We have been solving fill in the blank questions since our school days. This is why, at first sight, they look pretty simple. But beware, they can often get tricky.
FIBs are asked in various exams to test the vocabulary and comprehension skills. SSC, Banking, CDS etc., are just some of the exams that these are a part of. If your vocabulary is good, and you know how to judiciously employ words, this section will be quite straightforward to you.
But fill in the blanks are sometimes asked in a more complex manner: they test not only your vocabulary, but also your grammar.
We will look at such questions in more depth later on, along with some different types and approaches.
Types of Fill in the Blanks Questions
(A) Vocabulary Based: These questions will ask you to fill the blank with appropriate words. One or more incomplete sentences will be given to you and your job is to complete those sentences from the given options. These are the most common types of fill in the blank questions and are frequently asked in many exams.
Sometimes there can be more than one blank, and in those cases, you have to pick an option, which will have the words that satisfy all the blanks.
How to Solve
- Read the entire statement(s), i.e. the complete and the incomplete ones.
- Try to understand the context or the subject of the statement.
- Analyse what word would logically fit in the statement.
- If you are unable to predict what should be there, have a look at all the options given to you, and if it still looks a bit complicated, then fit in all the options to the statement and see which option seems most appropriate.
- Select the option which is most apt for the given statement. Make sure that option abides the context of the statement. Ensure that the selected option has words that fit all the blanks (in case of multiple blanks).
(B) Grammar Based: The grammar based fill in the blank questions have grammatical rules at their base and the student is tested for the application of these. The grammar based FIB questions differ from the vocabulary based fill in the blank questions in the essence that the latter are asked more frequently on examinations than the former.
Example: If you stumble ___ a new idea, you better write it.
(a) at (b) upon (c) across (d) on
Explanation(b): The correct answer is option (b) which implies that you ‘stumble upon’ a new idea. It means to discover something.
Most often in grammar FIBs, either you would know the answer, or you wouldn’t. There wouldn’t be a gray line in the middle of the two. This is because either you would know that rule or usage, or you wouldn’t. It is just too hard to make a good guess in grammar.
- Students do not read the entire statement, i.e., they just read till the blank, and start hunting for the right option.
- Understanding the context of the statement/passage is crucial. If you are unable to gauge the context, it might be a good thing to skip the question.
- There are always different shades/degrees of a particular word, and all the degrees might look right, but since we are asked to pick the most appropriate option, you need to grasp the given passage/statement for that and choose the option that fits most with the author’s tone; e.g., if the author is ecstatic about something, then he might use words like ‘jubilant’ (instead of ‘happy’), ‘incredible’ (instead of ‘surprising’) and so on.
- A slightly more complex version of the fill in the blanks is when you are asked to fill two blanks. Now, if you have only understood one part of the statement, or you are just sure about one of the blanks, then do not base your answer only on that. In an attempt to somehow solve the question, students find or understand one of the blanks and go hunting for that one word-type in the options to select the right one. Options will most definitely be framed in a way to fail this kind of approach. There would be more than one options satisfying one of the blanks, but exactly one option satisfying both the blanks.
- Beware of synonyms: If you think you have found out the right word for a particular blank, and have decided to eliminate other options, then stay on the lookout for synonyms of that word present in the other options. There might be a better combination of words that you happened to overlook.
- You would probably know this, but we have to state it anyway: when the question asks to fill more than one blank, the words in an option are always arranged sequentially, i.e., the second word in an option is never meant for the first blank. So, never try to fit in words like that.
- You can verify the option you have picked by filling it in the blanks, and reading the entire statement/passage again.
- If you have to fill more than one blank, then you may eliminate an option based on one incorrect word.
- Remember! Re-reading is always an option. The test is more about understanding than speed. And even if you are taking a speed based test, the trade-off is minimal.
Examples of Fill in the Blanks Questions
- Astronomy, it has been said, is the oldest and the noblest of the sciences. (_______) it is one of the few sciences for which most present-day educators seem to find little time.
