In order to succeed in the TOEFL and receive a high score, students need to have a good understanding of common English vocabulary. The English language, however, is made up of hundreds of thousands of words – too many for even most native English speakers to be familiar with them all, let alone anyone learning English as a foreign language.
This is one of the reasons why it’s important that students studying for the TOEFL not only improve their vocabulary and grammar skills, but also practice test-taking strategies. One of these important strategies is the ability to read context clues.
Context clues can be found in the other words, phrases, and sometimes even punctuation that surround an unfamiliar word. Learning how to find and interpret these context clues in a TOEFL training course can help students figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words during the test and improve their score. Keep reading to find out how.
There are many different types of context clues that someone taking the TOEFL might use to determine the meaning of an unknown word.
In some cases, a passage might actually provide a synonym – a word that means the same thing as another word – for the unknown vocabulary. If a student taking the test understands how to identify this synonym, then they will be able to figure out the meaning of the unknown word. Sometimes the synonym might appear in the same sentence, or it might appear in another sentence where we would otherwise expect to see the unknown word.
A passage might also provide an antonym – a word that means the opposite of another word. For example, “The shopping mall was vast, in contrast to the tiny store.” The connecting words “in contrast” tell the reader than “vast” means the opposite of “tiny.”
Synonyms and antonyms are some of the more straightforward and easy-to-find context clues that a passage might provide. In other cases, students will need to know how to use their understanding of an entire passage’s meaning in order to figure out the meaning of a specific unknown word – a skill they can learn and practice in their TOEFL preparation course.
Take the sentence, “John went to the cafeteria and ordered a sandwich and a soda.” If a student is unfamiliar with the word cafeteria, they can still use the hint that John ordered a sandwich and soda there to figure out that it must be something similar to a restaurant. This is, of course, a very simple example, however. In other cases, students might need to look at the clues spread throughout an entire text to figure out the meaning of the unknown word.
Students studying English for university can benefit greatly from learning test-taking strategies, like how to use context clues, to improve their TOEFL score.
By practicing these skills in a TOEFL class, with a qualified instructor who is familiar with the test, students can learn about the many different types of context clues that might appear in a text, using them to answer questions even if they do not already know the meaning of a particular word. Since no student can learn every single word in the English language, this skill can be very helpful for those looking to improve their TOEFL scores!
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