SAT Hub

Vocabulary In Context Questions

Vocabulary-in-context questions are usually among the most straightforward questions on the Reading Test, as well as some of the least time-consuming.

The most important thing to understand about these questions is that they do not actually test the definitions of words or phrases in an abstract or absolute sense, but rather how words are used in the context of actual pieces of writing.

As a result, you do not need to know the exact definition of the word being tested. On the contrary, you only need to understand how it is being used in that particular place.

Keep in mind that the majority of the words tested will not be used in their most common definition - there would be little point in testing them that way. Consequently, if you see the literal definition listed as an answer choice, you can assume that it’s most likely incorrect.

You can, therefore, think of a question that asks, “As it is used in line 45, the word ‘confused’ most nearly means...” as actually asking, “As it is used in line 45, the word means...”

Follow this strategy to answer vocabulary-in-context questions:

  1. Take your pencil and in the passage, cross out the word you’re being asked about
  2. Read the appropriate section of the passage carefully and plug in your own choosing to replace the crossed-out word; the word you select should make sense in the context of the passage
  3. Select the answer choice that closely matches the one you chose

If you still do not spot the correct answer immediately, there are a few other strategies you can try:

  • Plug each answer choice into the passage and read it in context
  • Play positive/negative - If the surrounding information in the passage is clearly positive, you can eliminate any negative word and vice-versa.
Example 1 
         For all of modern history, a small, carnivorous South American mammal in the raccoon family has evaded the scientific community. Untold thousands of these red, furry creatures scampered through the trees of the Andean cloud forests, but they did so at night, hidden by dense fog. Nearly two dozen preserved samples - mostly skulls or furs—were mislabeled in museum collections across the United States. There’s even evidence that one individual lived in several American zoos during the 1960s—its keepers were mystified as to why it refused to breed with its peers.

Questions:
1. As highlighted in orange, the word “evaded” most nearly means devalued
A.
devalued
B
. eluded
C.
confirmed
D.
exploited

2. The passage suggest that the scientific community regarded the South American mammal as
A.
enigmatic
B.
threatening
C.
adaptable
D.
endangered

Solutions:
 
1. It’s reasonable to assume that evaded means something slightly negative, like “hid from” or “avoided.” If you know that’s the definition of eluded, you can pick B and be done. If not, play process of elimination. Confirmed is positive and means the opposite of what you’re looking for, which means C can be eliminated. Devalued and exploited don’t fit with the idea of being hidden by dense fog, so they can be eliminated as well. Even if you’re not entirely sure what eluded means, you can still pick the correct answer as B.

2. You must find the information that describes what scientists think about the mammal. The mammal evaded the scientific community, and its keepers were mystified. The correct answer must, therefore, mean something like mysterious. That is the definition of enigmatic, so A is the correct answer. Even if you don’t know what enigmatic means, however, you can still get to A by process of elimination. Threatening, adaptable, and endangered entirely unrelated to the idea of being mysterious.
Example 2: The following passage is adapted from Susan B. Anthony’s Remarks to the Woman’s Auxiliary Congress of the Public Press Congress, May 23, 1893. 

              Mrs. President and Sisters, I might almost say daughters - I cannot tell you how much joy has filled my heart as I have sat here listening to these papers and noting those characteristics that made each in its own way beautiful and masterful. I would in no ways lessen the importance of these expressions by your various representatives, but I want to say that the words that specially voiced what I may call the up-gush of my soul were to be found in the paper read by Mrs. Swaim on “The Newspaper as a Factor of Civilization.”

           I have never been a pen artist and I have never succeeded with rhetorical flourishes unless it were by accident. But I have always admired supremely that which I could realize the least. The woman who can coin words and ideas to suit me best would not be unlike Mrs. Swaim, and when I heard her I said: “That is worthy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”While I have been sitting here I have been thinking that we have made strides in journalism in the last forty years. I recall the first time I ever wrote for a paper. The periodical was called the Lily. It was edited and quite appropriately—by a Mrs. Bloomer. The next paper to which I contributed was the Una. These two journals were the only avenues women had through which to face themselves in type to any extent worthy of note before the war.

