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How to Find the Right Keywords in Reading Comprehension?

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20 Nov 2018

Reading is often perceived as a challenge in IELTS by many students. But if proper reading strategies of skimming and scanning are adopted, this challenge can be overcome. One of the important activities during skimming is finding out keywords in the passage and underlining them. During scanning as well, you can mark keywords in the question as your tendency to match them with similar words in the passage. Since the passages are long and complex, finding out keywords will help you read more efficiently.
1. Find keywords in reading passage
An important part of skimming the passage is underlining keywords. While you are reading the passage, you can identify important keywords in the paragraphs that will also help you to better understand the given information.

  • At this time, you should underline keywords to understand the paragraph by abstracting important information from it.
  • You can definitely underline some keywords such as names, locations, facts, figures etc.

For example:

  • Names (Names of scientists, people etc. involved in the story)
  • Locations (Town, city, country etc.)
  • Years or dates (1978, 12th Oct 1982 etc.)
  • Figures (1.2 million, 20000 etc.)
  • You may mark any word or phrase which is capitalized e.g. titles of books, event names etc.

The reason behind highlighting these keywords is finding easy reference from the passage. If you have a question referring to the year 1978, it would be easy for you to locate it in the passage if you had already underlined it while reading the passage. Otherwise, you would need to read the whole passage to find where 1978 is mentioned and hence, it would consume your time.

2. Find keywords in reading questions

In the process of scanning i.e. locating answer of the question, you will first need to read the question carefully to find important keywords you can mark and at the same time, to understand meaning of the question.

  • Keywords you underline are usually nouns, group of nouns, verbs etc. except articles (a, an, the), prepositions (for, in, at etc.) and others.
  • An extremely important strategy of underlining keyword is to identify the focus of the question, especially in MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions). Focus or stem of the question is a word in the question that will help you to choose the right option. For example, focus or stem is highlighted in the following question:

    Which of the following is most at fault for the Titanic disaster?

    A. The ship
    B. Captain and crew
    C. Titanic’s owners and builders
    D. Standard operating procedure

 

Sometimes, your keywords are synonyms or similar words, not the exact keyword as given in the passage and hence, you can try to understand its meaning to relate it well with the right paragraph. However, the nearby words and paraphrasing skill will help you understand the meaning of the question.
Let’s take an example on how to find keywords in question and similar keywords in passage.

 

Question:

Recommendations about __________________ are given to the wife-to-be.

 

Passage statement:

Her guests often tease the bride about her husband and give her advice about married life.

 

Keywords in QuestionSimilar Keywords in Paragraph
RecommendationsAdvice
AboutAbout
Are GivenGive
Wife-to-beBride
ANSWER: MARRIED LIFE

 

Explanation is as follows:
If you read the question, you can identify keywords as “wife-to-be”, “recommendations” and the word nearby the blank, “about”.

Thus, it may so happen that keywords of question do not match with that in the passage. In this case, you may need to paraphrase them or find out their meanings. Here, in the passage statement, “bride” is the word used in place of “wife-to-be” and “advice” in place of “recommendations”.

Also, it is to be noted that “is given” in question is paraphrased grammatically for “give” in the passage statement.

Another important thing to be noticed is that “about” is exactly the same word nearby the blank in the question as you can find in the passage statement.

Thus, you can find the answer as “married life”.

*Note: Always remember that matching keywords would help you to locate the paragraph and its statements for reference but at the end, it’s all about understanding of the question without which answers go wrong. Hence, you should instead try matching the information or the meaning.

Practice Questions

Question 1:

Read the following short passages and questions to find out keywords. Fill the keywords in the table given below:

A super-hard metal has been made in the laboratory by melting together titanium and gold. The alloy is the hardest known metallic substance compatible with living tissues, say US physicists. The material is four times harder than pure titanium and has applications in making longer-lasting medical implants, they say.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36855705

The hardest substance discovered in the laboratory is formed by combining titanium and gold after they are ……………

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
  
  
  

 

Question 2:

Quakes are the ever present danger for those who live along the Apennine mountain range in Italy. Through the centuries thousands have died as a result of tremors equal to, or not much bigger than, the event that struck in the early hours of Wednesday.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37176502
Which part of Italy is always under the threat of being affected by quakes?

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
  
  
  

 

Question 3:

But look closer at the specifics of any quake and the details are much more complicated. The Tyrrhenian Basin, or Sea, which lies to the west of Italy, between the mainland and Sardinia/Corsica, is slowly opening up. Scientists say this is contributing to extension, or “pull-apart”, along the Apennines which works at a rate of 3mm per year. Add in movement in the Adriatic where the crust is rotating in an anti-clockwise direction, and you have a fiendishly complex picture. Italy is literally being pushed and pulled every which way.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37176502

 

When the particulars of an earthquake are studied deeply, it is found that it is very _________

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
  
  
  

 

Question 4:

We all recall the L’Aquila (Magnitude 6.3) event of 2009 in which 295 died. But go much further back to Avezzano (Magnitude 6.9-7.0) in 1915, which claimed 30,000 lives; and to 1703 when a trio of Magnitude 6 quakes killed at least 10,000 people.Thankfully, we tend not to see deaths on those scales anymore, and that is because of more robust building, better preparation and more co-ordinated emergency responses after the fact.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37176502

 

Which one of the following is NOT the reason why deaths are rare with quakes of magnitude between 6 and 7?

  1. Good planning and preparation
  2. Quakes are not seen anymore
  3. Effective construction of buildings
  4. Handling emergency situation well
Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
  
  
  

 

Question 5:

But look closer at the specifics of any quake and the details are much more complicated. The Tyrrhenian Basin, or Sea, which lies to the west of Italy, between the mainland and Sardinia/Corsica, is slowly opening up. Scientists say this is contributing to extension, or “pull-apart”, along the Apennines which works at a rate of 3mm per year. Add in movement in the Adriatic where the crust is rotating in an anti-clockwise direction, and you have a fiendishly complex picture. Italy is literally being pushed and pulled every which way.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37176502

 

A major effect can be observed at the western region of Italy where a (i)_________is located. It is found to be gradually broadening up leading to the situation of  (ii)_________ at the rate of (iii)_____per year.

 

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
  
  
  

ANSWERS:

1.

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
Hardest substanceSuper-hard metal
Discovered in the laboratoryMade in the laboratory
CombinationTogether
ANSWER: MELTED

 

2.

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
Of ItalyOf Italy
AlwaysEver present
ThreatDanger
ANSWER: APENNINE MOUNTAIN RANGE

 

3.

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
Particulars of an earthquakeSpecifics of any quake
Studied deeplyLook closer
Much moreVery
ANSWER: COMPLICATED

 

4.

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in paragraph
The reason whyThat is because of
Deaths are rareNot to see deaths anymore
Good planning and preparationBetter preparation
Effective construction of buildingMore robust building
Handling emergency situation wellMore co-ordinated emergency responses
ANSWER: B

 

5.

Keywords in questionSimilar keywords in passage
Is locatedLies
Western region of ItalyWest of Italy
Gradually broadening upSlowly opening up
Leading toContributing to
At the rate ofAt a rate of
ANSWERS:

 

i. Tyrrhenian Basin/Sea

ii. Extension/pull-apart

iii. 3 mm

 

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