ability to identify various grammatical structures is only helpful if students understand the context and have come across words in the blank, which is the only way to recall knowledge from your subconscious mind. To explain this, getting back to the “origi _ _ _ _ _ _ _” sample, we know what this word is because we have read it somewhere, our mind remembers it even though we aren’t able to use it in our writing or speaking, we still know it. Accordingly, it is truly crucial to read and listen on a daily basis to equip yourself with more and more new words and knowledge to face this question type successfully in particular and all DET item types generally.

Things to avoid

  • Skip the blank if it’s hard: Do not do this! If you skip it or fill it in incorrectly, you have no scores. However, when we give it a try, we may get scores if we are lucky. This applies if students have a word in mind, try to see if it fits right in the blank. For instance, regarding the example “origi _ _ _ _ _ _ _”, at first we may try “origi n a l l y _ _”, but we still have two empty letters so it is not correct. In this case, we need to think of its nearby words and test them fast because we only have 20 seconds. Nearby words are other word forms of the one that we are checking. After checking all other nearby words, we see that there is no word fitting in that blank, so the last option is the V_ing. Apparently, in order to do all of this, we need to practice repeatedly on a regular basis besides reading and listening.
nearby words, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Website, DET Preparation Materials, DET Preparation Course
Oxford's Dictionaries
  • Don’t pay attention to the timer: We only have 20 seconds to read and complete one sentence. If it passes, there is no way to rewind. Hence, we need to practice looking at the timer from time from to ensure that we don’t miss any sentences. 

Live-interactive DET Practice Website

The DET Practice Platform has been supporting thousands of students across over 70 countries. It’s time to support your preparation. With a FREE account, students are able to experience all question types including a 1-hour Duolingo English mock Test and receive estimated scores after taking the 1-hour test.

When it comes to Fill in the Blanks, after submitting the answer, DET takers receive the following feedback they can check their answers immediately and learn from their mistakes.

Fill in the Blank Feedback, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Website, DET Preparation Materials, DET Preparation Course
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If DET takers practice any Speaking or Writing questions, they will receive instantly detailed feedback based on the same grading elements that the Duolingo English Test uses to evaluate their skills, including the following. For a better understanding, feel free to review our video sample feedback.

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