By Rod Powers

When you see an unfamiliar word on the Word Knowledge section of the ASVAB, don’t get upset and pound on the computer (they make you pay for those things if you break them). You may know the word after all … just in a different form. Suppose you run across the word beneficent on the Word Knowledge portion:

  1. Beneficent most nearly means
    • A. kind.
    • B. beautiful.
    • C. unhappy.
    • D. troubled.

You sit there and begin to sweat. You’ve never seen the word before, and it’s all over for you, right? Well, maybe not. Take a closer look. What other word starting with the letters benefi do you know? How about the word benefit? A benefit is something that helps or aids. It’d be a good bet that the word beneficent is related to helping or aiding. So when you look over the possible choices, you can choose the one that has something to do with helping.

But wait! None of the answers states help or aid. Now what? Just use the process of elimination. If something is helpful (beneficent), it probably isn’t troubled or unhappy. It may be beautiful, but more likely, it’s kind. So the best answer would be Choice (A).

Remember when your high school guidance counselor recommended that you take French or Spanish? You should thank her when you score well on this subtest. Why? Because knowledge of other languages can help you puzzle out the meaning of many English words.

For example, if you know that salud means “health” in Spanish, you may be able to puzzle out the meaning of the English word salutary (favorable to or promoting health). Knowing that sang means “blood” in French may help you figure out what the English word sanguine means (try to puzzle this one out on your own; then check a dictionary to see how close you are).