(a) As (b) Yet (c) But (d) Thereby
Answer: (b): There is a mood swing between the two sentences, which is best highlighted by a ‘yet’ or a ‘but’. It is better to use a ‘yet’ because it links the two sentences in a better fashion.
- Often we (_______) ourselves of the pleasure of making friends with the stars and shut our eyes to the glories of the heavens above because we do not realise how simple a matter it is to become acquainted with the various groups of stars as they cross our meridian, one by one, day after day and month after month in the same orderly (_______).
(a) abandon, line
(b) deprive, sequence
(c) fulfil, episode
(d) strip, passage
Answer: (b): The sentence is talking about the beauty of constellations and how common man has ignored this. Thus, the first blank should have a word that signifies ‘not getting, not obtaining, staying away’ which is highlighted in ‘deprive’. The second blank talks about the movement of stars in a sequence, which makes the correct word: ‘sequence’.
- Let us (_______) then that the time we choose for our observation of the heavens is the last of the month while our charts are given for the first of the month.
(a) suppose (b) wonder
(c) proclaim (d) believe
Answer: (a): The tone in the sentence is that of ‘opining, or speculating or conjecturing’. The correct word here is then ‘suppose’.
- Broadleaf woods are characterised by complex fibre conditions, absence (_______) resins, and greater weights.
(a) because of (b) of
(c) causing (d) by
Answer: (b): With ‘absence’, we use ‘of ’.
- Oak trees are (_______) by oblong, thin-shelled kernels, protruding from hard scaly cups and called acorns.
(a) seen (b) found
(c) characterized (d) differentiated
Answer: (c): The part of the sentence that follows the blank identifies characteristics of ‘oak trees’. Thus, the correct word is ‘characterised’.
- Since her face was free of (_______) there was no way to (_______) if she appreciated what had happened.
(a) make-up, realise
(b) expression, ascertain
(c) emotion, diagnose
(d) scars, understand
Answer: (b): The second word can help us ascertain the correct option. Only ‘ascertain’ fits correctly there. All other options, viz. ‘realize’, ‘diagnose’ and ‘understand’ are not apt.
- In this context, the (_______) of the British labour movement is particularly (_______).
(a) affair, weird
(b) activity, moving
(c) experience, significant
(d) atmosphere, gloomy
Answer: (d): This one can be solved by finding out the correct fit for the first blank itself. ‘Atmosphere’ seems an apt fit, whereas ‘affair’ and ‘experience’ leave something to be desired. Option (b) is incorrect because of a weak first word.
- The (_________) regions of Spain all have unique cultures, but the (_________) views within each region make the issue of an acceptable common language of instruction an even more contentious one.
(a) different, competing
(b) divergent, distinct
(c) distinct, disparate
(d) different, discrete
Answer: (d): The second word choices are not tough and one can see that the speaker wants to talk about the different views that are not converging or much less, not even overlapping. The apt word for this would be ‘discrete’.
- Early (_________) of maladjustment to college culture is (_________) by the tendency to develop friendship networks outside college which mask signals of maladjustment.
(a) prevention, helped
(b) identification, complicated
(c) detection, facilitated
(d) treatment, compounded
Answer: (b): Clearly, the sentence is trying to say that some people who have problems adjusting to college culture are difficult to identify, because they tend to make friends outside the college, thereby hiding the other problems that are associated with living without friends. This way, it is difficult to isolate them, because the symptoms are masked.
- The British retailer, M&S, today formally (_________) defeat in its attempt to (_________) King’s, its US subsidiary, since no potential purchasers were ready to cough up the necessary cash.
(a) ratified, auction
(b) announced, dispose
(c) conceded, offload
(d) admitted, acquire
Answer: (c): A ‘subsidiary’ is used to imply a company that is owned by some other company. Option (c) is correct because conceding means admitting, and offloading means taking the load off, which would mean giving away or selling the subsidiary and thereby, removing all the controls that M&S has over this subsidiary.
