Guide 113 Common TOEFL Words and Examples

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Powerful and Positive Zhanna Hamilton Author But if you keep working on building your vocabulary, chances are you will understand the crucial words. This is a skill you can practice every day.


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As you read an English-language newspaper or magazine, have a dictionary handy. Look up as many unfamiliar words as you can so that your bank of vocabulary words becomes as large as possible. This may sound like a contradiction, but if you make a habit of taking the time to read carefully and actively, you will actually spend less time learning the mean- ing of new vocabulary words. By reading carefully, you will often be able to deter- mine meaning from context. By reading actively, you will continually expand your bank of vocabulary words—and the bigger your word base, the more you will com- prehend, and the less time you will spend looking up words.

From the start, you can usually eliminate one or two answers that you know are incorrect. For example, you can eliminate negative choices if the context suggests the word is positive. Often, putting the word in the context of the sentence can help you determine whether an answer is right or wrong. At a minimum, this can often help you determine whether the vocabulary word is positive or negative. This may help you better use the context as it is presented on the exam. Circle your choices or write your answers on a separate piece of paper.

Then compare your selections to the correct answers at the end of the chapter. Make sure the directions are very explicit so that no one makes a mistake. Explicit means a. The hotel is teeming with security personnel because the leaders of several countries are here for a summit meeting. Teem means a.

Karen was relieved to learn that the chemicals in her well water were all benign. Benign means a. Futile means a. The editor, preferring a more terse writing style, cut words from the 2,word article. Terse means a. Victor Frankenstein spent the last years of his life chasing his elusive mon- ster, who was always one step of his creator. Elusive means a. Diffuse means a. Digress means a. The senator evaded the question by changing the subject and accusing his opponent of misconduct. Evade means a. Surmise means a. Incumbent means holding any post or position. Demographic data is the branch of research that deals with human popu- lations.

Revenue is the income of a government. The summit means the highest point, where the hikers would have a good view. A musty odor is one that is stale or moldy. Accessible means capable of being reached or being within easy reach. Outmoded means no longer in style or no longer usable. A quest is a search or pursuit of something, in this case for the perfect cup of tea. Explicit means clearly and fully stated; straightforward, exact. The con- text tells you that the directions need to be clear to prevent an error. If the directions are clearly and fully stated, it will help ensure that no one makes a mistake.

To teem means to be full of, to be present in large numbers. Numerous security personnel typically surround the leader of a country. Choice d is the only answer that makes sense in the context of the sentence; Karen would logically be worried about chemicals in her water and relieved if she learned those chemicals were harmless. Futile means useless, producing no result, hopeless, vain. Terse means concise, using no unnecessary words. The sen- tence tells you that Dr. Frankenstein was never able to catch the creature, who constantly escaped his grasp. To diffuse means to spread throughout, disperse; to soften or make less brilliant.

To digress means to turn aside, deviate; to stray from the main subject in writing or speaking. The speaker loses track of the point because Tula keeps shifting from the main topic to unrelated subjects. The senator avoids answering the question by changing the subject. To surmise means to form a notion from scanty evidence. The narrator is guessing that Samantha has been withdrawn because she is upset about not being able to go to camp. Choice a is incorrect because antics are unpredictable behavior or actions. The speaker would, thus, want to raise or bolster this morale.

Choice a, b, and d are all incorrect. The more familiar you are with these fundamental word parts, the eas- ier it will be to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. Carry a small notebook with you and write down interesting words as you encounter them in your daily life. For exam- ple, take the word polyglot. Choice d is the only answer that includes the idea of many or multiple. Thus, it is the only possible correct answer. If you recall any context in which you have heard the word malign before, you may be able to choose the cor- rect answer, b. To malign is to say evil, harmful, and often untrue things about someone; to speak ill of.

Take a look at some words that contain numerical prefixes: bipartisan two parties , triage responding to the needs in order of priority, traditionally in three orders of priority , and trilogy a series of three plays. With a few exceptions, these examples are not test-prep words; rather, they are basic words that are probably already a part of your vocabulary.

