Using Key Words

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
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This reading lesson is about Using Key Words. So, Using Key Words is a specific strategy to help you answer questions more quickly on the ACT reading test while the clock is ticking. Also as a side benefit, it might help you do your homework a little bit faster when you have long reading tasks and you're being asked to answer very specific questions.

So, I do wanna reiterate that this is not a strategy to necessarily become a better reader. It's test specific because you are under a lot of time pressure on the ACT reading test and you need to find answers quickly. So, you're not always given the exact line reference or place where you need to find an answer choice, they're long passages.

You need to be able to find information quickly so this is just kind of a strategy to train your eyes. So why is this important? Well, ACT reading passages are long. I'm not expecting you to be able to read this. But even without being able to read it, you may notice that there's a few things that jump out, maybe like the capital letters.

Just because the text looks a little bit different, maybe a parenthesis jump out if you see them like right here, maybe italics like right here if you can read that. So, we're gonna look for the things that jump out at us. We're gonna find the key words in the questions and it's gonna help us find answers in the passage a little bit more quickly.

So, ACT reading passages are so long. Even if you thoroughly read the passage it's likely you won't always remember where the answer was to a question. So, it helps to train your eyes to find the easiest key words referenced in the question. So, this is a strategy for finding information in the passage where the questions don't give you a line or paragraph reference, here's how to do it.

Find a key word in your question that is easier for your eyes to spot, and scan the passage to find that key word, and then repeat with other key words if necessary. So, key words are easier to spot when scanning a passage include numbers such as dates, capitalized words like names, and italicized words or anything in a different format from the regular text, as well as specific terminology or uncommon nouns.

So, and is not gonna be a key word, that passage is likely to say that a bajillion times, so that's not gonna be what you're looking for. Let's take a look at some examples and see if we could figure out what our key words might be. So imagine this is a question you see. According to the passage, it can reasonably be assumed that Thatcher's 1979 election as Prime Minister resulted in.

Now, you might say Thatcher, but if the whole passage is about Thatcher, it's gonna say Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher over and over and over again. So, 1979 would probably be my first go to, this whole passage is probably not gonna say 1979 repeatedly. If it does, then you would look for some other key words. Maybe it is going to be Thatcher, depending on the context, or Prime Minister.

That might be what we're looking for because of those capitals here, the capital letters there. What about this question? Thatcher was originally awarded the nickname Iron Lady by well, in this case again, the whole passage is about Thatcher. I kind of like using Iron Lady as our key word, it has these quotes, maybe the quotes are gonna be used in the passage maybe not but it definitely has though capital letters of I and L.

One more example. Recession and unemployment during Thatcher's first years in office affected her popularity in what ways? Well again, the only capital proper noun we have here is Thatcher. The whole passage is about Thatcher. It's not gonna help you out too, too much.

But we have a few terms. These are what I'm saying are a little less common, specific terms, like recession. That could be a word that we look for, and unemployment. Now, it's likely that the passage may use synonyms for some things, but the more specific of a term, the less likely the passage is gonna use a synonym for that, so, recession jumps out at me as the best here one to be looking for specifically in the passage.

Here's a special bonus hint, if you can't find your question key words when you're scanning the passage, try looking for the key words that appear in the answer choices. So for example, if your question was Thatcher was originally awarded the nickname Iron Lady by, well, notice there's a lot of capital letters here. And we can look for these names in the passage and work by process of elimination.

It's a little bit slower, but it can also get you there. Just in case you were wondering, she was given that nickname by a Soviet journalist. Now you know, fun fact. Let's go ahead a take a look at a test example here. So we're not actually go through and read the passage, we're just gonna practice this strategy here.

You'll see this passage come up again elsewhere in so never fear. It can be inferred that the passage's reference to light blue Converse boots is primarily intended to. Take a second, what's the first word in this passage that you would look for, in this question, sorry, that you would look for in the passage? If you said Converse, that's the one I would go with as well because of the capital C, because it's a specific brand name.

So probably is gonna mentioned by brand, well actually, we know that because we have the quotes here. So we know that this is specifically going to be mentioned. So maybe we're looking for the whole phrase, maybe we're just looking for Converse. So, there's no right and wrong answer to key words but numbers, proper nouns are always easier to spot.

So if you have those options, I would go with those. So then we're gonna scan through the passage and we're gonna look for capital letter C's. I don't see it here. I do not see Converse here, I'm gonna keep scanning. I'll have to see, here that phrase is, light blue Converse boots, and then we can hone in on that to answer our question.

Let's go ahead and answer it by just looking around that section. It can be inferred that the passage's reference to light blue Converse boots is primarily intended to. Let's go ahead and take a look at this paragraph. Go ahead and pause the video, read it, see if you can figure out what the answer might be.

Okay, so in this case, Marie Antoinette is trying on new high heeled shoes and next to her on the floor lays a pair of well worn light blue Converse boots. The anachronistic feature is a cross-reference to today's fashion and youth culture reminding the audience that this is a film about teenagers and not really an 18th century piece. So the passage is stating why the light blue Converse boots are there.

And earlier in here, earlier in this paragraph, we have this reference to psychological, social and emotional condition of the character. So, talking about the costume design overall illustrates psychological, social and emotional condition of the character. The light blue Converse boots tells us this is a film about teenagers. So these ideas are being attached together so, psychological, social, emotional, condition.

Well, a teenager is a social condition, so the answer here is going to be B. Quick recap, underline the specific key words in your question and figure out what they are. That will also help keep you focused. Then scan the passage for those key words. When possible, look for key words that are easier to spot such as numbers, and capitalized words, such as proper names and italicized words, or interesting formatting that stands out.

And if you can't find the information, scan the passage for key words that appear in the answer choice. That's a bonus hint that can help you get there by process of elimination.

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