The Word Knowledge test is designed to measure your understanding of the meanings of words. The test consists of 35 underlined words. From the four choices, select the word or phrase meaning most nearly the same as the underlined word.
35 questions in 11 minutes
There are two ways to do well on vocabulary-type tests. One is to memorize words and their meanings, hoping you remember enough of them to answer questions about them correctly. The other is to learn how English words are formed so that if you encounter an unfamiliar word, you can figure out its approximate meaning and determine exactly what it means from the context in which it's used, i.e., from the way it's used in the sentence or paragraph.
The latter way may seem harder, but it's really easier than spending hours and hours reading a dictionary and trying to memorize what you're reading. What follows is taken from a popular ASVAB/AFCT study guide published by COMEX Systems. There are many other study guides you can find at large bookstores or on-line.
As with all tests, there are techniques you can learn that will help you improve your score. In this particular test (but also, to a lesser extent, in the others) you should eliminate choices that you know are not correct. That will improve your odds of picking the correct answer.
After eliminating obviously incorrect answers, try to figure out which part of speech is the underlined word. Is it a noun? Then mentally cross off all words left among the choices that's not a noun.
Basic Parts of speech
Noun – the name of a person, place, or thing (e.g., San Francisco, Mary, cow, magnolia).
Pronoun – a substitute for the name of a person, place, or thing (e.g., her, it, I, them).
Verb – a word used to show action of some kind (e.g., run, sit, read, look, listen, press).
Adverb – a word that indicates manner, time, place, cause, or degree and answers questions such as "how," "when," "where," "how much" (e.g., quickly, unfortunately, boldly, patiently) NOTE: not all adverbs end in -ly.
Adjective – a word that describes, identifies, or quantifies nouns or pronouns (e.g., fifteen, smart, green, small, battered, irritating).
Preposition – a word that usually indicates the relationship of an object (e.g., above, on, over, under, around, through, beside, after, during, later).
Also you can check to see if the underlined word is singular or plural, and rule out the choices that are the opposite. That is, if the underlined word is plural, any of the choices that's singular is incorrect.
NOTE: the word choices will almost never be exact synonyms. Here's an example from the COMEX Systems study guide:
Example: Retrieving most nearly means:
A. leaving B. carried C. bringing back D. brought
Assume you know that retrieving does not mean leaving. You have already eliminated one option. You now have narrowed the choices to B, C, and D.
Now look at the remaining words a little closer. Retrieving is in the present tense. Carried is in the past. Bringing back is in the present and brought is in the past. That means our answer is C. Bringing back is in the same tense as retrieving. Of the 4 possible choices, retrieving most nearly means bringing back.
What if you had not eliminated leaving? You would have had two answers left. When you guessed you would have had a 50% chance of getting the question right instead of 25% if you did not eliminate any answers.
If eliminating wrong choices doesn't work, look at the context – its environment, the way the word is used in the sentence or paragraph. As the COMEX guide says, however, this method doesn't work if you're asked for the word closest in meaning to another word.
If the underlined word is one of a series, you may be able to tell what it means by looking at the other words in the series.
Example: He was a dirty, slovenly boy.
Sometimes the sentence will hint at the underlined word's meaning by using a word or phrase that relates to the underlined word.
Example: The gamblers took unfair advantage of the naive boy.
Or the sentence may actually define the underlined word by restating it using phrases like "or", "that is", or "in other words".
Example: Plants produce food by photosynthesis, that is, they produce it by using sunlight.
The sentence may also describe what the underlined word isn't.
Example: Monroe is usually the diligent type, but on the last project he hardly worked at all.
And you sometimes get at the meaning of the underlined word by breaking off its suffix, prefix, or root.
mis- bad, wrong, against
-anthropos related to people
A misanthrope is a person who doesn't like other people.
paleo- old, ancient
-ologist one who studies something or is an expert in a particular field
A paleontologist is a person who studies ancient things, especially geological things such as fossils.