Will Your TOEFL Scores be Any Good?

As you use your knowledge of prefixes and suffixes to determine meaning, see if you can recall hearing or using any words with similar roots or sounds. For exam- ple, you may realize that agrarian sounds like it shares a root word with agriculture—and it does. You may also realize that the suffix -ian calls for an adjective, not a verb. Visit a local park or museum where you will hear English around you. Go to the movie the- ater to see a film in English, or rent a film in your native language and watch it with English subtitles. Try watching the evening news. Listening well will improve your English vocabulary.

Part of Speech Function Examples noun names a person, place, cloud, Helen, car, Elm Court, thing, or concept brush, valor verb shows an action, occurrence, go, jump, feel, imagine, interrupt or state of being adjective describes nouns and pronouns; white, oblong, ancient, can also identify or quantify; exhilarating tells what kind, which one, that e. Select the best answer to the question. Squeamish means easily sickened, disgusted, nauseated, or shocked. For example, most words that end in -ish are adjectives describing a character- istic. However, vanquish and varnish both end in -ish, but they are both verbs, not adjectives.

Thus, as you come across vocabulary words with common prefixes and suffixes, use your knowledge of prefixes and suffixes, but look for other clues to meaning as well, including context see Chapter 2 and word roots see Chapter 4 and Appendix B to be sure you are on the right track. However, you can quickly and accurately learn the most common prefixes and suffixes by remembering examples of words you already know, such as coop- erate and dismiss. By memorizing these essential word parts, you will be able to learn new words more quickly and better determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.

The more familiar the word is to you e. Do not feel intimidated by the long lists in this chapter or in Appendix B. You already know much of this material. Elit- ist is an example of an adjective with this ending. The more you narrow down your choices, the better your chances of choos- ing the correct answer.

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Antecedent means a. Multifaceted means a. Circumspect means a. Consensus means a. Supercilious means a. To presage means a. Dubious means a. Agrarian means a. Parity means a. Galvanize means a.

Nonchalant means a. Antecedent means that which precedes; the thing, circumstance, or event that came before.

Medical reading comprehension passages

Multifaceted means having many facets or aspects; complex. Circumspect means cau- tious, wary, watchful. Consensus means general agreement or accord; an opinion or position reached by a group. Supercilious means with an air of superiority as if one is above or better than another ; haughty, scornful, disdainful. To presage means to indicate or warn of in advance; to predict, foretell. Dubious means doubtful, questionable; fraught with uncertainty, wavering.

Agrarian means relating to or concerning land and its ownership or cultivation. Parity means having equality in status, amount, value or degree; equivalence. To galvanize means to stimulate or rouse into awareness or action. Nonchalant means indifferent or cool, not showing anxiety or excitement. The more word roots you know, the more you will be able to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words and the better you will understand words you already know.

This chapter examines some common Latin and Greek word roots. Just as many Americans have their roots in other countries, so, too, do many of the words in the English language. In fact, most English words have been borrowed from other languages throughout the centuries, and English is composed largely of words built upon root words from other cultures. The two most important cate- gories of roots to learn are Latin and Greek roots because so many English words are built upon Latin and Greek word bases. Needless to say, the more roots you know, the stronger your vocabulary will be.

As you break down unfamiliar words into their parts, you will be more likely to rec- ognize the roots and therefore more accurately determine meaning. You will also have a better understanding of the words you already know. When you break down a word and identify a root word from another language, you are tracing the etymology or history of that word. For now, however, the focus of this chapter remains on learning some of the most common roots so that you can better determine meaning and succeed on the TOEFL iBT. Mnemonics is a simple concept.

