When you use clues in a reading passage to figure out the meaning of an unknown word, you are finding word meaning in context. The words and phrases around an unknown word often provide clues to the word’s meaning. These clues are called context clues. This type of question asks you for the best meaning of a word that is used in the passage. Remember that many words have more than one meaning. The meaning you are trying to find is the one that fits the selection you are reading. Go to the exact sentence where the word is used. Read the sentence from the beginning. You may also have to read the sentence right before it and right after it to help you figure out the definition. Meaning may often be informed by examining primary sources and documents.
- Context clues are often in the sentence where the unknown word appears. They can also be in the sentences before and after the word.
- Clues about the meaning of an unknown word are often found by thinking about the way the word is used in the sentence.
- Clues about the meaning of an unknown word can be found by thinking about the facts and details in the paragraph where the word is found.
Sometimes when you read, you find a word whose meaning you do not know. Often you can tell the meaning of the word by the way the word is used in the sentence. This is called understanding word meaning in context. Questions about meaning in context ask you to find the meaning of a word that may not be familiar to you. If you have trouble choosing an answer for a question like this, try each answer choice in the sentence where the word appears in the passage. See which answer choice makes the most sense.
Vocabulary in Context Questions:
- A ______ is _____
- A _____ person is most likely to…
- A person who is _____ is most likely to _____
- An animal that is _____ would probably _____
Strategy for Vocabulary in Context:
- Re-read part of the selection that surrounds the word.
- Read the sentence that comes right before the sentence that contains the word.
- Read the sentence that comes right after the sentence that contains the word.
- Decide what you think the word means.
- Look at the answer choices and pick the one that is closest to the definition that you had.
- Ask yourself, “Does this make sense?” “Does this sound right?”
- Examine the document/illustration to determine the meaning of the word, in context.