IELTS Reading Skills: Keywords Practice


Keywords can help you locate answers in IELTS reading. Try this lesson and see if it helps you.

Can you see the keywords in the question that help you spot the answer in the passage?

Alexander Fleming and Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was born in Ayrshire on 6 August 1881, the son of a farmer. He moved to London at the age of 13 and later trained as a doctor. In 1928, while studying influenza, Fleming noticed that mould had developed accidentally on a set of culture dishes being used to grow the staphylococci germ. The mould had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. Fleming experimented further and decided to call the active substance penicillin. It was two other scientists however, Australian Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who developed penicillin further so that it could be produced as a drug. At first supplies of penicillin were very limited, but by the 1940s it was being mass-produced by the American drugs industry.

Notice: This passage is from BBC History. You can read the full article on this page: BBC History Alexander Fleming

Key words

Find the key words in the questions which help you locate the answers:

  1. Where did Fleming study medicine?
    1. (what are this keywords in the question that help you find the answer?
  2. What was Fleming studying when he realised that mould grew on a set of culture dishes?
    1. (what are the keywords in this question that help you find the answer?)
  3. Who gave penicillin its name?
    1. (what keywords in this question help you locate the answer?)

Quote from Fleming: “When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.“.  


Click below to reveal the answers:

  1. keywords:
    1. where – this shows you are looking for a name of a place. So, you should scan the passage for a place name.
    2. other key words are: study medicine – this is paraphrased as “training to be a doctor”
    3. Answer to question: London
  2. keywords
    1. what – this key words shows the answer must be a noun.
    2. culture dishes –  VERY useful key words to locate the answer in the passage. These types of words can’t be paraphrased so you can find them easily and quickly.
    3. Answer to question: influenza
  3. keywords
    1. who: this shows you are looking for a name or names.
    2. other key word: name – this is paraphrased as “call” in the passage.
    3. Answer to question: Fleming


You can see that keywords are vitally important to find answers. But be careful as some keywords can be paraphrased so be prepared for that.

I hope you found this lesson useful 🙂


  1. Hi Liz,
    You make the difficult things, sound so easy with your explanation.

  2. Hey liz…
    Thanku do much for such a useful post.
    Plz post more such practise exercises.

  3. More than useful.
    It’s a good way to use like this technique.
    It’s really marvellous.
    Thanks so much my best tutor.

  4. Do I need to skip a line when starting a new paragraph?

  5. Liz, thanks a lot
    I wish you long live with health.

  6. dear liz
    this is really helpful for me as a beginner to learn IELTS.
    i really like the way you teach

  7. Hi Mam Liz I just want to know if you are also offering online review, one on one in real time, especially in speaking part of the IELTS. I hope to hear from you soon.Thank you

    • Sorry. I don’t do any online teaching at present – just posting lessons with my website – that’s all for now.

  8. snehadaniel says

    thank you Dear

  9. many thanks , liz

  10. Karshigul says

    Thanks for precious lessons! I really appreciate and value all😊

  11. iftikhar Ahmed says

    hi Liz,
    This is iftikhar Ahmed from Pakistan. I am a new user of your website. i m planning to appear for IELTS test. I found this site very useful because its free learning at home. For your usefull tips and guidlines, i will say thanks to you.

  12. Nathalia says

    It is really helping me a lot

  13. Bhavyata says

    Hello liz,
    I am applying for Ielts, in previous test I scored 6. 5n reading and 6.5 in speaking, 7 in writing. Listening 8.5
    Thanks for your tips.
    I really need 7 in each module. Can u plz tell where I Em going wrong. I wrote u twice but I guess u missed to reply. I have not joined any classes and I completely rely on ur advice. Plz help
    Thanks in advance

    • Sorry I can’t reply to all comments. You need to review your techniques for each type of question and consider getting training if you still can’t hit the scores you want.

  14. Vaibhav Desai From India says

    Hello Liz,
    First of all I would like to thank you for making such wonderful website.

    Test Type – Academic, Date- 19/05/2017
    Location – Ahmedabad,India
    Today i done my speaking test
    1) Tell me your full name
    2) Do you study or work
    3) Do you read magzines
    4) Why you read this magzine

    Section 2
    Website which you like most
    1) name of the website
    2) how you found that website
    3) how that website helps you.