The idea behind mnemonics is that peo- ple remember best when more than one function of the brain is used to process information. Simple mnemonics can be created from rhymes, tunes, or acronyms words that are made up of the first letters of a group of words or phrases. For example, the acronym Roy G. Biv is a mnemonic used when learning the colors of the spectrum red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

Mental pictures and stories are also useful mnemonics. Use mnemonic devices to remember the meaning of word roots. For example, you can use the following sentences to remember these roots: Root Meaning Sentence nomen name My name is Nom. On occasion, Latin and Greek roots are themselves words. The Latin roots err and pug, for example, mean to make a mistake and a boxer, respectively. Re- means back, again; ced means to go, yield, stop. Recede means c, to move back, withdraw, retreat. The correct answer is b. Thus, incessant means continuing without interruption; ceaseless, continuous.

Here are several words formed from another Latin root, plac, meaning to please. For example, to remember the root pug, you might picture a pug dog in a boxing ring, or a boxer with a pug nose. Similarly, you might picture a stop sign with the root ced written on it instead of stop, or a yield sign with cess instead of yield. If you are a visual learner, again, use pictures to help you remember words. To remember that eu means good or well, you can picture the letters EU on a well. If you are an auditory learner, you can come up with rhymes or short sentences to help you remember root meanings.

For example, you could try one of these sen- tences for the root am, meaning love: I am love. I love Amy. I love ham. Many different words can be built from a single root. For example, look at the number of words and the rich variety of meaning that comes from the Greek root chron, meaning time. For exam- ple, we can turn it into the noun synchronicity, which is the state or fact of being syn- chronous, an adjective that means occurring or existing at the same time. Review the list carefully, taking note of the examples, which once again are mostly everyday words. A more comprehensive list of the most common Latin and Greek word roots is located in Appendix B.

After you have completed this lesson, make sure you review the list carefully and study any roots that are unfamiliar to you.


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If you are lucky, the word will be surrounded by a sentence that helps you guess what the word means this is vocabulary in context , but the test question could list just a synonym or antonym and four answer choices. In this case, you have to figure out what the word means without any help from context clues. Questions that ask for synonyms and antonyms can be difficult because they require you to have a rela- tively large vocabulary.

Not only do you need to know the word in question, but you may be faced with four choices that are unfamiliar to you, too. Usually the best strategy is to look at the structure of the word. See if a part of the word—the root—looks familiar. Often you will be able to determine the meaning of a word within the root. For instance, the root of credible is cred, which means to trust or believe. Knowing this, you will be able to understand the meaning of incred- ible, sacred, and credit.

Looking for related words that have the same root as the word in question can help you choose the correct answer—even if it is by process of elimination. Another way to dissect meaning is to look for prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes come before the word root, and suffixes are found at the end of a word. Either of these elements can carry meaning or change the use of a word in a sentence.

For instance, the prefix can change the meaning of a root word to its opposite: neces- sary, unnecessary. A suffix like -less can change the meaning of a noun: pain to painless. To iden- tify most word parts—word root, prefix, or suffix—the best strategy is to think of words you already know that carry the same root, suffix, or prefix. Let what you know about those words help you find the meaning of words that are less familiar. Antonym questions can be problematic because you can easily forget that you are looking for opposites and mistakenly choose the synonym. Very often, syn- onyms will be included as answer choices for antonym questions.

The secret is to keep your mind on the fact that you are looking for the opposite of the word given in the question. If you are completing practice exercises like those in this book, cir- cle the word antonym or opposite in the directions to help you remember. Otherwise, the same tactics that work for synonym questions work for antonyms as well.

Try to determine the meaning of part of the word, or try to remember a con- text where you have seen the word before. You will be surprised to see how quickly learning these will increase the size of your vocabulary. You might, for example, respond to a visual clue in a word, or you might instead hear a familiar sound in that word. Use the power of association. The acute pain you felt in your ankle when you sprained it was very sharp; the root ac means sharp, bitter.

Similarly, as you are learning roots and trying to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words, especially on an exam like the TOEFL iBT, think of other words that sound like they might share a root word.


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Now you have the tools to really break down words and work out their mean- ings. For example, fervent has the root ferv, which means to boil, bubble, burn. The prefix im- in impervious means not, and this tells you that impervious means not pervious. When you are faced with an unfamiliar word in your reading or on an exam, your best strategy is to break it down into its parts and look for a familiar word root.

