It's quite stressful to take a vocabulary test. There are millions of English words. Yes, standardized tests like the SAT, HESI A2, ACT test you over words you have probably never seen in your entire life.
However, there are ways to know the meaning of word you have never seen or heard of in your life before.
Easy as a puzzle.
Fill in the blank vocabulary questions are like puzzles with one key piece missing. In puzzles, the surrounding area that is already complete is filled with clues that lead you to the piece that fits perfectly. Like in puzzles, the sentence surrounding the blank space in a fill in the blank question is filled with context clues to what that missing word might be. The key is to study the sentence and look for those clues that will help you solve the puzzle! Here are a few steps to help you with these types of test questions.
Read the sentence carefully and search for context clues within the sentence.
Remember, you are solving a puzzle, so use the part of the puzzle that is already complete to help you find the missing piece. Here is where context clues come into play! Looking up the definitions of words included in the sentence can be very helpful as you determine what word completes the statement. You should also consider how prefixes and suffixes can modify the meanings of words.
Other types of context clues:
- Synonym: a word or group of words that has the same meaning as the missing word
- Antonym: a word or group of words that has the opposite meaning as the missing word
- Explanation: the missing word is explained within the sentence
- Example: there are specific examples in the sentence that help define the missing word
Read your answer choices carefully. Define each term as best you can. Use a dictionary if needed and, again, consider any prefixes and suffixes in your word choices.
Once you have found the correct word, put that missing piece into the puzzle to see if it fits. Take a moment and reread the sentence with your answer choice to assure that it makes sense. It should fit the tense, part of speech, and number required by the sentence.
Now let’s solve one of these puzzles together!
Example: My mom said it was pouring outside, but it was actually just a light drizzle—she loves to _____________.
First, let’s read the sentence carefully and identify context clues.
The first part of the sentence states that the narrator’s mom has said it is pouring outside, but it is actually only drizzling lightly. In other words, the narrator is telling us this his mom is saying the rain is greater than what it actually is.
Study the area around the blank space, as well. In this sentence, we are looking for a word that describes what the narrator’s mom loves to do. The word we are looking for has already been explained, it is a word that means saying something is greater than what it actually is.
Next, let’s look at the answer choices.
Read each answer choice and define them as best you can. For this example, we have provided you with the following definitions:
- persecute: to treat someone cruelly or unfairly based on their race, political or religious beliefs; to harass or annoy
- exaggerate: to present something as being larger, greater, better, or worse than it really is
- endure: to suffer through something painful or difficult patiently; to remain in existence
- mimic: to imitate someone’s actions or words, typically in order to entertain or ridicule.
When you feel confident that you understand the context of the sentence, you could also attempt to fill the sentence with your own word, perhaps “lie” or “embellish”, in this case, and determine which of the word choices fits as a synonym.
In these answer choices, only “exaggerate” fits the sentence to describe what the narrator’s mom loves to do, according to the contextual information we have been given.
Lastly, let’s put the missing piece into the puzzle to see if it fits!
Reread the sentence and enter your word choice into the blank space.
My mom said it was pouring outside, but it was actually just a light drizzle—she loves to exaggerate.
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