    Section 3
    1) do you think that children should start studying on internet.
    2) What do you think the place of teacher can be replaced by computers.
    3) In future if student start learning on internet will it them.

  15. Gagandeep Singh says

    Heloo liz madam,
    My name is Gagandeep Singh, i want to tell you i m new fan of you as well as student also.
    i will going to follow your instruction as much as possible. you are so perfect in English but i m not good in english as well as reading, listening,speaking and writing. but i want to be a perfect and give a ilets exam and want to get 8 bands in listening and 7 each in others. its a minimum requirement. but there is no hurry to give a ilets exam, i need to be a perfect first.
    and you are so beautiful.
    thanks madam for give me a valuable tips. i hope i get more knowledge from you, which will help me to be as a fluent in english.
    thanks again
    your student,
    Gagandeep singh

  16. Liz it was really helpful.
    Actually i need little bit of guidance in writing part. Can you help me out with that?
    I will have my ielts exam on 8th of june and i have no idea how to check whether i am in right track or not…
    I have tried writing task1. Can you spare some time and go through my answer, so that i get an idea about how much more i have to improve?

  17. Iqbal kaur says

    HI liz
    Appreciate for ur service u r providing without charge………..undoubtedly its helpful too.

  18. Soni Meet says

    Hi liz, actually i will take my ielts date next month but i am confuse in British council and IDP. Is it different?
    Which is the best for me?
    What i choose?

    • The IELTS test is written by Cambridge – not by IDP or BC. This means the test is the same in both centers.

  19. Hlo mam,
    Can i use “prop up” as a synonym of “support” in essay writing.
    E.g. there are manifold points to prop up my point of view.

    • Don’t use informal language in an essay.

      • Dear Liz,

        I would like to know that there are some phrasal verbs that are formal. For instance, ‘carry out’. How do we distinguish informal and formal phrasal words, i find it difficult being a non native speaker. Maybe a better approach would be to use only the proper verbs? Need your feedback on this, please.


        • This is not about formal phrasal verbs – there’s no such thing. This is about avoiding phrasal verbs that are obviously informal. For example, hang out with = socialise. This is an obviously informal / slangy phrasal verb – suitable for IELTS speaking, but not writing. If the phrasal verb is a standard one, such as “keep away from”, it is 100% fine – it is used in many situations and contexts “young children should be kept away from harmful influences”.

  20. Marikani says

    Hi Liz,
    Thank you for useful practices like this. I planned to write on July 8th. As you mentioned, I am improving my level of English and IELTS Techniques.

    Thanks again,

  21. Hello mam i gave GT exam last yr & got 7 bands which were very less.i used to get above 8 in reading several time i got 9 also but in exam i got 6.How can i get perfect 9?Because earlier i got 7.5 in academic reading..i find academic reading easy…what should i do?& I get 6.5 in writing n speaking how can i increase to 7.5?

    • I’m a little bit confused by your message. People who get band 9 have almost perfect English. Do you think that is your level of English? IELTS is a language test, you can learn all the techniques you want, but at the end of the day, you must have a very high level of English to get a high band score. I suggest you review your English very carefully and check just how strong it is.

  22. says

    Liz, Please allow me to say you’re so perfect. When I watch your videos, I just can’t stop listening to you. So thank you so much.

    Secondly, I want to say I am a new fan of you and I just got started. My weakest skill in IELTS is reading. I went through the 14 paterns of questions that you posted. Please tell me what next I should do to practice reading?

    Thank you again.
    Saudi Arabia

  23. issam ibrahim says

    This is very useful lesson and very nice ways of teaching .

    Thank you so much Liz

  24. That is good idea and to be honestly I enjoyed when I search the keywords in all passages. For me when I check the passage, I can not read all passage before to read the questions, it will be wasted time. So I read the first thing the question and make underline the keywords and so on before to read passage. So this is good and save my time for extra question. Anyways thanks for sharing

    • I’m glad the technique works for you. IELTS reading and listening are about focusing on key words to get the right answer.

  25. Its really useful
    After completing this lesson..i feel that i learn new technique to find out keywords.
    Thanku mam
    Thanku so much

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