By memorizing these word bases, you will be able to learn new words more quickly and better determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. Or use words that create a vivid picture in your imagination. Look at all parts of the word and the context, if possible, to determine meaning. Use your knowledge of word roots to eliminate incorrect answers. The more you narrow down your choices, the better your chances of choosing the correct answer. Then compare your selections to the correct answers at the end or the chapter.

An amiable person is a. A lucid argument a. A complacent person a. To exacerbate a problem means a. To measure the veracity of something is to measure its a. Something that is eloquent is a. To indict someone is to a. A quiescent place is a. A noxious odor is a. A person with equanimity a. The root am means love.

Amiable means friendly and agreeable; good natured, likeable, pleasing. Lucid means very clear, easy to under- stand, intelligible. The root plac means to please.

25 Academic English Words You Should Know - Great for University, IELTS, and TOEFL

The root ac means sharp, bitter. To exacerbate means to make worse; to increase the severity, violence, or bitterness of. The root ver means truth. Veracity means truth, truthfulness. To indict means to for- mally accuse of or charge with a crime. The root qui means quiet. Quiescent means inactive, quiet, at rest. Noxious means unpleasant and harmful, unwholesome. The root equ means equal, even. Equanimity means calmness of tempera- ment, even-temperedness; patience and composure, especially under stress. When to use ensure instead of assure?

Incred- ulous instead of incredible? One thing to watch for are words that sound the same and may look alike but mean different things. They are called homonyms. Notice that the different sound in these words can come from the accent, or stress, on one part of the word. I will conduct the orchestra for the last song. His conduct in school was terrible. Another type of homonyms are pronounced the same way, but have different spellings and meanings. The term for these words, homophone, is exactly what its two Greek roots suggest: homo same phone sound It is a word that sounds the same as another but has a different meaning.

Night and knight, for example, are homophones, as are slay and sleigh, great and grate, and bear and bare. If so, this chapter will help you get them straight. It is very important to know your homonyms and use them correctly. Otherwise, you may confuse your readers with sentences that are at best incorrect and at worst unintelligible.

So take some time to review the fol- lowing list of frequently confused words carefully. The correct answer is c. Waive means to give up a right or claim voluntarily, relinquish; to refrain from enforcing or insisting upon a rule, penalty, standard pro- cedure, etc. These answer choices are tempting because they sound familiar. Not all commonly confused words are homonyms.

International Exams

Take disinterested and unin- terested as an example. Thus many people assume that both words mean the same thing: not interested. However, only uninterested has this meaning. Some commonly confused words are particularly puzzling because the words not only sound similar, but they also have similar meanings. Take the homophones cue and queue, for example. Both mean a line of waiting people or vehicles, although queue is used far more often than cue for this meaning.

However, cue also means a signal, such as a word or action, given to prompt or remind someone of something—and this is its most common usage. And queue can also mean an ordered list of tasks to be performed or sequence of programs awaiting processing on a computer. Practice using these verbs in context and you will become more comfort- able with them. Lie Lay Lie means to rest, to recline. Lay means to place, to set down. Sit Set Sit means to rest. Set means to put or place. He set the newspaper on the desk. Rise Raise Rise means to go up.

Raise means to move something up. You already know many homophones and commonly confused words inside and out. The question is, how do you remember these differences in meaning, especially when the words seem so much alike? The key is to capitalize on the differences in the words. And when it comes to frequently confused words, mnemonic devices come in especially handy. Use this to help you remember the meaning: a disinterested person is distanced from the situation and is therefore impartial.

Meddle, for example, differs from mettle only because it contains the letter d instead of t. Use this key difference to help you remember the dif- ference in meaning as well. And then review them again. If you use these words in your everyday writing and con- versations, you will remember which word has which meaning.

Or teach them to someone else. Teaching something to another person is one of the most effective ways to master that material. Use whatever study or memorization techniques work best for you. For example, if you are a visual learner, create pictures that will help you remember word meanings.

