Word Knowledge for Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) Study Guide

Updated on Jul 5, 2011


This article will help you improve your vocabulary skills so that you can score higher on the Word Knowledge section of the ASVAB.

The Word Knowledge subtest of the ASVAB is essentially a vocabulary test. Combined with the Paragraph Comprehension subtest, Word Knowledge helps make up your Verbal Equivalent score—it is also one of the four subtests that determine whether or not you will be allowed to enlist.

Your ability to communicate, whether in the military or working in the private sector, is one of the most important factors in building a successful career. Whether reporting crucial information from the battlefield, or writing a proposal for a key contract, the ability to communicate effectively cannot be understated. Furthermore, your ability to understand military training materials, as well as convey ideas, depends in part on your reading comprehension and vocabulary skill.

There are two different kinds of questions on the Word Knowledge subtest:

  • Synonyms: identifying words that mean the same as the given words
  • Context: determining the meaning of a word or phrase by noting how it is used in a sentence or paragraph


A word is a synonym of another word if it has the same or nearly the same meaning as the other word. Test questions often ask you to find the synonym or antonym of a word. If you're lucky, the word will be surrounded by a sentence that helps you guess what the word means. If you're less lucky, you will just get the word, and then you have to figure out what the word means without any context.

Questions that ask for synonyms can be tricky because they require you to recognize the meaning of several words that may be unfamiliar—not only the words in the questions but also the answer choices. Usually the best strategy is to look at the structure of the word and to listen for its sound. See if a part of a word looks familiar. Think of other words you know that have similar key elements. How could those words be related?

Synonym Practice

Try identifying the word parts and related words in these sample synonym questions. Circle the word that means the same or about the same as the italicized word. Answers and explanations appear right after the questions.

  1. incoherent answer
    1. not understandable
    2. not likely
    3. undeniable
    4. challenging
  2. ambiguous questions
    1. meaningless
    2. difficult
    3. simple
    4. vague
  3. covered with debris
    1. good excuses
    2. transparent material
    3. scattered rubble
    4. protective material
  4. inadvertently left
    1. mistakenly
    2. purposely
    3. cautiously
    4. carefully
  5. exorbitant prices
    1. expensive
    2. unexpected
    3. reasonable
    4. outrageous
  6. compatible workers
    1. gifted
    2. competitive
    3. harmonious
    4. experienced
  7. belligerent attitude
    1. hostile
    2. reasonable
    3. instinctive
    4. friendly
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