Keyword Diary Method – Worked through Example

keyword diary

The Keyword diary method is one out of 250+ strategies recommended in the UCAT study guide to reduce reading regression.

Regression is the behaviour we engage when reading a passage and we go back to re-read something we already read in order to be sure if we really understood the message. In the UCAT it can’t be avoided, however, it must be kept minimal and used as a last resort. The main issue with regression is that it is a waste of time, think about it, you’re essentially reading text that you’ve read over again. It’s a common reading habit for many students and researchers propose it’s a mechanism of laziness, where students rely on the fact that they can go back and re-read at any time, so the brain relaxes and does not concentrate properly. Another cause of regression is doubt in one’s skills, where students do not trust that they fully comprehend what they read. Whatever your reason, practice reducing regression, this will not only improve reading concentration it will drastically improve your pace in the exam. A simple and effective technique to help control regression is the Keyword diary method.

When reading a passage commit to reading sentences or pieces of text only once. Imagine you will not get another chance to read it again. This shift in mindset will force you to concentrate more.

What is the Keyword Diary Method?

The Keyword diary method is a great reading technique to adopt during preparation to reduce regression and your ability at spotting keywords within a passage. I came up with this technique the third time I took the UCAT and it was a game changer. How does it work? Instead of only looking for a specific keyword every time you refer to the passage, simultaneously keep an eye out for other keywords in the passage and write them down, these are other names, dates, places or key phrases mentioned in the passage – list them according to the paragraphs where they are found in the passage. See below an example of a keyword diary for a passage about classical music concerts.

keyword diary example

As you can see in the above keyword diary, the passage as three paragraphs listed as P1, P2 and P3. Each paragraph has a list of keywords that stood out to the reader. Let’s assume there was a question about ‘iTunes’, the reader can quickly refer to paragraph 3 instead of scanning the entire passage.

How to Create a Keyword Diary for a Passage

You reduce regression by referring straight to this ‘diary’ instead of re-skimming the passage to find the target keyword. Depending on your reading strategy you could create the keyword diary before you attempt questions or as you attempt questions.

Students that skim/read passage before looking at questions:

Step 1: Count the number of paragraphs and write them down (e.g. paragraph 1 is P1, Paragraph 2 is P2 and so on).

Step 2: Skim the passage and simultaneously write potential keywords you come across in the passage and place them to the paragraph they are found. Make sure to only include keywords where you understand the information– commit to reading sentences only once.

Step 3: Read question as normal and pick a keyword. If the keyword is listed in the diary mentally recall what you read and answer the question straight away. Only read the passage as a last resort.

Step 4: If target keyword is not included in the dairy then its either you missed it, or it’s not covered in the passage. Scan the passage again to double check. Save time by using the keyword dairy wherever possible to find ‘relatable keywords’. For example, let’s use the earlier keyword diary for the passage about classical music concerts. Imagine there was a question with the keyword ‘Spotify’, which was not included in the diary. However, the reader included ‘iTunes’ in passage 3. It is more likely if information about Spotify existed in the passage it will be in the third passage. Rather than scanning the entire text scan only passage 3.

Students that read question before skimming passage:

Step 1: Count the number of paragraphs and write them down (e.g. paragraph 1 is P1, Paragraph 2 is P2 and so on).

Step 2: Read question as normal and pick a keyword.

Step 3: Scan the passage for the target keyword and simultaneously write potential keywords you come across in the diary.Don’t bother with understanding the information of non-targeted keywords as you don’t have time to dive into them.

Step 4: When you find target keyword, read/skim the surrounding sentences, i.e. the sentences before and after the keyword sentence. This small section of text should contain the answer. If necessary, read more sentences in the paragraph until you solve the problem. Commit to reading sentences only once and adding more keywords to diary from the surrounding text.

Step 5: If a keyword in the diary is included in a later question mentally recall what you read and answer the question straight away. Only read the passage as a last resort.

If you struggle with picking a keyword or remembering what’s in the passage, take a moment after each paragraph to do a mental recap of what you’ve read and write down words that trigger memory. These words do not have to be mentioned in the passage. I would recommend putting an asterisk next to them letting you know it’s a ‘memory trigger’ keyword not a keyword used in the passage.

Now that you know how to create a keyword diary, let’s look at an example and create one to help work through the text:

keyword diary passage

There is no wrong or right set of keywords to include in a diary, pick words or phrases that stand out to you from the passage. These are words that build on the main idea for each paragraph. After completing a diary, practice recalling key points from the passage by only reviewing the keywords listed it. See below a keyword diary for the passage provided:

keyword diary example 2

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