GMAT Strategic Reading: Keywords Unlock Meaning

June 21, 2012
Eli Meyer

GMAT BlogFirst see if you can use keywords to discern what these paragraphs are about:

It’s an hour before deadline, and I’m supposed to be writing a GMAT blog on keywords. However,____________. In fact, ___________________________. It’s true that _________________________, but on closer inspection, _________________________.

Keywords are vital to improving your understanding of complex passages in several ways. First, they serve as “road signs” to _____________________________.    ______ not only ______________________, but also _____________________________. Some keywords indicate _____________________, while others indicate _________________; still others ___________________________________.

Second, keywords can tell you what NOT to read. Contrast keywords such as _________________ indicate _____________, but ___________________ indicating continuation, such as ______________, _______in the most extreme cases, skipping ____________________________entirely. After all,_____________ ______________already read!


Then check out the completed thought:

It’s an hour before deadline. I’m supposed to be writing a GMAT blog on keywords. However, I’m going to leave some things blank to save time. In fact, I’m going to leave out most of the words. It’s true that this might seem confusing. But on closer inspection, the point of this blog will make itself clear.

Keywords are vital to improving your understanding of complex passages in several ways. First, they serve as “road signs” to GMAT reading comprehension passages. They not only connect paragraphs to one another, but also enable you to navigate the sentences within them. Some keywords indicate ideas that are similar, while others indicate an opposite or contrast; still others clue you in to the logical progression of cause and effect.

Second, keywords can tell you what NOT to read. Contrast keywords such as However or But often indicate something the author wants you to pay attention to, but if you see a word indicating continuation, such as And, Moreover, or Additionally, you can sometimes get away with skimming—or in the most extreme cases, skipping that part of the passage entirely. After all, if it’s a continuation, it’s more of something you’ve already read.


Now try one more:

Here’s a specific example of how keywords can help. This next paragraph is structured exactly the same as the paragraphs above but with a different opening line. Can you make sense of it, even though it’s talking about technical math you’re probably not familiar with? I’m guessing you can!

The St. Petersburg Paradox would seem to imply that even unbiased games can be manipulated to ensure profit, contradicting Huygen’s results. However, _________________________. In fact____________. It’s true that____________________, but on closer inspection, _______________________________.


Finally, use your knowledge of keywords to deconstruct the question of the day (click here to learn about bolded statement questions first):


Although no script, playbill, or other theater record survives to provide indisputable
evidence, the presence of several references to a tragic character named
“Hamlet” in another dramatist’s diary entries that predate Shakespeare’s
play by several years indicates that there was probably another revenge tragedy
by that name from which Shakespeare found inspiration for his own play. It is true,
of course, that Shakespeare might have based his play only on earlier versions of
the “Hamlet” legend and not even known of the so-called Ur-Hamlet. But there
is reason to think that Thomas Kyd wrote a play featuring a character by
the name of Hamlet, and Shakespeare’s play bears remarkable similarity to
another Kyd revenge play, The Spanish Tragedy.

The two statements in boldface play which of the following roles?
(A) The first and the second each offer reasons to doubt the veracity of the position
that the author seeks to establish.
(B) The first and the second each provide support for the author’s main point.
(C) The first provides evidence to support the author’s main point; the second is
that point.
(D) The first is an assertion that would undermine the author’s conclusion; the
second is a refutation of that assertion.
(E) The first and the second each undermine a position that the author seeks to


Step 1: Identify the Question Type
In reading the question stem, we see that this Bolded
Statement question is asking us to determine the roles
played by the two statements. We know that the primary
roles in any argument are conclusion and evidence.

Step 2: Untangle the Stimulus
The conclusion comes in the middle of the stimulus—that
Shakespeare found inspiration for Hamlet in other revenge
tragedies of the same name. We see that the first bolded
statement is evidence to support this conclusion because
of the keyword indicates. The second statement further
provides evidence to prove that Shakespeare found
inspiration in other revenge tragedies, not just in the
general “Hamlet” legend.

Step 3: Predict the Answer
So, our answer must tell us that both bolded statements
are offered in support of the conclusion.

Step 4: Evaluate the Choices
(B) explains that succinctly—they both provide evidence for
the main point. (A) is a 180. Neither statement undermines
the author’s conclusion. (C) gets it half right. The second
statement, however, is not the main point, just specific
evidence about another play Shakespeare borrowed from
supporting it. (D) completely mixes up the relationship. The
second statement does not refute the first. If anything, they
complement each other. Finally, in (E), while the second
statement undermines the position that Shakespeare found
inspiration in the legends, rather than another tragedy (a
position the author does indeed want to weaken), the first
statement supports the author’s main point directly, not by
undermining a position the author wishes to weaken.


Eli Meyer Eli Meyer has been a Kaplan teacher since 2003. He has spent the past four years focused almost exclusively on the GMAT, and also has prior experience helping students ranging from middle-schoolers taking the ISEE to professors retaking the GRE for their second PhD. During his Kaplan career, Elis has also written and revised Kaplan course materials and acted as a community liaison on several popular GMAT message boards, all the while helping his students succeed both in and out of the classroom.

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