If you are an auditory learner, rhymes will be more effective. For example, appraise has the word praise in it. You can associate praise with a good evaluation, and appraise means to evaluate. Then you can remember that proscribe is a written law that prohibits something. To allude means to make an indirect reference to. Extent means the range, distance, or degree to which something reaches or extends. To disburse means to pay out. Ingenious means marked by inventive skill or creativity; showing inventiveness and skill, remarkably clever.

To waive is to give up a right or claim voluntarily, relinquish; to refrain from enforcing or insisting upon a rule, penalty, standard proce- dure, etc. To proceed means to go forward or onward, especially after an interruption; move on, advance. Imminent means about to occur, impending. To prosecute is to bring a criminal action against someone. An ascent is an upward slope; a movement upward, advancement. To censor is to forbid the publication, distribution, or other public dissemination of something because it is considered obscene or otherwise politically or morally unacceptable.

In its simplest form, an idiom is an everyday term or expres- sion whose meaning evolved over time as it was used in conversation and informal writing. All of these expressions are idioms. A related term is tenure track, which means that the position carries with it the possibility of tenure. In college, the word sometimes shortened to prereq refers to the course or courses that you must take in order to qualify for an advanced course.

TOEFL Speaking Templates for the new TOEFL

The word idiom is from the Latin word idio, referring to the self. An idiom is seen as any kind of language use that has gained wide usage in that particular language. They are too well known to English speakers. Through overuse, their impact is lessened. Watch- ing out for being alert to something is different than watching over attending to something. You might get up early one morning so you can get away on a vacation to France, where you hope to get by with your high school French so you can get along with the locals.

For instance, people in the United Kingdom use idioms that are different from those used in the United States. You could see that laughing off something would have to do with not taking it very seriously. Then there are idioms that have evolved over a long period of time and have no particular logic or origin: for example, up to the job. Somewhere in between are idioms whose meanings made sense once upon a time but are now lost. Spitting image has nothing to do with saliva. The more you hear how they sound, the more familiar they will feel to you, and the easier it will be to remember them.

Then compare your selection to the correct answers at the end of the chapter. Answer yes or no to the following sentences, on the basis of your knowledge of the idioms. If you burn out at something, it means that you need the services of an electrician. If it happens once in a blue moon, it happens rarely. If you give the slip to someone, you hand over your undergarment. You have to stand near a window if you are going to watch out for something. If you give something a shot, you are willing to try.

Take your time when answering each question. We suggest not timing yourself. Attempt to answer the questions without using a reference tool like a dictionary; however, if you come across words that you are unsure of, make a list of these words. Then, you can determine how much time you need to spend to increase your vocabulary power. Caustic means a. Enigma means a. Exorbitant means a. Denunciation means a. Metamorphosis means a. To reconcile means a. Didactic means a. Unilateral means a. Subordinate means a. Incisive means a. Intermittent means a.

Miscreant means a. Perennial means a. Imperialism means a. To abrogate is to a. An acrimonious relationship is one that a. A vicarious action is one that a. If there is amity between two nations, there is a. An edict is a. A magnanimous person is a. To acquiesce is to a. A pugnacious person is best described as a. Something that is erratic a. To feel fervor is to feel a.

A loquacious person a. Directions: For questions 46 through 59, choose the correct word in the paren- theses to complete the sentence. Choose the word that means the same or about the same as the italicized word. A synonym for vast is a. A synonym for enthusiastic is a. A synonym for adequate is a. A synonym for comply is a. An antonym for uniform is a. A synonym for ecstatic is a. Ingenious means marked by originality, resourcefulness, and cleverness in conception.

An expressive person would be one who is open or emphatic when reveal- ing opinions or feelings. Favorably means gracious, kindly, or obliging. This is a fantastic tool, as it can help them learn the vocabulary much faster, allowing me to focus on other parts of the test with them. Your audiobook is waiting…. By: Zhanna Hamilton. Narrated by: Sam Scholl. Length: 45 mins. Categories: Language Instruction , English.

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