Option (a) is wrong because ratified is something which is officially sanctioned or approved and saying that the company ‘formally officially approved defeat’ is redundant too. An auction is a public selling of something to the highest bidder. This can be the right word for this blank, but ratified is inappropriate for the first blank.
Option (b) is wrong, because ‘dispose’ means ‘to get rid of ’.
Option (c) is wrong, because acquire means capture or gain, but the company is selling or giving away its subsidiary.
- This simplified (_________) to the decision-making process is a must read for anyone (_________) important real estate, personal, or professional decisions.
(a) primer, maximizing
(b) tract, enacting
(c) introduction, under
(d) guide, facing
Answer: (b): The statement refers to something which simplified the process of making a decision, and this is important for someone who is dealing with real estate, personal or professional decisions.
Option (b) is correct, because tract means a brief treatise on a subject of interest; the word enacting would be right, because it means making something happen, which in this case would mean making decisions.
Option (a) is incorrect, because primer just means an introductory book. It cannot reveal an entire simplified approach to make a decision. Also, ‘maximizing decisions’ does not make sense.
Option (c) is wrong because just an introduction cannot explain the entire decision making progress. Also, ‘under’ is wrong for the second blank, because ‘under decisions’ is inappropriate.
Option (d) is wrong, because ‘facing’ refers to encountering or dealing, and one does not face decisions.
- Physicians may soon have (_________) to help paralysed people move their limbs by bypassing the (_________) nerves that once controlled their muscles.
(a) instruments, detrimental
(b) ways, damaged
(c) reason, involuntary
(d) impediments, complex
Answer: (b): Option (b) is correct because the sentence means that physicians have found methods to help treat paralyzed people. The right word for second blank is ‘damaged’, because paralyzed people are those who have lost the ability to move a body part and hence the respective nerves of that part are in a damaged state.
Option (a) is wrong because ‘detrimental’ refers to something which has caused an injury. This cannot refer to muscles.
Option (c) is wrong, because using ‘reason’ in the sentence would make it illogical, because they are physicians and of course they already have a reason to treat their patients, and anyway the sentence goes on to mention a way of treating them, not a reason. ‘Involuntary’ is used to describe something which is done without consciousness, control or will.
Option (d) is incorrect, because an ‘impediment’ is used to describe something which slows or blocks progress; and the word ‘complex’ is inappropriate, because complex would mean that nerves are complicated in structure.
- The Internet is a medium where users have nearly (_________) choices and (_________) constraints about where to go and what to do.
(a) unbalanced, nonexistent
(b) embarrassing, no
(c) unlimited, minimal
(d) choking, shocking
Answer: (c): We know that the Internet is a very useful medium in many aspects. It gives us a lot of choices with very few constraints. Evidently, option (c) is the right answer.
- The best punctuation is that of which the reader is least conscious; for when punctuation, or lack of it, (_________) itself, it is usually because it (_________).
(a) obtrudes, offends
(b) enjoins, fails
(c) conceals, recedes
(d) effaces, counts
Answer: (a): The speaker states that the best punctuation is one that the reader is not conscious about, or the one that goes unnoticed. The next clause refers to something which is contrary to what has been mentioned. Option (a) is correct, because obtrude means ‘to force, or impose on someone’, and offends refers to ‘causing resentment, or anything which is against the rules or laws’. So, this clause would then mean that: “when the punctuation imposes itself on the reader, it is generally because it offends.”
Option (b) is wrong, because ‘to enjoin’ is ‘to give an order’.
Option (c) is wrong, because conceal means ‘to disguise, hold back or hide’. ‘Recede’ means ‘retreating or pulling back’. These words would not help make sense of the sentence.
Option (d) is wrong, because ‘effaces’ means ‘removing or erasing by rubbing.’
- The Athenians on the whole were peaceful and prosperous; they had (_________) to sit at home and think about the universe and dispute with Socrates, or to travel abroad and (_________) the world.
