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Understanding Vocabulary Words in Context

You Don't Have to Memorize Vocabulary Words to Understand the Meanings!

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Understanding Vocabulary Words in Context

Understanding Vocabulary Words In Context Intro

Vocab in Context Practice 1

Reading comprehension is one of the most difficult things to master on a standardized test. The test-makers evaluate whether you can find the main idea, make inferences, find the author's purpose, make inferences, and understand vocabulary words, some of which you may have never been introduced to you before.

The good news? You can understand vocabulary words based on the context of the passage - the words, clauses and phrases around the unknown vocabulary word. You don’t have to memorize all the vocabulary words in the dictionary!

For example, you might not understand the word, acerbity, by itself, but this sentence, “The acerbity of the lemon caused the little girl to spit out the bite she had just taken.” helps you understand that the general meaning of acerbity must be “bitter or sour”. The context clues "lemon" and "spitting out the bite", which provide more information in the sentence, help you understand what the vocabulary word means.

Vocabulary Words In Context on a Test

A question on a standardized test may look something like this:

After the first day on the job, the bank’s new manager realized he would be busier than he had been led to believe. Not only was he assisting the bank tellers with their work, but his new boss had decided to inundate him with other tasks like creating security systems, managing the bank’s deposits and refunds, securing loans, and maintaining the daily operations. The new manager was exhausted as he locked the bank up for the night.


The word “inundate” from the passage is closest in meaning to
  1. overload
  2. provide
  3. assault
  4. underwhelm

Hint: A way to figure out if your choice is correct is by putting the answer choice in the sentence in place of the vocabulary word. Which one fits the intended meaning the best?

You're right. It's "overload." The first choice is the best pick, although "assault" is a close second. The only way that one would work is if the tone of the passage had been more negative.

Understanding Vocabulary Words in Context Exercise

Try to determine the meanings of the following italicized vocabulary words, based on the context clues in the sentences.Skill level: easy.

  1. Pablo always showed animosity toward his teachers by throwing spitballs and mouthing off, but his sister Mary was kind and sweet.
  2. The little girl was showing signs of ocular problems - she squinted to read the blackboard and complained of headaches after working on the computer for too long.
  3. The crowd rewarded the singer with plaudits, or extreme praise, by clapping and cheering during a standing ovation.
  4. Elena’s repudiation of Jerry’s bad table manners was obvious to everyone at dinner as she dropped her napkin and left the table.
  5. From the far past to the present day, the moon has been thought to cause lunacy. Some studies have shown that this momentary insanity does have some association to the moon's phases.
  6. The old man’s hair was sparse rather than thick and full like it was when he was young.
  7. Janie was as devout as the Pope himself.
  8. My sister Kimmy shows a great abhorrence for crowds, whereas my little brother Michael loves to be the center of attention.
  9. When you admonish someone, you point out his or her errors; an example would be scolding a child for misbehaving.
  10. The sorcerer’s minions, or devoted followers, were willing to perform any sorcery he could conjure.
  11. Ninety-seven pairs is a superfluous number of shoes.
  12. The spy was hung at the gallows of his homeland for his perfidious deeds.
  13. “Busy as a bee” and “quiet as a mouse” are hackneyed phrases – they’re used all the time.
  14. Amelia was as pretentious as a princess when she arrived to the party. She tossed her coat to the hostess and grabbed a drink out of a nearby guest’s hand.
  15. We always listen to my great-aunt because she is venerable, but we ignore my niece’s advice because she’s only six.
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