           The press was as kind as it knew how to be. It meant well and did all for us it knew how to do. We couldn’t ask it to do more than it knew how. But that was little enough and I tried an experiment editing a newspaper myself. I started a paper and ran it for two years at a vast cost to every one concerned in it. I served seven years at lecturing to pay off the debt and interest on that paper and I considered myself fortunate to get off as easily as that.

Questions
 
1. As highlighted in orange in the first paragraph, “voiced” most nearly means
A.
recorded
B.
rose
C.
strained
D.
conveyed

2. As highlighted in orange in the second paragraph, “coin” most nearly means
A.
gain
B.
spend
C.
think up
D.
learn about

3. As highlighted in orange in the second paragraph, “avenues” most nearly mean
A.
routes
B.
means
C.
escapes
D.
conventions

4. As highlighted in orange in the third paragraph, “concerned” most nearly means
A.
worried
B.
involved
C.
bothered
D.
altered

Solutions 
1. Anthony is basically saying that of all the speeches, she particularly liked Mrs. Swalm’s speech because it voiced the gush-up of (her) soul. In other words, it “voiced” her deepest feelings. Voiced means something along the lines of expressed. Conveyed is closest to expressed, making D the correct answer. 

2. Anthony is talking about the qualities of her ideal speechwriter; in that context, think up makes perfect sense. If you know that the second meaning of coin is “think up,” then you can assume C is the correct answer from the start.

3. If you plugged in your own word, you might have said something like channels. Means is a synonym, so it is correct. If you think this sounds strange, you can work by process of elimination. None of the other answers make sense at all in context. The correct answer is B.

4. “Worried” is the most common definition of concerned, which means that you can eliminate it from the get-go. If you had to plug in your own word, there’s a pretty good chance you’d come up with something like involved, which is, in fact, the answer. The correct answer is B.

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

More Topics

Reading Answer Choices

The SAT test writers are amazingly skilled at writing tempting wrong answers, so it’s worth taking some time to understand the techniques they use to avoid falling for their traps.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

Infographics Questions

No matter how unfamiliar the terminology may be, all the information you need to answer graph-related questions will be right in front of you. These questions are set up precisely so that you can figure them out without any outside knowledge.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

Inference Questions

Inference questions tend to be among the most challenging types of Reading Comprehension questions on the SAT. Instead of testing your understanding of what is in the text, inference questions test your understanding of what isn’t in the text.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

Vocabulary In Context Questions

Vocabulary-in-context questions are usually among the most straightforward questions on the Reading Test, as well as some of the least time-consuming.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

Literal Translation Questions

Literal translation questions ask about the details of a passage. In contrast to your approach to general questions, to master literal translation problems, you will need to re-read and grasp details in the passage.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

Main Idea Questions

If there is one question you are certain to see on the SAT, it is about the main idea of a passage. The main idea is nothing but the primary purpose of the passage.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

Paired Passages

Every part of the SAT Reading Test contains one paired passage. Each passage has a different author and a different point of view, but both will always revolve around the same basic idea or event, even if it isn’t always immediately obvious how the two passages relate to one another.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

3 Key Reading Strategies

The single most important strategy to get the SAT Reading questions correct is to plagirize the answers from the passages itself.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

How to Approach a SAT Passage

Reading comprehension is question driven. To be successful, you need to be an active reader – quickly consuming a passage’s main ideas and then saving time to locate relevant information within the passage to answer detail-oriented test questions.

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now

Intro to SAT Reading

The SAT Reading Test is tough for a lot of students, and embodies a central complaint many people have about this test: How can you pick just one right answer to a question about a passage?

Checkout some of our ACT Training related resources for you.
View Resources Now