Answer Keys


After doing hard work of some course for a given period, we always wish to know the result of the work we did. We are in perpetual wait for the result. Ultimately, the result is necessary but it may take its due time. In the meantime, the answer key satisfies our curiosity to know the result. Before the result is out, the answer key lets us know the result of our hard work.

But, before proceeding towards the definition of an answer key, let us first dive into knowing what an ‘answer’ is. The answer is anything that satiates the conditions set by the question or a ‘response’. However, we cannot say that the answer necessarily needs to be something that satisfies the questioner, because the same question may be observed differently by different people having different views/opinions.

What is an Answer Key?

Answer key is defined as a key to the answers, specifically to a test or exam. Usually, it’s a copy of the test or exam with the best possible answers written in it. There are two types of answer keys, one is specifically keys that include the steps used to reach the answer as well as the answer itself i.e. worked-out answer keys, which help out students who are academically weak in subjects like science or mathematics. Another one, that provides the answers to the questions.

Use of Answer Key

The answer key that contains in-depth explanations (a worked-out answer key) could be a positive aid to the development of the student’s problem-solving skills, reasoning skills, and communications skills, also can be an excellent learning experience for students. It acts as a source of confirmation or modification for the student concerning the strategies and processes he/she used for solving a question and arriving at their answer resulting in the empowerment of individual students in their growth toward independent learning. Furthermore, this type of answer key would be a concrete tool that would help the individual student create knowledge through his/her experience. When we give a test or an exam, we are provided the answer key before the result, so that we get to know the rough result with the help of the answer key. Hence, cut-off marks or merit lists are also mostly obtained through answer keys and results.

If any institute or board conducting a particular exam releases the answer key for their exam on their official website, candidates by logging their credentials on the official website can download the answer key and response sheets.

The discrepancy in Answer Keys

There are always questions raised about the validity of the answer key published by the conducting board. When an examination is conducted by any board and the format is multiple choice question or MCQ and students are required to fill optically marked response (OMR) sheets. After the end of the exam, the OMR sheets are evaluated based on an answer key shared by the board. Hence, there is a possibility of some ambiguity in questions or discrepancies between its suggested answers and the contents of textbooks. And this has happened in the case of many exams, a few discrepancies have been noted in the answer key supplied by the board. So, to avoid any possibility of ambiguity in questions or discrepancy in answer keys, some boards consider the feedback of the subject experts while preparing so that no students are put to any disadvantage.

Few coaching institutes also release the answer key even before the board/conducting body. These keys are prepared by the faculties of the institutions. In most cases they are correct, but may contain errors, so, we should not rely on them as they release the answer keys in a hurry to compete with other coaching institutes. We should just consider them just for the sake of knowledge.

Challenging of answers in Answer Keys

The answer key indicates a correct answer provided by the question, but that answer might not be the only acceptable answer in some cases. So, candidates who are not satisfied with the answers provided in the answer key can challenge or object to that question within a given time frame. Let’s say if a question has only one correct answer while according to the student, there are two. There could also be a situation where none of the answers to one question fit but in the answer key, one correct answer is mentioned, then students can challenge the answers in these cases. Some examination conducting bodies may charge a processing fee for challenging the answers provided in the answer key.

Delay of the Answer Key

There is also the problem of delaying the answer keys. We can say that releasing the answer key is a long process because each question has to be checked in every aspect before releasing the answer key to avoid errors and discrepancies. But some exam conducting bodies delay a lot in releasing their answer key, as a result of which parents and academicians write to the Boards through emails, thus requesting them to display the answer key soon so that it enables students to calculate their score and decide whether to apply for the second phase of examination or not.

Concludingly, we can say that there is an overall impact of the answer key on the students. The delay in releasing the final and revised answer key may occur in the delay of result announcement, thus resulting in the impact on the future of the students. The discrepancies in the answer key waste the time and money of the candidates challenging the answer in the answer key. The exam conducting body should review the challenges raised by the candidates and incorporate those changes if the challenges are accepted.