(a) leisure, explore
(b) time, ignore
(b) ability, suffer
(d) temerity, understand
Answer: (a): Athenians refers to the ‘residents or citizens of the Greek city, Athens’. The speaker says that they were peaceful (calm and tranquil) and prosperous (flourishing financially, or in materialistic terms). For the first blank, we have to pick what attribute they had which enabled them to sit at home and think about the universe, dispute with Socrates and travel abroad.
‘Time’ (option (b)) and leisure (option (a)) would both be appropriate. The Athenians could do all these because they had enough free time for it, but leisure is the more appropriate word here.
‘Ability’ refers to the quality to be able to do something, but it can be argued that almost everyone has the ability to do such work.
‘Temerity’ is wrong, because it means audacity, the speaker is just talking about spending time thinking, arguing or travelling. He is not talking about going to a war. For the second blank now: when they would be travelling abroad, they would be ‘exploring’ it. ‘Ignore’ seems logically incorrect and the same can be said about the word ‘suffer’. ‘Understand’ can also be correct, but then ‘temerity’ as explained earlier is the wrong word. Hence, only option (a) is right.
- Their achievement in the field of literature is described as (_________), sometimes it is even called (_________).
(a) magnificent, irresponsible
(b) insignificant, influential
(c) significant, paltry
(d) unimportant, trivial
Answer: (d): The given statement is informing how the achievement of a group of people to literature is described. The second clause refers to something which would be of a higher degree or intensity to what has been mentioned, so for that to be true, both words would be similar, differing only in degree, with the second one being of a higher degree than the other. Only option (d) has such words.
- From the time she had put her hair up, every man she had met had groveled before her and she had acquired a mental attitude toward the other sex which was a blend of (_________) and (_________).
(a) admiration, tolerance
(b) indifference, contempt
(c) impertinence, temperance
(d) arrogance, fidelity
Answer: (b): The speaker is describing a woman in front of whom every man groveled (showed submission). We can say that she captivated men and they admired her. She would definitely have the opinion that men easily fall for women and that they are superficial.
Option (b) is correct, because indifference means not showing interest. Seeing that she does not have to do anything to impress men, the woman might have developed an indifferent attitude towards them. The other word is contempt (feeling of disrespect and dislike) which could arise from thinking that men are superficial.
Option (a) is wrong, because admiration refers to liking something, and tolerance refers to accepting something or someone even if you do not like or respect it. This word could fit in, but ‘admiration’ is not the right word for the first blank.
Option (c) is wrong, because ‘impertinence’ means insolence or cheekiness and temperance means restraint and moderation.
Option (d) is wrong, because arrogance refers to an overbearing pride, which could be right, but the other word is ‘fidelity’ which is the quality of being faithful and does not fit in the blank.
- Every human being, after the first few days of his life, is a product of two factors: on the one hand, there is his (_________) endowment; and on the other hand, there is the effect of environment, including (_________).
(a) constitutional; weather
(b) congenital; education
(c) personal; climate
(d) economic; learning
(e) genetic; pedagogy
Answer: (b): The given statement is about what affects human beings in the primary years of their lives. ‘Endowment’ refers to ‘natural abilities or qualities’, so the word congenital and genetic can fit in. ‘Congenital’ refers to what is present at the time of birth, but not necessarily inherited, and genetic refers to something that is related to genes or produced by a gene.
‘constitutional’ refers to something that is related to or is of a constitution; ‘personal’ means something that one owns and ‘economic’ is what is related to the economy.
For the second blank, the phrase ‘on the other hand’ means ‘something that will be mentioned ahead will be contrasting to what has been mentioned already’. Education is the right word, because it is what affects an individual. Weather does not make any sense, and similarly climate can be ruled out. ‘Learning’ can be ruled out too as learning is done by the self, but education is what is taught by others, which has a major effect in shaping an individual.
Pedagogy means the principles or methods of instruction, so this may also be a factor, but education is a broader and more appropriate word. Hence, option (b) is correct.