IELTS Tips: Using keywords

It’s very important to identify keywords in the questions in IELTS exams.


Keywords help you zero in on the most important information, understand the question, and answer it fully. Always read the question first – in listening, reading, and writing exams – then underline the keywords. In the speaking exam, listen to the examiner’s question carefully to identify the main words.


What are keywords?

These are the most important words in a text. They help you understand what the examiner wants. For example, consider these questions from different parts of the IELTS tests:

Speaking Part 3:
Do you think schools should ask children for their opinions about lessons?

Writing Task 2:
Several languages are in danger of extinction because they are spoken by very small numbers of people. Some people say that governments should spend public money on saving these languages, while others believe that would be a waste of money.
 Discuss both views and give your opinion.

IELTS Reading:
Complete the table below. Choose no more than three words from the passage for each answer.

IELTS Listening:
Write no more than two words and / or a number for each answer. What two factors can make social contact in a foreign country difficult?
11 ………………………….
12 ………………………….

How do you identify keywords?

Read the question / text very carefully. Take a pencil and mark the important words.

In the Speaking and Writing exams, answer the questions based on the keywords.

In the Reading exam, look for the keywords or its synonyms in the given passage.

In the Listening exam, listen very carefully for the keywords or its synonyms in the recording. Sometimes, the answer may appear before the keywords, so listen carefully and take notes throughout the recording.

So what do you think?

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