ASVAB Word Knowledge Strategy: Find the Answer Using Context

By Angie Papple Johnston

If you have a massive vocabulary at your disposal, then you’ll probably ace the ASVAB Word Knowledge subtest. But even if you don’t, you can still use a context-based strategy to help you find a word’s meaning.

Some of the Word Knowledge questions you’ll see on the ASVAB don’t have any context that can offer you clues about their meaning (some are in sentences, which can make them easier to decode). The good news: You may be able to give a word your own context, and when you do, you may find that you actually know the answer.

When you see a word you don’t know, try to place it in context. Ask yourself, “Have I heard this word before?”

Here are some practice questions for you to try. In both cases, you are asked to find the answer choice that is closest in meaning to the underlined word.

Practice questions

1. Afoul most nearly means

A. correctly.

B. wrongly.

C. easily.

D. disgusting.

2. David hoped that going to the amusement park would help him shake his melancholy mood.

A. joyful.

B. sorrowful.

C. thoughtful.

D. excited.

Answers and explanations

  1. The correct answer is Choice (B).
    Have you heard the word afoul in a sentence before? If you’ve heard of someone “running afoul of the law,” you can surmise that the word doesn’t mean correctly, easily, or disgusting—and that leaves you with Choice (B), which happens to be the right answer. It might be a fuzzy definition, but sometimes that’s all you need.
  2. The correct answer is Choice (B).
    As long as it’s not raining, most people have fun at an amusement park (it’s nearly as much fun as basic training, where “If it ain’t raining, you ain’t training” is often the motto of the day). The sentence also says that David wants to “shake his melancholy mood,” which means melancholy can’t be a very good feeling. It must have a negative connotation. You can rule out Choices (A) and (D), then, and think about what’s the opposite of fun—and that’s most likely Choice (B), because sorrowful means “down in the dumps.”