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Reading Section

Vocabulary Questions

These questions ask you to identify the meanings of individual words

and phrases as they are used in the reading passage (a word might
have more than one meaning, but in the reading passage, only one of
those meanings is relevant.) Vocabulary that is tested actually occurs
in the passage; there is no “list of words” that must be tested.
Vocabulary Questions

Usually a word or phrase is chosen to be tested as a vocabulary

question because understanding that word or phrase is important to
understanding a large or important part of the passage. On the TOEFL
test, some words in the passage that are unusual, are technical, or
have special meanings in the context of the topic are defined for you.
If you click on the hyperlinked word in the passage, a definition will
appear in a box.
How to Recognize Vocabulary
Vocabulary questions are usually easy to identify. You will see one
word or phrase highlighted in the passage. You are then asked a
question like any of the following:

 The word “ X ” in the passage is closest in meaning to . . .

 The phrase “ X ” in the passage is closest in meaning to . . .
 In stating X, the author means that . . .
 The word “ X “ in the passage could best be replaced by . . .
Targeted Skills

In order to answer a vocabulary question correctly, you must:

 be able to understand how words or phrases are used in the

 be able to use context clues to determine the meaning of a word or
 know common English suffixes and prefixes and their meanings.
 have a broad knowledge of English vocabulary.
Tips for Vocabulary Questions

 Remember that the question is not just asking the meaning of a

word; it is asking for the meaning as it is used in the passage. Do not
choose an answer just because it can be a correct meaning of the
word; understand which meaning the author is using in the passage.
 Reread the sentence in the passage, substituting the word or phrase
you have chosen. Confirm that the sentence still makes sense in the
context of the whole passage.
Correct Answers

The correct answer for a vocabulary question can replace the

highlighted word or phrase without changing the meaning of the
sentence or contradicting the main idea of the passage. The correct
answer option is often a synonym of the highlighted word.

The following answer choices are to be eliminated when choosing the

choosing the correct answer.

 Answer choice is a synonym or related word form for a word in

surrounding sentences.
 Answer choice only appears to fit the context, or the choice fits part
of the context.
 Answer choice is a correct synonym of the highlighted word but
does not fit into the context.
 Answer choice a correct meaning of the word but not the meaning
the context is conveying.
Steps in Answering Vocabulary
 Recognize the question type.
 Locate the highlighted word or phrase in the passage.
 Read the sentence the word/ phrase appears carefully.
 Look for prefix or suffixes in the highlighted word/ phrase.
 Recognize the word form.
 Eliminate the answer choices that do not agree with the word form.
 Choose the best answer option by replacing the highlighted word in
the passage and reading the sentence. (The correct answer choice
does not change the meaning of the text.)