ASVAB Word Knowledge Study Guide Part 2

Context Strategies

The second part of our ASVAB Word Knowledge Study Guide covers context strategies. Many of the Word Knowledge questions require you to use context clues to figure out the meaning of a given word. The following strategies will help you answer these sorts of questions with ease and accuracy.

Strategy 1: Evaluate Word Usage

First, use the sentence the word is found in to evaluate how it is being used. Many times, the usage of a word can help you develop a definition. Take the following sentence for example:

The officer was rather loquacious, talking all day to anyone who would listen.

From the rest of the sentence, it is clear that loquacious is about talking, and phrases like “all day” and “anyone who would listen” make it clear that the word is being used to describe someone who talks a lot. Thus, you could draw a reasonable conclusion that loquacious means “talkative” or “verbose.”

Let’s look at one more example:

Spring was her favorite season, so she always felt jubilant when the snow started to melt and the flowers began to bloom.

We know that someone would be feeling positive emotions when thinking of or experiencing one of their favorite things, so we can conclude that jubilant means “excited” or “joyous.”

Strategy 2: Contrast Words

Many sentences may include a word that is contrasted with the word in question, which can be very helpful in pointing to a definition. Take the following sentence for example:

Jonah was not like his neurotic brother; he was much more placid and easygoing.

This sentence provides words that are meant to contrast greatly with neurotic. If we know that Jonah is very relaxed and calm, we can assume neurotic means “distraught” or “anxious.”

Words like “although,” “despite,” “however,” “rather,” and “while” are great words to look for, as they point to a contrasted word or idea. Here’s another example:

Although Sarah had a fear of heights, she found her first time on a plane to be wondrous.

The word “although” implies that Sarah’s thoughts of her plane trip were unexpected. With that information, we can guess that she felt positive emotions about the trip, and equate wondrous with words like “amazing” or “fascinating.”

Strategy 3: Figurative Language

Further, look for figurative language strategies that might give hints to a word’s meaning. Some sentences include analogies, comparisons, synonyms and antonyms, or examples that can point to the correct definition. Take the following sentence as an example:

Vulnerable people, such as young children and the elderly, should take extra precautions when going out in extreme heat.

The sentence indicates that “young children and the elderly” are vulnerable, so you know to direct your attention to qualities that those groups share. This detail makes correct answers like “defenseless” or “sensitive” make more sense than incorrect answers like “secure” or “strong.”

Let’s look at one final example:

The prodigious amount of food on the table was enough to feed a whole country!

This sentence uses a hyperbole, or extreme exaggeration, to make its point. We can evaluate what the hyperbole is trying to tell us to understand about the word in question. Calling an amount of food “enough to feed a whole country” is clearly pointing to a very large amount of food, so we can assume that prodigious means “enormous” or “tremendous.”

When you come across a word that you are unfamiliar with, its context is essential for finding the right answer. Look at both the parts of the sentence and the parts of the word to see if there is anything you recognize; whether a word is contrasted with an obvious antonym or it’s followed by an analogy, context clues are important not only for understanding the word in general, but ensuring that you know how the word is being used in a specific instance.

After considering the information above, put your skills to practice with the quiz below.

Part 2 Review Quiz:

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Question 1

Simone decided to leave her apartment because the noisiness wasn’t conducive to her reading.

In the sentence above, conducive most nearly means

Question 1 Explanation: 
The sentence cays that Simone is leaving because of the noise in her apartment. It makes sense that noise would not be helpful to someone who is trying to read. So, if the “noisiness” of the apartment “wasn’t conducive to her reading,” it makes sense for “conducive” to mean “suitable.”
Question 2

The platoon leader immediately realized his dilemma: risk the lives of a few of his soldiers by sending them forward, or risk the lives of his entire platoon by waiting.

In the sentence above, dilemma most nearly means

Question 2 Explanation: 
The sentence clearly shows that the platoon leader has two options, and that each of those options has potential consequences. This presents a “problem” that the platoon leader needs to solve. It may be his “responsibility” based on “orders” to make this decision, but neither of those words work in place of “dilemma” in the sentence.
Question 3

Like water running down a drain, the village’s resources rapidly depleted while they waited for outside aid.

In the sentence above, depleted most nearly means

Question 3 Explanation: 
Based on the simile in the sentence, one can assume that “depleted” means to disappear quickly. This simile implies that they are being used up, or “drained,” rather than “decompos[ing]” or “spoil[ing].”
Question 4

New England weather fluctuates so quickly that you might need to wear a jacket in the morning and shorts in the afternoon.

In the sentence above, fluctuates most nearly means

Question 4 Explanation: 
If you need a jacket in the morning and shorts in the afternoon, it’s clear that the weather is changing, which makes “varies” the best choice. It might be tempting to choose “impacts” because the weather is clearly affecting people in the sentence, but the point of the sentence is that it changes, or “varies.”
Question 5

Raul’s play was so scandalous that every face in the audience was as red as a strawberry.

In the sentence above, scandalous most nearly means

Question 5 Explanation: 
If people’s faces turned red, we can assume they were embarrassed. This suggests that the play was “shocking.” None of the other choices really fit for this simile.
Question 6

The defendant claimed he was with his ex-girlfriend at the time of the murder, but since she wouldn’t corroborate his story, the jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree.

In the sentence above, corroborate most nearly means

Question 6 Explanation: 
According to the sentence, the reason that the jury convicted the defendant is because his ex-girlfriend “wouldn’t corroborate his story.” In this context, “confirm” is the only option that makes sense. She doesn’t need to “establish” the story because the defendant has already done that, and if she wouldn’t “refute” his story, that would be helpful to his case. “Prove” might seem like it fits, but the court didn’t ask her to “prove” the story; they only asked her to confirm that it’s true.
Question 7

Even though everyone in the kingdom loved her, Princess Escalita remained modest.

In the sentence above, modest most nearly means

Question 7 Explanation: 
Based upon the contrasting dependent clause at the beginning of the sentence, “modest” needs to be in contrast with “everyone in the kingdom [loving] her.” The choice that makes the most sense is “humble.” “Authoritative” might be tempting, but people can love a leader who is authoritative, so it doesn’t fit in the sentence as well as “humble.”
Question 8

Mark’s reactions to the teacher were always very adversarial, as if he was always looking for a fight.

In the sentence above, adversarial most nearly means

Question 8 Explanation: 
Answer choice (D) is correct because “adversarial” means to go against someone with hostility. If you look closely at the word usage, you’ll see the phrase after the word suggests Mark is “always looking for an argument.” While “opinionated” might fit, it doesn’t match the negative connotation of “fight.” The best choice is “oppositional.”
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ASVAB Word Knowledge Guide Part 3 >>