When There’s No Keyword

Welcome to this Mometrix lesson on Keywords.

When answering questions for an exam or just generally trying to figure out information, knowing what to do in the presence and absence of keywords is a crucial skill. Most of the time when taking exams, your questions will give a keyword, telling you what you should be looking for in your answer. In other words, keywords are the answers to our questions. They direct the reader’s understanding of something specific and at the very least, they hone in on what the reader should be paying attention to in a passage. Before we get into what to do in the absence of a keyword, let’s look at a couple of examples that have them just to make sure we know what we’re dealing with.

What color is Jan’s car?

Can you guess what the keyword is in this question?

Color is the keyword. Let’s look at this next collection of sentences to determine what information goes with the keyword.

Jan drives a small SUV. It has a back-up camera, has a sunroof, has enough room for all of her friends, and it’s red. Jan bought her car over the summer, so she could take it on trips to the beach.

What is the correct answer to our first question based on the keyword given in the question?

If our keyword is color that means we should be looking for a color in the given paragraph to answer our question. The answer is: Jan’s car is red.

Now that we’ve looked at using a keyword to answer a question, let’s look at what to do when there’s not a keyword present. Typically, if there’s not a keyword in the question, you’ll have to rely on keywords in the answer to determine the correct choice. Additionally, when there’s not a keyword, finding the answer will usually require some amount of comparing and contrasting skills. Here’s an example:

Of the choices below, which is the most correct?

This is a pretty broad question. You can’t be sure whether it’s asking what makes her car special on its own or when presented in a group. For this reason, you have to look at the answer choices and decide which makes the most sense given the paragraph from earlier.

Jan’s car is fast.
Jan’s car is large.
Jan’s car can fit all of her friends.
Looking at these options and comparing them with the previous paragraph discussing the features of Jan’s car, we can rule out options A and B because neither is mentioned in the paragraph. Though those attributes may be true, they were not listed in the given information. We can conclude that option C is the correct answer. It was listed that Jan’s car could fit all of her friends, thus, this must be what makes this answer most true amongst the others.

It’s important to remember that you can still find the answer even without a keyword; you just might have to work a little harder for it. Identify keywords in your answers and compare them with the larger text until you find the matching information.

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