How to Answer Dictionary Questions on the ASVAB Paragraph Comprehension Subtest

By Rod Powers

Much like the Word Knowledge subtest on the ASVAB, this type of question requires you to define a word as used in the context of the passage. The correct definition that the question is looking for can be the most common meaning of the word, or it can be a less well-known meaning of the word.

In either case, you have to read the passage, make sure you understand how the word is being used, and select the answer option that is closest in meaning to the word as it’s used in the passage. Consider this example:

In the 18th century, it was common for sailors to be pressed into service in Britain. Young men found near seaports could be kidnapped, drugged, or otherwise hauled aboard a ship and made to work doing menial chores. They were not paid for their service, and they were given just enough food to keep them alive.

In this passage, pressed means:

  • (A)hired

  • (B)ironed

  • (C)enticed

  • (D)forced

The correct answer is Choice (D). The descriptions of the conditions these sailors found themselves in should help you decide that they weren’t hired or enticed; ironed is one meaning of the word pressed, but it isn’t correct in this context.