IELTS Reading

IELTS Reading: Significance of Finding Keywords & Synonyms

June 03, 2018

Aspirants often find IELTS Reading module the most challenging in the IELTS Test.


Here are a few reasons!

  • The time limit for IELTS Reading is so short. In just 60 minutes, you need to read three long passages and answer 40 questions. Thus, reading the questions, understanding them and answering them correctly under the pressure of time is a challenging task.
  • Another reason is the difficulty level of the passages. For IELTS Academic Reading, the passages might be narrative, descriptive or argumentative. Sometimes, it may also include diagrams or graphs. For IELTS General Reading, passages are taken from advertisements, notices, magazines, books and more. Thus, comprehending passages with different levels of difficulty and answering them correctly becomes a difficult task.

You face these troubles while attempting the IELTS Reading module -

  • You run short of time
  • You are under pressure to answer each question correctly within a short duration
  • You get confused with different words of similar meaning used by the examiner

All these together makes IELTS Reading module one of the hardest modules for you.

So, what is the solution?

Well, when it comes to getting a high band score in IELTS Reading module, every candidate will say that Vocabulary is of utmost importance. But, do you know how useful it is to know to identify the keywords?

What are Keywords in IELTS Reading?

KEYWORDS A Key to Success in IELTS Reading

Keywords are the words that carry specific information.

Which words can be your keywords?

Here is the list!

  • Nouns and Verbs
  • Names (places, scientists, people and more included in the passage)
  • Locations (towns, cities, states, countries´┐Ż)
  • Dates and Years
  • Numbers or Figures
  • Capitalized or Italicized words/phrases

It is essential to develop some strategies if you want to perform well in the IELTS Reading test.

In this post of ours, we will share one sure shot technique that you can develop to ace your reading questions - match the information given in the question to the answer in the passage. This technique works only if you know the keyword synonyms.

What are Keyword Synonyms?

Keyword Synonyms are words that have the same or nearly a similar meaning as the keyword. They are often called as parallel expressions.

For example,

Children ~ Kids

Speak ~ Talk

House ~ Home

Present ~ Gift

The above listed words are not exactly the same in meaning, but they have very close meaning.

Let's have a look at an example of Sentence Completion.

Jenny thinks employers should encourage workers who are _______.

A.   Potential leaders

B.    Open to new ideas

C.   Good at teamwork


Now, what you are supposed to do is underline the keywords in the question.

Jenny thinks employers should encourage workers who are _______.


Next step is to quickly brainstorm and list some parallel expressions (i.e. synonyms) of the underlined keywords.

Jenny - It is the name of a person. Thus, it will remain the same.

Employers ~ boss, manager

Encourage ~ promote, motivate

Workers ~ staff, work force, employees


Now, you can look for similar information in the given passage.

Jenny says, "Well, currently teamwork is in fashion in the workplace and in my opinion the importance of the individual is generally neglected. What managers should be targeting is those employees who can take the lead in a situation and are not afraid to accept the idea of responsibility."


Here, the underlined words are the keyword synonyms. From the above passage, we can complete the sentence as below:

Jenny thinks employees should encourage workers who are potential leaders.


It is crucial that you develop the 'Keyword technique' to ace your IELTS Reading module with a high band score. For that, you can take free IELTS Reading practice tests at IELTS Tutorials.

Follow these simple steps while practising:

  • Read the question
  • Underline the keywords
  • Brainstorm and take a mental note of keyword synonyms (as you will not have time to note down the synonyms for each keyword)
  • Skim and Scan the passage
  • Locate the keywords or keyword synonyms
  • Write the answer

Being able to do this means you can save time. And, that exactly is the key to success in IELTS Reading.

Quick Tips to follow

  • You will not find identical words easily in the question and in the passage. So, do not waste time in finding same words. Instead, look for synonyms.
  • As you underline the keywords in the question, think of the synonyms for those keywords
  • Unlike IELTS Listening, the answers do not appear as the information given in the passage

Undoubtedly, having a good vocabulary is important to achieve good score in IELTS Reading but at the same time it is necessary that you know the synonyms of the words you learn. So, when you learn new words, pay attention to its synonyms too.

Continue to practice with the technique shared here. You will find it time-consuming and lengthy in the beginning, but once you have practised it several times, you will be able to find your answers quickly and with better accuracy. Thus, you will definitely improve your IELTS Reading score.

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