Word Knowledge Study Guide for McGraw-Hill's ASVAB (page 3)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Jun 26, 2011

Use Context Clues to Figure Out Meaning

One good way to figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word is to use what are called context clues. The context of a word is the phrases and sentence or sentences that surround it. Often, even if you have never heard a word before, you can guess its meaning by looking at the context in which it appears. The context may give you clues to help you figure out the meaning.

Study Some Examples

Here are some examples of how to use context clues to figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word.

  • During the snowstorm, the government sent home all nonessential personnel. (Nonessential must mean "not important" or "not needed.")
  • When giving a person driving directions, you must be very explicit, or else the person may make a wrong turn. (Explicit must mean "precise" or "exact.")
  • Even though the club members disagreed about the project, their conversation was amicable. (Amicable must mean something that is the opposite of disagreeing.)
  • The chairperson convened a panel of experts to discuss global warming. (Convened must mean something related to bringing together a group of people.)
  • They commemorated the end of the war by holding a big parade. (Commemorate must mean something like "get together to remember.")
  • Even though there was no sign of a problem, Kisha had a premonition that something would go wrong. (A premonition must be a suspicion or feeling about something that is going to happen.)
  • Gene was only in fourth grade, but he was precocious in his school subjects because he studied with his older brothers. (Precocious must mean something related to being advanced or ahead of what is expected.)
  • Scientists are worried that this new disease, which spreads rapidly and for which there is no vaccine, may cause a pandemic. (A pandemic must be a disease outbreak that is widespread and out of control.)
  • Brad was usually stable and predictable, but to our surprise, his behavior in this instance was unorthodox. (Unorthodox must mean something like "different from stable and predictable.")
  • Though most people in the audience were calm and quiet, Sally was bubbly and loquacious. (Loquacious must mean the opposite of calm and quiet.)
  • Brian took vicarious pleasure in Joan's debut on stage, even though he was not able to attend the performance. (Vicarious must have something to do with experiencing pleasure without being there.)
  • Even though the hurricane is expected to arrive on shore at any moment, the sea is still placid. (Placid must have something to do with not being stirred up with high surf and waves. It may mean "calm.")
  • The weapons and stolen cash were tangible evidence that the defendant was guilty. (Tangible must mean "real" or "concrete.")

Start Using What You Know

Use the following activity to further expand and strengthen your vocabulary.

Use It Or Lose It

Many experts say that the best way to learn a new word is to use the word in your speech and writing. When you learn a new word, use it in different sentences. Say the word out loud. Do this several times. If you don't use it, you are likely to forget it. Make up new sentences with the word. Find ways to use the word in your daily life. The following activities will help you practice these skills.

Answering ASVAB Word Knowledge Items

When you take the ASVAB Word Knowledge test, use the knowledge and skills you have learned in this chapter to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words. Here are seven steps you can follow to attack Word Knowledge items:

  1. When you read the item, see if there are any context clues.
  2. Mentally guess at the meaning of the word.
  3. Scan the possible answers.
  4. Eliminate those that are clearly wrong.
  5. Pick the word that is the closest match—the best answer.
  6. If you can't make an initial determination, try picking the word apart. Look for the prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
  7. Give it your best shot and don't be afraid of guessing, as there is no penalty for a wrong answer on the paper-and-pencil version.

Word List Chart

Use the following chart to record unfamiliar words that you read or hear. Write down your guess at the meaning of the word. Then look up the word in a dictionary or thesaurus to identify synonyms.

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